It is a sad mark of modern society that when men hear of “Pandora” they think of the online expression of the Music Genome project. Someone with curiosity might do some research into the name and find that Pandora means “all gifts” in Greek, and thus conclude that the service is well named, for it does provide many gifts to men. I am quite sure that this is the intention of the founders of this website, but this does not reflect the true nature of Pandora’s story.
Pandora finds her origin in Greek mythology, something which modern man has largely abandoned. Yet the stories of Greek mythology echo through the literature of the Western Civilization. More realistically than any philosophical or historical work, they communicate the culture of the Ancient Greeks. Since God never completely abandons His people, the Greek myths also contain aspects of truth recognizable by Christians. When considered in the light of Christ, the story of Pandora illustrates the prefiguration of the Blessed Mother in the person of Pandora.
Zeus creates the original Pandora as a punishment to men after Prometheus introduces fire. She comes to Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother, bearing a jar filled with various “gifts” from the gods; when she opens the jar, she releases every sort of evil into the world, for the gods wish to punish rather than reward mankind. The only true gift, given by Prometheus, that of of hope, Zeus retains in her jar. With evils introduced into the world, Hesiod proceeds to describe his view of women.
The Heliconian Shepherd describes women as a “deadly race” which lives among men “to their great trouble.” He proceeds to describe women as leaches upon the work of men, “with a nature to do evil.” Even the children which a woman bears bring “unceasing grief…and this evil cannot be healed.” Without a woman, a man will find himself abandoned in his old age. By the very story, he makes Pandora the source of evil in the world. These details, combined with the writings of other Greek authors, show that women had an extremely low position in Greek society.
When a Christian reads the story of Pandora, outrage fills his soul at the callous and misogynistic description of women. Yet to read carefully into Pandora’s story, one will discover remnants of Eve’s story. In each case, a divinity creates women for man: Pandora to punish man and Eve to help him. Both women innocently introduce evil into the world when their husbands should be protecting them. Both women introduce fecundity into the world. In the Greek myth, the world’s evils flow from a jar called the amnion which looks like a pregnant stomach. Thus in the Greek myth, a woman brings evil into the world while concurrently bringing man the only hope for immortality which he may possess, that of children. Eve also brings evil into the world, an evil which punishes men with death, and through Eve will man find his freedom from death (Gen. 3:15). It does not take the Christian long to see that Pandora is a faint type of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the New Eve.
Through Hesiod’s treatment of women, the Christian reader realizes a painful truth, that women in ancient Greece suffered a great deal of degradation. Only the advent of Christ frees women from this burden, for in Christ “there is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28). Yet even in the midst of this degradation, Greek myth contained a faint mist of the redemptive power of femininity which the Blessed Mother would gloriously exemplify.