Creation Stories: (printable version)
THE BEGINNING AND THE END
"I am lonely, I want to make a world" cries Bhagavan, one creator god. And that is it-precisely-for we are all lonely, have always been since the beginning of time, have tried each of us to make ourselves a world. Hence, creation myths. Because to tell how the world began, how we came by fire-and food-and death-even to hazard guesses on how it might all end-is in a sense to recreate it for oursleves; so to make ourselves less lonely perhaps, and so counter a little the remoteness and indifference of the stars.
Taken as a whole these myths have seemed to point quite distinctly-yet without ever expressing it- to some kind of unity behind creation. something that relates well enough to the discovery by modern nuclear physicists that matter and space are composed of the same varieties of infinitesimal particles in ever shifting combinations. Morever, the movement of these particles, forever colliding, forever being destroyed and forever in their very destruction recreated, reflects the more explicit message of the myths...that in order to create, something has to be destroyed. The earth, for instance, is made from the body of a giant or a dragon; has to be renewed by destruction in fire or in flood; will only grow plants from the blood and flesh of some slain god, while the aquisition by man of life or food or fire has to be paid for by the acceptance of death- the message is everywhere, To live is to die; to die is to live..."In my beginning is my end"..."In the end is my beginning.", said T.S. Eliot. But the mythmakers arrived there long before he did!
In the beginning , the heavens and earth were still one and all was chaos. The universe was like a big black egg, carrying Pan Gu inside itself. After 18 thousand years Pan Gu woke from a long sleep. He felt suffocated, so he took up a broadax and wielded it with all his might to crack open the egg. The light, clear part of it floated up and formed the heavens, the cold, turbid matter stayed below to form earth. Pan Gu stood in the middle, his head touching the sky, his feet planted on the earth. The heavens and the earth began to grow at a rate of ten feet per day, and Pan Gu grew along with them. After another 18 thousand years, the sky was higher, the earth thicker, and Pan Gu stood between them like a pillar 9 million li in height so that they would never join again.
When Pan Gu died, his breath became the wind and clouds, his voice the rolling thunder. One eye became the sun and on the moon. His body and limbs turned to five big mountains and his blood formed the roaring water. His veins became far-stretching roads and his muscles fertile land. The innumerable stars in the sky came from his hair and beard, and flowers and trees from his skin and the fine hairs on his body. His marrow turned to jade and pearls. His sweat flowed like the good rain and sweet dew that nurtured all things on earth. his tears flowed to make rivers and the radiance of his eyes turned into thunder and lighting. When he was happy the sun shone, but when he was angry black clouds gathered in the sky.
"At first there was no earth and no sky: there were only two great eggs. But they were not ordinary eggs, for they were soft and shone like gold. At last, as they went round they collided, and both the eggs broke open. From one came the Earth, from the other the Sky, her husband. Now, the Earth was too big for the Sky to hold in his arms and he said, 'Though you are my wife, you are greater than I and I cannot take you. Make yourself smaller.' The Earth accordingly made herself pliable and the mountains and valleys were formed, and she became small and the Sky was able to go to her in love. When the Sky made love to the Earth, every kind of tree and grass and all living creatures came into being."
THE CREATION OF MAN
Thus, earth was created first, then man to live on it. Or could it be the other way around- was earth created rather to house man? A second, related question asks: is the form in which we find ourselves a perfected one? Or is it just a pale reflection of what we once were in some golden age-and could be again.... perhaps....if we worked at it?
The more familiar of the Biblical accounts sees man as created last in order to people the already prepared earth. Whereas in the second, sometimes overlooked version, God makes man first and then decorates the earth on his behalf. Just so, other mythologies-many American Indian stories in particular-show man arriving at best to find a barren surface- at worst nothing at all, earth having to be dredged up for him from the bottom of the sea. Frequently, too in these stories his own progression is upward, an ascent. Indeed the Mayan Indian story makes this progression actually substantial; first wood then clay are tried and found wanting as material for man's making; finally the gods mold him, bone and flesh and blood from some maize flour; which is an interesting inversion of the story of the slain man from whose body the maize first grows.
In the Mayan story, typically enough, the gods are shown as literally makers, creating man as a weaver weaves cloth or a potter moulds pots out of clay: especially as a potter moulds pots out of clay. Sometimes however no materia may be specified at all, the creator god may not even make man with his own hands. His function may simply be to donate his life force; either his breath, his seed, or else, significantly, his blood. This last is perhaps the most widespread idea. Indirectly it is the theme of the Mayan story too. For if maize had sprung from blood in the first place it could of course make blood of the true and perfect man.
"Ea said: 'I will join blood to blood and blood to bone. I will create my own being to adore me. His name is Man.' But he said: 'I will need one life for my creation.' The other gods chose Kingu the rebel leader, Tiamet's captain. They held him down and bound him and cut open his veins. With the blood that flowed out of Kingu's veins, Ea created man to be his servant and to worship him."
Muslim (The Koran):
"We first created man from essence of clay: then placed him, a living germ, in an a safe enclosure. The germ, we made a clot of blood, and the clot a lump of flesh. This we fashioned into bones, the clothed the bones with flesh, thus bringing forth another creation. Blessed be Allah, the noblest of creatures."
Hindu (The Vedas):
"When they divided the Man, into how many parts did they disperse him? What became of his mouth, what of his arms, what were his two thighs and his two feet called. His mouth was the Brahmin, his arms were made into nobles, his two thighs were the populace, and from his feet the servants were born."
excerpted from Penelope Farmer: