09 January 2011
Homeric Hymn to Pallas Athene
To AthenaI begin to sing of Pallas Athene, the glorious goddess, bright-eyed, inventive, unbending of heart, pure virgin, saviour of cities, courageous, Tritogeneia. From his awful head wise Zeus himself bare her arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold, and awe seized all the gods as they gazed. But Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before Zeus who holds the aegis, shaking a sharp spear: great Olympus began to reel horribly at the might of the bright-eyed goddess, and earth round about cried fearfully, and the sea was moved and tossed with dark waves, while foam burst forth suddenly: the bright Son of Hyperion stopped his swift-footed horses a long while, until the maiden Pallas Athene had stripped the heavenly armour from her immortal shoulders. And wise Zeus was glad. And so hail to you, daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis! Now I will remember you and another song as well(1).
The masculine birth of Pallas Athene, in which she sprung fully formed from Zeus’s head, is immortalized in the Homeric Hymn. The story of Pallas is much older than the Greek version, however. She appears earlier as an aspect of the triple goddess Neith of Egyptian culture(2) and bore the title of Tritogenia, which means her origins are of the water. Her roots may spread further into the past as there are also correlations between a Neolithic goddess known as Mistress of the Waters(3), whose physical form was that of a snake. The Mistress of the Waters was a fertility goddess, a potent, sexual-creative energy which resonates with Pallas Athene well. The energy of the Sea is a very feminine energy, and one which Pallas initially carried. We will see the transition from her feminine and matriarchal essence to her more androgynous nature in the following myth.
In another, longer version of the Greek myth, Pallas’s mother Metis (whose name meant counsel) was taken against her will by Jupiter (Zeus) and Pallas was conceived. However, during Metis’ pregnancy, there was a prophecy that stated that Metis would later give birth to a child who would become the King of the Gods. This startled Jupiter, who did not wish to be supplanted. So Jupiter, being the All Mighty being that he is, swallowed Metis whole in order to prevent this catastrophe. When he developed a horrendous headache and couldn’t take the pain any longer, he had his head cleft open with an axe. Pallas sprang from the wound fully grown and formed and immediately became Jupiter’s favorite, his brain-child.
Pallas now, being born of her father and in essence, motherless, marks the transition of the matriarchal culture to the patriarchy in which we still live today. Zeus, the Father, swallowed Metis, the Mother(4). The discovery of the asteroids(5) and the awareness...
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