Myths dealing with Illness and death
 Prometheus The Biblical Fall
The Story of Poia Hina and Maui


There was once a time when the Titans, powerful giants, walked upon the earth. During the battle between the Titans and the Olympian gods, led by Zeus, there were two Titan brothers who fought on the side of Zeus. One was Prometheus, the creator of humankind, who fashioned people from clay, and the other was Epimetheus.

Although allies of Zeus, the two brothers were still Titans, and the Olympian gods did not entirely trust them. Once there was a discussion over what parts of the sacrificial bull should be offered to the gods. Of course, the gods expected the best parts, the fat and the good meat. But Prometheus deceived Zeus. He divided the bull into two sacks. In the one sack he placed the good meat, but put the entrails on top so that Zeus would think the sack useless and give it back to Prometheus. In the other sack, Prometheus put the bones, but placed the fat on top. When Prometheus offered the two sacks to Zeus, the god naturally chose the one with the fat on top. However when Zeus learned that he had been deceived, he said, "Let Prometheus and the humans eat their meat raw- I will never let them have fire!"

Prometheus knew that mortals would need fire in order for civilization to develop: Cooking, pottery, and metalwork all require fire. So Prometheus went to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, ostensibly to plead his case. However, he never spoke to Athena. He snuck into the palace of the gods through the back door, and when he came to the chariot of the sun, he stole some of the fire, concealing it in a hollow fennel stalk. He then returned and gave the fire to humankind in direct violation of Zeus's command.

When Zeus discovered the theft he was furious. Prior to the robbery, there had been only males among the humans. So Zeus ordered Hephaestus, the smith of the gods, to make a female human from clay. He made a beautiful woman, and Aphrodite gave her still more beauty and taught her charm. Athena gave her skills in cooking, weaving, and spinning, and other gods and goddess gave her still more gifts. Thus, she was called Pandora, meaning "all-gifted".

It was Zeus's intention to give Pandora to Prometheus as a "gift." As a further gift, the gods sent a sealed clay jar with her. Prometheus advised his brother, Epimetheus, not to accept these gifts. But Epimetheus ignored him. Zeus punished Prometheus for warning his brother by having Prometheus chained to a rock in the Caucasus Mountains, where a vulture perpetually tore at his liver.

Alarmed by the horrible vengeance of Zeus, Epimetheus took Pandora as his wife. Pandora had been warned by Prometheus not to open the clay jar, but her curiosity got the better of her. Finally, she could bear it no longer; she opened the jar. Out flew every plague that has since oppressed mankind- greed, lust, sickness, old age, famine, and a host of others. Yet, there was one commodity left in the jar- hope. And as long as hope remains, we can bear all of the other ills that may befall us.

Reference - a1 Return to top


The Biblical Fall ( see also serpents )

Genesis 3:1 - 3:24

(1) Now the serpent was more subtle that any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden (2) And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; (3) But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (4) And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die; (5) For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil. (6) And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

(7) And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. (8) And htey heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence oft he Lord God among the trees of the garden. (9) And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? (10) And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself. (11) And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? (12) And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. (13) And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.

(14) And the lord Gad said unto the serpent,, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. (15) And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (16) Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (17) And to Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; (18) Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; (19) In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of wast thou taken: for dust thou art and unto dust shallt thou return.

(20) And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. (21) For Adam also and for his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them. (22) And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever; (23) Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from where he was taken. (24) So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way of the tree of life. Reference - a3 Return to top

The Story of Poia

Once during the summer in the earliest times, when it was too hot to sleep indoors, a beautiful maiden named Feather-woman slept outside in the tall prairie grass. She opened her eyes just as the Morning Star came into view, and she began to look on it with wonder. She mused in her heart how beautiful it was, and she fell in love with it. When her sisters got up, she told them that she had fallen in love with the Morning Star. They told her that she was insane! Feather-woman told everyone in her village about the Morning Star and soon she was an object of ridicule among her people.

One day she left the village to draw some water out of a creek. There she saw the most handsome young man she had ever imagined. At first she thought that he was a young man of her own tribe who had been hunting, and she coyly avoided him. But he then identified himself as the Morning Star. He said, "I know that you were watching me and fell in love with me. Even as you were looking up at the sky, I was looking down at you. I watched you in the tall prairie grass and knew that it was only y9ou that I wanted for my wife. Come with me to my home in the sky."

Feather-woman was stricken with awe and paralyzed with fear. She knew that this was a god standing before her. She told Morning Star that she would need time to say good-bye to her parents and sisters. However, he told her that there was no time for this. He then gave her a magic yellow feather in one hand and a juniper branch in the other. Then he told her to close her eyes. When she opened them again, she was in the Sky-Country, standing before the lodge of Morning Star, home of his parents, the Sun and the Moon, where they were married. As it was day time, the Sun was out doing his work, but the mother, the Moon, was at home doing chores. She immediately took a liking to the girl and gave her fine robes to wear.

Feather-woman loved her husband and his parents, and in time she gave birth to a little boy whom they named Star Boy. But Feather-woman needed to find things to do in her new home. So the Moon gave her a root-digging stick to work with, carefully instructing her not to dig up the Great Turnip that grew near the home of the Spider Man, warning that terrible ills would be unleashed if she did so.

Feather-woman was fascinated by the Great Turnip and wondered why it was feared. After all, it looked like any other turnip, only much larger. She walked closely around it, being careful not to touch it. She took Star Boy off her back and placed him on the ground. As she was digging, two great cranes flew over head. She asked the cranes to help her and they obliged her, singing a secret magic song that made light work of digging the Great Turnip.

Now, the Moon had been very wise in warning Feather-woman not to dig around the Great Turnip, for it plugged the hole through which Morning Star had brought Feather-woman into the Sky-Country. With a loud plop she pulled the Great Turnip out. Looking down through the hole, she saw a camp of the Blackfoot Indians perhaps her own village, far below her. As she saw the mortals doing their daily chores below, she became homesick and began to weep. In order to conceal what she had done, she rolled the turnip loosely into place and returned to the lodge where she lived with her husband and son.

When Morning Star returned to the lodge, he was very sad. He said nothing, then, "How could you have been disobedient and dug up the Great Turnip?" Moon and Sun were also sad and asked her the same question.

At first Feather-woman did not answer, then she admitted her disobedience. Her in-laws had known that she would dig up the Great Turnip, despite their warnings. The reason for the sadness was they knew that she had disobeyed them and must now be banished forever from Sky-Country.

The next day, Morning Star took his wife to Spider Man, who built a web from the hole of the Great Turnip down to earth. When Feather-woman descended down the web, it looked to the people below like a star falling from the sky.

When Feather-woman arrived on earth with her child, she was welcomed by her parents and the people of their village. But she was never happy. Early in the morning, she looked up at the sky to speak with Morning Star, but he didn't answer her.

After many months had passed, Morning Star did finally speak to her. "You can never return to the Sky-Country," he warned. "You have committed a great sin and brought unhappiness and death into the world." Hearing this was too much for Feather-woman to bear; soon she died of her unhappiness.

The orphaned Star Boy lived with his human grandparents until they died. He was a shy boy who ran as soon as he heard the approach of a stranger's footsteps. The most notable thing about him was a scar on his face, which led to his nickname, Poia, meaning "scarface". As he grew into manhood, people cruelly ridiculed him because of his scar and his pretension to be the son of the Morning Star.

Thus maltreated, Poia was heartbroken by the further indignity of being rejected by the daughter of a chief. His life growing unbearable, Poia consulted with an old medicine woman. She told him that there was only one way for the scar to be removed: He would have to return to Sky-Country and have his grandfather, the Sun, take it off. Knowing that his mother had been banished from the Sky-Country, this was bad news to Poia. How could he return to the land of his birth? The old woman said that there was a way back to the Sky-Country but that Poia must find it himself. Feeling sorry for him, she gave him some food for the journey.

Poia traveled for days and days, over mountains, through forests, through snow, and across deserts, until he reached the Great Water that the white man calls the Pacific Ocean, for this is the farthest west, where the sun goes at night. For three days, Poia fasted and prayed. On the third day, he saw rays reflecting on the Great Water forming a path to the Sun. He followed the path and arrived at the home of his grandparents, the Sun and the Moon.

Upon fining Poia asleep on their doorstep, the Sun was at first prepared to kill the mortal, as no earth-dweller could enter the Sky-Country. But the Moon persuaded him not to do so; she recognized the scar and told the Sun that it was their grandson. Soon, Moon, sun, and Morning Star all welcomed Poia. At the request of his grandson, the Sun removed the scar.

The Sun also taught Poia great magic and the truths of the world. Poia's grandfather explained that the people on earth were suffering as a result of Feather-woman's disobedience. The Sun had a message for the Blackfoot People: If they would honor him but once a year by doing the Sun dance, all the sick would be healed. Poia himself learned the Sun dance quickly, and his grandfather grew to love him very much. His grandparents gave him a magic flute to charm women into falling in love with him. But, because of his mother's disobedience, Poia had to return to earth, which he did by walking down the Milky Way.

When Poia returned to the Blackfoot people, they honored him. He taught them the wisdom he had learned from the Sun and, most important, he taught them how to do the Sun dance, which indeed healed the sick. Because of Poia's great deeds, the Sun and Moon allowed him to bring his new wife, the chief's daughter who had once rejected him, to the Sky-Country, where they remained forever. Now Poia himself is a star that rises with the Morning Star. Reference - a1 Return to top

Hina and Maui (Polynesia)

Hina, the first woman, is the keeper of the underworld of the dead. It is she who decides who dies and who lives. No one ever questioned this but Maui.

Maui had become annoyed with his brother-in-law, and he turned him into a dog. This distressed his sister so much that she tried to drown herself, but was saved at the last possible minute. Everyone agreed that what Maui had done to his brother-in-law was a horrible thing and that he would have to die for it. Maui then went to his father, Tangaroa, and asked what could be done to save his life. Tangaroa told him to go to Hina and ask her to be lenient with him, as he was the son of a god. Maui might have succeeded, but his arrogance made him believe that he could trick and mock death.

When Maui arrived in the underworld, the great Hina was sleeping. Maui asked all the animals to be quiet in order not to disturb her. Maui then crawled up between her legs and then came back out through her mouth. No one ever dared even think of doing such a thing. Maui knew that if he succeeded in doing this a second time, he would be immortal.

Beyond the gods, there is a justice which cannot be tapered with. For all of his powers, Maui was stupid in not realizing this. So he crawled back up between her thighs. The animals were so amazed at his audacity that a little bird broke out laughing aloud, waking Hina, Maui was then crushed to death.

Since that time, no mortal has ever attained immortality, and Hina never sleeps anymore. In the old times, people only died during the night, when Hina was awake, never during the daytime when she was sleeping. Since Maui's disturbance, people can die at any time of the night or day. Reference - a1 Return to top



Index Creation myth Mother of God Death
floods Resurrection Serpents Morals
Seasons Polytheism The Dark Ages Evolution
(From , a site by Maria Shaune which no longer exists)
Also see Buddha story about death

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