Creation myths are present in all cultures of the world, and while these stories reflect very different beliefs of creation, they also possess many similarities as well. Each culture from around the world has developed beliefs and cosmogony that help them to understand the most ancient and primordial of questions: where did we come from? Ancient civilizations bore stories of primitive worlds, gods, and creators who sprung forth to create the world we live in and who created the first man and woman.
Experts have come to find that there are common themes of creation myths which all myths can be classified into; accretion and conjunction stories, secretion stories, sacrifice stories, division or consummation stories, earth-diver stories, emergence stories, two-creator myths, deus faber (the maker god), and ex nihilo (out of nothing). Some cultures usually bear more than one type of theme for creation. Two creation myths that bare similarities and differences are the Norse and Egyptian.
The theme of Norse creation is based on accretion and conjunction, secretion, and two-creator myths, while Egyptian creation myths follow the themes of secretion, deus faber, and ex nihilo (Leonard & McClure, 2004). Norse creation myths spring forth from the Swedish and Scandinavian cultures. The Norse myth begins in a world called Ginnunngagap, which was the earth before the heavens were created and before any living thing existed. In the Southern end of Ginnungagap was a land called Muspelheim, a fiery realm of fire and poison, and to the North was a land of ice and cold called Niflheim.
The gods that came after, created Midgard which was the middle land born from the great Yggdrasil tree; a pleasant and habitable place for humans. The gods resided in a different realm in the center of the earth called Asgard; from Asgard, the gods watched over all of mankind. The elements that exist in these worlds are plants, soil, water, wind, mist, ice, and fire (Brancaccio, Tonk, Van Driel, & Passantino, 2012). The world before time in Egyptian creation was called Nu. Nu was the dark swirling waters of nothingness and chaos.
Atum the creator, a sexless being, sprung forth ex nihilo from the waters of Nu, and through secretion, bore a son and daughter who created earth and sky. Elements of this world are water, rain, earth, plants, and wind (Brancaccio, Tonk, Van Driel, & Passantino, 2012). The creators in Norse mythology began with the first three beings; Ymir a male frost giant, Buri a male god, and Buri’s wife, the first goddess. Audhumla was the first animal who licked free from the ice Buri and his wife.
Audhumla was also the one who gave Ymir sustenance through its milk. Buri and his wife the goddess, bore three sons; Odin, Vili, and Ve. These three sons killed and dismembered the giant Ymir, whose corpse then created the world. Ymir’s flesh became the land, his blood became the sea, skull became the dome of sky above, his bones became mountains, and his hair became the grass and trees. Odin then stole sparks of fire from the land of Muspelheim, to create the sun, moon, and stars.
Destroyers of this world came later in Norse mythology with the introduction of other beings and giants that bring forth Ragnarok, the time of destruction of Midgard. Surt is the guard and giant of Muspelheim who destroys the heavens with his fiery sword. Hati and Skoll are wolves the chase the sun and moon, are the destroyers of these celestial beings. The frost giant Loki, along with Fenrir, and the World Serpent are also released by Surt to aide in the destruction of the world (Rosenberg, 2006).
In Egyptian myths, the main creator was called Atum. He was neither male nor female, possessed an all seeing eye. He joined with his shadow and bore a son from his spit called Shu, and from his vomit, a daughter called Tefnut. Shu was made the god of air, and Tefnut the goddess of moisture, they were responsible for sorting out the chaos of the universe into a perfect balance called maat. These two produced children, one male and one female, Geb and Nut, who were then separated to create the earth and sky.
Other gods were also created who each had an individual responsibility in creating maat, these gods were Isis queen of the gods, Hathor the goddess of love and beauty, Osiris the god of wisdom and justice, Seth the god of evil, Thoth the god of wisdom, and Nepthys the protector of the dead (Brancaccio, Tonk, Van Driel, & Passantino, 2012). Cosmic occurrences in Norse creation played a great role in the creation of the first beings and the first world. The mingling of fire and ice caused the melting of a mountain which produced the first being Ymir, the frost giant.
Celestial bodies such as the sun and stars were created of fire sparks from the Land of Muspelheim. The role of cosmic occurrences in Egyptian creation was expressed by celestial beings becoming the creators of natural phenomena. Nut the sky goddess gave birth to the sun every day, and also produced rain that fell upon the earth to grow plants. The cycle of rainfall, sunrise, and sunset were all thought to be produced by the gods. The similarities shared amongst the Norse and Egyptian myths were evident in the several aspects and themes.
For one, both Creators Ymir and Atum, were deus faber meaning that they alone were the first creators, they also both arrived into their respective worlds ex nihilo, out of nothingness. Secondly, Ymir and Atum created other beings through secretion; Ymir created beings through his sweat, and Atum created man with his tears. In both myths, many lesser gods were created to govern over natural phenomenon, and played roles in the cycles of death and rebirth. The difference between the two cultural myths is the fact that Norse creation was born out of violence and violent acts.
Gods were constantly in battle; the theme of good and evil play a large part in Norse myths. Egyptian myth presented the need to bring peace and order to the chaotic world of Nu. The gods and goddesses main role was to find balance and Maat. In conclusion, world creation myths have similarities as well as differences. The commonality between them all is that they serve to fulfill the same need which is the need to understand the world around us and understand our origins. Earlier cultures have pondered over the beginning and creation as we still do in this day and age.
Courtney from Study Moose
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