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Commentary

Chapter 3: Myths of Creation


This third chapter provides ample material for testing the most persistent of interpretative theories (MLS, Chapter 1). Here are myths predominantly about nature, which accord with the analysis of Max Müller (MLS, p. 7), although we need not, like Müller, argue that all subsequent mythological stories must be interpreted as allegories of cosmological and natural phenomena.

Feminist concerns are addressed (MLS, pp. 17–24): mother Earth is the first and most prominent deity, and the feminine will always remain aggressively assertive, if not always dominant, in Greco-Roman mythology; but it is encroached upon by masculine conceptions of the divine, as patriarchy in both society and religion gains a supremacy, which is not always absolute, over matriarchy.

Most apparent is the constant interweaving of structuralist motifs. The dualities (binary opposites) of Lévi-Strauss are everywhere (MLS, pp. 12–13): chaos/order, male/female, sky/earth, youth/age, and beauty/ugliness. Psychological and psychoanalytical motifs abound (MLS, pp. 7–11): Freudian sexuality is blatantly manifest in the castration of Uranus, and the subconscious motivations of the psyche reveal themselves in the recurring pattern of the victory of the ambitious son in his battle for power against his ruthless father. The Jungian archetype of the holy marriage that is enacted three times (by Uranus and Gaia, Cronus and Rhea, and finally Zeus and Hera) is equally fundamental and universal. And the characters in these conflicts in the beginning of things are themselves archetypes: earth mother and queen, sky father and king, vying for control and settling for an uneasy and sometimes bitter reconciliation between the sexes.

Above all, these stories are etiological (MLS, p. 6–7), beautiful and powerful mythical explanations of the origins and nature of the universe and the devastating physical and emotional force of Love.

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