Creation Myths – and Questions for Discussion.

Leave a comment

2010-01-31 by George Kaplan

Used in Lesley’s Creation and Faith sermon on 31st January 2010

Creation Myth of Ancient Greece

In the beginning, Hesiod says, there was Chaos, vast and dark. Then appeared Gaia, the deep-breasted earth, and finally Eros, ‘the love which softens hearts’ whose influence would preside over the formation of everything else.
From Chaos were born the gods Erebus and Night who, uniting, gave birth to Ether and Hemera, the day. Gaea bore Uranus, the starlit sky, who entirely covered her and she created the high mountains and Pontus, ‘the sterile sea’. Gaea united with her son Uranus and bore the 12 Titans and then the 3 Cyclops and 3 monsters.

Horrified by his all offspring, Uranus shut them up in the depths of the earth. Gaea plotted vengeance and produced a sharp sickle but only Cronos the last-born Titan would help. When evening fell Uranus, accompanied by Night, came to sleep with his wife Gaea. Cronos, who was hiding, mutilated him and cast his bleeding genitals into the sea, where they became a white foam from which the young goddess Aphrodite emerged. The drops of black blood from his wound seeped into the earth and produced the Furies, monstrous giants and tree nymphs.

Cronos liberated the Titans and they mated with each other and the primordial beings to produce many other gods and goddesses. The offspring of Cronos and his sister Rhea were Hestia, Demeter and Hera and the gods Hades and Poseidon, but Cronos swallowed each of his children as they were born.

Rhea sought help from Uranus and Gaea and when finally Zeus was born she presented Cronos with a swaddled stone to swallow instead of the baby. When grown up, Zeus persuaded the water nymph Thetis to give Cronos a draught so that he vomited up the stone together with his children, the gods. Cronos was cast out. Zeus and the other gods and goddesses fought long and bitter wars first with the Titans and then the giants. The Titans were defeated and chained in the abysmal depths of the earth.

The Titan, Iapetus, had 4 sons. One of these, Prometheus, had been neutral during this war and was admitted to the company of the Immortals. One tradition says that he fashioned the body of the first man with earth and his own tears and the goddess Athene breathed life into him. However, other sources said that this happened to replenish the earth after the Flood and that men came into being at the time the Titans ruled and enjoyed a golden age, but they angered Zeus. He ordered the first woman, Pandora, to be fashioned from clay. She opened a great vase from which terrible afflictions flew all over the earth, except for Hope, which remained.

Questions for Discussion

What sort of picture of divinity does this creation story give you?
ie. What are the gods/God like?

Was the creation an orderly process?

Does this story indicate a motive for the creation of the world?

What was the purpose for creating humanity?

In what order were things created?

If you believed this creation story how would it make you feel about the world and your role in it?

Native American Creation Myths

Native North Americans believe that everything in Nature is inhabited by a mysterious power which spreads out and influences other beings. The Algonquins call this power manitou, which means all magical powers from the lowest to the highest. Humans must get control of the small powers while trying to gain the favour of the higher powers which are intelligent spirits.

Pawnee Creation Myth

In the beginning Tirawa the great chief and Atira his wife dwelt in heaven. Tirawa gave tasks to all the other gods seated round them and a portion of his power because he wanted to create men in his image. Shakuru the sun was placed in the East to give light and heat and Pah the moon in the west to give light at night. He said to the evening star, ‘You shall stay in the west and all beings will be created by you.’ He gave roles and place to the morning and evening stars and those that support the sky.

Tirawa told the evening star to receive the clouds winds lightning and thunder. When the sky was entirely dark, Tirawa dropped a pebble and the thick clouds opened to reveal an immense expanse of water. Tirawa told the gods of heaven to smite the water with maces and the waters were separated to reveal the earth. On Tirawa’s order, the 4 gods sang of creation, bringing together the gods of elements and storms. causing a huge thunderstorm to split the earth into mountains and valleys. Singing of forests and prairies made another storm which left the earth covered in vegetation. At a third song streams and rivers began to flow and the fourth song enriched the world from germinating seeds.

Tirawa ordered the sun and moon to unite and they had a son – the first man -and the morning and evening stars together had a daughter. When they grew up, the woman was given seeds and moisture to make them grow, a hut and a hearth and the arts of fire and speech. The man was given male clothes, the weapons of a warrior, the knowledge of warpaint, shooting with a bow and arrow, smoking and the ritual of sacrifice. He was chief over the other men and women who were then created by the stars.

Questions for Discussion

What sort of picture of divinity does this creation story give you?
ie. What are the gods/God like?

Was the creation an orderly process?

Does this story indicate a motive for the creation of the world?

What was the motive for creating humanity?

In what order were things created?

If you believed this creation story how would it make you feel about the world and your role in it?

Babylonian Creation Myth

In the beginning, when sky and earth were nameless, there existed only Apsu (sweet water) and Tiamat, a personification of the tumultuous sea and also the blind forces of primitive chaos against which the organising gods struggled. All beings arose from the fusion of these two. First came Mummu, the tumult of the waves. The first gods were Lakhmu and Lakhamu – monstrous serpents who gave birth to Anshar, the male principle, and Kishar, the female principle. These are also respectively the celestial and terrestrial worlds. To Anshar and Kishar were born the great gods: Anu the powerful, Ea of vast intellect, together with the Igigi, who peopled the sky, and Anunnake, scattered throughout the world and the underworld.

These noisy gods disturbed their elders. Apsu complained to Tiamat that he couldn’t sleep and he talked of destroying them, though Tiamat wanted to give them a chance. Ea learnt of this, however, and seized Apsu and Mummu with magic incantations. This enraged Tiamat so she gave birth to an army of monstrosities and gave command of it to Kingu.

Ea got help from his father Anshar but the war went badly for them until supreme authority was given to one of the Igigi called Bel-Marduk, son of Ea. He killed Tiamat in battle and threw Kingu and Tiamat’s other followers into the infernal regions in chains.

Then Marduk decided to make a work of art with Tiamat’s dismembered corpse. From one half he made the earth and from the other the vault of the heavens. The earth was a round plateau bounded by mountains on which rested the vault of heaven. It floated on and was encircled by the Apsu from which came the springs which broke through the earth’s surface.

Marduk constructed a home for the gods in the sky, installed the stars which were their image and formed and regulated the heavenly bodies. From Tiamat’s spittle he made rain and created the great rivers. He made a house for himself and for all the gods to visit on the earth at Babylon. The gods rejoiced and made Marduk their king. For the pleasure and service of the gods, Marduk made humanity by moulding the body of the first man from the blood and bone of Kingu. Finally the myth mentions vegetation and animals, both wild and domestic. The creation was complete.

Questions for Discussion

What sort of picture of divinity does this creation story give you?
ie. What are the gods/God like?

Was the creation an orderly process?

Does this story indicate a motive for the creation of the world?

What was the motive for creating humanity?

In what order were things created?

If you believed this creation story how would it make you feel about the world and your role in it?

Maori Creation Myth

Io is known as the Supreme Being and, out of nothing, created the entire universe. He created Ranginui (Rangi) and Papatuanuku (Papa) – Sky Father and the Earth Mother, respectively. The sky and earth produced numerous sons while they were physically, “cleaved together in a procreative embrace.” The children were forced to live in the darkness since their parents blocked all the rays of the sun. They soon became distressed at the living conditions and gathered to decide whether to separate their parents or to kill them for more room and light.

The fiercest of the offspring, Tuma voted for death, while Tane wished to just separate the mother and father so that the earth will “remain close as our nursing mother.” Most of the sons, including Tuma, finally agreed with the plan for separation.

The children began to divide Rangi and Papa, and soon realized their task was very difficult. Tane finally succeeded as he placed his shoulders against the earth and his feet against the sky. He pushed slowly with both his upper and lower body with great strain, only pressing harder as the parents cried out for him to stop, and eventually the Sky and Earth began to yield. The Earth Mother and Sky Father bled and this gives rise to ochre (red clay), the sacred colour of the Maoris. Now that the separation was complete, there was a clearly defined sky and earth.

One of the offspring, Urutengangana, stated that there was one element still missing, and he urged his brothers to find the female element, ira tangata, to enable the creation of woman. The search spanned both land and sea, and finally Tane consulted his mother, Papa, for her advice and knowledge. The earth took pity on Tane and told him to search in a place called Kura-waka. Tane told his brothers. The children founnd the element in the Earth and dug it out to contribute in the creation of woman. The elder siblings shaped the body and the younger ones added the flesh, fat, muscles, and blood. Tane then breathed life into it, and created Hine-ahu-one, the earth-formed maiden.

Questions for Discussion

What sort of picture of divinity does this creation story give you?
ie. What are the gods/God like?

Was the creation an orderly process?

Does this story indicate a motive for the creation of the world?

What was the motive for creating humanity?

In what order were things created?

If you believed this creation story how would it make you feel about the world and your role in it?

Australian Aboriginal Creation Myth: The Dreamtime

In the beginning the earth was a bare plain. All was dark. There was no life, no death. The sun, the moon, and the stars slept beneath the earth. All the eternal ancestors slept there, too, until at last they woke themselves out of their own eternity and broke through to the surface.

When the eternal ancestors arose, in the Dreamtime, they wandered the earth, sometimes in animal form — as kangaroos, or emus, or lizards — sometimes in human shape, sometimes part animal and human, sometimes as part human and plant.
Two such beings, self-created out of nothing, were the Ungambikula. Wandering the world, they found half-made human beings. They were made of animals and plants, but were shapeless bundles, lying higgledy-piggledy, near where water holes and salt lakes could be created. The people were all doubled over into balls, vague and unfinished, without limbs or features.

With their great stone knives, the Ungambikula carved heads, bodies, legs, and arms out of the bundles. They made the faces, and the hands and feet. At last the human beings were finished.

Thus every man and woman was transformed from nature and owes allegiance to the totem of the animal or the plant that made the bundle they were created from — such as the plum tree, the grass seed, the large and small lizards, the parakeet, or the rat.
This work done, the ancestors went back to sleep. Some of them returned to underground homes, others became rocks and trees. The trails the ancestors walked in the Dreamtime are holy trails. Everywhere the ancestors went, they left sacred traces of their presence — a rock, a waterhole, a tree. For the Dreamtime does not merely lie in the distant past, the Dreamtime is the eternal Now. Between heartbeat and heartbeat, the Dreamtime can come again.

Questions for Discussion

What sort of picture of divinity does this creation story give you?
ie. What are the gods/God like?

Was the creation an orderly process?

Does this story indicate a motive for the creation of the world?

What was the motive for creating humanity?

In what order were things created?

If you believed this creation story how would it make you feel about the world and your role in it?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: