Gender Politics and the Ancient World.

The story of Helen of Troy is regarded as the last tale from the mythic age. In fact it seems to be as much about the Gods as it is about the affairs of Humanity. In either case the theme is the same, the relationship between the sexes and how they get confused.

The earliest records of history, already steeped in myth and legend, are as significant to us collectively as early personal memories are to us as individuals. They shape us and say what is to be. They are a kind of legacy and sometimes a kind of poisoned chalice, the more so for our not being able to name what we are dealing with.

Difficult to name the way-back…

Gilgamesh has defeated the Great Mother.

Yahweh has cast his Consort Hokmah/Wisdom into the sea.

Cain has slain Able and Jacob has cheated his brother Esau.

In Troy, baby prince Alexandros is prophesied by his sister, the seer Cassandra, to be the future death of them all and so he is cast onto the hillside to die. But the Fates take pity and the boy is saved by a shepherd who raises him as his own, Paris.

Twenty years later Cassandra recognises him in the gladiators ring as the now full grown Alexandros, with the prophecy still intact. Hector, prince regent, sends him to Sparta as an envoy in the hope that Mycaenaen kings Agamemnon and Menalaus will make short work of him.

Little did Hector realise that he had done the worst thing possible…..

because the backstory…

begins with the rejected Goddess. She is represented in our story as Eris the goddess of Wrath who is prevented from going to a wedding feast by Zeus who is busy mending fences with his wife Hera and doesn’t want Eris around.

Eris tosses her gift past the guards anyway, a golden apple with the words, ‘for the fairest’, and departs. The apple is claimed by Hera, Aphrodite and Athena who quarrel bitterly.

The Gods wisely stay out of it and suggest they ask the mortal, Paris, whose summary demise would be of less consequence. Paris gives the apple to Aphrodite who ‘rewards’ him with the match of Helen, daughter of Spartan King Tyndareus, the very court to which he has just been sent by Hector and where Helen is currently being married off to Menalaus whose big bruvva has the world’s largest standing army.

What was Aphrodite thinking?

And why would Paris fall into such a trap, knowing that he must earn the enmity of the two left unchosen who are bound to arm the Spartans to the teeth?

There are stories of some clever ones being able to wriggle out of such a pickle.

like brer rabbit an’….

This is not one of them.

….f’rinstance, the story of princess Pashmina

Pashmina?

yeah, from India..

..whose horrible suitor tried to trick her into marriage by suggesting he put a white and a black stone from the gravel on the path into a purse, that she choose one and let the gods decide. A black stone would mean they were ordained to be married….

So he puts two black stones into the purse….

but Pashmina sees what he has done…..

What to do….?

She picks one out…

but immediatley drops it..

silly me.

Never mind! The one that is left will show which one was picked….

clever me.

But Paris was not as smart as Pashmina. Perhaps he didn’t even realise how much trouble he was in. His ‘reward’ is soaked in blood. Aphrodite has not done him any favours. In fact you can’t help but think that sending Paris to his death along with the entire city of Troy didn’t feel more like she bore him and his kind…

just a bit of a grudge…

And  if he’d picked Athena you can’t help feeling that she would have given him an army and a fleet big enough..

to take on the Spartans….

and if he’d picked Hera you can’t help feeling she would have given him the funds to build an army and a fleet big enough..

to take on the Spartans…

Whatever Paris does, conflict is coming..

mighty, grinding, Destruction.

in the wings, Eris cackles like a crone.

When the Great Mother is cast out, she drives Men mad.

Its a poetic affliction.

Internal co-hesion is eroded to the point where the hero’s main task is no longer Gilgamesh’s elixir, the treasure hard to attain, but the less evolved vanquishing of his Dark Brother who has to be projected into the world to the extent that he remains identified with the golden, omnipotent, settler of divine disputes.

Paris is a classic narcissist. He behaves as he pleases without reference to anyone and without concern for consequences. He’s not emotionaly connected despite the romantic overtones. It doesn’t occur to him to become a market trader in Ur. He can’t be ordinary without it meaning the end of love.

He’d rather be famous than grown up.

His shadow is Agamemnon, a blood thirsty, cruel tyrant who wants gain for its own sake and is just as happy to be notorious.

Neither story ends well.

Paris’ love for Helen, like Agamemnon’s hate, is not a personal thing. He is a simpleton being driven along by divine forces whilst Helen is treated like chattle and drawn lots over by the kings of Greece, more a slave than any in her father’s royal dungeons.

The kings take an oath, the ‘Oath of Tyndareus,’ to support whichever of them is unlucky enough to be her husband. As the author of so much trouble she seems almost to be a personification of Eris herself.

Helen is trouble because she is unwanted. Her mother, Leda, killed herself after being raped by Zeus. Her father, King Tyndareaus, knows she isn’t his and rejects her. More, he actively and publically shames her in front of the other kings pouring all his gall against the feminine into Helen who is just a fiesty kid who wants some love and respect.

”The real issue is that the child/woman is “offensive” to the father’s sense of omnipotence. Such a father projects badness onto the pure inspiration in others, and then punishes them for having dared to be filled with a palpable and holy force that the father does not understand, that is, la luz, the Divine light that throws sparks constantly, and which roams the world just looking for any darkened lamp filled with fragrant oil.” Clarisa Pinkola Estes.

The rumour that her father is actually Zeus may mean that this prototypical modern women has a father imago (and ultimately her ‘animus’, her masculine side) that is unlived because of Tyndareaus’ witholding. It remains impersonal, undifferentiated, archetypal, Zeus-like. It will be tough for any man to live up to Daddy even if she hates him.

But lets get some more of the backstory to really appreciate the unfolding blood bath.

Yahweh has broken the body of Hokmah his Consort, the ‘Whore of Babylon’ into the sea in three pieces (Rev 18;21). And here, just across the Aegean not a short time later, we have a trinity of divided, quarrelsome goddesses, binding and separating in their argument, behaving as though in shock, their value suddenly outside them, for mere mortals to decide.

Being split into three is an observable response to trauma. (F Ruppert 2013), who calls these parts, the ‘survival self’, the ‘traumatised self’ and the ‘healthy self’. The healthy self and the traumatised self have a dialogue going but..

”The survival self does not have the ability to reflect. It is reactive and when its raison d’etre is threatened it will control the rest of the personality.”FRuppert.

just like the three goddesses all squabbling to get the upper hand, disenfranchised, humiliated by the schoolyard drama and having to ingratiate themselves to a mortal, Paris, just as Helen, daughter of Zeus, is having to ingratiate herself before the kings of Greece. The creative feminine is being subjugated on all levels and so the goddesses ‘gift’ is the gift of Hell hath no Fury..

”It is dangerous, just because it is the deepest instinct, a power which is beyond conscious control, and because it creates the greatest value, it is most dangerous to interfere with it.”
C.G. Jung.

But interfer he does and before you know it Paris is being hotly pursued by the mightiest force of ships and spears ever seen being led by Agamemnon, a very pointy man who sacrificed his own child to Athena for a favourable wind..

just to have the edge in what was to follow..

its not going to end well is it?

And so the triumph over the Great Mother is actually a terrible disaster. Motherless children, Helen and Paris are separated. The last words we hear from Helen are to her peeved husband Menalaus, ‘I will follow.’  She, and all women, lose the right to choose.

“When a woman is exhorted to be compliant, cooperative, and quiet, to not make upset or go against the old guard, she is pressed into living a most unnatural life. The worldwide issue for women is that under such conditions they are not only silenced, but they are put to sleep. Their concerns, their viewpoints, their own truths are vaporized.” Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

And the men don’t get let off lightly either. The schism engendered in the divine feminine rebounds on masculinity. It weakens men’s feeling function, our capacity to belong or reach out to the world. Rather than a dialogue between I and Me, we have the male psyche split into the shadowy, dangerous Agamemnon which we project onto our enemies and the idealised, narcissistic Paris we still secretly  believe we are. On our side of the fence.

Both are trouble.

neither have belonging

”When we are cut off from the fulfillment of our basic needs we seek out substitutes to temporarily ease the longing. Bereft of connection to nature, connection to community, intimacy, meaningful self-expression, ensouled dwellings and built environment, spiritual connection, and the feeling of belonging, lots of us over-consume, overeat, over-shop, and over-accumulate.” Charles Eisenstein

Both are the mould of modernity.

I was looking for images of Eris and happened by chance to find that a tenth body has been discovered in an eliptical orbit round the sun, mostly beyond Pluto.

Its name is Eris.

What a relief, she has finally been invited to the party.

She has a moon..

called Dysnomia, which means, ‘the forgetting of names’, not being able to remember what things are called.

like Muslim or Christian or Jew.

we could use a little name forgetting..

Published by

andywhite

Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, ‘Going Mad to Stay Sane’, a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition.

Soon to be printed for the first time, ‘Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery’, described by activist Satish Kumar as, ‘ A Tao of the Soul’. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way.

In the meantime…..
Narcissisim is the issue of our age.
This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

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