An Introduction to Mythology

Page: 73

[Pg 167] unity, and the Mighty Atom was formed. In the course of further ages the atom became divided into the male and female principles, and the universe came into being. But a more simple explanation was necessary for the uninitiated, who were told that the two original elements became four, from the co-operation of which sprang a deity called P'an Ku, whose function it was to supply the constituents of the universe, His eyes became the sun and moon, his breath the wind, his hair trees and vegetation, his flesh the earth, his sweat rain, and the worms which sprang from his decomposing body were men. The god Tien or Shang-ti is generally regarded as the First Cause in Chinese myth; but although he may have inspired the creation of the universe, he does not appear to have taken any hand in its actual manufacture.


The Biblical story of creation is a very complete cosmogony, having affinities with that of Babylon. We are told in Genesis i, 6, 7, 14, 15 that God divided the primeval waters into two parts by an intervening 'firmament' or platform, where he placed the heavenly bodies. This division has some likeness to the Babylonian account of the cleaving of the carcass of Tiawath into two parts, one of which kept the upper waters from coming down. The words te hom, rendered in the English Bible 'the deep,' closely resemble the name Tiawath, 'the sea,' Here, then, we seem to possess irrefragable philological evidence of early Babylonian influence upon Hebrew belief. Verse 2 of Genesis i also mentions the earth-matter out of which the earth and all its products were to appear. This is called tohu and bohu, 'devoid of living things,' and so would appear to equate with "the lands" that "altogether were sea" of Babylonian cosmogony. The creation of light which appears in Genesis is not found in the Babylonian account, but the Babylonian creator, Merodach, is a god of light. In brief, the Hebrew account of the successive stages of creation corresponds so closely to that of Babylon that it is obvious one has been influenced by the other—naturally the younger by the elder.

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In the beginning, according to Japanese myth, Heaven and earth were not separated and the In and Yo (the male and female principles) not divided. The Nihongi states that these male and female principles formed a chaotic mass like an egg which was of obscurely defined limits and contained germs. This egg quickened with life, the clearer part became Heaven, while the more ponderable portion settled down as the terrestrial sphere, like the floating of a fish sporting on the surface of the waters. An object like a reed-shoot appeared between Heaven and earth, and as suddenly became transformed into a god, Kuni-toko-tachi. Other divine beings were born, but those responsible for most of "this sorry scheme of things entire" were Izanagi (Male who invites) and Izanami (Female who invites), concerning whom a very charming and original myth was told.

They stood on the floating bridge of Heaven and peered downward into the abyss below, asking each other what might exist so far below. Puzzled, yet determined to probe the mystery of nothingness beneath them, they thrust a jewel-spear downward, and touched the ocean. Drawing the spear upward, some water dripped from it, coagulated, and became an island, upon which the god and goddess set foot. Desiring each other is husband and wife, although they were brother and sister, they set up a pillar on the island, and by walking round it lost their relationship. Izanagi walked round one way and Izanami the other, exclaiming when they met: "Delightful! I have met with a lovely maiden," and "I have met with a lovely youth." They espoused each other, and Izanami gave birth to islands, seas, rivers, herbs, and trees, and having produced the Great-Eight-Island Country was desirous of bringing forth a living being who would be head of the Universe. In due season Ama-terasu, the sun-goddess, was born, and the moon-god, Tsuki-yumi. After the birth of the fire-god, however, Izanami suffered so greatly that she betook herself to the land of Yomi or Hades and was subsequently disowned by her husband.

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The Iranian account of creation states that Ormuzd (Ahura Mazda), the creator and good agency, fixed the duration of the world at twelve thousand years. He created the spiritual world during the first thousand of these. Ahriman, the principle of evil, did not know of his existence until he espied the beams of light which emanated from his glorious presence, but when he discovered it he commenced to plot evil. During the next three thousand years Ormuzd created the world, the sun, moon, and stars, plants, animals, and man. But Ahriman instituted a malevolent counter-creation, and for every desirable thing Ormuzd made Ahriman produced something evil, so that he became the creator of all noxious plants and beasts of prey, diseases, and death. For a third three thousand years a bitter strife was waged between the deities, but with the birth of Zarathushtra or Zoroaster, a better day dawned for the forces of good. The first animal created by Ormuzd was an ox, which was assailed by the plagues and diseases of Ahriman and died; but from its members sprang every description of cereal and plant, and two other oxen. Ormuzd took of his sweat, and uttering words of power produced the man Gayomart. He was also slain by Ahriman, but his seed having fertilized in the earth, twins Mashya and Mashyana sprang up, at first in the form of shrubs, and were the progenitors of humanity.


The Celtic idea of creation as exhibited in the Welsh work Barddas provided for two primary existences, God and Cythrawl, standing respectively for life and death. Cythrawl has his abode in Annwn, the Abyss of Chaos. In the beginning naught was but God and Annwn. God pronounced his ineffable name, and Manred, the primal substance of the Universe, was formed. Manred was composed of thousands of teeming atoms, in each of which God was present, and each was a part of God. They were arranged in concentric circles representing the totality of being, and the innermost, the first on which life gets a footing on emerging from Annwn, is Abred. This is the[Pg 170] stage of struggle and evolution, the contest of life with Cythrawl. The second is Gwynfyd, the Circle of Purity, in which life triumphs, and the last is Ceugant, inhabited by God alone, with whom, presumably, it is merged.


The Scandinavian conception of creation bears, strangely enough, some general resemblance to those of ancient China and India (Purusha variant). In the beginning yawned the great abyss of Ginnungagap and naught beside, save that it was flanked on the north by the dreary realm of Niflheim, a region of cold and mist, and on the south by Muspelheim, a region of fire. Flowing from Niflheim, the rivers called Elivagar froze, and the ice formed upon them was covered with congealed vapour. The hot air from Muspelheim beating upon the ice melted it, and the drops of moisture so formed took life and became a giant called Ymir, the progenitor of a race of gigantic beings. From the cow Audhumla, formed at the same time, Ymir was nourished by four streams of milk. For sustenance she licked the stones covered with brine and moisture; and on the first day she licked there appeared a single hair, on the second day a head, on the third an entire being, beautiful and glorious to look upon, Buri, the grandfather of Odin. Ymir, while asleep, engendered the race of giants from the sweat of his body, but the grandchildren of Buri slew him, and all his progeny were drowned in his blood, except Bergelmir and his wife, who saved themselves in a boat His body was then cast into Ginnungagap, and from his blood were created the sea and waters, from his flesh the solid earth, from his bones the mountains, from his skull the dome of the sky, from his brain the clouds, and from his eyebrows Midgard, the dwelling of the race of men. Odin, Vili, and Ve are then spoken of (in a myth apparently a variant) as raising the disk of the earth out of the waters. Later Odin and his brothers find a couple of inanimate figures fashioned by the dwarfs out of trees, and endowed them with the breath of life and understanding, calling them Askr and Embla. These were the first human beings.

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