On Cain and Abel

In the Greek version, Adam and Eve know that Abel has been murdered because Eve dreams that the blood of Abel is being poured into Cain’s mouth, which he gulps down and vomits. – The Story of Adam and Eve by Eliot Weinberger

I am writing a manuscript–I have been writing it for the past month. I have a lot more that I could say about it, but for right now, this is just going to be a short post on theme.

Genesis and “birthrights” is a theme I’m incorporating into my writing, and at the same time, the story I am writing, without going into too much detail, is disturbing, and a lot of that is going to come from memory, storytelling, and dreams. Which is why this quote from Weinberger stood out to me.

 

Last year, my dog attacked a bird. I found it on the stairs upright and shaking, and its throat was bloody. I could see it breathing through the wound. It was fucked up. The image stayed in my mind, even when I wasn’t thinking about it.

A few nights ago, I had a dream that I saw my dog standing over something in the backyard that I couldn’t see. I left, and when I came back there was a cat (ginger with a white belly) lying flat on the grass. It had the same neck wound the bird had. It looked dead but, again, I could see its neck throbbing and its chest rise and I knew it was still alive, just dying very slowly.

 

The sad thing about the canonical bible is that there’s so much left out. I really love On the Origins of the World, a gnostic Genesis story, which differs from traditional text in that the godly universe is more polytheistic. Also, there’s a bunch of different plotlines that centre on the creation of mankind–not as simple as the Primeval section of Genesis which, to me, seems like a step-by-step process of he did this, she did that, G__ was mad, etc.

So I looked up the Greek version of the Life of Adam and Eve, called The Apocalypse of Moses. An apocalypse is not necessarily ‘end of the world’–it really is just the unveiling of an underlying truth, which means you can have an apocalypse about the beginning of time, and perhaps that the banishment from Eden was itself an apocalypse. OR that Eden was an apocalypse. Idk. What was I saying again?

Right, so I found the passage Weinberger was referring to:

And after this, Adam and Eve were with one another and while they were sleeping, Eve said to Adam her lord: ‘My lord, Adam, behold, I have seen in a dream this night the blood of my son Amilabes who is styled Abel being poured into the mouth of Cain his brother and he went on drinking it without pity. But he begged him to leave him a little of it. Yet he hearkened not to him, but gulped down the whole; nor did it stay in his stomach, but came out of his mouth.’ (2: 1-3)

Weinberger’s synopsis is a clearer read (really, most things he writes are beautiful). But look at what you get from the original! Cain has more of a personality, more intention than in W’s (“drinking it without pity”; “hearkened not”). You also get the sense that Abel is still alive. From W’s, I had the image of him drinking out of a bowl or urn, separate from the body, but the detail “he begged him to leave him a little of it” suggests otherwise. It can’t be G__, because the H is not capitalised in “He”, and it’s probably not Adam, because Eve is recounting to him the story, which would most likely translate Adam to second person. So unless Cain has DID in this scene, Abel’s still alive as his brother drinks from him. The only thing that turns me off from this concept is the oversaturation of vampires drinking people’s blood, but I think it could be stylised in another way that isn’t as… clean as puncture wounds to the neck.

But most of all, I think I like this version of the Cain & Abel story, because it connects to my own experiences and related dreams. It’s something that I can feel when I write it, if that makes any sense. I guess this post is about sharing that feeling.

References

Christian Classics Ethereal Library. APOCALYPSIS MOSIS. n.d. http://www.ccel.org/c/charles/otpseudepig/apcmose.htm

Weinberger, Eliot. (2016). “The Story of Adam and Eve”. The Ghosts of Birds. New Directions Books: New York.

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