Creation Myths and Theaology

Aside from basic terminology and the different little components (or facets) that make up religion, there is also the way that man perceives creation.  This time I want to take a look at the very beginning and examine how creation myths help us understand the world and religion.

Creation Myths

Every culture or religion has their own creation myth.  It helps us to explain where we come from. We’re going to look at just a few as we explore their role in our understanding of religion. I’ll try to keep it brief and summarize.

  1. I remember growing up that in Christianity, everything began as the Word and the Word was God and from him sprang all creation over six days of work and one of rest. A story most of us know very well.
  2. Then in middle school we studied Greek mythos where I learned that the world began with Chaos, the dark and formless. From Chaos grew Gaia, the mother and from them sprang night and water. Then the gods spring up through a series of events from there.
  3. In Hindu mythos, the universe began in chaos and existed as such until Vishnu (formed from will) separated the heavens from the Earth’s body and as the sun rose from a great pillar at the navel of the world the cosmos was divided into three parts. They were the Earth below, the Heavens above, and the Air between. And from there it goes on.
  4. In Japan, three nameless beings rise from the body of a carp that slept in an ocean of chaos. Those three entities gave birth to the first Gods and Goddesses, including Izanagi and Izanami. They came from the heavens on a rainbow. The brother formed the sea and land from his spear.
  5. Navaho legend tells us that there was only darkness and silence, but far off in the north there was a little cloud that sought out light. This cloud discovered a dark cloud the keeper of secrets. They fought and the rains fell, which opened up a hole in the ground from which the animals sprang. The small cloud gave them the task of finding happiness and peace which is why all animals wander.

It goes on and on. Tibetan myth claims the world started as an egg. The Egyptian’s story starts with a scarab beetle and the Goddess Nut.

A Pagan Creation Myth

Now, you might say that pagans use the deities from all these other traditions so how can they have their own myth? Well just as the tradition was passed by word of mouth so were stories of how the God and Goddess created and nurtured the Earth. Here is an example from Teaching Witchcraft with only a few minor edits to make it family friendly.

“Before space and before time, there was just the void, dark and shapeless. Into the Void came the Goddess, manifesting herself from beyond Eternity. She created herself in the Void, and was the essence of love. The Goddess, whose name is ever known yet unknown, saw her own reflection against the great mirror of space, and fell in love with the image. Focusing on the image, she became aware of the feeling of loneliness.  She used her energy to draw her reflection into reality, and then one Goddess was two equal, but opposite parts.

She made love to herself and the explosion of their union was the spark of creation. All the stars exploded from their energy, and all the matter of the Universe. Galaxies spun away on gossamer strands of reality. But in the force of the eruption, the Reflection flew away from the Goddess. As she drifted further, she began to change.  She gradually became more masculine, and when she finally returned to herself, she was in masculine form.

As the newborn God circled the Goddess, he shifted his form. He was the Blue God, the force of infinite love. Then he was the Green God, the force of infinite growth. Then he was the Dark God, the force of infinite Death and Rebirth. The Goddess saw the many faces of her Brother-Lover-Son, and loved them all. And together, they gave order to the matter of the Universe and formed the patterns of the stars and the cycles of the seasons.

They walked upon the lands of the earth, and swam in the waters, and made love. From her Womb came the fountain of all life. And since all things came from the Goddess, all living things carry within them her spark, the ability to continue breeding and growing.

All began in love, all seek to return to love. Love is the law, the teacher of wisdom, and the great revealer of mysteries.

So who was right?

The answer is that there is no right or wrong answer. These are all just analogies or symbols of meaning to help us understand the beginning. It was not a literal seven days of creation in Christianity.  They are representations to help us understand hierarchy of importance.  All of the creation myths have several things in common. The Universe generally starts as one big dark place and from it springs one being or another.  Then from there the world further divides into more specific parts. These myths were meant to be used as lessons to understand what was once unknowable and today they still help us grasp these concepts before we’re old enough to understand deeper realities including scientific fact.  In the end, you have to come to your own conclusions concerning what is what.

God and Goddess Origin Myths

While all these myths vary greatly, the myths concerning the creation of the Gods all tend to follow along similar lines.  You will find that their birth usually reflects some aspect of their roles in the world.  This lesson identifies five distinct origin myths of the Gods.  They are anthropomorphic birth, astral birth, elemental, extraction birth, and parthenogenic birth. Gods actually born from a physical union of mother and father are not as common as these options.

Let’s look at these a little closer

Anthropomorphic birth: This is where a God is born from an animal. It may have its features or some of the animal’s abilities.  For example Mehuret, provider Goddess of Egypt, was born from a cow. She has a cow’s head and several bosoms. Vasila, a Goddess from Russian myth, is a protector of horses who has a horse’s head.  They either govern something that animal symbolizes or share a power or ability special to the animal.

Astral birth: These Gods are born from the cosmos and tend to govern the stars, cosmos, heavens, etc. Gaia, the Greek mother Goddess, was born from the stars.  Aditi, of the Hindu faith, was born from the void and willed herself into being.  Ra, an Egyptian God, formed himself from sunlight when his mother was not looking and he is a sun God.

Elemental birth: These are deities that govern the elements to which they are tied or born from.  There is Pele, a Hawaiian fire God who was born from a volcano.  Aphrodite was born of sea foam and in Greek philosophy the sea was a representation of emotions.  And my favorite example, Iwa-Naga-Hima, of Japanese myth, was a protector of sailors. He was born from a stone and protected ships from crashing into the rocks along the shore.

Extraction Birth:  There are many violent and bloody extraction births among the annals of mythology.  Usually, they involve Gods or Goddesses who are associated with death and rebirth.  Kali is a great example.  She was born from a cut to the head during a warrior’s battle with demons.  In Greek myth, Zeus was stricken with a headache before Athena sprang from his head.

While I eventually want to do an entire article on this, I want to share something I learned during my own studies at this point. One might ask how Athena is related to death and rebirth. Well, Gods and Goddesses have been acquired from other religions and cultures as time has gone on.  Athena actually started out as part of an African triple Goddess. She was the Maiden and Medusa was the Crone.  See the links below for further information.

Parthenogenic birth: This is a birth without fertilization.  Of course, the most famous is Jesus.  Others include Amaterasu, who was born from only her father.  There are others, but I think these examples suffice.

Theology and Reality

Theaology and Theology are two different beasts. Theology is the study of religion, and mostly from a masculine viewpoint, while Theaology is the study of the whole of spirituality. This includes the masculine and feminine aspects.

The Gods are more than just a way of explaining creation.  They are more than just a way to explain the seasons, the cycles of the universe, and the habits of animals.  The Gods play a great role in man’s awareness of the world around him. They allow man to find a way to play an active role in their own stories and the world around them.  In some cases it has inflated our self-importance, a separation of our species from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Not only are we animals ourselves, but we are a part of the whole.  We have the primal nature of the beast, but we do have something that most animals don’t. We have logic and reason.  This gives us a unique ability to see the bigger picture.  It allows us to better understand our reality.  Just as each ant plays a role in the anthill and the planets revolve around the sun, the Gods and Goddesses play their part in the unfolding universe.

They help us to come to terms with birth, death, love, loss, war and peace. They help us to understand the importance of the animals and plants that help us to survive.  The Gods and Goddesses help us to understand that there is more out there than we will probably ever understand and that we probably don’t want to understand everything. That would just make life boring.

Some can be reasoned with while others are true forces of nature. The winds are a part of the divine and yet they cannot be reasoned with. And that is the way of the world.  The divine forces that come from mythos and history are our way of understanding the larger whole.

Where do we go from here?

Are you confused yet? I know I was when I first read this. But as I’ve studied, I’ve learned one thing.  I’ve learned that nothing is ever as simple as it seems. That the world is complicated and that trying to pull everything apart to make perfect answers only creates headaches and more problems. All we can do is figure out what feels right to us and hope for the best. If that leads you to Christianity, then that is your path and if it leads you here, to one of the pagan traditions, then that is your path.

Just as the other lessons have explained, in the end you have to come to your own conclusion. There are many ideas of what are and what could be, but no one really knows. These are all just theories of theaology.

For me, this was the point where we started having assignments in class. We had been doing readings and a few other things, but this was the first one I really remember and I want to share it with you to do what you will. We were asked to find our own meaning in the cosmos in an attempt to learn something about how we, personally, perceive the world.

I remember my experiences writing my own myth. I wish I still had it, but the next week she had us turn it in. She read them aloud and then returned them to us a few classes later. Then she told us to reflect on them. It had been a while since we’d seen them, so each of us took them home and poured over the words we had written. In my case, I learned a lot about how I conceptualize the world.  If you want to try the same thing, I recommend the experience.

But it’s just some food for thought. May the God and Goddess be with you.

Blessed Be.

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