Athene's Mirror Pt 2 on Athene, Sex and The City: The Fantasy, Woman by Stephanie Pope for
myth and poetry

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Athene's Mirror Pt 2
The Fantasy Woman
by stephanie pope

Athene, Pandora and HephaistosOne cannot say the name Athene and not remember the way Perseus used Athene’s mirror to reflect the image of woman through the conventions in which he encountered her. The image of woman repeats in what has been described as the head of a mortally beautiful woman with the horrible snake-like hair of a monster (an apparently immortal monster since the head-work 'works' even after beheading her!) Thus formed, the notion of woman herself seems something akin the animal nature of drives and the inhuman nature of divinity. The point is Perseus, founder of one of the twelve Olympian cults, cannot encounter the image of woman directly the way she is in herself.

The Creation of  Woman, Tarquinia Painter, 470-460 BC,    

And so he encounters her indirectly as a thing in himself disturbing to his identity and subject to the killing and desiring nature operating within his own gaze. Desiring what he hates, Perseus destroys how she wears herself within his own purview and gives this accomplishment to Athene as apotropaic to pattern Athene's peplos as female parthenos, the aegis of Zeus. Such is the encounter that stories the fantasy, woman. It occurs by reflection in a fantasy encounter that appears to Perseus’ own head and upon another plane of recollection, a medusean one, where he dis and re members woman as if she were like the very embattlement for control happening within the tension of his own receptive and penetrative reclamation in discriminating arise.  Athene’s Mirror, her shield is central to the plot retelling the story of the hero in Perseus as founder of Mycnae. Athene’s mirror, her shield is central to the telling within the story of the creation of the first woman in lieu of that story capable of telling a creation giving rise to the first woman citizen of Athens. Essentially, there can be no woman citizen of Athens; what stands in for this absence is a fantasy birth regarding the birth of a race called woman.

The creation myth of the city in the birth of Athene and the origin myth of the race of woman in the birth of Pandora will never meet but rather, open to a tween-space in the hope of deconstructing otherness. The way woman is imagined is caught between the fantasy of Pandora and the image of autochthony on the one hand, and the polarizing nature of sex in the image of Athene Parthenos which erases borders that historically join Athene-Aphrodite with the way images of the objective psyche soften and break down returning mythic imagination to its source in the mythical otherwise. The story of how Athenian men come to be Athenian and how Athenian women come to be part of Athens are not the same. The difference is delineated through the differing sexual natures in the way the pantheon of gods and goddesses each behave sex in a parthenogenesis.

The Tarquinia Painter of 5th C Greece gathers the potent mythoi, the ancient story, to the center and reflects his legein, what amounts to his own re-telling through the three images central to the plot embedded in the shield or mirror of Athene. He claims, according to his image text, Pandora the first woman is not Athenian. She is not born from an autochthony nor repeats in relations between Athene, on the left and Hephaistos, on the right. She comes to be through the clothing that covers over and erases her excessive femininity. The cloth is a peplos given her by Athene in the mythic tale by Hesiod  which confirms her creation as a trick of Zeus and the gifts conferred by all the gods which make her a Pharmakon undoing a theft of fire by Prometheus. The idea comes to me how this covering given Pandora by Athene is important. I can suppose that Pandora is not primarily a story about the be-ing of the first woman and her origin in becoming woman per say as much as it is a story about how her ‘sex’ is to function within the city proper in and between citizenry for the good of the polis i.e. on behalf of a nationalism or for a people’s ideological sake and, perhaps,  this sexual ‘wound’ operates, at first, to the detriment of her own developmental and genetic code in conduct.

Pandora’s ‘citizenship’ as a daughter gifted to Athens or her nonAthenian-ness is what is established by Athene. Athene is the goddess of the polis, the civilization and she is in all things, “for the father.” The sense for what she is to be in be-ing that for both Athenian men and women is constructed and arrived at by a mental intervention in an artifice of invention that erases her from representation as herself. The inventive nature of this dominant mythoi establishes the city insider from the city outsider. A mythic dominant comes to reign over multiple insides and outsides surrounding the borders in national hero egos reinforced on all sides within a history of feminine otherness that remains contextually abject.

Above all else, and primarily first, Pandora cannot be separated from the sexually rewoven and inventive capacity of the naming of Athens and the people of Athens. The guardian nature within the idea ‘city’expresses an h’theos; this is an expression of female theo, Athene. Again, Athene is no goddess, no thea. She is the divine expression of ‘female’ within a specific god’s de termini. This de termini is the god who ‘father’s her i.e. her sexuality. Every god and goddess has their own de termini and ‘sex’. The Female-Within-God is not the same sexual expression as the Femininity-Within-Goddess. Athene, although female, defends the threshold of Athenian identity against femininity, something so greatly feared in Athens its form, movement and function throughout the city had to be controlled, coded and strictly enforced. Athene, although female, does not accept femininity for herself. She is virago, an archetypally feminine nature that denies the feminine values within its core. These values have to do with softness and fluidness, receptivity to penetration and change. 

That awareness makes me curious about the ways Aphrodite-Pandora, Hephaistos and Athene belong-together in the story inventing and erasing a woman’s sex drive throughout what happens to the goddess of Beauty, Love and sexual attraction (Aphrodite) once she is reborn from the folds of the 'see' and the sea (Poseidon's realm) I might also add here that I am identifying Poseidon's realm as a tri via within the transpersonal psyche of primal imagination; a psychic space where the mythoi, the imagination and the soul's experiences seep and work out representation in the material imagination within matter itself.

Aphrodite's birth happens when her titan father is castrated and embattled the way fathers are from the tensions of the swords of their sons. The sword in question belongs to Ouranos-Zeus-Cronos. This means what fathers Aphrodite is Zeus/Cronos. But, what gives birth to her is cosmic, primal and fluid; Poseidon-Dione. ErichthoniosThe notion posits how in psychological terms something else must eventually come into existence if the radical nature between the drives in sex and violence are to separate and differentiate. The notion this posits sets apart a third space, a shaping place that is psyche, earthy and invisible before it is ever earthly and manifest. (i.e. the autochthonous space). It is here where once out of nature an image of sexuality in the divine commingling will take its shape from no earthly thing and come to pass as what must be explored through an introversion -Codrus Painter 5thC, center Ge presenting Erichthonios to Athene 
that separates and discriminates the sex and violence drive with a third development called “woman”.

Zeus realizes the radical nature of sexuality when Aphrodite emerges from the womb of the sea and he seeks to ‘marry’ feminine sexuality very quickly to Hephaistos, a god born from a parthenogenic movement within Hera and arising as a god of crafts and crafty inventions. Zeus now becomes interested in a sexually crafted option himself.  He decides it’s now possible to get around the tension of his own sword by sexual experimentation and begins to experiment through the twice born nature in himself.  

This nature can reproduce itself without the aid of another partner. Hera will see this appropriating of childbirth as the ultimate insult to her own sexually personified notion and a violation of their marriage bed. But, for Zeus, the notion is merely how he gets around one side in himself by producing another side to himself. This side can reproduce out of itself and will not take its image-shape from any natural thing. A brighter claim than the parthenogenesis of Hera claimed, the sex-magic of Zeus begins to appear in reflection and through increasing introversion in exploration. Eventually, what comes from here can be seen by Perseus reflecting in Athene’s shield. Athene’s shield mirrors Erichthonion things disturbing to identity.

To achieve parthenogenic capacity Zeus first creates a space for the new divine nature to appear. He places his wisdom as guardian of this space. The name of his wisdom is Metis. Metis surrounds in mythoi the belly of the new story to be reborn from Zeus’ sex, nous and ‘head’. Zeus never meets a sex he doesn’t like and expresses this primal delight every chance he gets. But only once does he give birth from his head.

Zeus gives birth with the help of a tool of invention from Hephaistos. The Athene born to him has eyes only for her father’s battles and his sexual fears and so she keeps her eye on how to control what Zeus fears in the body and hides in the body of Pandora. Eventually Athene sees how useful sex is in the creation of a citizen body and in controlling such a body in preparation for war and in rule during times of peace.

Hephaistos has a very beautiful sex in his Aphrodite. Yet, he cannot control these sexual appetites. Eventually his ‘sex’ gets tangled in the web of his craft and in the crafting of his web. He crafts, in love with his war, a war with Zeus over the uncontrollable nature of love. Love remains faithful to what it loves and this is what Hephaistos fears the most. He traps feminine desire in a Golden Web and makes war with it. He also goes after what he desires to create with Athene and attempts this sexual expression with her.  Although Athene is parthenos, virgin, and remains virgin, Hephaistos ejaculates onto her peplos. Athene wipes this away with some wool and gives the seed to Ge.  This gives rise to Erichthonios, a half-human half divine serpent whom Athene secrets to the underworld with the help of three maidens and by hiding him within the belly of a basket carried between them. This story grounds the origin myth for the men of Athens who claim they are twice born: not once out of nature and the womb of a woman but first from the soil of Ge and second from the seed of Erichtheus. Of note, is the miraculous birth from one, not two parents. This magical motion repeats in the birth motifs of Athene, Hephaestos and Erichthonios. Is this a recognition of an inherent power within the magical muthoi of Aphrodite-Pandora-Psyche and significant of a mythical law? Does soul-making begin to partake of its own gaze creatively within the making “once out of nature” but while still very much within the seed nature that resounds faithful to itself? If so, this movement is what is covered over by the peplos of Athene.

Women will have to enter the city and behave woman sexually over and over in a sex which is not the one that is their own and Poseidon will have to pay a brideprice to free them from behaving such sexual artifice ad nauseum.  But, that is no surprise. Poseidon lost ground beforehand on the other side of the isle to Athene in contest as patron for Athens. This was exactly the moment, the myth says, the women of Athens lost their own representative voices as participants in the city clothed in their own sex i.e. as woman and not citizen.  This other origin story also has a twy-formed kingship expressed in the image of Cecrops who can be seen just to the left in the vase painting. Poseidon will continue to have ‘an axe’ to grind you might say since such sex ‘losses’ are logical soul expressions within excesses expressed in partheno-heterogenic successes. And this brings me to how a woman comes to be made woman in the first place.

To keep the sex of the city not human and divinely inspired, solely for the father in the truly belonging males who belong there because they belong first to the soil of Ge and to the seed of the sons of godmen, people are asked to believe in the parthenos of Athene. Men could be and reflect what they imagined they could be because Athene did not come from a race of women. She was born from an image and a likeness shaped by the nous of Zeus. Pandora is the tricky otherside of this firey persuasion should the femininity the image hides along the underside of Athene’s peplos begin making from its own skin something else granted it by all the gods. Funny, but that may be just the very difference in which and to which the feminine fantasy image woman, in hope, defers.


additional links

Athene's Mirror pt 1

republished from the essays (2004-2006) of cultural mythologer,Maggie Macary Ph.D.

The Chrysalaphantine Athene publishing date 29 November, 2007
republished as Pt 4 in the Athene's Mirror/Athena Sex and the City Essay Series

Transcending The Leaky Vesselpublishing date 21 December, 2007
republished as Pt 5 in the Athene's Mirror/Athena Sex and the City Essay Series

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