The myth of Europa and Zeus, or the marriage of the Earth and the Sky

Daedalus, ut fama est, fugiens Minoia regna,….posuitque immania templa….hic crudelis  amor tauri suppostaque furto Pasiphae, mixtumque genus prolesque biformis Minotaurus  inest.

Daedalus,  so the story goes,  flying the Cretan shore….built this boundless temple… here is the cruel bull’s love and the abduction of Pasiphae,…and the double  hybrid nature of the Minotaurus…                              

From Aeneid, Book 6th

In my first issue in this blog, inside the article “Temple and Time”, I  mentioned the sixth book of Aeneid and made some allusion to the temple of Apollos, built by the famous inventor Dedalus. Here Aeneas spends some time admiring the doors of the temple where various mythological scenes are depicted. There are images about Androgeos’s death, the Athenians, Cecrops descendants , commanded to pay annual tribute of seven of their  youths , the Euboean shores and Pasiphae’s love and the Minotaur, the urn where the lots are kept and the Labyrint. There should have been also a representation of Icarus , but sorrow prevented Dedalus to give shape to his son’s death.Vergil tells us that Dedalus twice tried to fashion a depiction of his death in gold , but both times was overcome by emotion.  Soon after  this  moment of  contemplation ,  Aeneas prays the Sybil to be allowed to visit his father in the underworld.

In the Greek mithology various are the characters of gods and heroes  presented by tradition and they are all similar as  they belong to a unique texture. Many mythological  persons have been introduced with different names, but often with similar roles and the same ethimological meaning.  For instance , think of Elisa, think of Helen, (even of Lavinia  when referring to  the Latin area)  and the many other goddesses , as the same  Pasiphae ,  or Europa also known as Telephassa-the far shining- whose names  all convey the  sense of shine and whiteness. Similarly Kerberos and  Karon or Akeron and Tartarus, in spite of many other suggestions, have a common root in the greek Χερσος, that is a word you can use for dry earth, stationary earth, continent, desert. In ancient times Kerberos was actually used to mean the earth – latin:terra- where  dead corpses are devoured as by an infernal dog.

It could be interesting to examine the origin  of the latin word terra: it is from TERSA that means dry and from tars, an ancient Indoeuropean root that  means to be dry, to get dry.  The same is for the Greek verbs terso, tersaino (to get dry) and tarsos that is a noun indicating an interlacing or a texture,  or even the plants of the feet. And is it not the earth  the place where we lay our feet for walking?

There is another character  similar to Pasiphae: Europa. The name’s ethimology has also to do with someone   with a large face, she is the broad-faced  Europa, an image of the surface of the earth. But Europa and Pasiphae, what do they have in common? They both assume the shape of a cow and become lovers of a bull. It’s the sacred marriage of the earth with the sky since the bull as Taurus is also the name of a constellation of the zodiac. So the myth of the cow and the bull acquires  a cosmogonic value.

In India cows are revered as sacred  since cows are considered to be the mothers of the universe. Here is the legend  about Gaumata, the cow. A king  named Vena was so wicked that the wise men in the kingdom had to kill him. After many years,  during a dreadful famine, the new king, armed with his arch and arrows, menaced to kill the earth if food was not produced to nourish his starving subjects. Then the earth took the resemblance of a cow and went to implore the king to save her, in exchange of her milk given  for the nourishment of all the population of the kingdom. According to this legend,  Indian people never kill cows.

Europa’s mythology can be considered as a cosmogony uniting earth and sky, continents and people, it has a global meaning gathering in it Gods and humans, animals, vegetables, a sort of pass-partout for ideas that can pass through the ages. The tales of Love and Psyche and of Belle and the Beast  could have similar meanings.

So, what about the labyrint and Minotaur? What about Icarus? What do they represent?

These will be the subjects for a later issue in the blog. Bye-bye.

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