The Origin of Japan and her People
When heaven and earth began, three deities came into being, The Spirit Master of the Center of Heaven, The August Wondrously Producing Spirit, and the Divine Wondrously Producing Ancestor. These three were invisible. The earth was young then, and land floated like oil, and from it reed shoots sprouted. From these reeds came two more deities. After them, five or six pairs of deities came into being, and the last of these were Izanagi and Izanami, whose names mean "The Male Who Invites" and "The Female who Invites".
The first five deities commanded Izanagi and Izanami to make and solidify the land of Japan, and they gave the young pair a jeweled spear. Standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven, they dipped it in the ocean brine and stirred. They pulled out the spear, and the brine that dripped of it formed an island to which they descended. On this island they built a palace for their wedding and a great column to the heavens.
Izanami examined her body and found that one place had not grown, and she told this to Izanagi, who replied that his body was well-formed but that one place had grown to excess. He proposed that he place his excess in her place that was not complete and that in doing so they would make new land. They agreed to walk around the pillar and meet behind it to do this. When they arrive behind the pillar, she greeted him by saying "What a fine young man", and he responded by greeting her with "What a fine young woman". They procreated and gave birth to a leech-child, which they put in a basket and let float away. Then they gave birth to a floating island, which likewise they did not recognize as one of their children.
Disappointed by their failures in procreation, they returned to Heaven and consulted the deities there. The deities explained that the cause of their difficulties was that the female had spoken first when they met to procreate. Izanagi and Izanami returned to their island and again met behind the heavenly pillar. When they met, he said, "What a fine young woman," and she said "What a fine young man". They mated and gave birth to the eight main islands of Japan and six minor islands. Then they gave birth to a variety of deities to inhabit those islands, including the sea deity, the deity of the sea-straits, and the deities of the rivers, winds, trees, and mountains. Last, Izanami gave birth to the fire deity, and her genitals were so burned that she died.
Izanagi grieved over Izanami, and a deity was born from his tears. Distraught after burying Izanami, he used his long sword to behead his son, the deity of fire, whose birth had killed Izanami. From the blood on the sword came three deities of rocks, two deities of fire, and one of water, all of which are needed to make a sword. Eight more deities arose from the body of Izanagi and Izanami's slain son.
Izanagi still longed for Izanami, and he went to the underworld in search of her. Finding her in the darkness, he called to her and asked her to come back to the land of the living with him. She promised him that she would go ask the gods of the underworld, but she begged him to not look at her as she did so. She was gone long, however, and eventually he broke off the end of a comb in his hair and set it afire for a light. He found her body with maggots consuming it, and these maggots were the eight deities of thunder. Ashamed to be seen in this condition, Izanami chased Izanagi out of the underworld. First she sent the thunder deities after him, and then she herself pursued him. At last he grasped a huge rock and used it to close the passage to the underworld. Enraged, she shouted to him that she would each day strangle one thousand people of Japan. He responded that if she did so, he would each day cause fifteen hundred Japanese people to be born. This is why fifteen hundred children are born each day and one thousand people die each day.
Izanagi returned to his home and bathed to purify himself after this terrible experience. As he disrobed, new deities arose from his clothing, and more arose from the water as he bathed. Three of these were ancestors of Japanese families. The last of the deities was a son, Susa-n�-wo, who became the deity of the sea. He was eventually exiled to earth for his behavior in the heavens, but he and his sister, the Goddess of the Sun, parented eight deities. Among these was the ancestor of Yamato family that ruled Japan, and two others were ancestors of nineteen of its highest families.
When the deities had pacified the land, the Goddess of the Sun dispatched Japan's first ruler from the heavens to the earth. Descending from the Floating Bridge of Heaven to the mountain tops, he built his palace. Eventually he met a beautiful young woman, Princess Brilliant Blossoms, and asked her to marry him. She deferred to her father's judgment, and her father gave him both Princess Brilliant Blossoms and her older sister, Princess Long as the Rocks. The new emperor refused the older sister, however, because of her ugliness. When the father heard this, he explained that he had offered Princess Long as the Rocks because her children would have lived eternally. Instead, the children of Princess Brilliant Blossoms were mortal, which is why the emperors have never had long lives.
Princess Brilliant Blossoms was soon with child, so soon that the emperor could hardly believe that she bore his children. To prove herself, she built a palace and shut herself in it and set fire to it, knowing as he did that the children of anyone but the emperor could not survive the flames. Amidst the flames she gave birth to three deities, and ultimately their descendants were the imperial family of Japan.
Donald L. Philippi, trans., 1969, Kojiki: Princeton, Princeton University Press, 655 p., and Joseph M. Campbell, 1962, The Masks of God: Oriental Mythology: New York, Viking Press, 561 p.
This story comes from the Kono people of Guinea. Like many African stories, it is as concerned with the origin of death as with the origin of life, and with the origin of the many races that inhabit the earth.
Death, and Life and Death
In the beginning there was nothing: neither matter nor light existed. In this world lived only Death, whose name is Sa, and his wife and and their only daughter. Needing a place for his family to live, Sa eventually used his magical powers to create a vast sea of mud. They lived in this filth and instablilty for many years.
Finally the god Alatangana came to visit Sa and his familty. Alatangana was appalled at the mess in which they lived, and he condemned Sa for creating such a dirty place that lacked light and life. To set things right, Alatangana first consolidated the mud into the solid earth. However, this lifeless expanse across which he could now walk still depressed him. First he made plants to cover the new earth, and then animals to live on it. Even Sa realized that Alatangana had made the world a much better place, and he took Alatangana in as his guest.
Alatangana was wifeless, and eventually he decided he wanted Sa's daughter for his wife. Sa at first was diplomatic in refusing to let Alatangana marry his daughter, but finally he explicitly refused Alatangana's request. Alatangana, however, wooed Sa's daughter, and eventually they eloped to a distant region of the earth.
Alatangana and his new wife set up a happy home amidst the paradise that Alatangana had created from Sa's sea of mud. They had fourteen children. Seven were girls and seven were boys, and of each four had light skin and three had dark. This did not distress Alatangana, but he and his wife were shocked to find that their chidren spoke different languages that the parents did not understand.
Frustrated with this state of affairs, Alatangana finally went to Sa for advice. Sa explained that this was a curse that he had put on Alatangana's children because of the way Alatangana had stolen his daughter. Alatangana returned home, and eventually his children went off to found the peoples of the world, the French, the English, and the other European peoples, and the Kono, the Guuerze, the Manon Malinke, and the Toma Yacouba of Africa.
All these descendents of Alatangana and his wife still lived in darkness, because although Alatangana had made the life that covered the earth, he had could not find a way to make light. As before, his frustration forced him to call on Sa for help, but rather than face his hostile father-in-law, he decided to send two messengers. He chose the tou-tou bird, a small red bird that is one of the first to arise each morning in the forest, and the rooster. These two birds went to ask Sa how the world could be lit so that the new peoples of the earth could see to work.
When the two presented their problem to Sa, he invited them into his home and taught them a song with which they could call forth daylight. When the two returned to Alatangana, he was furious at the nonsense they reported about a song they had learned. He nearly killed them, but eventually he sent them on their way.
Not long afterward, the rooster broke into song, and the tou-tou bird sang its first notes. For the first time, dawn began to appear, and soon it was day. The sun that they had called forth made its way across the sky, and when it set the stars appeared to provide faint light at night. Every day since has begun the same way, with the call of the tou-tou bird and the cry of the rooster.
Alatangana was grateful for the gift that he now realized Sa had given to him and his children. Sa was not long, however, in calling for payment of the debt. He came to Alatangana and pointed out the good things that he had done despite Alatangana's theft of his daughter. Now he demanded that in return he could, whenever he liked, claim any of Alatangana's offspring. Knowing his guilt and his debt to Sa, Alatangana agreed, and so it is that Alatangana's children, the human people, must meet with Death whenever he calls for them.
Ulli Beier, 1966, The Origin of Life and Death�African Creation Myths: London, Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 65 p. (GR355.B4)
This story is condensed from five very detailed stories told by the Jicarilla Apaches. The Jicarilla are one of six tribes of the Apaches of the southwestern U.S., and they have a voluminous folkore. These stories were compiled and translated by Morris Opler in the 1930's. In addition to telling the story of the creation and emergence and explaining the world, the stories reflect the Jicarilla disregard for the shamans found in some other Native American religions, and they reflect the sacredness of fours in every thing and every behavior.
The Creation and the Emergence
In the beginning there was nothing - no earth, no living beings. There were only darkness, water, and Cyclone, the wind. There were no humans, but only the Hactcin, the Jicarilla supernatural beings. The Hactcin made the earth, the underworld beneath it, and the sky above it. The earth they made as a woman who faces upward, and the sky they made as a man who faces downward. The Hactcin lived in the underworld, where there was no light. There were mountains and plants in the underworld, and each had its own Hactcin. There were as yet no animals or humans, and everything in the underworld existed in a dream-like state and was spiritual and holy.
The most powerful of the Hactcin in the underworld was Black Hactcin. One day Black Hactcin made the first animal with four legs and a tail made of clay. At first he thought it looked peculiar, but when he asked it to walk and saw how gracefully it walked, he decided it was good. Knowing this animal would be lonely, he made many other kinds of animals come from the body of the first. He laughed to see the diversity of the animals he had created. All the animals wanted to know what to eat and where to live, so he divided the foods among them, giving grass to the horse, sheep, and cow, and to others he gave brush, leaves, and pine needles. He sent them out to different places, some to the mountains, some to the deserts, and some to the plains, which is why the animals are found in different places today.
Next Black Hactcin held out his hand and caught a drop of rain. He mixed this with some earth to make mud and made a bird from the mud. At first he wasn't sure he would like what he had made. He asked the bird to fly, and when it did he liked it. He decided the bird too would be lonely, so he grabbed it and whirled it rapidly clockwise. As the bird became dizzy, it saw images of other birds, and when Black Hactcin stopped whirling it, there were indeed many new kinds of birds, all of which live in the air because they were made from a drop of water that came from the air. Black Hactcin sent the birds out to find places they liked to live, and when they returned he gave each the place that they liked. To feed them, he threw seeds all over the ground. To tease them, however, he turned the seeds into insects, and he watched as they chased after the insects. At a river nearby, he told the birds to drink. Again, however, he couldn't resist teasing them, so he took some moss and made fish, frogs, and the other things that live in water. This frightened the birds as they came to drink, and it is why birds so often hop back in fright as they come down to drink. As some of the birds took off, their feathers fell in the water, and from them came the ducks and other birds that live in the water.
Black Hactcin continued to make more animals and birds. The animals and birds that already existed all spoke the same language, and they held a council. They came to Black Hactcin and asked for a companion. They were concerned that they would be alone when Black Hactcin left them, and Black Hactcin agreed to make something to keep them company. He stood facing the east, and then the south, and then the west, and then the north. He had the animals bring him all sorts of materials from across the land, and he traced his outline on the ground. He then set the things that they brought him in the outline. The turquoise that they brought became veins, the red ochre became blood, the coral became skin, the white rock became bones, the Mexican opal became fingernails and teeth, the jet became the pupil, the abalone became the white of the eyes, and the white clay became the marrow of the bones. Pollen, iron ore, and water scum were used too, and Black Hactcin used a dark cloud to make the hair.
The man they had made was lying face down, and it began to rise as the birds watched with excitement. The man arose from prone, to kneeling, to sitting up, and to standing. Four times Black Hactcin told him to speak, and he did. Four times Black Hactcin told him to laugh, and he did. It was likewise with shouting. Then Black Hactcin taught him to walk, and had him run four times in a clockwise circle.
The birds and animals were afraid the man would be lonely, and they asked Black Hactcin give him company. Black Hactcin asked them for some lice, which he put on the man's head. The man went to sleep scratching, and he dreamed that there was a woman beside him. When he awoke, she was there. They asked Black Hactcin what they would eat, and he told them that the plants and the cloven-hoofed animals would be their food. They asked where they should live. He told them to stay anywhere they liked, which is why the Jicarilla move from place to place.
These two, Ancestral Man and Ancestral Woman, had children, and the people multiplied. In those days no one died, although they all lived in darkness. This lasted for many years. Holy Boy, another Apache spirit, was unhappy with the darkness, and he tried to make a sun. As he worked at it, Cyclone came by and told him that White Hactcin had a sun. Holy Boy went to White Hactcin, who gave him the sun, and he went to Black Hactcin, who gave him the moon. Black Hactcin told Holy Boy how to make a sacred drawing on a buckskin to hold the sun and moon, and Holy Boy, Red Boy, Black Hactcin, and White Hactcin held a ceremony at which White Hactcin released the sun and Black Hactcin released the moon. The light grew stronger as the sun moved from north to south, and eventually it was like daylight is now.
The people didn't know what this was, and the shamans each began to claim that they had power over the sun. On the fourth day, there was an eclipse. After the sun had disappeared, the Hactcins told the shamans to make the sun reappear. The shamans tried all kinds of tricks, but they couldn't make the sun come back. To solve the problem, White Hactcin turned to the animals and had them bring the foods they ate. With the food and some sand and water, they began to grow a mountain. The mountain grew, but it stopped short of the hole in the sky that led from the underworld to the earth. It turned out that two girls had gone up on the mountain and had trampled the sacred plants and even had defecated there. White Hactcin, Black Hactcin, Holy Boy, and Red Boy had to go up the mountain and clean it. When they came down and the people sang, and the mountain grew again. It stopped, however, just short of the hole, and when the four went up again they could only see to the other earth. They sent up Fly and Spider, who took four rays of the sun and built a rope ladder to the upper world. Spider was the first one to climb to the upper world, where the sun was bright.
White Hactcin, Black Hactcin, Holy Boy, and Red Boy climbed up the ladder, and they found much water on the earth. They sent for the four winds to blow the water away, and Beaver came up to build dams to hold the water in rivers. Spider made threads to catch the sun, and they made the sun go from east to west to light the entire world, not just one side. Hactcin called for the people to climb up, and for four days they climbed the mountain. At the top they found four ladders. Ancestral Man and Ancestral Woman were the first people to climb up, and the people climbed up into the upper world that we know today. Thus the earth is our mother, and the people climbed up as from a womb. Then the animals came up, and before long the ladders were worn out. Behind the animals came an old man and an old woman, and they couldn't climb the ladders. No one could get them up, and finally the two realized they had to stay in the underworld. They agreed to stay but told the others they must come back to the underworld eventually, which is why people go to the underworld after death.
Everything in the upper world is alive - the rocks, the trees, the grass, the plants, the fire, the water. Originally they all spoke the Jicarilla Apache language and spoke to the people. The Hactcin, however, decided that it was boring to have all these things speaking the same, so they gave all these things and all the animals different voices.
Eventually the people travelled out clockwise across the land. Different groups would break off and stay behind, and their children would begin to play games in which they used odd languages. The people in these groups began to forget their old languages and use these new ones, which is why now there are many languages. Only one group kept on traveling in the clockwise spiral until they reached the center of the world, and these are the Jicarilla Apaches.
Morris Edward Opler, 1938, Myths and Tales of the Jicarilla Apache Indians: Memoirs of the American Folklore Society Vol. 31, 406 p. (Reprinted by Kraus Reprint Co., New York, 1969). (E99.J5 O6 1938a)
This story is from the the second and fourth Brahmanas of the Brhad-arayaka Upanishad, which was written in India in the 700s or 600s B.C. The principal acter in this story can be taken to be Praja-pati, the Lord of Creation, or Brahma the Creator. Like the original, however, this story uses "he" as its subject, because "he" may taken more metaphorically as any sentient being who creates by his or her own thought.
Creation By and From the Self
In the beginning there was absolutely nothing, and what existed was covered by death and hunger. He thought, "Let me have a self", and he created the mind. As he moved about in worship, water was generated. Froth formed on the water, and the froth eventually solidifed to become earth. He rested on the earth, and from his luminence came fire. After resting, he divided himself in three parts, and one is fire, one is the sun, and one is the air.
Thus in the beginning the world was only his self, his being or essence, which then took the shape of a person. At first he was afraid, but realizing that he was alone and had nothing of which to be afraid, his fear ceased. However, he had no happiness because he was alone, and he longed for another. He grew as large as two persons embracing, and he caused his self to split into two matching parts, like two halves of a split pea, and from them arose husband and wife.
They mated, and from their union arose the human beings of the earth. The female reflected on having mated with someone of whom she was once a part, and she resolved that she should hide so that it would not happen again. She changed to a cow to disguise herself, but he changed to a bull and mated with her, and from their union cows arose. She changed to the form of a mare, but he changed to that of a stallion and mated with her, and from that union came horses. She changed to the form of a donkey, but he did likewise, and from them arose the single-hoofed animals. She became a ewe, but he became a ram, and from their union came the sheep and goats. It continued thus, with her changing form to elude him but he finding her and mating with her, until they had created all the animals that live in pairs, from humans and horses to ants.
After all this work, he reflected that he was indeed Creation personified, for he had created all this. Rubbing back and forth, he made Fire, the god of fire, from his hands, and from his semen he made Soma, the god of the moon. This was his highest creation because, although mortal himself, he had created immortal gods.
S. Radhakrishnan, (editor and translator), 1953, The Principal Upanisads: New York, Harper and Brothers Publishers, 958 p. (BL1120.E5 R2)
This Babylonian story of creation comes largely from the Enuma Elish and the Astrahasis, which appear to have been written between 1900 and 1500 BC, perhaps during the time of the Babylonian King Hammurabi. The tablets of both are broken and incomplete. At the end of the story here, the details of the creation of humans are supplemented with material from fragments of later writings. The latter may date as late as the 500's BC, but their consistency with the earlier Enuma Elish suggests that they tell the same story. The main actor in these tablets is Marduk, the most powerful of the Babylonian gods. Like most Babylonian gods, he has many names, and elsewhere he is sometimes known as Bel.
Marduk Creates the World from the Spoils of Battle
In the beginning, neither heaven nor earth had names. Apsu, the god of fresh waters, and Tiamat, the goddess of the salt oceans, and Mummu, the god of the mist that rises from both of them, were still mingled as one. There were no mountans, there was no pasture land, and not even a reed-marsh could be found to break the surface of the waters.
It was then that Apsu and Tiamat parented two gods, and then two more who outgrew the first pair. These further parented gods, until Ea, who was the god of rivers and was Tiamat and Apsu's geat-grandson, was born. Ea was the cleverest of the gods, and with his magic Ea became the most powerful of the gods, ruling even his forebears.
Apsu and Tiamat's descendents became an unruly crowd. Eventually Apsu, in his frustration and inability to sleep with the clamor, went to Tiamat, and he proposed to her that he slay their noisy offspring. Tiamat was furious at his suggestion to kill their clan, but after leaving her Apsu resolved to proceed with his murderous plan. When the young gods heard of his plot against them, they were silent and fearful, but soon Ea was hatching a scheme. He cast a spell on Apsu, pulled Apsu's crown from his head, and slew him. Ea then built his palace on Apsu's waters, and it was there that, with the goddess Damkina, he fathered Marduk, the four-eared, four-eyed giant who was god of the rains and storms.
The other gods, however, went to Tiamat and complained of how Ea had slain her husband. Aroused, she collected an army of dragons and monsters, and at its head she placed the god Kingu, whom she gave magical powers as well. Even Ea was at a loss how to combat such a host, until he finally called on his son Marduk. Marduk gladly agreed to take on his father's battle, on the condition that he, Marduk, would rule the gods after achieving this victory. The other gods agreed, and at a banquet they gave him his royal robes and scepter.
Marduk armed himself with a bow and arrows, a club, and lightning, and he went in search of Tiamat's monstrous army. Rolling his thunder and storms in front him, he attacked, and Kingu's battle plan soon disintegrated. Tiamat was left alone to fight Marduk, and she howled as they closed for battle. They struggled as Marduk caught her in his nets. When she opened her mouth to devour him, he filled it with the evil wind that served him. She could not close her mouth with his gale blasting in it, and he shot an arrow down her throat. It split her heart, and she was slain.
After subduing the rest of her host, he took his club and split Tiamat's water-laden body in half like a clam shell. Half he put in the sky and made the heavens, and he posted guards there to make sure that Tiamat's salt waters could not escape. Across the heavens he made stations in the stars for the gods, and he made the moon and set it forth on its schedule across the heavens. From the other half of Tiamat's body he made the land, which he placed over Apsu's fresh waters, which now arise in wells and springs. From her eyes he made flow the Tigirs and Euphrates. Across this land he made the grains and herbs, the pastures and fields, the rains and the seeds, the cows and ewes, and the forests and the orchards.
Marduk set the vanquished gods who had supported Tiamat to a variety of tasks, including work in the fields and canals. Soon they complained of their work, however, and they rebeled by burning their spades and baskets. Marduk saw a solution to their labors, though, and proposed it to Ea. He had Kingu, Timat's general, brought forward from the ranks of the defeated gods, and Kingu was slain. With Kingu's blood, with clay from the earth, and with spittle from the other gods, Ea and the birth-goddess Nintu created humans. On them Ea imposed the labor previously assigned to the gods. Thus the humans were set to maintain the canals and boundary ditches, to hoe and to carry, to irrigate the land and to raise crops, to raise animals and fill the granaries, and to worship the gods at their regular festivals.
Alexander Heidel, 1952, The Babylonian Genesis (2nd edn.): Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 153 p. (BS1236.H4 1963).
Tikva Fryer-Kensky, (trans), Astrahasis, in O'Brien, Joan, and Major, Wilfred, 1982, In the Beginning: Creation Myths from Ancient Mesopotamia, Israel, and Greece: Chico, CA, Scholars Press, 211 p. (BL226.O27 1982)
This creation story comes from the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Togo and Benin. In the religion of the Yoruba, the supreme being is Olorun, and assisting Olorun are a number of heavenly entities called orishas. This story was written down by David A. Anderson/ Sankofa, who learned it from his father, who learned it from his mother, and so on back through the Yoruba people and through time.