I got a question about the source for the idea from Prometheus where the Engineers created life on planet Earth from black goo. Is there anything similar in ancient mythology? Or was it a synthesis of classical imagery from the science fiction genre?

  • It's not exactly what you are looking for, but in Ancient Egyptian mythology black was a symbol of death and then mixed with green it became interchangable with ressurection and so some of the Gods/Goddess are depicted accordingly with black or green skin. I know that in some cases in modern times some mummies (south american) can ooze out black bacteria (or tar plant matter used in emboming) and I believe this is also in part due to climate change, but this is more relative to "today" then of course it would of then. Apr 2, 2018 at 16:47
  • Ancient Egyptians saw the soil as "fertile" also (again association with ressurection), I have some books-- don't recall unidentified black substance as something to worship, just things found in nature, such as the soil and a need to immatate it in their mythology as symbolism. But if I do come across something else, I'll come back and post. Apr 2, 2018 at 16:48
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    I would say it's from Carl Sagan primordial soup. He often states that life begin in such soup that something gave it electric shock to start development. In Prometheus the source of light is Engineer. Apr 3, 2018 at 8:12

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I would say it has its roots in ancient mythology in that it could be associated with the river and goddess Styx. The river itself is supposedly black because Demeter entered the river while mourning. Styx is also considered to be both corrosive and toxic (see Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History).

Loosely, the word 'styx' (translated from Greek 'stygos' then Latin) means hatred, abhorrent, gloomy (think: stygian night).

Styx, as noted, is both the river and the goddess. As the deity, she is the eldest of the Okeanides--daughter of Oceanus and Tethys--and a chthonian (underworld/Hades) goddess. During the Titanomachy, she sided with Zeus (all oaths to Zeus are sworn to her). As the river, Styx is both its own river as well as the marsh where the five great rivers converge in the underworld (NOTE: The Theoi project has an extensive entry on Styx).

In many contemporary stories such black-goo is representative of some form--granted usually evil--of life as in the Klyntar/Symbiotes in Spider-Man that is Venom, Armus from ST:TNG 'Skin of Evil' (who was created by the 'Titans'), or even the space-faring Goa'uld from Stargate.

How this may fit with Prometheus as a life-giving goo I would guess might come from the oath sworn to Styx: those who break it must drink from the river Styx as punishment. However, there are other myths associated with what occurs when you drink from any of the five great rivers (Styx, Lethe, Phlegethon, Acheron, and Cocytus).

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