The king of the gods, Zeus, found that the sinfulness of men was getting worse with no sign of them wanting to better themselves.
So being Zeus, he decided that the whole sinful human race should be destroyed. A large deluge would flood the entire world and drown them all.
Zeus trapped all the winds that were responsible for chasing away the rain clouds and clearing the skies, he trapped them in the caves of the wind god Aeolus, and only let the rain-bringing clouds from the south blow through the lands.
Uninterruptedly, the rain poured in enormous volumes all across the world. And at Zeus’ command, Poseidon summoned all the rivers and streams and commanded them to rise over their banks. The water rose high and flooded all the meadows and fields, over and across all the houses and towns. Soon it was only the highest mountains remaining that rose above the waves of the water, and finally, only Mount Parnassus rose with its two tips above the furious waters.
In the small and fertile land of Phocis near Mount Oeta lived two pious people: Deucalion, a son of Prometheus, and Pyrrha, a daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora. They had kept themselves free from vice and other people’s sins and burdens, and with a humble and devout heart they worshiped the gods. As the river rose, Deucalion had, on the advice of his father Prometheus, built a ship and stored it with food. After a long and tumultuous voyage on the waters, they ended up with their small ship at the peak of Parnassus, high above the clouds. He and his wife were then the only living people remaining in the world. When Zeus saw that these two were pious and irreproachable, he called back the disastrous whirlwinds from the sky and let out the northern winds to chase away the dark rainy clouds. And at his command, Poseidon let the rivers of the rivers and the sea sink back to their depths. So the currents flowed back into their old canals, the sea retreated from the lands and the world again had beaches. Moreover the mountains, the hills and meadows all rose from the sinking waters, and the earth resumed its former shape. The world was restored.
Devoured by grief and trembling with fear, Deucalion and Pyrrha went to the temple of the goddess Themis, where they expressed their distraught in prayer:
If the gods wills soften, appeased by the prayers of the just, if in this way their anger can be deflected, Themis tell us by what art the damage to our race can be repaired, and bring help, most gentle one, to this drowned world!
The goddess Themis who was moved by their piety and sadness spoke to them in an oracular speech, telling them to:
Leave the temple and with veiled heads and loosened clothes throw behind you the bones of your great mother!
Deucalion interpreted the words of the goddess in a way that the great mother was the earth and that stones in her lap were her legs. They now took the stones from the ground and threw them. The stones were given life and took human form. The stones that Deucalion threw became men, and those that Pyrrha threw became women. So the earth was re-populated with new people. But they too became a tough race, born as they were of the stones on the ground. The other living beings were also renewed soon after through the will of Zeus.
Quotes & Excerpts
The world was restored. But when Deucalion saw its emptiness, and the deep silence of the desolate lands, he spoke to Pyrrha, through welling tears. ‘Wife, cousin, sole surviving woman, joined to me by our shared race, our family origins, then by the marriage bed, and now joined to me in danger, we two are the people of all the countries seen by the setting and the rising sun, the sea took all the rest. Even now our lives are not guaranteed with certainty: the storm clouds still terrify my mind. How would you feel now, poor soul, if the fates had willed you to be saved, but not me? How could you endure your fear alone? Who would comfort your tears? Believe me, dear wife, if the sea had you, I would follow you, and the sea would have me too. If only I, by my father’s arts, could recreate earth’s peoples, and breathe life into the shaping clay! The human race remains in us. The gods willed it that we are the only examples of mankind left behind.’ He spoke and they wept, resolving to appeal to the sky-god, and ask his help by sacred oracles. Immediately they went side by side to the springs of Cephisus that, though still unclear, flowed in its usual course. When they had sprinkled their heads and clothing with its watery libations, they traced their steps to the temple of the sacred goddess, whose pediments were green with disfiguring moss, her altars without fire. When they reached the steps of the sanctuary they fell forward together and lay prone on the ground, and kissing the cold rock with trembling lips, said ‘If the gods wills soften, appeased by the prayers of the just, if in this way their anger can be deflected, Themis tell us by what art the damage to our race can be repaired, and bring help, most gentle one, to this drowned world!’
Ovid in the Metamorphoses
Earth spontaneously created other diverse forms of animal life. After the remaining moisture had warmed in the sun’s fire, the wet mud of the marshlands swelled with heat, and the fertile seeds of things, nourished by life-giving soil as if in a mother’s womb, grew, and in time acquired a nature. So, when the seven-mouthed Nile retreats from the drowned fields and returns to its former bed, and the fresh mud boils in the sun, farmers find many creatures as they turn the lumps of earth. Amongst them they see some just spawned, on the edge of life, some with incomplete bodies and number of limbs, and often in the same matter one part is alive and the other is raw earth. In fact when heat and moisture are mixed they conceive, and from these two things the whole of life originates. And though fire and water fight each other, heat and moisture create everything, and this discordant union is suitable for growth. So when the earth muddied from the recent flood glowed again heated by the deep heaven-sent light of the sun she produced innumerable species, partly remaking previous forms, partly creating new monsters.
Ovid in the Metamorphoses
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized that he was made of immaculate and timeless consciousness when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history, philosophy, egyptology and western esotericism at Uppsala Universitet. He’s also currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.