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Seven Genders?

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Seven Genders?

Postby CSLFAN » 27 Jun 2010, 21:35

Does anyone happen to know what Lewis was refering to in That Hideous Strength, "The Decent of the Gods", when he says that Viritrilbia, Perelandra, and Malacandra represent 3 of the "Seven Genders"? Is this actually referencing some historical/philosophical belief or just creative writing? Thanks for the help. :??:
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Re: Seven Genders?

Postby galion » 28 Jun 2010, 10:20

That's a really interesting question, which never actually occurred to me before, and I don't know the answer. It looks to me faintly esoteric; unfortunately I don't know enough about C. Williams, the Golden Dawn etc. to be able to tell whether or not Williams might have been an influence here. Does anybody know this area better?
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Re: Seven Genders?

Postby Theophilus » 29 Jun 2010, 16:52

I once read a science fiction story called "Venus and the Seven Sexes." Here is some information about it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_and_the_Seven_Sexes

Since it was written before Lewis wrote the Chronicles it is possible that he might have read it.
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Re: Seven Genders?

Postby Sven » 29 Jun 2010, 20:00

My understanding is that it's a reference to medieval astrology. The astrologers during that time saw the influences caused by the 'stars' as coming in seven genders, that idea probably having its origin in the fact that Latin has seven genders. Lewis saw astrology as being quite a different thing than magic. A quote from the introduction of Lewis' volume of the O-Hell:

C. S. Lewis wrote:This conflict between the magician and the astrologer seems very surprising to those who want to impose our modern grouping on the men of the past; for by our grouping magic and astrology go together as 'superstitions'. But the moment we drop our grouping (which is from the historical point of view irrelevant and accidental) and try to see these two arts as they appeared to their exponents, the thing becomes perfectly simple. Magic and astrology, though of course often mixed in practice, are in tendency opposed. The magician asserts human omnipotence; the astrologer, human impotence.

English Literature in the Sixteenth Century excluding Drama


So, it may be Lewis is using yet another way of contrasting the forces of evil, the magicians of N.I.C.E., and the forces of good, the astrologers of Logres.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
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Re: Seven Genders?

Postby galion » 29 Jun 2010, 21:25

Latin has seven genders??!? Three, the last time I looked: masculine, feminine and neuter.
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Re: Seven Genders?

Postby Sven » 29 Jun 2010, 23:03

What little I know all comes from secondary sources. In this case, from The Gift of the Stranger: Faith, Hospitality, and Foreign language learning, by David Smith and Barbara Carvill. In order to describe the improvement in Latin education starting in the 16th century, they look at what was in use for a long time before. quoting from the educational reformers of the late 1500s and early 1600s. So, in order to look at what Lewis would have been familiar with and possibly referring to, you need to look at how Latin was taught in an earlier time. Here's the relevant bit from the Great Didactic of Comenius (c.1635), talking about the weaknesses of the Latin grammars in use for the previous 1000 years:

John Amos Comenius wrote:...the genders are seven in number: masculine, feminine, neuter, common of two, common of
three, promiscuous, and doubtful.
Rat! he found breath to whisper, shaking. Are you afraid?
Afraid? murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love.
Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet -- and yet -- O, Mole, I am afraid!
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
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Re: Seven Genders?

Postby CSLFAN » 29 Jun 2010, 23:13

Thanks. These all sound pretty interesting. I had another thought about this in connection with the Seven Archangels referenced in the bible. Its a bit of a stretch, but is an interesting connection. I thought, perhaps Malacandra was somehow associated with St. Michael (a warrior), Viritrilbia with St. Gabriel (a messenger), and the other planetary powers with the rest in a mysterious way (since, aside from Raphael, we know of know other Archangels). Anyway, just a thought. Thanks again for the insight.
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Re: Seven Genders?

Postby galion » 29 Jun 2010, 23:26

I still am sure that the Latin connection is at best a red herring. The speakers of that tongue throughout all the centuries before Comenius do not seem to have noticed that it had more than three - and in any case, Comenius does not indicate what forms of words these extra four genders had. What Comenius might have thought was less that Latin grammarians had been lax in their analyisis, and more that the Latin language was deficient in this respect, which is an opinion not widely shared. The angelic approach might be more fruitful, since we do know of seven archangels. - but then there is a tendency of people in a certain cultural area to describe things in sevens - see for example Geoffre Ashe's The Ancient Wisdom. (wish he hadn't chosen that title! :wink: ). I suspect that the esoteric /astrological approach is the best; unfortunately I can't think of any concrete examples.
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