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On Chaos and the Birth of the Cosmos

This month I want to focus on creation myths, in honor of the creation of this Blog/Anthology.

“At the beginning there was only Chaos, Night, dark Erebus,
and deep Tartarus. Earth, the air and heaven had no existence.
Firstly, black-winged Night laid a germless egg in the bosom
of the infinite deeps of Erebus, and from this, after the revolution
of long ages, sprang the graceful Eros with his glittering golden wings,
swift as the whirlwinds of the tempest. He mated in deep Tartarus
with dark Chaos, winged like himself, and thus hatched forth our race,
which was the first to see the light. That of the Immortals did not
exist until Eros had brought together all the ingredients of the world,
and from their marriage Heaven, Ocean, Earth and the imperishable race
of blessed gods sprang into being.”– Aristophanes, Birds 685

There are many retellings of the story, this happens to be my favorite. Aristophanes wrote the play that contains this retelling in 414 BC It won second place at the drama competition that it debuted at. [1]

It centers around Chaos, as all Greek Creation stories do, She is the mother from whom all have sprung forth.

CHAOS (Chaos), the vacant and infinite space which existed according to the ancient cosmogonies previous to the creation of the world (Hes. Theog. 116), and out of which the gods, men, and all things arose. A different definition of Chaos is given by Ovid (Met. i. 1, &c.), who describes it as the confused mass containing the elements of all things that were formed out of it. According to Hesiod, Chaos was the mother of Erebos and Nyx. Some of the later poets use the word Chaos in the general sense of the airy realms, of darkness, or the lower world. [2]

What I like about this story is that love is the motivator of creation. Though this is argued by scholars of which I do not claim to be one:

EROS (Erôs), in Latin, AMOR or CUPI′DO, the god of love. In the sense in which he is usually conceived, Eros is the creature of the later Greek poets; and in order to understand the ancients properly we must distinguish three Erotes: viz. the Eros of the ancient cosmogonies, the Eros of the philosophers and mysteries, who bears great resemblance to the first, and the Eros whom we meet with in the epigrammatic and erotic poets, whose witty and playful descriptions of the god, however, can scarcely be considered as a part of the ancient religious belief of the Greeks. Homer does not mention Eros, and Hesiod, the earliest author that mentions him, describes him as the cosmogonic Eros. First, says Hesiod (Theog. 120, &c.), there was Chaos, then came Ge, Tartarus, and Eros, the fairest among the gods, who rules over the minds and the council of gods and men. In this account we already perceive a combination of the most ancient with later notions. According to the former, Eros was one of the fundamental causes in the formation of the world, inasmuch as he was the uniting power of love, which brought order and harmony among the conflicting elements of which Chaos consisted. In the same metaphysical sense he is conceived by Aristotle (Metaph. i. 4); and similarly in the Orphic poetry (Orph. Hymn. 5; comp. Aristoph. Av.

I love the idea that Chaos when introduced to and combined with Love brought forth the cosmos in its varied complex organization. It is replayed in the way we mate and recreate, when in the throes of passion brought on by love we create new life. It is often said that in the act of love we touch the divine. Greek mythology is full of examples that reinforce this concept.

Mythology is what we have looked to from the beginning of time to explain who and what we are. In this myth we are told a story that we can understand and experience ourselves.

[1] http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/aristophanes/birds.htm

[2] http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/0690.html

[3] http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/1158.html

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