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Thursday, June 08, 2017
Stealing Pandora's gifts
Watson's Great Divide proposed a deep-mythology for the Out Of Africa peoples. I've proposed some correspondences between the Polynesia and the Mesopotamia; roughly covering the early Genesis myths of Creation, Adam, and Noah. Razib Khan's twitter points today to Julien d'Huy's new paper suggesting another deep-mythology, for Prometheus and Pandora.
I must offer some disclosures. I haven't read all the myths mentioned here. Much of this paper's reasoning is too technical for me. And the whole argument rests on plugging data into software I don't own. So I admit to a total lack of qualification to dispute this paper's conclusions. Fortunately I am an idiot blogger on the internets whom nobody reads, so nothing can stop me from spouting off anyway. Not even if May and Corbyn both win.
As best I can make out, many cultures share that fire was, once upon a time, the domain of women. A man then stole fire from the goddess.
One immediate point that jumps out: the Greeks didn't tell these exact stories, but they told many stories with their tropes. For the Greeks, these tropes cluster around the tale of Prometheus. Prometheus, the friend of man, was a child of Titans, a race of gods before the Greek gods, but Prometheus was spared his fathers' damnation. The tender of fire *Whestia was, it so happens, female, and herself a daughter of the Titans - a sister of Zeus, but not one of the major gods (D'Auliares holds that when Bacchus was promoted, Hestia was demoted). Both Prometheus and Whestia, therefore, sit on that uneasy edge between Titan and God. So when Prometheus stole fire "from the gods" he'd most directly ripped it off a fellow paraTitan.
A less immediate point is that the Jews too might preserve a reflection of this. In Eden, Eve takes the fruit of knowledge first. Then Adam takes it and that is when YHWH realises that something is up. True, in this case Eve isn't the tender of the sacred sophia for very long; and Adam does take it with consent this time. But still...
In any deep-mythology, one does have to ask to what extent the myth is a tradition of the elders, and to what extent just a comment on the human condition - or even a record of contemporary disasters spaced far apart. If the latter, some of these myths could be independent compositions. I suspect exactly that for several of the Atlantis-like / Noah-like myths: Sundaland sank, Doggerland sank, Beringia sank, the Black Sea coast sank, all during the same general era of the Ice Age retreat. (The Aegean was a special case in that the much-later Thera was, like, right there.)
As I read the tropes Julien d'Huy brings up, I do have to ask such questions. From the startpoints (1) Fire used to be a woman thing and (2) a man stole it, any storyteller could draw some corollaries. From (1) one might envision not only a matriarchy, but a kingdom of only women. This trope would naturally lead to d'Huy's trope here:
That knowledge, fire, and sex are interlinked is also perhaps an intuitive fact, at least in premodern society. Sexually-transmitted diseases weren't just invented 1977 in an alcove of Studio 54; many of their germs are also very old, herpes in particular.
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