Episode 1B Show Notes
Source: Greek Mythology
This week on MYTH, you’ll learn why tits are a literal booby trap, why desecrating your mother’s corpse is a good idea, and why helping out Zeus is a terrible fucking idea. This is the Myths Your Teacher Hated podcast, where I tell the stories of cultures around the world in all of their original, bloody, uncensored glory. Modern tellings of these stories have become dry and dusty, but I’ll be trying to breathe new life into them. This is Episode 1B, “Pandora’s Vagina.” As always, this episode is not safe for work.
- What with most of creation either being locked up in Tartarus or guarding the those assholes, the earth was pretty barren. But at least the monsters were gone now. Fuck those guys.
- Zeus decided to populate the earth, and the accounts as to how that happened differ. I’ve picked my favorite. Zeus gave the job of creating all creatures to his faithful Titan Epimetheus. His name means afterthought, so you can guess how this goes. We all have that friend who just does whatever comes into their empty fucking brain and doesn’t stop to think about the consequences until they’re already sitting in the cooling ashes of what used to be your house with an empty fifth of whiskey and a shit-eating grin. Epimetheus is no different. He gets excited making the animals and proceeds to give out all of the fur, claws, scales, wings, and the like. The platypus may have involved wine. It comes time to make people, but he’s fresh out of cool shit. He runs to his brother and begs him to help.
- Prometheus, whose name means forethought, was super wise, possibly the wisest being in creation (definitely beating out Zeus). He agrees to help. He decides to have people stand on two legs, facing the heavens instead of on four legs facing the earth, like all of the animals (I mean, not monkeys, but the greeks didn’t know about monkeys). Even so, they’re still cold and hungry because they don’t have fur to stat warm or claws to kill things to eat, so basically, they’re just standing around being fucked by nature.
- He takes pity on his starving, shivering creation. He sees the fire of the sun up on Olympus. Zeus has decided fire is for him only, cause lightning is totally the same thing, but Prometheus decides fuck it. He takes a branch and brings fire back to the miserable fuckers on earth.
- They’re able to use it to warm themselves, drive off the night, and protect themselves from all of the dangerous shit that makes us afraid of the dark to this day. They also learn to make tools, weapons, crafts, and basically, all of civilization (they’re very quick learners in this story).
- As an aside, theres another major accounts of man’s creation in greek myth that some writers have merged into one story, doing that feels unwieldy and awkward, so I’ll just tell them briefly and let you know where they fit in with the story so far.
- The first has the titans creating man themselves. They create men out of gold. They were mortal, but otherwise, it was basically the Garden of Eden (not the last parallel to bible stories you’ll see in this podcast) with the earth providing food without toil and men existing without pain or sorrow. The gods loved them, and when they died, they became angels who wandered around helping out mankind. Hesiod puts the golden race as existing at the same time that Cronus was ruling, and has them destroyed during the Titanomachy.
- It’s not explained why the gods started experimenting with different metals, but I have a theory. If you’ve ever had 24 karat gold, you know it is fragile as fuck. You can bend it and gouge it pretty easy, so the gold men must have been pretty gods damned breakable. It’s the only reason I can think of for what keeps happening next.
- After the golden race, the Olympians try building men out of silver. In short, they sucked compared to the gold men. The olympians seemed to have trouble getting the hang of what the titans had been doing. The silver men were so stupid that they required a hundred years to grow up, but then lived very short lives. They were too stupid to obey the gods. I say stupid, because the gods themselves were telling the silver men what to do; not in some vague “I inspired a book but it’s totally me guys have faith” kind of way, but by literally walking the earth and telling people to shape up or be destroyed. They didn’t and Zeus destroyed them in fury; when they died, their spirits went to Hades and dwelled there.
- Next was the brass race. They were immensely strong and Quentin Tarrentino level violent. Historically, brass weapons were the first to allow for really widespread warfare, being incredibly superior to the arrows and spears of tribes who did not have the ability to make brass (go Prometheus for giving people fire, right?). The had brass weapons, brass armor, and, for some reason, brass houses. They worshiped Ares (god of War), and instead of bread, ate the hearts of their fellow men. They fight each other to death and are gone. Their spirits are sent to a dark pit in the underworld, never to see the light of day again.
- Some accounts have Zeus ending the brazen men with a great flood, but that’s used again later, so I’ll say he rained death from above in the form of a hail of lightning bolts.
- Next the gods hit pause on the whole “metal men” thing and create a race of noble heroes. Why they didn’t start with that, who they fuck knows. The heroic age is when most of these stories take place. A lot of the heroes had divine qualities or were half deity (often Zeus, cause that dude got around, but we’ll get to that). They were noble and respected the gods, and most died in valiant quests or noble wars, like the Trojan War and the Seven Against Thebes, both of which will be later episodes.
- These souls went to the Elyssian fields in Hades, after they died, which was very similar to heaven. Also called the Island of the Blessed, it was a place where the souls could live in peace and happiness in the same station they held in life. Cronus is eventually freed from Tartarus, where most of the titans were banished, and becomes the ruler of the Elyssian Fields.
- Once the age of myth ends, the gods create the race of Iron men, which is the modern day. It is described as a time of constant stress and labor (sort of like man after he was kicked out of Eden, right?). Morality is gone, and men are constantly opposing each other, lying to each other, betraying each other, yada yada yada. One day, they will become evil enough that Zeus will destroy us like he did the other races that displeased him.
- Another version has the gods creating men as, essentially, two people put together. There are three races: The Children of the Sun, the Moon, and the Earth. All of them had four hand and feet, two faces, and one body. The children of the sun were both men (like Ouranso), the children of the earth were both women (like Gaea), and the children of the moon were one man and one woman (being between the two). They were incredibly strong and coordinated, and they work together well. They start to wonder if they needs the gods, and the gods get scared. They talk about killing them, like they did the giants, but the gods also like the sacrifices and prayers and want that to keep happening. They come up with a plan. Zeus flings thunderbolts down and splits them in two, each with two hand, two feet and one head. The two halves run to each other and fling their arms around one another, trying to press themselves together to become one again. They begin to die off from starvation and neglect, because they won’t do anything apart and have trouble doing things together now that they are separate. He takes pity on them, or more likely doesn’t want the adulation to stop, and comes up with a new plan. Their parts are turned around to face the front. He changes the way they procreate so that instead of sowing their seed in the dirt like grasshoppers (they didn’t do well in science) but in one another. This way, they can embrace and procreate the species (for the children of the moon) or embrace and find mutual comfort and rest and go on about their lives. To this day, we are but half people, always looking for our other half, what gender that half is being dependent on whether we are children of the sun or the moon or the earth. This version shows up in Plato’s Symposium and also as a rad song in Hedwing and the Angry Inch called The Origin of Love.
- So back to the original story, after a very long aside, Prometheus had stolen fire from the gods and given it to man, which was expressly forbidden because, as we’ve seen, Zeus was really scared of being overthrown like his father before him and his father before him, so maybe he had reasons.
- He sees the fires dotting the earth’s surface and figures out what must have happened (surely there’s no way a thunderbolt could have possibly started a fire, no) and he’s pissed. He’s already mad at Prometheus for liking people too much because he had tricked the gods into giving men the best parts of the animal sacrifices. He cut up a great ox and took all of the edible parts and wrapped it in the hide, then buried it under the entrails. Then he took the bones and put them together cunningly, shined with the fat to look enticing. He asked Zeus to pick between the two piles for which parts the gods would receive. Being way dumber than Prometheus, he totally picks the shining fat. He gets angry when he realizes that he’s been tricked and men get the good parts of the animal, but he made his choice and in spite of murder killing all sorts of powerful entities to get his way, decides that he has to abide by the choice for some reason.
- He decides to punish everyone involved. He has Hephaestus, the god of the forge, make massive, unbreakable chains and uses them to chain Prometheus naked to the top of a mountain with the help of his servants, Force and Violence (seriously). After a few days of this, he sends Hermes, messenger of the gods, to talk to him. It turns out that Prometheus knows a prophesy that Zeus would one day have a son that would overthrow him and take his place, If Prometheus would just tell him who the mother would be, so he could make sure not to bone her (he could just stop tricking mortals into fucking him, Zeus would literally rather die than stop raping women), he’d be free. Prometheus tells him he would have an easier time convincing the waves not to break on the shore so fuck off, which is pretty badass. In my head, his voice is that of Morgan Freeman, but maybe that’s just me.
- Hermes warns him that it can get way worse than just being chained naked to a rock on top of a freezing mountain and forbidden to sleep. A giant eagle is going to come every day and eat out his liver, leaving him awake and alive through the whole thing. Being immortal, it will painfully grow back by the next day just in time for the eagle to come back. He warns that the man who can free him has not been born (but we’ll get to that, I promise) and for generations, this happens every day.
- Meanwhile, he creates a trap for man and for Epimetheus. I’m warning you now, this next part is either sexist or super sexist, depending on which version you use. I’ll pick the least sexist, but still kind of sexist one, but I’ll briefly describe the others too. At this point in creation (leaving aside the non-canonical origin of love story), only men had existed, created by the gods directly. He creates a woman named Pandora (gift of all), and each of the gods gives her a gift, and sends her to Epimetheus to be his wife. Now before he was taken away, Prometheus had explicitly warned his brother not to accept any gifts from Zeus, because they would be poisoned. Epimetheus agrees and then completely forgets all about it, so when this beautiful woman shows up at his door from Zeus, he takes her in. Given the scarcity of females in the pantheon, and all of the titans being locked away or dead, he was probably a really old virgin, so maybe he can be forgiven for deciding that the juice was worth the squeeze. Besides, she was really cool, and sweet and funny and charming and he really, really liked her.
- Pandora comes to live with him, and he’s stoked. He tells her that everything he has is hers and she can do whatever she likes, except don’t open that one box. There’s a box in the corner of the house. It’s plain and cheap looking and closed with a clasp, but not a lock. Because he’s the afterthought brother, he decides this vague statement is a perfectly fine way to leave things and goes about his business. They were incredibly happy together. Except for the box.
- See, Zeus’ gift to her was curiosity which, on the one hand is the beginning of wisdom and, on the other killed the cat. After some time, she can’t stand it anymore and she opens the box. Inside, she sees some truly nasty shit, and it all rushes out towards her face, and she screams and falls back. She gets back up and slams the lid shut, but only one thing was trapped. Epimetheus comes home to find her crying and asks what happened.
- She tells him she opened the box and he is crestfallen. The box was full of all of the things left over from creation that they didn’t want to let out into the world. These were things like disease, pain, envy, greed, you get the idea. Epimetheus check the box and sees that the only thing that didn’t get out was hope which, until all the bad shit got out, man didn’t need. He places that into mankind to help them deal with his mistake because seriously, if he had just told her what was in the box, none of this would have happened. Of course, that’s why Zeus pulled this with him and had his brother chained naked to a rock; Prometheus would have seen it coming (and had, in fact, already warned him about it).
- The slightly more sexist version is the same, except that the box is hers. Zeus gave it to Pandora when he created her as his gift and warned her to never, ever open it. She, being a woman and therefore weak-willed and nosy, ignores the king of the gods as he knew she would, because she’s a woman, rather than because Epimetheus is vague and mysterious and anyone would be curious. If the king of the gods tells you definitely don’t open the box, don’t open the damn box.
- The super sexist version has Zeus creating his beautiful disaster and giving it to men, who became enraptured of her and fought over her. She is the bane of all men, and from her comes all women, who are and I quote “an evil to men, with a nature to do evil”. Fuck. That. Shit.
- This story bears a lot of similarities to the Adam and Eve story, right down to women tricking men into evil ways because of her womanly curiosity. So basically, I guess the moral is that men are terrible but prefer to blame somebody else for their problems and women, being not in power because of the patriarchy, were an easy target.
- Once man had fire, he, as usual, decided to be an asshole with it. Mankind became wicked and decadent, to the point that Zeus finally had enough of everyone and decide to just kill them all and be done with it. He got his brother Poseidon to help and sent a flood to drown the world (sound familiar?). A torrent poured from the sky and the seas rose up from the beaches and drowned out all but the highest mountain on earth, Parnassus. After flooding for nine days and nights straight, a small wooden box floated to the tiny peak that remained dry. Well, dryish. Out of the box came two people, a husband and wife named Deucalion and Pyrrha.
- He was Prometheus’ son, and she was the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora (so they were cousins, which is just how the ancient greeks did things). Prometheus had given them a warning before being carried away to his rock (where he endured and survived the flood) to build a watertight chest and stock it with provisions.
- Fortunately, Zeus was impressed by their cleverness rather than killing them out of hand as he easily could have. It didn’t hurt that he knew them as pious, faithful servants of the gods, unusual in the wicked times they lived in.
- They looked around and saw barren earth with no life upon it. Zeus took pity on them and drained off the flood (to where is unclear) leaving them free to descend to the swampy, disgusting ground again. They found a temple, covered in slime and seaweed and debris (think Call of Cthulhu, if you know it) and went inside to offer thanks for their survival and ask for guidance as to what to do, since they were literally the entire planet.
- A voice rang out in the stillness and told them “Cover your heads, and throw the bones of your mother behind you.” Pyrrha said “Fuck me, really? We can’t do that. First, there’s no telling if her grave even survived the flood and besides, that’s super gross and fucking disrespectful to the dead.” Deucalion agreed that it was bullshit but figured that there had to be another explanation. Surely the gods wouldn’t demand blasphemy, right?
- They eventually decided that the earth was the mother of all life, and the rocks could be considered to be her bones, so maybe they should just throw rocks over their shoulder. Pyrrha said that this was a stupid fucking idea, and Deucalion said, “yeah, but do you have a better idea? If it doesn’t work, we still have time to go desecrate a corpse.” So they did.
- As they stones landed on the muddy ground, they rose up and became people. They were known as the Stone Race, and they were hardy and tough, which the Greeks obviously thought they were since this was the current race of people on earth.
And with that being the closest thing to a happy ending that we’re going to get, it’s time for Gods and Monsters. This is a segment where I get into a little more detail about the personalities and history of one of the gods or monsters from this week’s pantheon that was not discussed in the main story. This week’s monster is the demigoddess and total badass Empousa. Picture this: you’re a dashing you Athenian out partying one night. You’ve been drinking straight wine all night (most people drank wine heavily cut with water unless they were trying to get fucked up) with this smoking hot redhead you met at the inn common room. Even better, when the place closes up, she tells you she has a room upstairs and a bed big enough for two (though you might have to squeeze a little). You have the best fuck of your life and fall asleep. A little later, you feel warm, then a searing pain in your neck. Your eyes shoot open and you see something that might have once been the woman you came upstairs with but warped into a monster. Her hair is now made of literal fire, and bat wings have grown out of her back. Her skin has gone from pale to alabaster white and her eyes have gone blood red. You’re not sure if it’s the mortal terror and blood loss, but you think she now has one donkey leg and one bronze one. With her razor sharp fangs, she is tearing open your throat. You can feel her feeding on you as you breathe your last.
This is Empousa. In early stories, she is an evil daughter of the goddess Hecate and the spirit Mormo. She feasted on blood and flesh by seducing young men, and then devouring them while they slept. In one story, she attacks a young man she found sleeping at a crossroads. Unfortunately for her, the young man turned out to be Zeus in disguise. In anger, he promptly killed her. In other stories, the Empousa are the monsterous creations of Hecate, set to guard crossroads and attack unsuspecting travelers at night. In one story (told in Aristophanes’ Frogs and, oddly enough, retold in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series), the Empousa are said to be one of the evils unleashed by Persephone when she opened the box. The monster version was said to be created by the dark magics of Hecate to combine humans, donkeys, and bronze. No, I don’t know how that combination develops batwings, fire hair, or bloodlust, but myths and logic are not always friends. The Empousa was said to have one donkey leg and one bronze prosthetic leg because when making the terrifying forebear of the vampire, why not make it completely ridiculous?
So be warned, if you meet a strange, beautiful woman at a crossroads at night, and she offers you the sins of the flesh, check her legs and see if she has a donkey leg and a bronze fake leg. If she does, you’re in luck. All you have to do is break out of the seductive spell she can weave over you with her eyes and insult her. Keeping with the theme of “The Ancient Greeks were Sexist”, the deadly Empousa are apparently very insecure about their weird legs and will run away shrieking if you say something mean to them about it. Bram Stoker used these creatures as one of the influences on Dracula but, understandably, he removed some of the more outlandish elements to make his vampire more terrifying.
That’s it for this episode of Myth Your Teacher Hated. Keep up with new episodes on our Facebook page, on iTunes, on Stitcher or on TuneIn, or you can follow us on Twitter as @HardcoreMyth. You can also find news and episodes on our website at myths your teacher hated dot com. If you like what you’ve heard, I’d appreciate a review on iTunes, since it helps increase the show’s standing and let more people know it exists. If you have any questions, any gods or monsters you’d want to learn about, or any ideas for future stories that you’d like to hear, feel free to drop me a line. I’m trying to pull as much material from as many different cultures as possible, but there are all sorts of stories I’ve never heard, so suggestions are appreciated. The theme music is by Tiny Cheese Puff, whom you can find on fiverr.com.
Next time, we’ll leave the Greeks behind and a story about one of my favorite trickster gods, Anansi. He’s a demigod from West African mythology, and he’s both a wise cracking jokester and an incredibly self absorbed asshole. You’ll learn how Zeus isn’t the only douche bag sky god, why you should never accept help from a spider, and that invisible fairies get really bitchy if you aren’t polite to them. That’s all for now. Thanks for listening.