Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Goddess of Discord

Alpha Temptation -- Apple, Pomegranate or Fig?

"It wasn't just Christians who picked up on the apple's racy side. The most famous apple of Greek myth is the one you cite, the gold apple labeled "To the fairest" that Eris, goddess of discord, throws among the guests at a wedding party, leading to the judgment of Paris (he has to choose whether Hera, Aphrodite, or Athena is the most beautiful) and ultimately to the Trojan War. You get the picture: apples may look good, but they're trouble. Christian scholars knew the Greek myths and adapted many to their new religion.

Still, the apple wasn't the unanimous choice for forbidden fruit. Carved depictions of Adam and Eve with apples are found in early Christian catacombs and on sarcophagi. The apple was the favored representation of the forbidden fruit in Christian art in France and Germany beginning around the 12th century. But Byzantine and Italian artists tended to go with the fig.

In fact, you can read Christian iconography as a long, twilight struggle between figs and apples over which is the alpha temptation symbol. The apple has a lot to recommend it: red (blood) or golden (greed), round (fertility) and sweet-tasting (desire). The fig, on the other hand, has a certain phallic look, noted as far back as the ancient Greeks, who, admittedly, thought everything looked phallic."

To the Fairest

There is no goodness here
only good.
No motherhood, only mothers.
No baseball, only games.
No America either.
Only someplace
thick with vines,
far east of Eden. Your fallen Eve. 
Mother of all Mothers
Slit beneath blushing skin
rake of a knife
cutting peel from pale flesh -- 
a snake of it,
curled beneath sticky palms
juice pooling on stone,
a sweet stench rising.
The fruit of knowledge
the chaotic golden gift of
Eris -- to the fairest, for sweet Paris.
You cannot resist,
fork her offering with a smile, teeth bared.
The tree is good for food,
pleasing to the eyes,
and desirable for gaining wisdom.
At last your plate is cleaned, your palate cleansed
the gift of innocence long ago consumed
and we are finally free to strip
ourselves of fig leaf and shame.

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