A Graecian creation myth

The Creation of the World and of Men

In the beginning there was only Khaos, the sweet Air that filled the nothingness, very first, there from the beginning of time. She spent an eternity swirling in the void until eventually, finally, she grew lonely. By her will she swelled and brought forth Erebos, the Darkness, the unknowable place where death dwells, and to Nyx, his consort, the Night. All was empty, silent, and still, until the urge to create that Khaos had felt took life and form in that magical time, and Phanes, father of the desire to find form in the nothingness took from the Air of Khaos and from himself and made a fair and lovely daughter who they named Gaia, and Gaia embodied Erdreja.

Much later, long after the Protogonoi, these first ones, grew more numerous and then withdrew to their elements leaving all to the Titans, but not so long after the Titans had been thrown down by their sons the Olympians, Prometheus, one of three Titans who had not taken war to the new rulers, was tasked with creating life for the world, and to this end he shaped all the creatures of Erdreja out of mud, and Athena, wise and wonderful, breathed on them until each one sprang away, alive.

Now, Prometheus had assigned to his brother Epimetheus the task of giving the creatures of the world their various qualities – to the wolf he gave strength, to the cat he gave grace, to the eagle he gave wings; to all the animals of the world, each was given something special. But by the time it came to giving one last gift he had given away all the good qualities, and none were left for his brother’s final creation. Prometheus thought long and hard and decided that this last should be his finest, so he made them stand up right, as he and his brethren did, and to them he gave the secret of fire.

Now, time went on and Prometheus spent much time amongst his favourite creations, and he grew to love them more than he loved the Olympians, so when Zeus, king on Mount Olympus, decreed that a portion of each animal sacrificed must be solely for the Olympians, Prometheus decided to trick his king and gain the best part for his children. To Zeus he went and craved an indulgence – that the king would swear the most sacred oath amongst the Olympians, by the water of the River Styx in the House of Hades, that once he had chosen his portion of the sacrifice he would not change his mind. Now, Zeus knew himself to be clever and wise, and well able to spot the finest part for himself, agreed readily and swore a mighty oath by the water of the Styx.

The day of sacrifice arrived, and from the carcass Prometheus created two piles, one with the bones wrapped in juicy fat, the other with the good meat hidden in the hide. Mighty and lengthy were the prayers spoken in honour of Zeus, and at their height Prometheus bade Zeus to pick which part was for the Olympians. Zeus saw the tattered hide and the juicy bones, and knowing himself to be clever and wise, and well able to spot the finest part for himself, ignored the hide and picked the bones. On discovering that he had been tricked, Zeus did not go back on his word and change his choice, for the Oath on the Styx is most binding, but his anger was great and to punish man he took fire away from them crying that they could keep the meat, but have it bloody and raw, that they could see sun but never emulate it’s power. As winter drew near and Prometheus watched his creation grow sick on raw meat, and grow cold with the weather with no fire to warm them, he grew angry with Zeus for his spite to his children and, loving his creation all the more, travelled to the skies and lit from the sun a bright torch, returning fire to man and light and warmth to their lives.

Zeus was enraged that man again had fire, but he was all the more enraged with Prometheus first for tricking him and now for defying him. To Prometheus he sent a great and terrible punishment – chaining him to a rock in Tartaros where every day an eagle came down and slowly pecked away his liver, only for the organ to regrow over night. Only if the chains were cut by a Hero and an immortal sacrifice his life for him could Prometheus be free, and Zeus foresaw neither occurrence, being both clever and wise. As it was, Herakles, sent to the House of Hades to shackle the great hound Cerberus, saw Prometheus and pitied him, cutting the chains whilst Chiron, wise and immortal Centaur, in undying agony, sacrificed his life with great relief, but it was many long years before his punishment was over.

As Zeus looked down on the creation of Prometheus, and saw how they rejoiced in the fire stolen against his wish, he decided that they too should be punished for the crime they so clearly took pleasure in.

Epimetheus was left as sole guardian of the people, and though he loved them as well as Prometheus could, he was not as blessed with forethought. Zeus saw this and smiled, and had Hephaestus, the Smith, create a beautiful woman to which the Olympians gave many gifts – Hades gave her great wealth, Hermes gave a deceptive mind, and Eris a lying tongue. Aphrodite gave her a loving heart, and Athena breathed life into her, as she had all the other creatures of the world. Three final gifts were given her, from Hera an unquenching curiosity; from Zeus a jar she was forbidden to open, and from them all a name – Pandora. From the heavens she was sent to the tribe of men where Epimetheus was staying. A long time since, Prometheus had warned his brother to accept no gifts from Zeus, but he saw only her great beauty and her loving heart and allowed her to stay, taking her to wife.

All was well in the tribe, and all grew to love Pandora for her loving heart and great beauty, but night after night she would stare at the jar, wondering what was in there, wondering how much it would hurt to open it. Night after night, Epimetheus asked her what was the import of the jar, and though she burned with her curiosity she would reply that it was nothing, that it mattered little and she cared even less, and because of her loving heart her husband did not hear her lying tongue, and because of her great beauty he did not see her deceitful mind, and he would kiss her and lie down and sleep, whilst his wife all the while burned with curiosity for the contents of the jar. Night after night, she stared at the jar, until her curiosity became too great. She opened the lid, just a little.

All manner of evil flew out – all our sorrows, plagues and misfortunes. She slammed down the lid once more, but too late, all seemed to have escaped. Grieved at her actions, Pandora hid the jar away, vowing to pay heed to it no more, and when Epimetheus asked her if she knew what had caused all of these ills amongst his brother’s creation, she told him that the jar had fallen open and when he asked her if she had opened it she shook her head and denied she had, for though she loved Epimetheus with all the capacity of her loving heart, her mind was deceitful and her tongue spoke lies.

That night, as she and Epimetheus together lay in bed, a scratching noise was heard from where the jar was hidden. Endlessly curious, Pandora crept from the bed and stole to the place where the jar was. Leaning near, she could hear a small voice crying to be set loose. She stared at the jar for a very long time, trying to resist the curiosity that the Ancestors had given her, for it was still very strong, but she had to know. Just as she was about to lift the lid, Epimetheus came and in anger gripped her wrist calling her names, denouncing her for a deceiver and a liar – had she not told him the jar was nothing, had she not lied when she said she had not lifted the lid? Pandora wept at his words, for they were true, and Epimetheus, for he loved her greatly, understood what the Olympians had done and because she had a loving heart and because she had such great beauty he took her in his arms and forgave her, saying that if she had to know, for the Olympians had made it that she must, then she should open the jar and see what it was that cried for release. Preparing themselves for what should pour forth, Pandora opened the jar once more and from the very bottom flew Hope, finally free, releasing Epimetheus from his grief for his brother’s children and releasing Pandora from the Olympians’ hold – and although she is outnumbered by the evils of the world, Hope endures to this day, being a creature of great beauty and of loving heart.