The theme of homosexuality in mythology is quite common. Many mythologies depict this as a sexual act in terms of same-sex relationships or myths which deal with the subject as it is. No mythologies deal with the subject as a taboo or unnatural, though the modern interpretation does say so. Mythologies of the world treat the subject as just another manifestation of erotic expression and don’t see it as a heterosexual or homosexual act. Many scholars feel that it is the modern (or rather the Anglo-Saxon education and an influence of Victorian upbringing) outlook that views homosexuality in a ‘different’ manner. Mythology has dealt with the aspects of homosexuality (both gay and lesbian relationship), transgender and transvestites, etc. as just another aspect of a sexual expression – no value judgment was ever made. It is much later that people started interpreting them in their ways and influencing their thought-process on such myths.
Different mythologies have treated the subject in different ways. Some have dealt with the subject of homosexuality, transgenderism and homoeroticism without distinguishing them. Some have references to relationships of same-sex and bisexuality (and even bestiality!) while some have characters with both reproductive organs, and some see it as androgynous. The whole idea is that in some myths the subject might not have been discussed with such clarity of concepts that modern and evolved (?) man has made it out to be. The terms that we use now are modern expressions and it is we who now try to compartmentalize the terms and use it accordingly. Some have subtle references, while some have clear message – without being judgmental (at the cost of repetition).
Majority of the creation myths have similar themes where the world and its first inhabitants have been created by genderless or hermaphrodite beings, a union between same or opposite genders. (I would avoid giving examples here as this would be a deviation from the theme under discussion).
Let us see how different mythologies have treated the subject and some of the common myths around the said theme.
Many mythologies see the aspects of homosexuality or gender-changes in human beings as acts (or rather errors) of gods. According to the Greek mythology, Prometheus (the god who made man out of clay and later was punished for giving man the gift of fire) was responsible for such gender variance. According to Aesop (of Aesop Fables fame) – Prometheus was making man and woman out of clay and was separately shaping the private parts to attach them later on to the appropriate bodies. Just as he was about to do so, he was invited for dinner. He came late from dinner and under the influence of divine wine, he is supposed to have stuck the female parts on men and vice versa! This is how Aesop explains why some men are effeminate while some females are more-manly and how ‘unnatural’ desires arise leading to ‘perverted-pleasures’!
Tomorrow we will discuss some references of same-sex relationships from Greek Mythology. Keep reading …….