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Pits of Python?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 2 June, 2020 02:34AM
In at least two of his pieces CAS mentions these "pits of Python", once in his poetic dialogue "The Ghoul And the Seraph" and once more in his narrative prose poem "Sadastor".

Change, that hath made the very gods from slime
Drawn from the pits of Python, and will fling
Gods and their builded heavens back again
To slime.
—The Ghoul And the Seraph

"Long, long ago, in the red cycles of my youth (said Charnadis), I was like all young demons, and was prone to use the agility of my wings in fantastic flights; to hover and poise like a gier-eagle above Tartarus and the pits of Python"
—Sadastor

I never heard of these pits before, and I haven't found any information on them. Does anyone know if this is an obscure reference to Greek mythology, or perhaps Dante's Inferno? I'm aware that Python was a Greek monster, and I'm aware that Dante liked to turn Greek myths into unique features of Hell, so he could have turned the serpent Python into a pit of some kind.

Those lines from his poem also makes me wonder if Smith was referring to one Greek source (I forgot the source) that said Python was born from the rolling slime that resulted from the mythological deluge, linking Python with some kind of primal demiurge.

But for all I know, he simply invented those pits, partially because it sounded good and partially to imply they were as sinister and immense as the monster itself.

Re: Pits of Python?
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 2 June, 2020 07:37AM
I wonder if the words "The Pits of Python" refer simply to prehistoric swamps with their monstrous snakes and slime. It would make a sense in the poem because human beings evolved from the reptilian slime and created their gods. But maybe I am totally wrong in my guess. :-)

Re: Pits of Python?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 3 June, 2020 08:54PM
According to Greek myth, Python was a serpent or dragon slain by the sun-god Apollo.

Assuming Python was not annihilated by this defeat, the natural assumption would be that Python was banished to the underworld, which to the Greeks was the abode of the slain.

As a serpent-entity slain by a sky-god, Python has been associated or identified with both (1) Typhon, a serpent monster banished to Tartarus by Zeus, and/or with (2) Satan/the Serpent, who was banished to Hell by God.

I know of no pre-CAS reference to a specific part of the underworld that is associated with Python. But the association does seem a fairly natural one.

Re: Pits of Python?
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 4 June, 2020 06:22AM
Ovid's Metamorphosis describes a great flood very similar to the biblical version, and instigated by the gods for the same reasons. Only with no ark. In the flood's aftermath, man is recreated - the new, improved version - but everything else evolves out of the mud and slime left in the flood's wake, helped by the sunshine. The creatures are both good and bad, and the worst is Python. Milton references this (specifically where Python came into existence) in Paradise Lost - Ingender'd in the Pythian vale on slime.

Sure it's a bit of a stretch, but a vale is just another word for 'valley', which in turn could be construed as 'pit'. Especially if it was full of slime!

Re: Pits of Python?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 4 June, 2020 02:55PM
Thank you all for those varied and thoughtful responses. I'm more than certain CAS had a mixture of all these thoughts in mind. He was clearly infatuated with the primordial age of slimy swamps and giant reptiles (he mentions it in a few stories, such as "Ubbo-Sathla"), he was clearly evoking some kind of underworldly imagery since he mentioned it among Tartarus and Phlegethon, and he had obviously read and appreciated Paradise Lost.

And thank you Cathbad for reminding me of the exact source I was thinking of. Ovid's Metamorphoses! That was it! After the flood all kinds of creatures were born from the resulting muck, creatures that were half-formed or malformed, some with many legs or some that were only half-mud. This alone makes me think of Smith's monster Abhoth, the muck-like spawn of abominations.

Re: Pits of Python?
Posted by: Minicthulhu (IP Logged)
Date: 4 June, 2020 03:49PM
The reptilian slime seems to have been very popular in the prime of pulp and weird magazines because I can remember coming across it in several writings. The other day I happened to read the short story "Medusa" (1939) by Royal W. Jimmerson in which one of the characters speculates:

"Was there then a race, back in the mists, that shrouded the prehistoric reptilian slime, whose physical attributes supplied the fact basis for the Medusa myth, the legend of the Gorgons?"

Re: Pits of Python?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 4 June, 2020 04:30PM
I never heard of that story, but I'm eager to read it already. I've always been fascinated by older literature's perspective on the prehistoric world, in which all kinds of scaly, shapeless things crawled about in the pools of slime and chaos.

You must be right about the reptilian slime in weird fiction, because I recall Lovecraft mentioning it from time to time, and if I remember correctly, the story that inspired "Ubbo-Sathla" featured a transformation into primal slime.

Re: Pits of Python?
Posted by: Platypus (IP Logged)
Date: 4 June, 2020 06:52PM
Cathbad Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Ovid's Metamorphosis describes a great flood very
> similar to the biblical version, and instigated by
> the gods for the same reasons. Only with no ark.
> In the flood's aftermath, man is recreated - the
> new, improved version - but everything else
> evolves out of the mud and slime left in the
> flood's wake, helped by the sunshine. The
> creatures are both good and bad, and the worst is
> Python. Milton references this (specifically where
> Python came into existence) in Paradise Lost -
> Ingender'd in the Pythian vale on slime.
>
> Sure it's a bit of a stretch, but a vale is just
> another word for 'valley', which in turn could be
> construed as 'pit'. Especially if it was full of
> slime!

It's a nice find. However, Milton's "vale", if it is analogous to a "pit", is surely analogous to an open pit, on the surface of the Earth, since the sun has access to it. CAS seems to have in mind, based on his other references in context, a subterranean pit or pits. Maybe something analogous to the pool and grotto of Abhoth, in "The Seven Geases".

Re: Pits of Python?
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 5 June, 2020 04:04AM
I'd agree Platypus. Especially when you consider how Python is supposed to have retreated into the underworld after being mortally injured - suggesting another possible location. Then again, it's probably easier to fly over an open pit than a subterranean one! I guess - as Hespire suggests - the place-name is an amalgam of various ideas. There are other associations that spring to mind - e.g. a snake-pit, the pits of Hell, etc. CAS probably just liked the fact that it was alliterative.

Re slime. I only learnt this recently, but the belief that inert matter could give rise to living things was common in the ancient world. It was called Spontaneous Generation or Abiogenesis. So the ancients believed that flies and maggots were a consequence of dead meat mutating into something alive rather than the presence of larvae. Sometimes mud was a critical ingredient - e.g. the mud along the nile delta was supposed to spontaneously produce rodents and other vermin.



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