Orpheus' journey to the Underworld, the realm of Hades, provides a beginning place from which to consider the changing constructs of the afterlife in mythology and religion and history. The iconography of the underworld and the concept of punishment and Who the Devil is the devil.
In polytheism, Hades has a few different masks, including an image, Zeus-like and bearded--Hades / Pluton a majestic, elderly man holding a scepter, twig, cornucopia, pomegranate, or cantharus, the golden bough. On some ancient vases, Hades is shown averting his gaze from the other gods.
In tenth century Christian Europe, and for at least half a millennium thereafter, the Devil was everywhere. He leered out of every church door, he capered through castle and church and cottage, and his plots and pranks and temptings of humans were spelled out in sermons, on the stage, in paintings, in pious books, and in stories told in taverns or in homes at bedtime. The Inquisition in the 13th Century, widespread and cruel, suppression of heresy and witchcraft made monsters out of some religious men. In America we know of the flaming Witch Trials--the significance of history in fiction, profound but false. Nathaniel Hawthorne ( 1804- 1864) writes the short story "Young Goodman Brown" which conveys a society's feelings of bewilderment, dismay, and terror when thinking about Satan. These fellings lead to hypocrisy and madness.
No corner or cranny of daily life escaped him, He lurked outside every orifice of the human body, waiting for the chance to get at the human soul inside-one reason why to this day we say "God bless you" when we hear someone sneeze.
The Devil fathered children on sleeping women, he stirred up conspiracies and treasons, he led travelers astray. He caused boils, plagues, tempests, shipwrecks, heresies, barbarian invasions. Whatever he did, his name was on everyone's tongue, and he went by many names: Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Belial, Mastema, the Prince of Darkness, the Lord of Lies. In the Bible he was the Accuser, the Evil One, the Prince of this World. In Hebrew, the word satan simply means advisary.
In the beginnig of the story of Job, we see that Satan walks around on the same terrain as God, but as the narrative enters and continues, Job and his three friends discuss / debate the nature of God's intention--satan is gone. Whether disruption staves evil some philosohize the purpose of opposition and chaos in a language gone venacular .The devil has dropped so far out of sight that some believe he is gone for good. With the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, undoubtedly satan has lifted his ugly head once again, the newest incarnation of evil. But In practical terms, people have banished him from public life at home. Where has he gone?
How has the image of the underworld changed throughout 750 B. C and 19 B. C. in Greek and Roman epics?
How is the 21st century notion of the devil similar or different from the Hades of mythology?
Is the earthsome animals are portrayed as evil or demonic? Explain the implications.
There is no Heaven and Hell in this story. What happens to the dead?
who, lacking reason, stray and stumble, those
who tremble in the face of what death holds;
but I'll dispel their fears: I shall unfold
the ways of fate. O you, bewildered race,
dismayed and terrified as you await
the chill of death! Why do you dread the Shades
and empty names that poets fabricate?
The Styx is nothing but a counterfeit,
a figment world whose perils don't exist.
Your bodies, whether they have been consumed
by flames upon the pyre or worn away
by time, can suffer nothing more, I say.
But over souls-be sure-death has no sway:
each soul, once it has left one body, takes
another body as its home, the place
where it lives on. Yes, I myself recall
that when the Trojan war was waged, I was
Euphorbus, son of Panthous; my chest
was pierced by Menelaus' heavy lance.
Not long ago, at Juno's shrine in Argos,
the city Abas built, I recognized
the shield that my left arm--in time gone by--
held high. For all things change, but no thing dies.
The spirit wanders: here and there, at will,
the soul can journey from an animal
into a human body, and from us
to beasts, it occupies a body, but
it never perishes. As pliant wax
is still the selfsame wax, so do I say
that soul, however much it may migrate,
is still the same. And thus, lest piety
suffer defeat when faced with belly's greed,
do not expel-so I, a prophet, teach--
the soul of others by your butchery:
those souls are kin to your own souls;
don't feed your blood upon another's blood.
Pythagoras' words have diverse implications, including shaping our attitudes and opinions about how we should treat other species in the natural world.
--How is Pythagoras' philosophy different from the notion of the polytheistic underworld?
--What change does Pythagoras require in human thinking about creatures living in this planet?
--How are Pythagoras' teachings different from the anthropocentric dictums found in Genesis?
Read Baruch Spinoza's Appendix to Ethics.
--In contemporary American culture, does Genesis rule our ideological and mythological relationship with nature or do the words of Pythagoras also find expression in the definition of jurisprudence between humans and the natural world?
--Using science, how might we explain Pythagoras' notions of the soul's journey?
Pythagoras goes on to say:
You, Time, as well
as envious Old Age, devour all;
with gnawing teeth, with slow and lingering
demise, you two destroy, consume all things.
But if we turn to things that we ourselves
can test and trust, you'll see that any corpse
which-through long lapse of time or else because
of liquefying heat-has decomposed,
is transformed into tiny animals.
If, after precious bulls are sacrificed,
you set their carcasses within a ditch,
you'll see (it's a familiar happening)
that everywhere among the rotting guts,
he pollen-gathering bees will soon spring up;
and like the bulls from which they've sprung, those bees
are fond of fields, work eagerly, and wait
with patience for the fruits their labor brings.
While from the buried body of a horse,
The animal that shows its worth in war,
Is the hornet that is born. Tear off
the curving claws of the shore-loving crab,
and hide the rest of him beneath the sands;
then from the buried part, a scorpion
will come and threaten you with his hooked tail.
And in the countryside, those worms that weave
white threads among the trees (as farmers see)
all change, becoming butterflies--the form
that often is depicted on tombstones.
In Slimy mud, one seeks and finds the seeds
that generate green frogs: they have no feet
at first; but soon enough, the frogs receive
it legs that help them swim; and since they need
to leap, the pair in back is longer than
the pair in front. And at their birth, bear cubs
are nothing more than shapeless flesh-mere lumps--
until the she-bear licks their limbs and gives
to them the shape--however crude--that she
herself, their mother, has. And can't you see
just how the larvae of the honeybees
have bodies without limbs when they are born
within their waxen cells, the hexagons
that shelter them? And only later will
you see the bee get feet and, later still,
get wings. And Juno's sacred bird, whose tail
is graced by many starlike shapes, as well
as that great bird who bears Jove's thunderbolts;
and Cytherea's doves--indeed all birds:
unless one knew, could anyone suspect
that these came from the inside of an egg?
Some even hold that when the spinal bones
rot in the sepulcher, the human marrow
is changed into a snake.
How aware is Pythagoras of the world around him? If we speculate for a moment: is Pythagoras a biologist? What might he have in common with students of natural science?
--Pythagoras retells the story of the Phoenix. How does this story represent the physical observations above?
From a cultural perspective where the rituals of human burial include embalming, coffins, and crepts, what might we say is our attitude toward Pythagoras' observations about life and death?
Do we see any shift in the funeral rituals in this country? Where? Why?