Pandora’s Box

John William Waterhouse- The Pandora's Box

John William Waterhouse- The Pandora’s Box

While rape has always been a disturbing topic, the past few years has opened Pandora’s Box in an unprecedented way.

But did you know that Pandora had no box at all and that this came about by a mistranslation by Erasmus, the sixteenth century monk? Erasmus changed the original Greek word pithos to Latin pyxis, box. The word now translated as “box” was actually a large jar (πίθος pithos), but may also be interpreted as womb- at least it is thought to have been Hesiod’s intention to draw such a parallel. Pandora’s womb of clay, her pithos is also described as having lips.
Pandora properly means “all-giving” rather than “all-gifted.” An alternate name for Pandora attested on a white-ground kylix (ca. 460 B.C.E.) is Anesidora, which similarly means “she who sends up gifts.”
The gifts of the womb…
The misogyny behind the Pandora myth is evident-
When Prometheus stole fire from the gods, Zeus took vengeance by presenting the first woman- Pandora, to Epimetheus, who was warned not to accept it but could not resist.
Pandora was made from clay, and each god helped create her by giving her a divine gift. She was also given a beautiful jar- pithos- but was warned to open it, again she could not resist and the rest is history. Pandora opened the box and spread all evil across the earth.
Remind you of another story?
It is a Garden of Eden myth.
But let’s get back to the fact that it was not a box at all but a jar, a clay, jar, a pithos, and in fact a womb.
When Pandora opened the secrets of her womb all hell let loose. Why?
Because the secrets of the womb are the secrets of life, more powerful that any Apollonian science has achieved in the 2’500 years that have intervened between Pandora and Dolly the sheep.
The word uterus is connected to the word utterance and when the Pythia of Delphi- again from the word pithos- womb- opened themselves to divine inspiration in their oracular pursuits it was the voice of the womb that called forth.
Surely there is a paradox here – on one hand the womb is responsible for unleashing all evils and on the other is an oracle of such high regard that all the great and good of the time such as Socrates would religiously visit for a consultation.
And what of rape? There has been much talk of rape culture, particularly since the ‘Me Too’ campaign, but when we peer deeper into this Pandora’s box and move beyond the good and bad of the situation to ask why this dynamic is, and has been rife in our culture, we find a very deep rabbit hole indeed.
While it may be argued that the very fabric of patriarchy with its uneven texture of stolen riches has cloaked the insidious face of power relations, whatever is at the bottom of the rabbit hole is surfacing and it runs deeper than we imagine.

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