Friday, September 2, 2016

TFBT: Pandora' Box

When Heracles called for wine, (Pholus) said he feared to open the jar which belonged to the Centaurs in common. But Herakles, bidding him be of good courage, opened it, and not long afterwards, scenting the smell, the Kentauroi arrived at the cave of Pholos, armed with rocks and firs.  Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 83 - 87

I think we all know the story of Pandora.  According to Hesiod she was an evil created by the gods to curse mankind.  Her dowry consisted of some evil to plague mankind from all the gods.  (Some hope-chest! ) At  recent discussions of Pandora at Hour 25, we discussed the possibility of Pandora's Box (actually a jar) being a euphemism for Pandora's womb or body.  And that the actual lifting of the lid was a euphemism for sex. I looked for other examples
"And the other sisters of the maiden who had been seduced, namely, Molpadia and Parthenos, while watching their father’s wine, a drink which had only recently been discovered among men, fell asleep; and while they were asleep some swine which they were keeping entered in and broke the jar which contained the wine and so destroyed the wine. And the maidens, when they learned what had happened, in fear of their father’s severity"
                        Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5. 62. 1 
Opening a wine-skin is also a euphenism for sex as demonstrated by the conception of Theseus.  Theseus' earthly father asked the article how he could conceive children.  The answer was;
"Loose not the wine-skin’s jutting neck, great chief of the people, Until thou shalt have come once more to the city of Athens.”                              Plutarch’s Lives; Theseus
 On the way home he got drunk and knocked up his host's daughter.  Which makes for a more sinister interpretation of Pholus and Heracles.
 He set roast meat before Herakles, while he himself ate his meat raw.
When Herakles called for wine, Pholus said he feared to open the jar ... But Herakles,  opened it, and not long afterwards... the Kentauroi arrived at the cave of Pholos, armed with rocks and firs.  


  1. Interesting!
    Until fairly recently, our peasants had the following custom: In the wedding night, after the bride's preexisting virginity was confirmed and abolished in a legal way, "sweet brandy" was offered to relatives and other guests. If, however, the bride turned out to have already lost her virginity, a brandy container was shown around that had a hole on its bottom and, of course, contained no brandy.

  2. "We discussed the possibility of Pandora's Box (actually a jar) being a euphemism for Pandora's womb or body."

    Carlos Parada's poem-play "Epimetheus" is based on the same idea.

    (Epimetheus talking):
    "...I met a goddess on the beach!
    Her divine head shone like a star
    as she cried out: "Don't stay afar!"
    I slowly approached, but most bizarre
    was that she then turned into a jar!...
    It was marvellous this jar,
    the most beautiful by far!
    So I wondered: Does it hide
    yet more marvels deep inside?
    And to see what the jar hid,
    I attempted to lift the lid..."

    In my story, when Heracles goes to Caucasus, he knows only that Pandora was punishment for men, evil and source of evils (the Theogony version). Prometheus tells him what the true problem with Pandora was - namely, that she had been given by the gods a "box" full of infectious diseases. He cannot remember the word "jar" and uses an inadequate replacement.