Creation Stories: Common Elements from Around the World
Culture is a system of beliefs and values through which a group of people structure their experience of the world These beliefs and values can be roughly organized in three areas: 1) Beliefs about the nature of the physical world 2) Beliefs about social order & appropriate behavior 3) Beliefs about human nature & the problem of
good and evil Are symbolic stories about the Creation of the World and how humans came to be Used to explain the origin of humans, earth, animals, plants, and other elements of nature Influence how they think about the world and
treat it; their worldview All cultures have a creation story In an effort to explain their origins, early humans invented stories which made sense in regard to his specific time period and culture 3 Creation
myths from around the world often share many similar themes These similarities have been attributed by modern scholars, not the inventors of the stories Each creation myth will likely contain several common thematic features. Creation myths usually have one of these basic themes:
1) Creation from chaos Initially there is nothing but a formless, shapeless expanse, which is also sometimes called a void or an abyss, contains the material with which the created world will be made 2) Earth diver In these stories a supreme being usually sends an animal into the primal waters to find bits of sand or mud with which to build habitable land 3)
Emergence Humanity emerges from another world into the one they currently inhabit with the previous world is often considered the womb of the earth mother, and the process of emergence is likened to the act of giving birth 4) Ex nihilo (out of nothing) In most of these stories the world is brought into being by the speech, dream, breath, or pure thought of a creator but creation ex nihilo may also take place through a creator's bodily secretions 5)
World Parent There are two types of world parent myths, both describing a separation or splitting of a primeval entity, the world parent or parents Egg Often a jumbled mass of components which serve as the first elements of life Childbirth
Male or Female gods give birth to children Natural Unusual Very common in many world cultures Mother usually earth Life emerges from
earth/womb Father usually sky Sense of unity created (marriage) The first god born did not always create the world. Often, his or her children decided to fill the world
with life. The parents work was finished by the child. Most cultures revered a pantheon of supreme beings (polytheistic) Some
cultures revered a single creator (monotheistic) Many stories allude to a time when the earth was covered by water many myths feature a creature diving into
the water to retrieve some earth to grow and form the Earth Animals played key roles in many Creation Myths often viewed as equal to humans often reflect feelings of culture for animals
In the creation myths of many cultures, darkness represents fear the setting of the sun brought on fear and chaos this fear and chaos was sometimes represented as fire
Many creation myths consist of at least one of these elements The consequence is often what causes pain, hunger, disease, and all other evils which plague the earth
Created by a god or supernatural being Establishes: a connection between human beings and the supernatural world the place of humans in the hierarchy of life in the universe (below gods, above animals)
Many legends offer explanations for the formation of mountains, valleys, oceans, rivers, etc. Almost all creation stories account for the existence of the forms of life that inhabit the planet.
May also explain the physical characteristics of the animals. Much like our distant ancestors, we strive to uncover our origins and determine our place in the universe. Scientists advance new theories each year on the origin of the universe For some, scientific evidence serves as a
basis for creation stories For others, deeply rooted ancient beliefs remain the cornerstone in their own theories
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