Article by Rebecca
Image by Will Hobbs (www.sirwilliamwesley.com)
We all know the story of Pandora, or do we? It is a simple one, right? Woman is given box, told never to open it, opens the box, evil shoots out all over the place, except for hope, the end. What if I told you Pandora wasn’t just any woman, but the first woman, and that she quite possibly has been given a retroactive bad wrap, would you click to read more?
Hey, thanks for clicking in! As I was saying, it’s often forgotten or overlooked knowledge that Pandora was the first woman. In Greek myth Hephaestus crafted her body and Athena gave her intelligence (later renditions have all the Olympians giving her gifts which coincides with her name Pandora, given to her by Hermes, which means All Gifted). Pandora, and all womankind that came after, were created in retribution for Prometheus gifting fire to humanity. In later versions, just in case the wicked nature of woman wasn’t enough punishment, Pandora was given a jar (which later still became a box) that held nothing but evils. Zeus gave Pandora to Epimetheus and wouldn’t you know it, she immediately scatters the contents of the jar. The only thing left in the jar was hope.
Still a fairly basic story, right? Let’s delve deeper, shall we? Pandora’s name, although frequently referenced as above to mean All Gifted, has been reconsidered by most scholars to actually translate into Giver of All or All Endowed. This name tends to strip away the Greek gods, doesn’t it? Add in a full jar, always a good symbol of the womb, and you may have some sort of proto-Greek fertility deity. Enter the Greek pantheon and their need for a mythology. Where did woman come from? Why is there evil in the world? And faster than you can say, “Eve picked an apple” Pandora is created by the Gods to be the downfall of man by letting loose a bevy of evils from her jar.
Even if you ignore my overtly feminist rendition of the above paragraph, there are still many things about the myth that are open to interpretation, theory, and opinion. I find it surprising because generally regardless of how simplistic the story is, most mythological/religious texts wrap up loose ends and stop up any gaps. Yet here are a few things about Pandora’s story to consider.
Why is hope still in the jar? It doesn’t escape the jar and enter the world, so is hope held back in the jar for humanity’s benefit or punishment? Essentially, is hope being saved for us, or withheld from us? In order for us to experience the evils of the jar, they had to be freed from the container, so what does it say that hope is still locked away? Of course, hope of what? Everything else in the jar was evil, why was hope in that mix? Was it a blessing trapped in the jar with curses, or was it some sort of evil hope, which we were spared by it being left behind? See what I’m talking about?
Moreover, there is the classic did she jump or was she pushed kind of question. Did Pandora intentionally open the jar, knowing what it contained? Did she open it out of curiosity due to ignorance of its contents? It’s unclear whether Pandora acted with intent to cause harm or not.
Pandora endures, whether it’s as the no good woman who opened up the literal Pandora’s box for the world, a curious woman who accidentally doomed us all, or as a deity commandeered into mortality to serve as a lesson regarding the evils of woman. Pandora and her jar/box are referenced frequently in modern times, more often it seems than Zeus, who commanded her creation, and certainly more than any of the Greek poets who helped establish her story. Perhaps despite her rough lot in life, she’s come out on top.