Across the world there are so many different creation myths, and they all have cultural significance. Creation myths explain how the earth or a specific culture came into existence. They were told to make sense and order out of the world, which means many of them include the creation of animals and plants, not just people. Despite that fact that the creation myths come from different cultures, there are similarities, which you will see as you read about these creation myths from around the world.
1. Origin of Japan
Between 500 and 700 CE the Japanese emperors ordered a compilation of Japanese stories to be created as a way to preserve the culture. The compilation was called the Kojiki, and in it is found the origin story of Japan. The origin of Japan began when 3 deities were brought into existence, the Spirit Master of the Center Heaven, the August Wondrously Producing Spirit, and the Producing Ancestor. Following these three deities more deities came into existence, including the man Izanagi and the woman Izanami. These two solidified the Japanese land mass, which had previously been floating, and they gave birth to more deities. Over time, the deities pacified the land, and eventually the Imperial family came to rule Japan. Clearly, this creation myth focuses solely on Japan; however, there are creation myths that are more global.
2. Cherokee Creation Myth
The Cherokee creation myth is called The Story of Corn and Medicine, and it begins when the earth was just water and darkness and no animals lived on the earth. Instead, the animals lived above the earth in a stone vault, but when the vault became crowded the animals sent the water beetle to see what the earth was like. The water beetle came back with mud, which the animals suspended by ropes in the sky and grew into the earth as we know it. When the mud dried out, the animals and plants went down to the new earth. Humans were the last to come down, including the man Kanáti, the “lucky hunter,” and the woman Selu, or “corn.” At first the plants and animals lived in harmony, but the human population became too plentiful. The animals solved this by inflicting diseases on the humans. However, the plants felt sorry for the humans and gave them medicine. This myth not only explains creation, it also explains why people derive medicine from plants.
3. Hawaiian Origin Story
Birth in Dawn is the name of the Hawaiian origin story, and it explains how the creatures came into existence. In the very beginning, deepest darkness of caverns and moonless darkness of night gave birth to simple sea life forms like coral. Following that, deep darkness of the deep sea and darkness broken by slivers of light in the moonlight forest gave birth to the fish. Then, darkness of night and night that barely breaks into dawn gave birth to the flying creatures. Light of earliest dawn and half-darkness followed by creating turtles and the sea’s other crawling creatures. Finally, animals and people were born, including the Hawaiian chiefs.
4. Nordic Origin
The story of Odin and Ymir explains the Nordic origin, and it begins when there was nothing but a spring that gave birth to twelve rivers. From one of the rivers, the frost giant, Ymir, was born. Later, a god named Bor was brought into existence, and he had a son named Odin, who was the most powerful god. Over time, Ymir turned evil and Bor and his sons killed Ymir and used his body to make the earth. Following the creation of the earth, the moon and the sun were created when two of the decedents of Odin, Moon and Sol, were pulled into the sky to give light to the earth. A rainbow was also created to provide a path to heaven; however, because the gods did not want the path open very long, rainbows can only be seen for a short time.
5. Maori Creation Myth
The Maori are the native people of New Zealand, and their creation myth is called the Separation of Heaven and Earth. In the beginning, Heaven and Earth, or Rangi and Papa, gave birth to 6 sons. These sons were the Father of the Forests and their Inhabitants, the Father of Wind and Storms, the Father of Fish and Reptiles, the Father of Fierce Human Beings, the Father of Food that Grows without Cultivation, and the Father of Cultivated Foods. For a long time the sons lived in darkness because Heaven and Earth were very close together. To remedy this, all of the sons, except the Father of Wind and Storms, decided to pull their parents apart. Their parents did not want to be separated, but when they finally came apart there was light over the land. However, when this happened the Father of Wind and Storms became angry and sought to avenge the separation by causing many storms and winds.
6. Origin Story of India
The origin story of India comes from the second and fourth Brahmanas, which were written in India between 700 and 600 BCE. This origin story is a bit more abstract and begins when Brahma the Creator created the self by creating his mind. He then created the water and the earth. Finally, he divided himself into fire, sun, and air. He also took the shape of a person, but he became lonely. To soothe his loneliness, he created a woman who gave birth to humans. Then, he turned himself and the woman into cows, and they created all the cows. Next, horses and donkeys were created. This continued until all of the animals of the earth were created.
7. Creation Myth from Zimbabwe
The Creation myth from Zimbabwe is called Life from Moon and the Stars. It begins with God sending a man, Moon, down to earth. Quickly, Moon became lonely and God sent a woman, Morningstar, down to earth as well. Moon and Morningstar created the grasses and trees, and they lived in paradise. However, after two years Morningstar died and Moon became lonely again. This time, God sent another woman named Evening Star. Moon and Evening Star created the animals and the descendants of man. Eventually, Evening Star became angry with Moon because he was unfaithful to her. Her anger resulted in Moon being overthrown as king and having his body thrown into the ocean. He rose from the ocean to the sky to find Morningstar and recapture paradise.
As you can see, the creation myths are as varied as the cultures they come from. Yet, despite the differences, there are similarities, including a common theme of darkness and light. Reading different creation myths provides a lot of insight into different cultures, and it is also interesting because the creation myths are so fascinating. What other creation stories have you heard?