Thursday, January 3, 2008

Creation Myths

I've been reading creation myths from around the world and across time (found a wonderful myth compendium at the National Gallery bookshop). So many of these stories strike me as "true" (whatever that means). I'm especially interested in the myths about how humans arrived on the planet. I like the Shinto myth in which a goddess decides the earth is so beautiful that it will be lonely unless she makes some humans out of clay to keep the Earth company. Sweet.

An all-time favorite is the Haida myth that starts with all humans living inside a huge clam shell because it's safe (of course). Raven, the trickster of Haida culture, comes along and teases the humans into climbing out of the shell by telling them how beautiful the earth is. Once out of the clam shell, the humans can not return.

I'm less fond of western classical myths. Humans as action figures for the Greek gods to play with, for instance, doesn't much capture my imagination, nor does the idea that we were put here on Earth to "rule over" nature. Maybe I don't like the ones I learned growing up because they're too familiar.

Almost all of 2008 is still out there, waiting to unfold. Maybe new year's resolutions and intentions (that's how Not Plain Jane frames it) are our own personal creation myths. More exercise, less drinking, focusing on money issues, finding true love, learning to knit tea cozies, getting a promotion at work ... these are just a few of the resolutions I've heard about from those nearest and dearest to me. It's fun to imagine a fulfilling year, and though I try not to shape my thought process so much these days, preferring to allow the world to show me what's what, I admire people who are willing to put their foot down and say out loud what they'd like for the new year.

A salute to those who resolve and intend! And a salute to myself for letting go of that habit. Salutes all around. Cheers!


IntangibleArts said...

I've always thought of all creation stories (particularly those of indigenous/original peoples of whatever location) as absolutely true. These stories are termed "myths" by conquering cultures that have stories of their own. Or NO compelling stories of their own.

Why can't they ALL be true? If a story gives a culture context and relevance and provides a handy lesson on one's place in the world, I say it's fact. Monsters and all.

I particularly dig the Hopi version. God, I hope those cats had comfortable walking shoes.

Squirrel said...

I love the Shinto myth--my dad used to tell Native American Creation stories to us, altho we all believed we were related to Bonobos as well! It is all true in a way.

Aileen said...

Cheers to you, too, Reya!

And salute to you for breaking the habit of resolutions! (although, isn't that sort of a resolution in itself? :)

Reya Mellicker said...

Aileen - happy new year! You know, I didn't have to set my will power in action to resist an urge to make resolutions. Just noticing that it's not compelling to me anymore ... so I think it's not a resolve, more of a mindfulness thing. Hope your new year is excellent.

Intangible Arts, I'm with you. I believe there are an infinite number of truths. For instance, once you climb out of the safety of the clamshell, there's no going back? Oh yeah, ain't that the truth?

And you, Ched, of course you're related to Bonobos and the Indians as well as to various Icelanders, like Bjork, for instance. Yes!

kimy said...

have you seen the sculpture featuring the haida myth that is at the museum of anthropology in vancouver? it is amazing. talk about power!!

Steve said...

I am woefully ignorant when it comes to non-Western mythology. I like the ones you've related here, though I can't help but think that Shinto goddess is probably kicking herself now.

And I admire your letting go!

Squirrel said...

I'm woefully igorant when it comes to catherine de' Medici--alls I knows is that her astrologer was Ruggiero or something and I was told about her perfumer when i visited Paris... otherwise i know nothing

Hammer said...

Dammit, I told you not to tell anyone about the tea cozies!

Reya Mellicker said...


Anonymous said...

An old friend is trying to reach you. His psychic radio (and Google) found you among all the Bobs in DC. His email address has not changed. Drop him a line and a fresh copy of HolidaySpeak is yours. Happy New Year. - JA

lettuce said...

yes, i think the non-western myths are way more beautiful and helpful and true (not that i know as much about them as you, fascinating...)

and knitting tea cozies?
do it do it do it

Gary said...

I love all of the myths because when you study them you can clearly see how similar they all are even when they are from different times and different areas of the world - at a time when one could not have built or borrowed from another. It shows us the nature of humans, our imaginations, our drive to understand. I love reading Joseph Campbell for this reason. He brings it all together.

As for new year's resolutions, birthday wishes, everything I always wish for or strive for the same thing...but if I told you it would not come true. :) And so far, so good (for the most part).

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