Monday, September 20, 2004

Deucalion and Pyrrha

20 Sept 04 Deucalion and Pyrrha

In Genesis 6, the Bible gives the story of the Great Flood. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. They lived at the dawn of civilization. Ten generations separated them from the orginal inhabitants of teh earth: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel. In those ten generations, man became more violent and wicked. he destroyed his environment and his brother. Nothing has ever changed since then.

However, to wipe the slate clean, God decided to purge the world with a great flood. Noah was the best man at his time. The rabbis always tell the reader that this is a comparative statement. he was not perfect or the best man of all times. He was the best of his generation. This explains his behavior because God warned him of the impending danger. For a good interpretation, listen to Bill Cosby.

Noah makes an ark out of gopher wood the length of three hundred cubit and the height of fifty cubits—about the size of the Queen Mary—maybe a bit smaller. However, establishing a shipbuilding industry inland or on a mountain, is a bit peculiar since there was no serious water nearby to accomodate the draught.

Noah built. He collected the first menagerie and instituted the first floating zoological gardens. He had serious trouble teachng the elephants how to balance their bottoms off the rail, so he wouldn't have to clean the stalls.

What did he do wrong? He saved his own skin. He made little or no effort to save the lives of his neighbors or interced on their behalf to turn the wrath of God. The Deluge came and the neighbors drowned. Later after the Deluge, the ark rested on Mount Ararat where Noah disembarked. He built a vineyard and got drunk, possibly from a guilty conscience. From that day to this, sobriety ends when stress begins.

Hesiod related a slightly different story which is found also in Ovid's Metamorphoses. In the dawn of time, the First Age was gold. Men lived together and no one ever had a bad thought. The trees dipped their boughs whenever someone wanted siomething to eat. Life was sweet.

The Second Age was Silver. Saturn fell into Death's dark country and the endless summer changed into the four seasons. Earth withheld her fruit and trees no longer bent to the whims of man. Fields were ploughed and man began to work by the sweat of his brow. Man became the master of animals, yoking the ox to his plough.

The Third Age was Bronze. Impurity became a chief quality to beauty. Men fought against each other to gain control of land and law. Life was lived by blood and Death came quick with angry words and violence. Man became corrupt, hating his neighbor as his enemy.

The Fourth Age, we all know. It is the Age of Iron in which men live by brutal law. master of animals, man turned in hatred against his brother to steal his wife and house. Stabbed so many times with swords, Mother Earth cracked open and poured forth her life blood. Man had no respect for man, beast or gods, as he became a god himself, ursurping the natural law of the universe.

Jove looked down from Mt Olympus and saw the destruction that man had wrought. Cities lay smouldering in ruins. Children had no mothers and mothers, no husbands as life was swallowed up by war and corruption. In fury, Jove raised his thunderbolt to hurl at the earth. In the oceans, the trumpets sounded, signalling the release of all the waters from the deep. The gods released a great tempest upon the earth to erase all trace of man. neptune's steeds no longer restrained, raced wildly over the land as water surged to reach the mountaintops.

But two people's lives were save: Deucalion and Pyrrha survived. They alone, floated on the waters that covered the vast earth, coming finally to rest on Mt Parnassus.

Survival they ralized is no salvation, because isolation brings great grief. And so they prayed for guidance from Themis who told them to toss their mother's bones over their shoulders.

What? Pyrrha asked. Desecrate my mother's bones. No to mention they were washed away.

But Deucalion understood the test. And you can read the rest.

Greek Flood Myths
Deucalion and Pyrrha

Hesiod: Pandora and Deucalion

Ovid, Metamorphoses Bk 1: Deucalion and Pyrrha


20 Sept 04 Deucalion and Pyrrha

I-2 Noah Noah's Flood


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