Every ancient civilization has its own creation myths. These stories are created by early humans as a means of understanding the world around them. Each one is different, but most of them share similar themes, occurrences, and characters. Still, each civilization’s myths vary in detail and paint captivating pictures of our planet when the world was new. This sample essay on popular creation myths demonstrates some of the custom writing services offered by Ultius.
Creation myths from around the world
Many creation stories begin with earth being created out of darkness or water. Some feature gods and animals that are born out of the earth. Others say the world was created by s creature diving into the ocean to bring up small pieces of earth from which the universe was made. These kinds of origin stories are common among Native Americans and Australians. Several myths begin with the universe being cracked out of a gigantic, cosmic egg, like the Chinese creation myth. Later, a giant’s limbs become the earth, similar to the Norse creation story (Gascoigne). Creation myths from Egypt, Greece, and the Hebrews all start with a deep emptiness and darkness. Stories containing gods and similar beings contain dramatic encounters between the deities that vary from sexual to murderous, all taking place before humans arrive.
Chinese creation myth
Ancient Chinese poetry relates that in the beginning of time, there was a huge egg in nothingness. Inside the egg was yin and yang, mixed together in chaos. All the opposites melded together; hot and cold, dark and light, male and female. The egg burst open and a dragon called Pan-gu sprang forth. He forced yin and yang apart and the earth began to take shape (“Chinese Creation”).
For eighteen thousand years, Pan-gu grew ten feet every day and the sky grew higher and higher until it was thirty thousand miles off the ground. Then Pan-gu began to build the mountains and oceans and valleys. After so many thousands of years, the dragon grew tired and laid down to die. His body became a mountain range, his skull formed the top of the sky, his hair became all the earth’s flowers and plants, his arms and legs became the four directions, and his bones turned to jade and pearl (“Chinese Creation”).
His blood became the rivers of the world, his breath and voice turned into wind and fire, and his eyes became the sun and the moon. Though the earth was beautiful, there were no people.
A half-dragon goddess Nuwa had emerged from the mixture of yin and yang after Pan-gu died and she began forming humans out of clay from the Yellow River.
She wanted other beings to talk to and love. Once she finished the first man, he began to dance and sing and Nuwa was delighted. As she began making more and more humans, she realized it was take her hundreds of years to fill the entire earth. She picked up a stick dripping with mud and flung droplets across the ground. The sun rose and dried the drops and each one became a human. It is said that those formed by Nuwa herself became great leaders while the ones made from droplets were less intelligent (“Chinese Creation”).
She sent the people to populate the earth and protected and loved them as the mother of all humans.
Navajo creation myth
According to Navajo Native American literature , there was only darkness and emptiness except for six beings. The six beings were called:
- First Man
- First Woman
- Fire God
- Salt Woman
- Begochiddy, the child of the sun (“Navajo Creation”)
Begochiddy created four mountains:
- Black mountains to the north
- Blue to the south
- White in the east
- Yellow in the west
The first world
There was still no light, though, and the original six beings grew bored and left the First World. At the First World’s center, though, Begochiddy planted a huge seed that grew into a tall, hollow reed. He gathered his creations and then crawled inside the reed, which grew out of the First World and into the Second.
The second world
The Second World was light and blue. The first beings emerged from the reed to find a nicer place to live, they realized that the Second World was already occupied by the Cat People. The Cat People and the first six beings were embroiled in battle for many years. They could not reconcile, so Begochiddy collected the rest of the beings in his hallow reed again and the reed grew higher and higher into the Third World.
The third world
The Third World was bright, yellow, and beautiful. The first beings had finally found a place to live and built villages and multiplied. Begochiddy made many rivers, lakes, mountains, and animals. The First Men and Women lived in the Third World happily for many years. Then one day, Coyote was walking along the river bank when he found a baby and took it back to camp with him. The baby belonged to the Third World’s Water Monster, who was furious that his baby had been stolen. He sent rainstorms and floods that took over the Third World (“Navajo Creation”). Begochiddy made Coyote give the baby back to the Water Monster but the Third World was already entirely flooded. They climbed back into the hollow reed and rose up with the water to the Fourth World.
The fourth world
Locusts created by Begochiddy ate a hole in the Fourth World so that the beings could enter it. They crawled into this new world and built their homes again. Begochiddy created many mountains, the sun, the stars, and the moon. Though this world was not as beautiful as the Third World, it became the home of the Navajos. Begochiddy taught his creations the right way to live, how to grow crops, and how to give thanks, values shared by numerous Native American tribes.
Aboriginal creation myth
Before there was anything, there was darkness, according to the Aboriginal creation myth. The darkness was called Il-ba-lint-ja and was empty but for a tall pole stretched out of the ground from the barren lands below to the heavens above. At the pole’s base, Ka-ro-ra lay in a deep sleep. Though his world was darkness, his dreams were colorful and bright. In his dream, Bandicoots came out of his nose, mouth, armpits, and navel (“Aboriginal Creation”). Suddenly, dawn rose and the land was filled with light for the first time. Ka-ro-ra rose from his slumber and cooked two Bandicoots in the hot sun. After eating, he realized that he was lonely. When the sun began to set, he went back to sleep and dreamed of Bull-Roarer, who sprang from Ka-ro-ra’s armpit and turned into a young boy.
Father and son hunted Bandicoots during the day and slept side-by-side at night. While he slept, Ka-ro-ra dreamed of more sons and woke each morning to find twice as many as when he had laid down to sleep. He spent the days hunting and eating with his sons in the hot sunlight. Soon, they ran out of Bandicoots to eat. Ka-ro-ra sent his sons further into the world to hunt, but they were unsuccessful. One morning, they heard an unfamiliar noise and spotted a dark animal. The sons attacked it and the creature yelled:
“I am no Bandicoot! I am T-jen-ter-ama, a man, just like yourselves. Now you have made me lame!” (“Aboriginal Creation”).
T-jen-ter-ama became the world’s first kangaroo. The sons of Ka-ro-ra gathered around him as he slept. During the night, a flood of honey filled the entire land of Il-ba-lint-ja. Ka-ro-ra’s sons and T-jen-ter-ama were swept away, washed underground. Ka-ro-ra was left alone by the great pole and decided to go back to sleep to dream again.
Egyptian creation myth
According to the Egyptian creation myth, the dark and swirling chaos before time was called Nu.
Atum rose from nothingness, creating himself from his thoughts and will. He created a hill for him to stand upon and he noticed that he was alone in the world. Neither male nor female, he possessed one eye that was all-seeing, able to roam the earth independently. With his shadow, Atum produced a son and a daughter. He spit out his son and named him Shu, god of the air. He vomited out his daughter and named her Tefnut, goddess of mist and moisture (“Egyptian Creation”).
Shu and Tefnut were tasked with creating principles of law and stability to tame the chaos. They divided the chaos into light and dark and put everything in its place. They called the order Maat. Shu and Tefnut produced Geb and Nut, who were entangled and became the earth and the sky. Shu pushed Nut into the heavens where she remained arched over Geb, her lover and mate. Nut produced rain for Geb and Geb made beautiful things grow out of the earth. Nut gave birth to the sun every night before dawn and swallowed it back up at sunset.
Shu and Tefnut continued to create other gods. They made:
- Isis, the queen of all the gods
- Hathor, goddess of beauty and love
- Nephthys, protectress of the dead
- Seth, god of evil
- Osiris, the god of justice
- Thoth, god of wisdom (“Egyptian Creation”)
Still, though, the chaos was vast and had not fully been separated into the order of Maat. The world was so chaotic that Shu and Tefnut once got lost in Nu’s dark waters. Atum was desperate to find his children and sent his eye to search the earth and heavens to find them. They finally returned with Atum’s eye and he wept tears of joy. As each tear hit the ground, they turned into the first men and women. The earth was populated and the race of men learned to uphold the balance of Maat and worship the gods. The gods watched their beloved creations and protected them from the heavens. These gods would come to share their power later with pharaohs like Seti, Tutankhamun and Cleopatra.
Greek creation myth
Many are familiar with the creation myths of Greek culture. The earth goddess Gaia was formed from a wild chaos. She gave birth to Uranus, who became the sky. Gaia and Uranus bore many children, all of whom were terrible monsters that were powerful and mighty. Frightened, Uranus hid his children deep inside the earth. Gaia swore revenge. She was finally able to have children who were not terribly intimidating. One child, Kronos, was able to overthrow Uranus and become the sky in his father’s place (“Greek Creation”). He married an earth goddess, Rhea, and they produced many children. Kronos created a race of golden men, but became fearful of his children and ate them. Rhea was horrified and Gaia helped her give birth to Zeus in secret (“The Creation”). She gave her husband a stone wrapped in baby clothes and he swallowed it quickly.
Zeus grew powerful and strong until he was strong enough to command an army of Gaia’s monsters against his father. The terrible war went on for many, many years and all of the golden men were killed. Zeus was finally victorious and filled the earth with more gods with his wife Hera (“Greek Creation”). He decided to create a second race of men, silver men, who could worship the gods. But the silver men were foolish and angered Zeus. He banished them to the underworld and created the bronze men. The bronze men were aggressive and quick to go to war, destroying each other with relish. Zeus hid them in the underworld as well. He then created a race of heroes who are featured in many Greek myths and legends. As the men of the heroic age passed away, they gave rise to the men of the earth we know today, called the iron race. Men of the iron race must live to suffer and die, but are the strongest race of men yet and the founders of Greek culture.
While Biblical historicity is often the most accepted creation belief in the West, each culture has their own beliefs and myths about how the world and man came to be. These stories vary greatly in details but contain several of the same elements. Early humans created these stories in order to better understand the world around them. While we know now that these myths are nothing more than stories, they are valuable and beautiful pieces of human history.
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“Chinese Creation.” The Big Myth. The Big Myth, 2015. Web. 25 May 2016.
“Egyptian Creation.” The Big Myth. The Big Myth, 2015. Web. 25 May 2016.
Gascoigne, Bamber. “Creation Stories.” HistoryWorld. HistoryWorld, 2001. Web. 24 May 2016.
“Greek Creation.” The Big Myth. The Big Myth, 2015. Web. 25 May 2016.
“Navajo Creation.” The Big Myth. The Big Myth, 2015. Web. 25 May 2016.
“The Creation.” Greek Mythology. GreekMythology.com, 1997. Web. 25 May 2016.