Women of Awesomeness: Pandora

pandora2The myth of Pandora’s Box is one of the more well known ones. For those of you who might not be as familiar with it I’ll give you a brief summary. In Greek mythology Pandora is the very first woman placed on the Earth by the gods; she is given a box by the gods and told not to open it. Being a curious sort she, of course, opens the box. When she does so, Pandora released all the evils of the world out of the box. Hastily she shuts the box, unaware that hope was still inside. (This part of the myth has led to many debates on interpretation of that . . . was hope trapped in the box, forever denied mankind or was it held safely in the box for mankind to hold on to?)

Pandora 2I want to take a closer look at this myth. Hesiod (a Greek poet thought to be active from 750 and 650 BC) wrote “Theogeny,” a work that talked about the creation of the world. In it he speaks of a women created by Zeus (with the aid of his fellow gods) to be a punishment, of sorts. She was created to balance things from all the benefits man had been given by Prometheus. (He stole fire and knowledge and gave it to man, against Zeus’ wishes.) This woman was created to be seductive and untrustworthy. In “Works and Days,” also by Hesiod, he names this woman Pandora which can be translated as “all-gifts.” It is to her that the gods give an urn.” She is instructed to never open this item, which of course she eventually does. It is generally agreed upon that Pandora opened the “box” purely from curiosity and not malice. (Interesting note: today we call it Pandora’s Box. The work Hesiod used was “pithos” which means urn, but when the works were translated to Latin it got changed to “pyxis” which means box.)

Pandora . . . she is an enigma. Originally created as a punishment to man. Seductive, dishonest, alluring, a temptress. She was meant to balance things, to bring men down from the heights they’d attained thanks to Prometheus. She was to distract men from knowledge. Pandora has been likened to both Eve and Lilith. Once again in the most misogynistic terms possible, a woman is to blame for the evils in the world. The thing is, Pandora, by and large, isn’t reviled for her actions. No, it’s even worse, in a way she was treated in the most patronizing sense . . . “Oh, it’s horrible what happened, but what do you expect? She’s only a woman.”

pandoraToday Pandora, I think, is viewed in a different light. She’s dark and mysterious; in fact she has become her own “box” as it were. (Yes, I am aware of the Freudian nature of that comment) Actually there have been some arguments made that there was not box, per se, and that Pandora herself was the vessel evil and hope resided in. Despite the connection with the ills of the world, most folks I find are intrigued by Pandora. We hold for her the same curiosity that led her to open the box. She has become, as I said, our “box.”

I think that for the Pandora Society she is an apt mascot, if you will. Our events promise to hold mystery, hope and even a bit of darkness . . .

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