Part 1 of 3
Mesopotamia – Egypt – Mayan – China – Ainu of Japan
After having spent some twenty years commercially working upon and beneath the ocean’s surfaces, where most days, you are out there on the edge, over time and multiple near death experiences, one’s mind ponders many things. I began to study religion and science through history, then drifted to researching the time before religion and science. I found many answers and as many, if not more, questions. I continued to do my homework and of course ended up at the beginning, where this essay’s seed began to germinate. It was followed by others, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, as we most often do.
Throughout my researching and reading I sought to gather as much, and as up to date, information as I could pertaining to creation, human behaviour and history. Encapsulating hopefully what those in the know, know now, and continue to learn, as well as sharing the creation myths of groups of human beings who together inhabit the planet earth as a single species. Thereby perhaps allowing us to get some perspective on many truths and illusions.
Much thanks, admiration and respect goes to anyone who has made it their passion in life to seek truths through the disciplines of science and philosophy. The following essay, Some Creation Stories, grew as an essay and eventually peaked out at a goliath fifty-seven pages, so I will be posting it in parts. It was completed in 2009. Part One includes the Prologue and the creation myths of early Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mayan, China and the Aniu of Japan. All resource material and bibliography for this essay is listed under Research. Have fun. Much peace and thanks.
Most all the cultures of the world have their own creation myths, with many of them rooted in oral traditions and histories that have been passed down through the previous generations, and then with the invention of writing more than 5,000 years ago, they were finally recorded, and then through multiple translations and interpretations, they became hopeful answers to the question of, where did we come from? They represent a time when growing cultures began to dominate the direction our thoughts would take and when memory came into our beings. Though at one time, before the earliest creation stories, the question where we came from was perhaps not even asked, for it had nothing to do with, and was not a concern in one’s life, when most were living in the present moment, with memory used more as a survival tool. Creation stories’ emphasis is on explaining humanity’s place and role in the world.
Thousands of years ago this became important, when small groups of humans grew to form larger populations of hundreds, then thousands of individuals. It was the time when we had to learn how to get along with each other, outside of our traditional small tribal group, and village.
Within these first populations, human morality would become defined by creation stories as a means for social control, conflict resolution and group solidarity. Before creation stories and the subsequent religions that would arise from them, humans already understood how to properly behave with their fellow humans and always had. Our behaviour was based on the ability to be able to understand the present, to be aware of our surroundings and most importantly to remember the behaviour that would be right for the situation at hand and for living peacefully with others.
Even chimpanzees have a deep understanding of the social world around them. Each chimpanzee has the ability to mentally model the impact of its own action on the group, as well are able to guess the intentions of others. Thus, the perceived belief that we only get our morality from religion is layed open. We used to very much, understand that there were many important similarities behind life’s experiences, but then with the emergence of creation stories and religion, we were told only of perceived facts, a specific doctrine, that would be taught to us in a very specific way. We were preached to ignore the truth and that reality is actually nothing but a blurred and confused general definition of life, and truth soon began to disappear. What we thought, what memories we had, all began to be controlled. People would begin to believe in a god, because they would become conditioned to believe in a god.
Personal memories are mostly constructed by us without any influence. While the memories of belief systems are actually deemed factual by way of manufactured knowledge, which soon dilutes the wisdom of a culture and polarizes the races of human beings. Races who are not allowed their individual view on the matter, but instead taught of a right way and a wrong way. Which instantly creates enemies who believe their way is the right way, and therefore have justification for all sorts of actions and behaviours.
These systems would become developed to be easily learned and were, and are, taught in a very systematic and certain way, using proverbs, textbooks, churches, and classrooms. The inflexibility of these teachings has been the disability of anyone actually trying to learn something. Very early on certain individuals found that the way to control a population was to control the population’s mind. And the best way to start is to get them when they are young, and quickly teach them all about fear and guilt, the enemies of human beings. Look at a newborn child, happy as a clam, hears words but they don’t yet appear in their heads, they simply don’t believe in anything yet. Their minds are a blank slate (tabula rasa), and do not even possess an ego yet, which they won’t develop for another couple of years. Babies are even born with the ability to make sounds of any language, but as they learn the language of their parents, they lose this ability.
The dominating values of all societies do not come from the people, but are generally the views held by a domineering, authoritative control group, either the church, the military, banks and corporations, or the power elite. They are the ones who determine the public agenda, which in most cases, is to serve only their own interests, and not, we the people. Rulers and governments become the tools used to suppress or explain away any deviations that may threaten the power of the elite. Today, much of what we call our conscience, or believed to be morality, is unfortunately, not influenced as much by our soul, but more by where we live, the era we live in, and how we are raised. Even government, has given way to the power of the media. Our most cherished beliefs, our thoughts on what is good and evil, and even our concepts of morality has been created by our cultural heritages and experiences, and defined by the media. Where before the rulers and priests ruled with the whip and sword, and revolt and disturbances were put down quickly and viciously, today the media is used instead, to constantly manipulate and control the masses. This method of control is very subtle as it doesn’t use force, but is so successful we don’t even know, or sense, we are being manipulated. Besides many organized religions, the media is also very adept at hiding the realities of our economies, of really what’s going on elsewhere in the world and in our own communities, as well as the realities of life itself. Combined, these concepts represent the perception we would have of our worlds, and would become known as the world-view.
When language was invented, it became the manifestation of the world-view, and began trying to explain our collective sense of existence. This world-view would be the framework for generating, sustaining, and applying all the knowledge that we would gain over the centuries. The concept of a world-view comes from the German word, “weltanschauung,” and is just that, our sense of existence. It operates and is constructed by individuals, mostly at the national level, but also at the community level and/or the unconscious level, and is most always made up of six basic building blocks.
These six building blocks would be used by individuals all though history, for all different reasons and intentions. The using of different scientific disciplines, language and various systems of knowledge give us Ontology, a descriptive model of the world or the ideas and beliefs through which we interpret, to be able to interact with our world. The Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies at the Flemish university, the Vrije Universiteit Brussels, in Brussels, Belgium, lists them as; an Explanation for the world; Futurology – Where are we going? ; Ethical Values – What are we supposed to do? ; Methodology – How are we to behave and attain our goals? ; Knowledge – What is true and false, real or imagined? ; and Etiology – the building blocks of our origins and construction of our societies.
Our hidden being is what is hidden within these symbols, codes, and fables that would become the scriptures, which all appeal to our moral intuitions and have evolved over the centuries by our thoughts and experience about the causes and possibilities of human happiness. We combine science with this knowledge to create our world view. Intertwined and woven into most scripture are truths about our inner being and that all the wisdom we will ever need is within us, it only takes a pure heart and deep need to seek the divinity within each of us. And then to be able to listen and trust what we hear or feel. This ethical wisdom should be desired by each one of us and realized that it has always been within each one of us, instead of being made to believe that if we worship a creator of the universe, he would allow us this wisdom. And yet at the same time, this supreme creator, in most all cases, tends to be an intolerant, jealous, angry, oppressive, demanding, restricting, violent, vengeful, and killing god. For example, people who don’t understand that cruelty and violence are wrong, won’t learn this from reading most scripture, like the Bible or the Qu’ran, which are filled with unmentionable cruelty, especially toward women. Too often it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons have always been within us.
All social animals live in hierarchical societies in which each individual knows their place. Social order is maintained by rules of expected behaviour, while dominate group members enforce order through punishment. Nearly all animals, not just humans, possess this morality, though humans and the higher primates, such as chimps, also have a sense of mutual exchange and fairness. What separates humans from all other animals, at least socially, is the difference in the change of our natural character to a higher level of sophistication and urbanity. Human society’s moral codes are enforced much more with rewards, punishments, and reputation building than other animals. Humans also have a higher degree of judgment and reason.
Most creation stories also represent a time when our expanding cultures began to dominate the direction our thoughts would take and memory would become important to our lives, arising from our development of language and speech. Before speech, early man had considerable reasoning power and were very intelligent, but language soon enabled us to have control over our thoughts. Where once our environment shaped us, speech would now take over that role, though the perception of our worlds would only be in terms of the symbols contained within that language. Instead of living in the moment, we could now chase after thoughts far removed from the present and better plan our behaviour.
Personal memories and history would become an artificial addition to the mind. Because creation stories are very similar to what human memory is, a repetitive, re-creation of events rather than an exact snapshot or video replay of what actually happened. It is one of the ways that beliefs begin to become true, even if they are not. When something is repeated enough, it is held to be true, even though in fact it could be the farthest thing from the truth. To this day society is still controlled this way in our thinking and our behaviour. It is our dogma. Our fantasies and imaginings are only limited by the diversity of our vocabulary and the level of the awareness of the world around us and are most always deliberately fictitious. We are still very much wrapped up in illusions.
Before the dawn of the first civilizations, early man routinely engaged in religious rituals, based on their interpretation of the stars, of their natural surroundings, with certain aspects of their lives becoming sacred, such as births, deaths and the passage to adulthood. People lived more in the present tense and used memory only to assist them in their understanding of what was going on around them from moment to moment, very much like the wordless mind of an animal that reacts only to events that surround them at a particular moment. With a clear uncluttered mind an animal focuses on its environment as each moment happens, its life is lived in the present tense. It has no ability to decide for itself what it concentrates its awareness on. For though it is hard to imagine, we humans, before language and speech, didn’t have voices in our heads. But with language and speech we were then able to control our thoughts more, by using words and visions to deliberately focus our attention on other aspects of our world.
Creation stories are beliefs in our origins and represent a time when not only memory, but reason as well began to become more controlling and dominate in our minds. They represent a time when we began regretting and feeling guilty about the past and forever worrying about the future, when we started to lose our focus on the present moment. It would lead to more dramatic, unwarranted anger, jealousy, and unhappiness in our daily lives. We should not totally ignore our past, for reflection of the past is good for acknowledging things that one can perhaps make right in the present time, situations that call out for healing. But we must not spend all our time trying to analyse every doubt, worry, and regret we’ve ever said and done, either.
The earliest people’s spirituality was based on animism, the belief that natural objects were conscious forms of life that affected humanity. They viewed the forests, mountains, oceans, even the wind, as spiritual forces, and displayed a reverence for the natural environment. The rain was a blessing, the warmth of the sun, the coldness and freshness of the water one would sip, all were probably felt as being a blessing.
Ten-thousand years ago, before the first civilizations, which were really just empires that were ruled by shamans, astronomer-priests, and tyrants, the chief deity of most of the planet was the sun of each day. All over Europe and much of the Indo-Asian continent they called the sun Dyeus, or as it was known all over the world, the Sky Father or Sky Mother, representing life, as well as the position of the patriarch or matriarch of that particular society. Only after humankind had butchered most of the big game and started to use hand tools to raise crops and start the domestication of animals, which led to trade and commerce, and which eventually led to the first civilizations, did the belief that a divine power was responsible for creating the world appeared. Where once everything on the planet was looked at as all on the same level, creation stories deemed humanity insignificant compared to the universe. For instance, the characters in the earliest creation myths were most all represented in animal form and represented in the stars, but with the birth of civilization this changed to where the gods of the creation stories were now viewed in human form, and possessed human traits and behaviours, and in many cases, were considered, basically, reflections of those that worshipped them. In many of the creation myths, after the gods or god had created the universe, these divine beings did seem to act human, but only if you are comparing their behaviour to a dysfunctional, egotistical, immoral human. Many of the gods seemed to just spend the rest of their days wrapped up in all sorts of debauchery. Each day was a party spending the time feasting, drinking, lusting, fighting, intervening in earthly affairs, or even, just sitting back and watching, with no intention of intervening at all.
But the priests would instill in the people that the balance of order and chaos in the universe could only be maintained by the gods and goddesses, or their representatives on earth – the kings, emperors, and the priests themselves. These divine forces required constant replenishment through worship, devotion, and sacrifice to maintain the continuity of the cosmic equilibrium. The gods had to be honoured for the cosmic order to be upheld. What separated these gods from mankind, was they were believed to possess sublime power and immortality. The people themselves would come to believe that their lives were to be totally dependant on the continued goodwill of these most powerful gods. The biggest loss to our collective humanity at this time was, where before we each had a choice, that choice was then taken away from us, and we would come to believe that we have no choice. It would become humanity’s crutch.
Out of these creation myths, two main thoughts on what god actually means began to arise. Pantheism would become the belief that God the creator was transcendent, existing in all living things. Nature and God were the same thing. Theism meanwhile believed God to be transcendent, but even though he works within the world, he also exists apart from, and is not subject to, the material limitations of the universe. These two main beliefs persist to the present day, where half the planet is traditional in their need for spirituality, in the belief that they must worship and pray to a supreme being, while the other half are more eastern in that it’s all about getting in touch with one’s inner self.
What also began happening within these early societies was that other gods, spirits, and ever watchful ancestors would appear in the social realm. It would become a very effective way to restrain selfishness, create order and enhance a population’s survival, by using the adaptive value of building cooperative groups of people, but because of religious belief, groups of humans actually began separating themselves from each other.
In many of the ancient cultures, the priests were the only ones who were literate enough and able to interpret the omens and portents of the gods, and use their creation stories to create order and control over the people’s everyday lives, to govern agriculture, but also, to set apart certain ideas, objects, events and experiences and make them sacred. Instead of trying to seek the truth as it is, many of the early scholars and priests sought what they thought the truth should be. Creation stories are believed to take care of the question of where did we come from, who created us, and emphasize that we should be grateful for being created in the first place, with the histories of both creationism and religion following this same path.
Besides giving interpretations on how and why the world was created, creation myths are limited in the definition of what the author’s world was thought to be at the time as well. The vast majority of humans at the time were completely illiterate, and whose reality of daily life was based only on what they could hear, see, smell, taste and feel. Their worlds were very small. Family, food, and shelter. The early Sumer peoples of Mesopotamia knew of their world to be only the Mesopotamia plain, the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the Arabian deserts, the Syrian hills, and the Zagros mountains. They had no idea how large the planet truly was, or even the concept of what a planet was. Up until the 16th century, most inhabitants of the world still believed the world to be flat and lay at the center of the universe.
Most all creation stories are religiously motivated rejections of evolution as an explanation of humanity’s origins and were, in most cases, successful in replacing the principles of human nature and awareness. The real and unchanging natural laws of being human are deep, fundamental truths, and have always been with us. Principles that govern human effectiveness and are guidelines for human conduct. Universal principles of fairness, on which equality and justice are based on. Integrity and honesty, which creates trust, then service, which is based on quality or excellence and potential, which brings about growth, patience, encouragement, and human dignity. But when creation stories came along, they brought forth aspects of human nature that did not necessarily exist before. These aspects would enter peoples lives and become the illusions of humanity that persist to the present day, and which would become the illusions of need, failure, disunity, inadequacy, judgement, criticism, conditionality, insolence and ignorance. This foundation of illusion would be upon which religion would be created, and adopt the religious view that society would manifest a god’s will. The populations of the first civilizations and cultures worldwide believed very much in what the early priests told them of their creation and why they were in the world. There was somewhat of an appearance of security given and some sort of continued existence above the reality of their daily lives that the people began to believe in. This promise of an afterlife, gave most people hope to get through their own lives as well as the perception that they too were immortal, just like their gods.
At the same time, most creation stories also emphasized that the common people were impure, flawed, and lived error-filled, short lives, but that if one behaved, kept his head down and said his prayers, there would be hope for salvation. Unfortunately much of this is true, we human beings are flawed, this is most obvious when it comes to our conduct during times of temptation. What is not true, is our only hope for salvation is not through prayer or keeping the head down, it is by keeping the head up and interacting respectfully with the people around us. Most of our problems, our flaws, have to do with our behaviour that arises when we succumb to our own passions, thus the artificial systems that would be created, beginning with the creation myth, which more often than not, had to be created to balance and keep within bounds our selfish desires. Before creation myths, humans were not inherently evil, nor was the earth, but after the myths appeared, both would become thought of as much.
Because there are literally hundreds of creation stories, and in different peoples minds, the world was created in a variety of ways, this essay relates only the stories of the people of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mayan, China, the Aniu of Japan, India, the Greeks, Aztec, Norse, Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands, on the west coast of North America, the Iroquois nation of eastern North America, Inca, Judaism and Christianity, the Mandinka of West Africa, and Islam. There are of course a multitude of other creation stories we know about, just like there are many others that we’ll never hear or know about because they’ve been lost over time. And because the genetic map of an organism of every living thing on the planet is linked in fundamental patterns, and are able to change and adapt in many definable ways, I have also included the chapter, Big Bang and Darwin.
The People of Mesopotamia
In the beginning there were two divine beings, Apsu, god of fresh water and Tiamat, god of salt water. Though at first separate, they one day united and chaos was created. From this chaos arose the four levels of creation. The sky, air, earth, and water. The god of the sky was An (Anu), who would become known as the father of all the gods who would appear after him. He represented the heavens, with his symbol being a star. The god of air and the wind was Enlil (Ellil), who was believed to be the cause of a great flood, due to his angry character. Then there was Enki (Ea), who at first, was just the god of the earth, but he would succeed Apsu and become the god of fresh water as well. Enki was the child of Ninhursag (Nintu), a consort of the sky-god, An. Enki is known for being the god who had saved mankind after a great flood and was also regarded as a fertility god who brought agriculture to the Sumerian people. He was believed to be a benevolent god, the source of wisdom and creativity, and would eventually become the supreme Sumerian deity.
Working as a team, these gods began to create their world. They first dug out channels in the earth which became the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and then proceeded to create the irrigation infrastructure on which the land would depend and would allow vegetation to grow. All this work exhausted the gods though and soon they rested. While they slumbered, they discussed how could they free themselves from the mundane and arduous tasks of creating a world, as well as creating for themselves the idle time they craved and felt they deserved, being that they were celestial, all-powerful gods.
Ninhursag and her son, Enki, came up with an idea. Grabbing fists of clay, they worked together and melded mankind out of the clay. Turning toward one of the more rebellious, lesser deities that was emerging out of the chaos, they grabbed him and killed him, mixing his blood with the clay. The blood gave life to the clay, as well as the divine essence that is a part of mankind, in the form of a soul that would never die. The problem was that the blood had come from a rebel god, so it was deemed to be naturally flawed. Undaunted the gods finally had a workforce to take over their tasks of creating the world. The rules for mankind were that they were to work each day and pay homage to their gods, in the form of praise, worship, and sacrifice. With mankind created to finish the job, the gods retreated to their celestial realm, to live lives of luxury and look down upon their creation.
Then one day a man named Adapa, out fishing upon the river, had his boat overturned by a powerful gust of wind. Scrambling onto the overturned hull he shook his fist at the sky and cursed the wind and everything else he could think of. Unfortunately the gods heard him and they summoned Adapa to appear before them. Adapa stood before the gods and gave such an excellent account of himself during his defence that the father of the gods, An became very impressed by this man. He offered Adapa the bread of eternal life and water. While Adapa decided what to do, the god of water, Enki whispered into Adapa’s ear and told him to reject the offer. So Adapa rejected the bread of eternal life and water and agreed to accept two other gifts that were offered to him, oil and a robe, but Adapa very quickly came to regret his decision. The oil turned out to be the type that was used to dress corpses, with the robe turning out to be a burial shroud. Thus, from that moment on, humans were condemned to mortality. Eventually Enlil (Ellil) god of the air and the wind would unseat An as the supreme god and become, “Father of the Gods and King of Heaven and Earth.”
Though the Mesopotamia people’s earliest gods were worshipped in the form of animals, soon after writing was invented in about 3000BC, the gods began to be described in the form of humans. Over time the people would recognize thousands of different gods, each associated with a different aspect of the universe and their lives. They felt each one of them had to have their own personal god or they would cease to survive. The people would become obsessed with divination and considered themselves to be at the mercy of their gods, reliant on divine goodwill for success in any goal or enterprise. To avoid giving the gods any reason to be angry with them at all, the people employed diviners to seek out omens and portents on earth, as well as in the night’s sky. Even sickness was thought of as a punishment for some transgression, perceived or not against their gods. Many times it was not even possible to know whether or not you had broken any rules. The diviners would gain power and become the earliest priests, who would control the population by retaining their power through an ideology that would arise out of creation myths that they themselves had created.
The priests held their power and would become wealthy, while at the same time they had the populations of their growing city-states believing that they had no free will, which was something only the gods held. The people accepted and believed themselves to be simple slaves to their leaders, priests, and gods.
Egyptian creation stories took on different versions of how the earth was created, each attributed to a certain group of scribes and priests, depending on which temple and city they were from. Each story was equally accepted and regarded as no less valid than the next. Though each story is based on the belief that in the beginning the earth was covered with the “Waters of Chaos” and then a huge eruption occurred beneath the surface of the water. From this eruption arose a dark and formless void, known as Nun. Soon after, a primeval mound of earth rose from the depths and it was on this mound that the gods would create life. There are theories that the pyramids are based on the representation of this original primeval mound of creation.
According to the scribes of the Egyptian temple at Heliopolis, the supreme creator was the god Atum, “the All.” At the first sunrise, a lotus flower had sprouted from the ground of the primeval mound, this was Atum, who then created all things. Within himself he held the life force of the universe, the creative power of the sun. The sun god took the form of Re (Ra) and was depicted as a falcon, ram, or a human with a falcon’s or ram’s head. According to two different versions, Atum either ejaculated or spat out, twin gods, Shu, god of air and Tefnut, goddess of moisture. Shu and Tefnut quickly threw themselves at each other and produced Geb, god of earth, and the sky god, Nut. Geb and Nut quickly had intercourse together as well, but Shu stepped in and separated them, but not before they had produced four children, Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.
The Memphis temple version of creation was based on the idea that the primeval mound that had arisen out of the waters of chaos was in fact the creative world of the god Ptah, who used his mind, and thought the world into being, thus making all things of the earth by simply speaking their names.
According to the temple of Hermopolis, life was formed by the eight gods of the “Ogdoad,” who lived in the waters of chaos. There was Nun and his counterpart Naunet, who represented the waters, along with Heh and his consort, the goddess Hauhet, who represented infinity. Kek and his companion Kauket represented the darkness, the god and goddess, Amun and Amaunet, the hidden forces of life. Working as a group, and combining their energies, they would create the primeval mound of creation. The sun then exploded upon the world and life began. Amun would soon become the “King of all Gods,” and is depicted in human form, but is also seen as a ram, a goose, and as Amun-Kematef (“He who has completed his moment”), in the form of a snake shedding its skin in a constant, forever cycle of renewal. The Egyptians also believed that in the beginning, before the written word, their rulers here on earth were in fact, the gods themselves. The first king was the sun god Re. His realm became known as the golden age of plenty. But then a day came when he abandoned the world for a celestial realm, taking the sun with him. Mankind felt they had fallen from grace at the loss of the life-giving sun and quickly turned against each other and began to fight amongst themselves. As he watched from above, Re quickly sent Thoth, god of wisdom, down to settle the people and restore order. Re then appointed a succession of gods to rule in his place. Some believe this to be the Horus-line of rulers, the first pharaohs.
The twin goddesses’ Nekhbet (Vulture Goddess of Upper Egypt) and Wadjet (Cobra Goddess of Lower Egypt) would become known as the Mighty Ones, and whose roles would be to protect the pharaoh, with Nekhbet able to use her outstretched wings to act as a shield, and Wadjet able to spit fire into the eyes of the reigning pharaoh’s enemies. Indeed one of the royal titles of the pharaoh was “He of the Two Ladies.” In her role of directing the forces of aggression and destruction, the Lioness Goddess Sekhmet also guarded the pharaoh and was able to cause pestilence and disease. The shrewd and perceptive judgement of the northern goddess Neith (Mistress of the Bow and Ruler of Arrows) was respected and sought out by the other gods, with the Scorpion Goddess, Selket another maternal Guardian of the king.
The Goddess Hathor was represented as a cow, and was the goddess of love and beauty. She was also known as the “Mistress of Darkness,” who oversaw music, dancing and all forms of revelry. Also known as the Lady of the West, and though she received souls of the dead in the afterlife, she would become a much loved and joyful goddess, and became one of the peoples most popular goddesses.
Another myth accounts for Osiris being the first king, inheriting the right by being the firstborn of the four offspring of the gods Geb (God of the Earth) and Nut (Goddess of the Far-Reaching Sky). Osiris ruled alongside his sister Isis and together they brought peace and prosperity to the world and gave wisdom to mankind. Isis was the first daughter of Geb and Nut and over time would merge with many of the attributes of the goddess Hathor, and become the Goddess of Motherhood, Magic and Fantasy. She would be known as the ideal mother and wife, a friend to both, the downtrodden and the wealthy. One of her many other titles was the Mistress of the House of Life and she would become one of the most powerful figures in the Egyptian pantheon. Osiris was murdered by the god Seth (Lord of Chaos), his brother, who took his crown, dismembered him and scattered the remains around the world. The grieving Isis would use her magical powers to gather up all the pieces and revive Osiris. The virgin Isis then gave birth to a son, Horus (Lord of the Sky), whose eyes were the sun and the moon. As soon as Horus reached adulthood he would avenge Osiris’ death, and take back the crown. All the gods supported Horus in his claim of the throne except for the Sun god Re, who thought the stronger Seth should have kept the throne. Horus would be the last in a long line of gods who had ruled Egypt, after him, would arise the pharaohs, who would now be counselled and aided by priests, who began to record great stories of gods and creation. The priests themselves began to accumulate great wealth and power, which rivalled the pharaohs themselves. The gods became to be many and were nearly all symbolized aspects of the natural world, such as the sun, sky, land and the river. The early priests also had an incredible knowledge of the sky and the movements of celestial objects, which led them to be able to keep track of time, keep records, create calenders, and keep order in the world by performing the necessary rituals at the proper time of the day or season. They appeased the gods and kept the general population eternally grateful and afraid at the same time.
These priests would invent writing and be the only ones that could read the words, which the population thought to be sacred and divine, and which was believed to hold great power. It was something that the general population felt they could never attain themselves. Great temples would be built, which the priests maintained and directed for the good of the country. Scrolls and the best of the artisans works were kept inside them. They were also totally forbidden to the public, and in many cases to the nobility as well. Only the astronomer-priests could enter them. The priests would become the agents between the mortal and the divine worlds. The knowledge they gained they shared only with the pharaoh and the nobility, thus keeping their power intact. They would honour, soon to be, hundreds of gods, with a constant stream of offerings, festivals, music and dance. Every aspect of ancient Egyptian life would have a god, each represented by combined elements that were both male and female, active and passive, aggressive and temperate.
As with most all inhabitants of the earth, the sky, especially on a clear night, was and is everything, with the most supreme being, the almighty sun. To the Egyptians the sun rising in the east was the god Khepri (the evolving one), represented by the scarab or dung beetle pushing the day along. As the sun rose it was also known as the falcon god, Horus (the far one) or Harakhty (Horus of the horizon). Combining Khepri and Horus was the single solar deity, Re-Harakhty (the Dawn god). As the sun set in the west it was Re-Atum and it would then be swallowed by the sky goddess Nut, as they sank down into the underworld of Duat. All night the sun god, Re, confronted the forces of darkness and the giant serpent of chaos, Apep (Apophis). With each dawn, Re would emerge victorious, reborn in the east as a child of Nut, amid the “redness of her birth blood”. With each day after, Re would come to represent life, death, and rebirth.
In the beginning there was nothing except the sky and a vast ocean. Then one day the sky gods met with the ocean gods and they talked about the need for worshippers, and where these beings could live. They all agreed that to create the earth, they would simply say “earth”,which they did, and suddenly a cloud that, “formed and unfolded “, arose out of the water. The earthly realm was square and flat with four sides and four corners. Above this earthly realm was the celestial realm which had thirteen layers, each with its own god, and is from where they would tell stories in the night sky using the movements of the stars and planets. Below the earth lay the underworld, Xibalba, which had nine layers, also each with its own god. At the center, rising up through all three levels was the World Tree, with four other trees standing at each corner of the earth, holding up the sky.
Each side of the square and flat earthly realm, faced either north, south, east or west, with each direction having its own distinct colour. The east was the red of the rising sun, the west was black, signifying death, the south was yellow and the north was white. The center of the earthly realm was green, representing vegetation and life.
The Mayans had many gods, but the sun was the most important element in the life of the Maya. The sun was a male god known as Kinich Ahau, the “Sun-faced Lord”. He had created the light and heat that had created life. In the morning, Kinich Ahau was portrayed as being young, but as the day progressed he aged and by sunset was old, bearded, and withered, only to be reborn the next morning. The moon was a goddess who at first was just as bright as the sun, but one day the other gods threw a rabbit into her face to make her paler.
Hieroglyphic inscriptions gave the date of Mayan creation as 184.108.40.206.0.4 Ahau 8 Cumku. By using the two main calenders of the Maya this translates to Aug.13th 3114BC, or about the time that extreme global environmental change occurred due to a catastrophic event, and was recorded the world over. Interestingly enough, it is also about the same time as the great flood of the Bible, of the Mesopotamia plain in the Middle East.
The Mayans believe the earth goes through cycles, though unlike other creation myths, their cycles of time are more determined by the solar and lunar cycles of the sky. The current world age is a cycle of about 5,200 years and is due to end on December 23, 2012, though it is rarely determined to be apocalyptic in any way, but rather a change in universal consciousness. Even up to the present time, each year, on the night of August13th, Orion rises in the sky near to a point at which the Milky Way crosses the ecliptic and then, just before dawn, it reaches its highest point in the sky. The Mayans believed that this is when the gods placed the first thing onto the earth, the “Three Stones of Creation,” which is interpreted as the setting up of the first fireplace.
Other accounts of the Mayan creation tell that the earth was supported on a turtle’s back and since they believed the constellation of Orion was a turtle, the three stars of Orion (Alnitak, Saiph, and Rigel) are linked to the “Three Stones of Creation.”
After the gods had placed the first three stones, they began the task of somehow creating worshippers. At first they created animals. Instead of worship and praise all they heard from the animals were grunts, hisses, chirps, howls, and squawks. This didn’t impress the gods at all, so they then went about trying to create a human. On the first attempt to create a human they used mud. Though the human they created could speak, what was coming out of its mouth made no sense at all and its form soon dissolved into a shapeless puddle of slime. On their next attempt the gods made humans made out of wood. Once again these wood people looked human, spoke, and seemed to be very attracted to each other. Unfortunately they lacked a soul and the gods saw that these humans would not recognize them as divine beings, which would make them therefore useless. The gods became ever more angry and frustrated and began to destroy these wooden people by many means, including a great flood and attacks from wild animals like the jaguar. They even got the domesticated animals to turn against the people. Still not satisfied the gods even ordered the peoples’ cooking utensils, like pots sitting in a fire and grinding stones, to attack, at which time incredible damage was caused. Soon most all of the wooden people were destroyed. The very few that were left standing were transformed into monkeys to live forever in the forests.
The gods regrouped and decided to give one last attempt at creating humans. They each gathered up handfuls of maize kernels, then the goddess, Xmucane took the kernels and ground them up nine times. Adding some water, she made a paste, which she used to create the first four people. These people could speak and be understood by the gods, and seemed to hold up well to the earth’s environment, and most important, the gods found that these humans were able to quickly learn how to worship and make appropriate sacrifices to their creators. This made the gods very happy. They finally had their worshippers and began to teach them how they should perceive the world.
And from the very beginning, these first Mayans began to study the skies in reverence to their creation and to seek direction. With astronomer-priests soon arising, interpreting what the sky was saying and controlling any knowledge gained through the use of fear of the gods, they were able to keep the people, and their rulers, in their place and subdued.
In the beginning there was nothing, no light, no dark, no hot, no cold, nor time or space. But within this formless mass was a slimy substance that contained all matter. It was called Grand Unity (Tai Yi). Out of this nothingness, water was born, and when it mixed with Grand Unity, heaven was created. Heaven then mixed with the Grand Unity and made the earth. Heaven and earth then united to produce the spirits, the sun, and the moon, as well as intellect, spirituality, and moral qualities. As soon as this was all accomplished and everything had come together, the Yin and Yang were born, who in turn, gave birth to the four seasons. The two natures’ Yin and Yang were in the beginning only shade and sunshine, though they were made up of all the energy and matter of the world. Soon enough they became a series of oppositions that would carry onto the humans that were to still be created and represent both inner and outer, private and public, good and bad, male and female. The four seasons that had been created brought forth both hot and cold, after which moisture and dryness appeared, which would from then on determine the cycles of the seasons.
Everything was now set for the creation of humans. Chinese mythology has two different explanations for the creation of mankind, one about a man, and one about a woman.
The man, Pan Gu “Coiled Antiquity” was the personification of Grand Unity. When he neared his death, his body suddenly exploded. His breath became the wind, his left eye the sun, his right eye the moon, his arms and legs the four quarters of the world, his blood and semen the rivers and seas. The lice on his skin were touched by the wind and these became people.
The woman was Nu Wa. She used clay of the earth to make people, the noble ones were yellow, the meaner ones were darker. Another version of Nu Wa is that she coupled with her brother, Fuxi, the only other person alive, and together they made children. Whichever method was used, it was agreed that the body was to be made up of two elements, or souls. The Po, which was viscous and material, and Hun, which was vaporous and transparent. When combined they produced life, but upon death Hun would separate from the body, as it did when people slept, where its wanderings produced dreams.
The Chinese universe was complete, and contained three realms, the heaven, the earth and humankind, with an emperor becoming the living link among them. The first emperor was Fuxi, brother and husband of NuWa. He was responsible for all important cultural inventions, including the first marriage. Fuxi would invent the carpenter’s square, the hexagrams that would become the book, I Ching, and also would become the models for the building of nets used for hunting and fishing.
The second emperor was Shen Nong, the divine farmer, who would continue on Fuxi’s work, inventing the plow and the first market, where the people could exchange goods. Next up was the emperor Huang Di, the yellow emperor. He would invent armour, medicine, pottery, and the compass. These first three emperors would forever be known as the “Three August Emperors.”
The August emperors would be followed by the Five Emperors of Antiquity. Zhuan Xu, Di Ku, Yao, Shun, and Yu. Collectively they made government an institution, with emperor Yu The Great, dividing China into nine regions, each with it’s own particular traits.
Very much like other ancient creation stories, the stars and planets were believed to be gods and that their movements affected people and events on Earth. Chinese mythology also included the idea that the human realm had corresponding effects in the natural world, though not necessarily reactions, and vice versa.
The five visible planets in the sky at that time were Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Each were each believed to have their own personalities, with Jupiter considered the most important because it governed time as it appeared to pass from one constellation to another, and like elsewhere, time was deemed to be cyclical rather than linear. These five planets also could be related to the myth of the Wu Xing or “Five Motions” or “Five Phases” of which all matter was thought to be composed. Of all the ancient Chinese myths, the most important aspect seems to be the idea that the universe is a self-contained entity with no abstract, supernatural, and supreme being outside of it, and that civilization is a legacy from generations of divine beings and imperial ancestors.
The Ainu of Japan
The Ainu people of Hokkaido recount that in the beginning their cosmology consisted of six heavens and six hells where gods, demons, and animals lived. Demons lived in the lower heavens. Amongst the stars and the clouds lived the lesser gods. In the highest heaven lived Kamui, the creator god, and his servants. His realm was surrounded by a mighty, metal wall and the only way in was through a great iron gate.
Kamui made the world a vast, round ocean that rested on the backbone of an enormous trout. As the trout sucked in the ocean and spit it out again he made the tides and whenever the trout moved it would cause earthquakes. One day Kamui looked down on the watery world and decided to make something of it. He sent down a water Wagtail to do the work. By fluttering over the waters with its wings and by trampling the sand with its feet and beating it with its tail, the wagtail created patches of dry land. In this way islands were raised to float upon the ocean.
When the animals who lived up in the heavens saw how beautiful the world was, they begged Kamui to let them go and live on it, and he did. But Kamui also made many other creatures especially for the world. The first people, the Ainu, had bodies of earth, hair of chickweed, and spines made from sticks of willow. Kamui sent Aioina, “the divine man,” down from heaven to teach the Ainu how to hunt and to cook, after which the people soon began to multiply.
sunrise photo by Sean Macentee : http://farm1.static.flickr.com/39/86898564_8450ac24a7_m.jpg
earth photo: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/39/86898564_8450ac24a7_m.jpg