Pallas is often used as just another name for Athena, who is also frequently called Pallas-Athena. Pallas was, however, originally a distinct deity, the daughter of Triton, Poseidon’s son, or Brontes the Cyclops. Greek myth describes how as a child, Athena was sent to live with one of those deities (different versions of the myth assign Pallas different fathers) at his home on the shores of Libya’s Lake Tritonis. (There is also another male spirit, a Titan, named Pallas. Although the two spirits share the same name, they are not the same.)
A Berber version of this myth suggests that Pallas and Athena were full—not foster—sisters and both daughters of the lake spirit, indigenous Libyan deities, one and all. An alternative Greek version suggests that the girls weren’t children and they weren’t just playmates. They were lovers, hence Athena’s devastation when Pallas died.
Pallas, Athena’s foster-father’s daughter, was not only her foster-sister but her best friend and playmate until one day Athena forged a lance for herself. She challenged Pallas to a game in which Pallas was killed with the brand-new weapon. Athena, distraught and desolate, set up a shrine dedicated to Pallas, hanging her own goatskin shield upon it. Vowing that Pallas would never be forgotten, she adopted her name, referring to herself as Pallas-Athena with Pallas’ name placed first. (This is unusual: the primary deity’s name is usually first.)
This myth has lent itself to centuries of speculation:
• Was Pallas really Athena’s lover?
• Is the reason Athena rejects all other relationships because she still mourns for Pallas?
• Is Pallas really Athena, her secret identity, shadow self or alter ego, now left for dead?
Was Pallas’ death really an accident? Or did Athena, never otherwise known to have accidents, kill Pallas the same way she engineered Medusa’s death? Is Athena amputating parts of herself or her past as a metalworking, snake goddess? As she reforged her identity, Athena kept souvenirs: Medusa’s head and Pallas’ name.
It is now virtually impossible to distinguish between the two spirits. Pallas has become completely subsumed by Athena. The name Pallas indicates a robust, young woman. She may be the matron of female martial artists.
Pallas will share altar space with Athena, Metis, Medusa, and lots of snakes.
Athena atoned for Pallas’death by crafting the Palladium, a statue of Athena in her guise as a warrior with lance and shield. Although the image is dressed as Athena, she used Pallas’ likeness as the actual model for the woman. The Palladium is a statue of Pallas dressed as Athena. Pallas and Athena are merged.
The word palladium now also means an image on which a city’s safety magically depends. Athena’s original Palladium ended up in Troy but was stolen at war’s conclusion by Diomedes and Odysseus. The Trojan Horse could not have worked until the Palladium was removed from the city. Athena did not reveal this to Odysseus: the secret was revealed by Cassandra’s twin, the prophet Hellenus, after he was captured by the Greeks. (Another version claims Helen of Troy whispered the secret to Odysseus.)
- Helen of Troy
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.