The Greek Myths - Chapter 1, Introduction to the Myths Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 1, Introduction to the Myths Summary and Analysis

These stories are all creation tales. Prior to the enshrinement of the written word and even after it, there is a longstanding effort to answer the basic questions of where it all comes from - how did the world start, from whence has the human species emerged? Myth and science have both endeavored to answer this question. The answer is elusive. Amongst the first factors the editor explains is that in reality, there are thirteen lunar months to the year. This has associations with both women and with the Moon, since women's menstrual cycles tend to roll on a twenty-eight day long month, of which there are thirteen. These were used by Europeans as 'common-law months' for one thousand years after the Julian Solar calendar was introduced.

The editor addresses matriarchy. He seems to have a great respect for women that seeps through his writing. He writes of how the role of men in culture and religion changed when the role of father was cultivated; the other major factor was when women came to recognize and to acknowledge the male contribution to human reproduction. Prior to a certain point, in many locations, men received no credit whatsoever when a woman became pregnant. During the Introduction, he also explains that the women became dangerous when they were intoxicated from chewing live laurel leaves. Cyanide of Potassium is the chemists' name for the intoxicant. The danger was severe: rampaging groups of intoxicated women occasionally broke out and literally killed animals, and in the worst cases, a child or small number of children were murdered - the women would literally tear them to pieces. Anyone can see what a public horror and nuisance this really is, and as a consequence, eating laurel leaves was banned to protect the public; exceptions were made in the case of certain priestesses who could ritually use the same substance without becoming a danger.

Robert Graves explains how political and social changes occurred in stages and that the changes made were expressed through the myths. Athena began as a parthenogenic daughter of Metis during the matriarchal era. She was later reborn as the daughter of Zeus, from his head, with her mother treated as nonexistent but still somehow everyone knew it was Metis. Graves writes that this shows because the society changed: male deities and men became more prominent and powerful. However, Athena retained her power as a goddess - her temples were preserved and her worshipers allowed to stay as long as they acquiesced to the rulership of Zeus. They may not have predicted that the Olympians would be used as archetypal models for Jungian depth psychology by Jean Bolen in the twentieth century.

This section contains 463 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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