An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 75


In the preface to his Creation Myths of Primitive America Mr Jeremiah Curtin says:

"The creation myths of America form a complete system: they give a detailed and circumstantial account of the origin of this world and of all things and creatures contained in it. In the course of the various narratives which compose this myth system an earlier world is described to us, with an order of existence and a method of conduct on which the life of primitive man in America was patterned.

"That earlier world had two periods of duration—one of complete and perfect harmony; another of violence, collision, and conflict. The result and outcome of the second period was the creation of all that is animated on earth except man. Man, in the American scheme of creation, stands apart and separate; he is quite alone, peculiar, and special. Above all, he belongs to this continent. The white man was unknown to American myth-makers, as were also men of every other race and of every region outside of the Western Hemisphere.

"Described briefly and by an Indian, the American myth system is as follows: 'There was a world before this one in which we are living at present; that was the world of the first people, who were different from us altogether. Those people were very numerous, so numerous that if a count could be made of all the stars in the sky, all the feathers on birds, all the hairs and fur on animals, all the hairs of our own heads, they would not be so numerous as the first people.'

[Pg 175]

"These people lived very long in peace, in concord, in harmony, in happiness. No man knows, no man can tell, how long they lived in that way. At last the minds of all except a very small number were changed; they fell into conflict—one offended another consciously or unconsciously, one injured another with or without intention, one wanted some special thing, another wanted that very thing also. Conflict set in, and because of this came a time of activity and struggle, to which there was no end or stop till the great majority of the first people—that is, all except a small number—were turned into the various kinds of living creatures that are on earth now or have ever been on earth, except man—that is, all kinds of beasts, birds, reptiles, fish, worms, and insects, as well as trees, plants, grasses, rocks, and some mountains; they were turned into everything that we see on the earth or in the sky.

"The small number of the former people who did not quarrel, those great first people of the old time who remained of one mind and harmonious, 'left the earth, sailed away westward, passed that line where the sky comes down to the earth and touches it, sailed to places beyond; stayed there or withdrew to upper regions and lived in them happily, lived in agreement, live so to-day, and will live in the same way hereafter.'