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Creationmyths

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Cosmic Creation Myths Across Cultures
Darrell Jones
HUM/105
June 20, 2012
Mary Worley

Cosmic Creation Myths across Cultures Myths vary a great deal from various cultures around the world. Although these myths differ, they all share one same common theme – a story based on creation. Myths from the Roman/Greek and Nordic cultures are no different. Both of these cultures believed in some form of creation that defined and shaped their world through cosmic occurrences or natural phenomenon, while sharing similarities and differences in the creators of the worlds and the steps these worlds were created. Roman/Greek gods lived in various worlds. This mythological world was born out of emptiness, or Chaos. The gods themselves lived on Mount Olympus. Uranus, Father Sky, ruled over all worlds with Gaea, Mother Earth, by his side. Tartarus ruled the deepest part of the underworld. Their son, Cronus, and their grandson, Zeus, both take turns ruling over the worlds after Uranus. Two of Uranus and Gaea’s other children were gods of other worldly elements: Helios, god of sun; and Selene, god of Moon. Cronus and Rhea produced the second generation of gods who ruled over other elements, including: Zeus, lord of the sky and god of thunder; Poseidon, lord of the seas; and Hades, ruler of the underworld and lord of the dead. Individuals who believed in Roman/Greek mythology believed these gods shaped their world and ruled over the elements. A titan named Atlas was condemned by Zeus to hold up the sky forever (Rosenberg, 2006). Roman/Greek mythology discussed creation as three immortal beings, Gaea, Tartarus, and Eros emerging from an emptiness known as Chaos. Gaea gave birth to Uranus and produced other immortals, two being Cronus and Rhea. Cronus and Rhea gave birth to another generation of gods, of them being Zeus, the eventual ruler of all gods. After a great battle, Zeus and his siblings overpower their father and assume positions in the universe – Zeus in the sky, Poseidon in the ocean, and Hades in the underworld (Rosenberg, 2006). Zeus also ruled over mortals. In fact, he created human beings in five generations – each generation worse than the one before. The first generation of humans to inhabit the earth was known as the gold race. These beings were pure in heart and lived without fear of punishment because they treated each other justly. The weather treated them favorably, producing abundant wild grains and fruit in an endless spring. They lived peacefully until they died, then Zeus created the second generation. The second generation or - the race of silver - was less virtuous. This generation was more juvenile than the previous generation and more selfish. Zeus grew angry with them and changed the weather into a four season year ranging from icy, cold winters to scorching summer heat. Food became less readily available and Zeus shortened their lifespan, sending their spirits to the Underworld when they died. The third generation was the race of bronze. This generation praised Ares, the god of war, and was cruel to each other, waging many wars. The fourth generation, known as the race of heroes, and was more noble than the silver and bronze generations. The fifth generation is the current generation on earth (Rosenberg, 2006). The myths of Northern Europe, or Norse myths, reflect a physical environment that often threatened human survival. This was possibly because this region of Europe often had long winters and short harvest seasons. Gods of Norse mythology also lived in various worlds. Ginnungagap was known as the open void. In the southern part of Ginnungagap, a hot world formed named Muspelheim and was guarded by a giant with a flaming sword named Surt. In the north, an icy, foggy, cold world named Niflheim. As gods and humans began to populate Ginnungagap, the gods dwelled in Asgard and the humans resided in Midgard. Norse mythology also believed the sun and the moon moved across the sky because they were being chased by wolves (Rosenberg, 2006). The creation of gods began when warm air from Muspelheim melted ice in Niflheim, producing a Frost Giant named Ymir. As Ymir secreted, he produced other Frost Giants with beads of sweat from his armpits. A cow, Audhumla (nourisher), also arose from the thaw and after licking a salty ice block for three days produced Buri. Buri had a son, Bor, who married the daughter of a giant, Bestla, and had three children: Odin, Vili, and Ve. The three brothers killed Ymir and used his body parts to create the world. The world was formed in this fashion:
“The three gods took the corpse of Ymir, carried it into the middle of Ginnungagap, and made the world from it. From his flesh, they molded the earth. From the blood that poured from his wounds, they made the salt sea and laid it around the earth. From his mighty bones they fashioned the mountains, and from his smaller bones, jaws, and teeth they formed rocks and pebbles. From his hair they created the forests” (Rosenberg, 2006, p.486).
Using his skull, they formed the sky with a dwarf holding up each of the four corners and created a barrier between Midgard and Asgard with Ymir’s eyebrows. Odin then created man and woman from trees: man (Ask) from the ash tree and woman (Embla) from the elm tree. Norse mythology also described the destruction and resurrection of the world. Ragnarok was referred to as the end of the world. When the sun and the moon was caught and swallowed by the wolves chasing them, Surt would scorch the heavens and destroy Asgard. Monsters would escape the underworld and destroy Midgard. After the death of Odin and Thor, Odin’s grandsons will rebuild Asgard and two human beings that hid and survived the war will restart the human race (Rosenberg, 2006). These two creation myths hold many similarities, as well as differences. First, both creations were from nothing. The Roman/Greek creation myth was from emptiness (Chaos), while the Norse myth spoke of an open void (Ginnungagap). Both myths created a universe that separated gods from humans, usually reserving the sky as a look-out point to observe the human race. Finally, in both myths the creators of the human race were created by children of gods they overthrew. In the Norse myth, the human race was created by Odin, Vili, and Ve, who killed Ymir. Zeus created humans after overthrowing Cronus. While there are many other similarities, it is important to remember there are also differences. One difference is while the sky is held up in both myths, the person holding the sky up is different. In the Roman/Greek myth, the sky is held up by the strongest titan to ever live, Atlas. In the Norse myth, the sky is held up by a dwarf. Also, the creator who emerged from the emptiness was of different genders. Gaea was a woman that gave birth to the gods, while Ymir gave birth to Frost Giants through his armpit sweat. Finally, Nordic gods did not mingle with mortals, while Roman gods not only mingled with humans, but had intercourse with them, creating demi-gods. In conclusion, Roman/Greek and Northern Europe cultures share many similarities, as well as differences, in how the world was created. Although their worlds different, their creators of different gender, and their interaction with humans not the same, they both share similarities in where the world came from – nothing. Also, in both cultures, the gods created humans and look out over them. And finally, the creators of the human race were fathered by gods who overthrew their maker. Perhaps this gives a little insight as to why humans are similar while vastly different. Reference
Rosenberg, D. (2006). World Mythology: An anthology of great myths and epics (3rd ed.). Chicago, IL: McGraw-Hill.…...

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