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Creation stories

Beliefs of Pagan, Aboriginal, &
other faith groups about origins

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bullet Ancient Pagan Religions: A common theme running through many ancient Pagan religions teaches that a Goddess, the Great Mother, divided the waters, and created heaven and earth. In later ages, when societies invented male deities, the latter often acted as the consort of the Goddess, sometimes in the figure of a serpent. 7 Still later, monotheistic religions developed and succeeded in eradicating any mention of the Goddess in creation. Some monotheistic religions even have the act of creation "undermined by a woman." 1 Parallels with the Christian book of Genesis are obvious.

bullet Wicca: There does not appear to be any historical creation story extant from the ancient Celtic people upon which Wicca is based. However, that does not prevent present-day Wiccans from creating their own creation myth. Scott Cunningham has composed a short but beautiful story in which "The One" molded "energy into twin forms, equal but opposite, fashioning the Goddess and God..." They formed the suns, planets and moons. "From their union came the seeds of all life, including the human race. All are born, live, die and are reborn beneath the Sun and Moon, all things come to pass there under, and all occurs with the blessings of The One, as has been the way of existence before time was." 2

bullet American South West: Many tribes tell a creation story in which their ancient ancestors lived a restricted life in darkness within an underworld, inside their Earth Mother. They emerged through a sacred opening onto the earth, to see the sun for the first time. For example, the Navajo creation story involves insects who inhabited the lowest three of the 6 worlds. They were expelled by the gods upwards to the 4th world where they either became, or helped create, the First Man and First Woman. They and their 10 children climbed up a reed that brought them into the 5th world - the one that they currently occupy. They "created the mountains, weather, plants and animals they had known below. And they brought the gods up to join them." 3

bullet Australia: Australian Aboriginals tell of an ancient dreamtime when their gods "performed 'walkabouts' creating people and sacred places and establishing clans, their totems...and their socio-religious systems, including taboos."

bullet Ancient Babylonia: One creation myth involves the great god Marduk killing the Great Mother, slicing her in two, throwing one piece into the heavens to form the sky and setting the remainder down as the earth.

bullet China: An ancient story of creation began with a cosmic egg. Inside the egg was a chaotic mixture of yin/yang, male/female, cold/heat etc. From the egg was born a giant by the name of Phan Ku.  He separated the earth and sky. He grew in stature by ten feet a day, raising the sky above the earth by that distance. He also created the heavenly bodies, and carved out the mountains and valleys with a huge chisel and mallet. When he died, the fleas in his hair became human beings.

bullet Ifa, the religion of the Yoruba peoples in Africa: Heaven and Earth originally existed with no humans or animals living in them. "Odumare then created Itself" 10 "Being the Primal cause...we call Odumare the only wise one on earth." He created human beings. He had no companion. Odumare pondered how to create more living entities in the universe. He realized that he could not act directly, because he was so charged with energy that if he came in contact with any living thing, it could not survive. So he created Agbon (wisdom), Imo (knowledge) and Oye (understanding) to act as intermediaries. He released them to fly to earth and look for a suitable place to settle. They were unable to find such a place, and so returned to Odumare and were swallowed by him. After several thousand years, Odumare decided to get rid of Agbon, Imo and Oye and sent them back to earth once more. 4

bullet Northeastern Siberia: A female raven created the first humans - twin males. Her mate went on a long flight, defecating (to produce the mountains and valleys) and urinating (to produce the rivers, lakes and ocean.) A spider woman appeared to make the first women.

bullet Ancient Mayan Culture: Tepeu and Gucamatz, a feathered serpent, created the earth, mountains, trees, animals, etc. by speaking them into existence. They asked the animals to praise the deities, but they could not. So the gods made the first humans out of clay; they broke apart. Wood was tried next, but the resultant humans were inflexible and caused a great deal of trouble. Tepeu caused a great flood to destroy most of the humans; a few escaped into the jungle and survive today as monkeys. The third try was successful. Four humans, one for each of the four directions, were created; they praised the gods appropriately.

bullet Bantu: One of the many Bantu creation stories involves the God Nzame creating the world and its animals. He also created Fam, the first human. But Fam neglected his responsibilities: he abused the animals and did not worship Nzame. God buried the earth in soil and tried a new creation. He began with a tree, whose leaves fell to earth and became animals and fish. He then created a human who in turn created a woman from a tree.  

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Web sites describing additional creation stories & myths:

bullet Norse Paganism: http://www.pitt.edu/
bullet Native American (Alesa, Iroquois Federation, Tlingit, Zuni): http://www.wsu.edu:8001/
bullet Navaho: http://www.lapahie.com/
bullet Japanese: http://www.wsu.edu:8080/
bullet Worldwide: http://www.dc.peachnet.edu/

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References used for the above essay:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. B.G. Walker, "The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets," Harper & Row, San Francisco, CA, (1983), Page 183-186. Read reviews or order this book
  2. Scott Cunningham, "Before time was," from A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. Read reviews or order this book
  3. Anon, "One evolution, many creations," The Globe and Mail newspaper, Toronto ON, 1999-SEP-20, P. A11.
  4. "Ifá: The Voice of Òrìsà," at: http://members.tripod.com/~Fasina/index.html

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Copyright ©1995 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published on 1995-NOV-3.
Most recent update: 2010-JUL-09
Author: B.A. Robinson
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