Last month we had a spare story where we had to delve and dive for meanings, this month with Pandora’s Box we have a story rich with store-bought meanings, some of them diametrically opposed. I’m very curious about what will fly out as we unpack the story and shake out the wrinkles.
I’ve been fascinated by Pandora since I was a little girl, hearing the story for the first time. I’ve thought of Pandora as very young ever since. No doubt I identified so strongly with her because I too was a child filled with insatiable curiosity. From the very first time I raised my hand in class to ask a question it marked me as different. Being an Army brat, I changed schools the way other girls changed clothes. There were plenty of opportunities for fresh starts in new environments; besides my mama didn’t raise dummies – I knew perfectly well if I wanted to fit in, or at the very least escape notice, I should throttle that insistent inquisitive other who kept shoving my arm up and flapping my hand around. But I couldn’t. Just like Pandora, I had to keep opening the box and suffering the consequences.
It certainly didn’t escape my attention that Pandora and Eve had a lot in common; both being ‘first women’ blamed unfairly for letting mankind’s ills loose upon the world. From the get-go I got how unfair that was.
Pandora is the dummling, the Fool, the innocent setting out on a journey for which she is totally unprepared. She hasn’t even had the benefit of a childhood with all its lessons of separation and betrayal to toughen her up. Zeus has ordered her freshly made and sent her like a time bomb into the world. So, she isn’t just my little girl suffering the normal slings and arrows of childhood, she is also every child used and abused by adults for their own ends.
In this first collage we see young naïve Pandora carrying all the gifts the gods have showered upon her neatly packed in a basket, on her way to her new home. She rides on top of the hope chest of a bride and her path is strewn with celebratory flowers. Behind her hovers the shadow of the woman she has already, unbeknownst to her and without her consent, become – a sexual object to be bought and sold by men and gods in games of power. At this moment though, she is still unaware of her fate; still seeing the world as freshly painted just for her.
Painted red – to stand for marriage (China, India), sacrifice (blood, virginity), fire (Prometheus), hidden knowledge (alchemy) and the “uncontrolled lust for power leading to self-absorption and hatred” (Zeus). This particular shade of red symbolizes “yang” the masculine life force. You see it reiterated in this collage, emphasizing the imbalance of yin and yang. (See previous post March 25)
The story begins with the sibling rivalry between Zeus and his brother Prometheus, which leads to the theft of fire for mankind, resulting in Zeus’s commissioning Pandora from the (male)smith Hephaestus before giving her to another brother Epimetheus as his bride. Perhaps the evils hidden in Pandora’s box will emerge out of this gross imbalance between feminine and masculine elements rather than the curiosity of Pandora.