(Essay 1) The Journey of the Goddess: Pandora Archetypes by Laura Newberry-Yokley

“Not till the loom is silent and the shuttles cease to fly shall God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why the dark threads are as needful in the weaver’s skillful hand as the threads of gold and silver in the pattern he has planned.”   Anonymous, Coventry, England

“It is not good enough to imitate the models proposed for us that are answers to circumstances other than our own. It isn’t even enough to discover who we are. We have to invent ourselves.” Rosario Castellanos, The Eternal Feminine, Act III

The sacred feminine allows women and men to choose differently, to access our own mothering and our own self-care which allows us to access our own internal divinity, our own intrinsic value, our own external power, and a deeper sense of presence and purpose moving forward.

Merlin Stone asks us to remember when God was a Woman. Marija Gimbutas sheds light on archeological artifacts of full figured Goddess figurines. Carol Christ defines a neo-Goddess spirituality based on Minoan civilization. Helen Hwang discovers Magoism based on Goddesses of East Asia.

Even so, many women still subscribe to feminine archetypes as their default settings that promote patriarchal belief systems and insidious misogyny. I examine Pandora and Eve as two feminine archetypes that are doused in patriarchal misogyny and designed to scapegoat women.

Goddess spirituality is needed to bust open these myths of Pandora, which many women still subscribe to as their archetypical guides for their behavior patterns and systems. These archetypes were initiated by male writers.

Would using our own voices to tell our own stories change our role models, remove women as scapegoats? Would doing so help eradicate misogyny, patriarchy, and the hatred of woman-kind? Let us spend our time discovering an emergence of a new archetypical experience for women to embrace.

Let’s go back into the cave.

The Allegory of the Cave is found in The Republic written by Plato. Plato recounts Socrates describing the cave, where people are imprisoned; their necks are fixed in chains. This group of people can only stare at the wall and watch the shadows cast upon the wall. Then we are to suppose that there is one person who finds herself freed from their chains. She finds her way to the mouth of the cave. She is blinded by the sunshine. As her eyes adjust, she finds that there is an entire world outside of the cave, inclusive of the moon and stars. The freed person returns to the cave to tell the others. Upon reentering the cave, she is blinded by the darkness. Waiting for her eyes to adjust, the other prisoners perceive this blindness as reason to stay in the cave and not venture out, should they be freed from their chains.

I compare the cave as described in Plato’s allegory as our misogynist context of patriarchy. I came to understand the cave as a symbol representing our limited contexts that we know today, devoid of feminine efficacy. The shadows reflected on the cave’s wall as our archetypes we subscribe to, but the people in the cave perceive these projections as their real experiences. Once we realize our chains are systemic and self-inflicted; we can all rise up and go to the mouth of the cave. We can see a world of equality. Those who remain chained to their patriarchal projections will never understand what is possible in terms of inclusive equality.

I often think of scholars like Merlin Stone, Marija Gimbutas, Carol Christ, and Helen Hwang, as those who have ventured out of the cave, realizing that their shackles are illusory. They are examples of women who have realized that they are free to move about the cave and that a larger world exists outside of the perceived limitations. They have understood that they are free to venture over to the mouth of the cave and peer out. They have discovered that a bigger world exists, that a divine feminine exists, a Goddess whose traditions are alive and well. The paradox really is that we all have this ability; we just don’t know it yet. Let’s examine a shadow perception of woman that many women and men still believe is the only ones to immolate, Pandora.

Hesiod and Pandora

You’ve probably heard of the story of “Pandora’s Box.” She’s the one who opened the box and let out terrible things only to leave hope inside. The earliest version of the Pandora myth is found in Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days. Hesiod, like most authors during his time, did not think very highly of women. “Don’t be deceived by a wheedling, sweet-talking woman, flaunting her body (W&D 373-375),” “She’s only after your barn. Anyone who trusts a woman is trusting a cheat.” The idea of woman as “gold digger” only after your money is still commonplace and the inherent distrust towards women continues to be rampant today. This is why we still need the Goddess. This is why we still need feminism.

Hesiod was a Greek poet who wrote between 750 and 650 BCE during the same time as Homer, the great epic poet who told of Odysseus’ homecoming and his participation in the Trojan War. Hesiod is a major source of Greek mythology.

Hesiod tells of the crafting of the first woman. Her name was Pandora, which means “all gifts.” She was created out of the earth by Hephaistos, the Greek Olympian God of fire and metalworking. Hephaistos creates her from clay and makes her look like an immortal goddess. Each god and goddess bestows gifts to Pandora. For example, Athena gives her clothes and adornments, teaches her crafts, and offers her cunning and deceit. Meanwhile, Zeus places “lies, coaxing words, and a thievish nature” within Pandora as the purpose for her voice, but Hesiod never grants Pandora the opportunity for her to speak for herself.

Zeus commissioned the creation of Pandora as a punishment for Prometheus who tricked Zeus so he could steal fire from him. Prometheus is the god of foresight, so he sends her back for fear that some evil will come as a result. Zeus then re-gifts Pandora to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother, the god of hindsight. Even after he has been warned by his brother, Epimetheus marries Pandora. She brings a large jar, a pithoi, as a wedding present, not a box as the more modern version would imply.

It is understood that before the first woman was created, men lived without any suffering or hardship. Stored inside her present were sorrows, diseases, and hard labor. When Pandora opened the jar, anguish and concerns were free to emerge from the jar. Everything except for hope spilled out. “Only Hope stayed under the rim of the jar and did not fly away from her secure stronghold (T 97-98).” Pandora’s independent action brings destruction to the world around her and is thus blamed as the sole scapegoat for suffering and terrible things in this world. Hesiod explains that a woman must never act on her own accord, or ruinous events are sure to follow. Zeus requests that she place the lid back on the jar before Hope escapes. And so she does.

To be continued in Essay 2.

Read Meet Mago Contributor Laura Newberry-Yokley.

[Editor’s Note: This essay was published in She Rises: Why Goddess Feminism, Activism, and Spirituality?]

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