Prometheus or Lucifer?

My mind went roaming.Yes, it came home safely, thank you. {glares at the wallaby on the back row}

What got my mind meandering was the song “Lucifer” from Avantasia’s album Ghostlights. The song was playing as I drove to the gym the other morning. Within the past few weeks, Sarah Hoyt had a post about Prometheus, and how he taught mankind to cheat the gods – or to keep unjust gods from getting what wasn’t theirs to begin with, take your pick – and got chained to a rock and tormented by an eagle every day. In the German Romantic literary canon, Prometheus was a hero, and got all the good lines. Sort of like Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, except . . . Satan is glorious, amazing, and evil. Prometheus is defiant and a symbol of the independent man standing up to the unjust Powers That Be.

It just so happened that the folks working at the gym had put on a hip-hop station, and the lyrics being chanted were about a guy who thought he was a demi-god come down to earth and becoming a mere man in order to rule the place. That approach to the world explains why so many “aspiring young rappers” (as the Canadian news service seems to always describe them) get done in when their egos make demands that society vehemently disagrees with. “You will be like unto G-d,” promises the serpent in the garden. Except not bulletproof, or knife-proof, or free from the consequences of your actions.

There’s some suggestion that Prometheus was a later addition to the Greek mythological canon than some of the other gods. I have not tried to track that down. But I wonder if he’s the Trickster, and goes back a ways in popular belief before he became official. Lots of polytheistic religions have some sort of ambiguous Trickster, be it Prometheus, or Loki, or Anansi, or Coyote, or Raven, or some of the Australian Aboriginal figures. Except Prometheus doesn’t have an obvious “dark” side, if the surviving mythology tells true, unless it is not warning man about the risks of irking the other gods. He teaches men how to cheat the gods, and steals fire for mankind in order to help people thrive as well as just survive. Or he helps people trick the gods and keep the best of the sacrifice for themselves. Who gets hurt there? Only the Olympian deities. Prometheus had already switched sides in the war of the Titans vs. the Olympian gods, because the Titans wouldn’t take his advice, according to Hesiod. So he had a shady reputation to start with, as far as Zeus and Co. were concerned, and then he helps trick them. Instead of promptly blasting the people for listening to Prometheus, the gods blast Prometheus. Then they unleash Pandora and her box on humanity as revenge for mere mortals daring to think we could “cheat” the gods.

Lucifer/Satan refused to accept the role of servant and disobeyed the Most High. For this he and his followers were cast out of Heaven. He is associated with the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, and with tempting Jesus to sin. In Revelation Lucifer/Satan appears as the enemy of G-d, one half of the war in Heaven where St. Michael is mentioned as leading the forces of good. The book of Isiah has a section called the “Five ‘I Will’s’ of Satan,” where a figure proclaims his determination to be like the Most High, to be a deity. The entire section is a promise and a curse, and one of those chapters that generally seem to escape being preached upon, save for verses 13-14.

Goethe, in one of the key poems of the “Sturm und Drang” side of Romantic writing, has Prometheus railing against Zeus. Prometheus, the narrator, proclaims that he greater than the god of storms and sky, because Zeus cannot touch what Prometheus has created. The speaker’s heart is the source of all, and the gods envy that. Envy is what leads to Prometheus’ downfall, not justice, and the titan remains defiant. Prometheus uses the familiar “du” to address the chief of the Olympian gods, familiarity and contempt. Very Romantic, very much “storm and stress,” wild passion and defiance of the conventional order by one who knows that he is in the right, no matter what life brings. Sound familiar?

It’s probably best to avoid both Lucifer and Prometheus, at least as they are preserved in mythology and culture. Tricksters can be very helpful . . . or not.

7 thoughts on “Prometheus or Lucifer?

  1. It’s probably best to avoid the attention of any powerful supernatural entity, especially ones with their own unknown agendas.
    That said…
    The Olympian gods were jerks.
    (I’m understating, obviously. They weren’t quite verging on maltheism like lots of other cultures in the region were, but…)
    Also, there’s an accountability to the actions of Prometheus.

  2. While not wanting to be in the company of any of the ancient “gods”, I’d prefer to be in the company of Prometheus rather than the company of Lucifer. 😉

    Oh, I dislike the “glorification” of Lucifer. 😦

    • Oh, I had in an unwritten story universe a Trickster god who had two main jobs.

      One was foiling the plans of anybody who thought “My plan can’t fail”.

      Two was helping the “underdog”.

      Oh, gamblers (and others) within this story universe often “gave gifts to the Trickster” (helping out the less fortunate) even though the top-dog species were atheists. IE They didn’t officially believe in any gods (or God) but didn’t want to annoy the Trickster. 😈

  3. Oh, that is cool… you could tell Prometheus as a good-PR version of the Adversary, with the “real” story being that he brought his own punishment, and the “curses” were the natural outcome of “cheating” the gods– switching over to Jewish tradition, since it’s the only one* where I can think of rules that had physical bad results that were *possible* from failure to follow, everybody tends to get sick when you don’t do proper purification rituals, there’s massive trichinosis oubreaks when you sneak pork into your diet without really good food safety measures, and folks randomly catch fire because the fabric blend you’re using is *HIGHLY FLAMMABLE*. Er, I mean, it was noticed and you were ‘cursed’.

    *I have a decent selection of random ancient ritual knowledge, but most I can think of are closer to “burn something valuable and do something horrific, sometimes at the same time” than “don’t do this thing which seems like nonsense now but even if you don’t believe and just OBEY it’ll make your life better.”

  4. It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between humility and arrogance. Ewoud learned too well to keep his mouth shut! And sometimes point of view changes your opinion–a bad sign.

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