The first thing I need to say is that the Greeks have multiple creation myths, and they are not variations on a theme. They have completely different characters and plotlines to the story. I will be tackling all of them, but not rapid-fire. The Olympian myth is generally regarded as the predominant myth, and makes the most sense in terms of the body of Greek mythology.
I have to also warn that this myth is one of the reasons I put a sex disclaimer in my class syllabus. So, do not proceed unless you’re prepared to deal with sex, some disturbing kinds of it, too.
As with other creation myths, something emerges from chaos, namely, Gaea and Uranus. And right away, we have sex going on, sans Barry White music. Gaea gives birth to the hundred-handed ones, and the Cyclopes before giving birth to Cronus, Rhea, and the other titans. Uranus, though, is not that great of a father figure, and imprisoned the Cyclopes. Too, it’s implied that Gaea was not completely willing when it came to the sexy times.
Now, Gaea was not happy at the imprisonment of her children, nor of Uranus’s advances, so she urges her children to, well, snip Uranus . . . using a flint sickle (pause for all the man to cross their legs). Cronus is the one to do this, and he tosses the genitalia into the ocean, which results in something quite beautiful, but that’s another story.
So, after Uranus is gone, Cronus takes his place, and begins having relations with his wife Rhea to produce more gods and goddesses. He also imprisons the titans because he doesn’t trust them, even though they are his siblings.
This myth is very interesting on a number of levels as it shows the creative process in Greek mythology, namely procreation. The Greeks create everything via sex, and the trend actually continues with Zeus, who ends up fathering most of the gods, goddesses, nymphs, and other entities in Greek mythology. However, we are also shown that abuse of this power has repercussions, specifically the fury of a woman scorned. Uranus is literally unmanned in this, and by his own son, who supplants him.
This shows a bizarre kind of spin on the idea of succession. It’s natural for the son to replace the father, in time. Yet Cronus does so one, before Uranus passes, and two, at the urging of his mother. This suggests that Gaea is acting as an equal determiner as to who should rule, and a kind of moral compass. She determines that the behavior of Uranus is unacceptable, and takes steps to remove him from his position of power.
Also, this myth is an example of the corruptive influence of power. Uranus is able to affect Gaea by impregnating her, making him believe he is the dominant force over her. Now, some may question why she doesn’t take direction against him. There’s an aspect of balance within this myth, not unlike the Chinese and Japanese.
Gaea is a mother earth goddess, firmly a creation deity. While Uranus contributes to this creation, he isn’t the actual force of creation, as is evidenced by the numerous ways in which Gaea becomes impregnated without a living god being necessary (suffice it to say, Gaea is an extremely fertile woman). Uranus, then is actually a force of destruction, as evidenced by his actions forcing himself on her and in imprisoning his children. Like many polytheistic deities, their role, their specific domain, is set and unchangeable. Gaea cannot become an agent of destruction. She cannot exact vengeance or justice on Uranus as she is a nurturing mother of creation. It’s against her nature to take the sickle to her husband.
While this is before the fates have actually come into being in the pantheon, the idea of fate is firmly reflected in the rigidly defined roles of the deities, and this persists throughout the Greek pantheon . . . with a couple of notable exceptions (but that’s another myth).