Creation refers to the idea that the whole universe is brought into being and sustained by a personal agent, God, who is beyond the universe. Since creation is an intentional act, God is usually said to envisage what will be created, and to intend that it will come into existence. Knowledge and will are thus attributes of a creator God.
Creation in various religions
Many religions have the concept of a creator God. In the late nineteenth century, the anthropologists Edward Tylor and James Frazer thought that the idea of God was in effect an early scientific hypothesis to explain why things happen as they do. They thought the hypothesis was false or superfluous, an instance of primitive science. Contemporaries, like Max Müller or the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, pointed to a more affective or experiential source of the idea of a creator in something like an intuition or apprehension of the infinite, or in a sense of absolute dependence (Schleiermacher's later term). It would not then be a scientific theory, but a primal sense of an unchanging, self-existent reality beyond the changes of the natural world.
Primal religious traditions usually contain some idea of a creator god, but often one who is remote and not particularly concerned with human affairs, delegating that to lesser gods. In the Chinese or East Asian religious stream, as represented in Daoism and Confucianism, the idea of creation is not denied, but it is not especially important. What is important is the Way of Heaven, the balance and harmony of nature itself, as reflecting in human life and society the order that obtains in the universe. The ultimate source of being, perhaps the Dao (or Way), is not seen as a personal agency. For that reason, these religious views do not have a doctrine of creation. They stress the interrelatedness and sacredness of nature, and they connect the best way of human life with insight into the natural order the universe should have. Chinese and East Asian religions tend to say, however, that questions of how the universe began or what a God might be like are both insoluble and spiritually irrelevant.
Buddhism shares with the East Asian traditions a lack of interest in, or even a rejection of, a doctrine of creation. For many Buddhists, the suffering involved in the natural world is too great to permit any thought of a good creator, and again the idea is seen as too theoretical to be of any practical use. The Buddhist way is one of disciplining the mind to overcome attachment, so that one might realize that state of wisdom, compassion, and bliss that is nirvana. In Mahayana Buddhism, there develops the idea of bodhisattvas, compassionate beings who help suffering beings, and who may even generate from themselves worlds in which sentient beings exist. This can come near to a doctrine of creation, but the emphasis is on a plurality of liberated beings, who may be of great compassion, knowledge, and power, but who are not creators of all reality.
In general, these religious traditions find the existence of suffering too great a problem to allow for a good creator. They find belief in a creator spiritually superfluous; their spiritual quest is for compassionate mindfulness and wisdom, and devotion to a personal god is seen as a lesser vehicle or lower path. They also find such belief too theoretical, regarding it as unprofitable speculation.
Most orthodox Indian traditions, however, have developed the idea of one supreme spiritual reality—Brahman—from which everything in the universe derives its existence. This reality can be described as sat-cit-ananda, or being, consciousness, and bliss. Sometimes, as in Ramanuja, the twelfth-century Indian philosopher, the one supreme reality is characterized as a supreme person. Sometimes, as in Sankara (perhaps the best-known Indian philosopher of the eighth century c.e.) it is said to be beyond personhood, though it appears as a person, and to be one undifferentiated reality of which all finite things are illusory appearances. It is a common doctrine that "all is Brahman," so that the Lord is the material cause of the universe, which is the Lord's appearance or (in Ramanuja) his "body." For Hindus in these traditions, all the gods are aspects or diverse forms of the one all-inclusive Brahman. The universe comes into being in order to work out the karma, the accumulated merit or demerit, of finite souls. Each universe has a finite, though vastly long, life. Then it dies, and after a period when all the potentialities of being exist in unevolved form in Brahman, they are realized again in a new universe, perhaps a repetition of the one before it. Universes come into being and pass away without beginning or end, and only Brahman remains unchanging, the one source of all.
This is a doctrine of creation, since every universe comes into being as the result of an act of knowledge, will, and desire of the Supreme Lord, who says, in the holy scriptures, the Upanishads, "May I become many" (Chandogya Upanishad, VI, ii, 3). It is usually held that each universe is necessarily what it is, and that everything in each universe is part of, or one with, Brahman. For that reason, some might prefer to call this a doctrine of emanation, or necessary self-manifestation of the supreme Lord. However, it is an act of will, not a sort of unconscious seepage of being. And in that self-manifestation, there are infinite souls working out their own karma, so that there is an "otherness" between each finite soul and the Supreme, even though they are ontologically one. It may be that the most obvious difference from the Abrahamic traditions—where creation is said to be a free act of the creator, and where creatures are ontologically quite distinct from the creator —is largely verbal. For in the Abrahamic faiths, freedom and necessity are often said to be compatible, so that even though the act of creation is "free," it is nonetheless an unforced yet necessary expression of the divine nature. Moreover, no creature can exist without the upholding presence of God, from which creatures can never be separated, even in hell. This doctrine of divine omnipresence is not far removed from the Indian doctrine that all things are, in a sophisticated sense, "one" with Brahman. There are divergences of doctrine, to be sure, but the conceptual differences are neither absolute nor unchangeable.
Hindu traditions deal with the problem of suffering by attributing it to the free actions of finite souls, in the sequence of rebirths, without beginning or end, which each soul experiences until it achieves release or liberation into a realm beyond suffering. So creation by a good God is ontologically necessary. God, whose essential nature is perfect intelligence and bliss, is not to blame. Moreover, Hindu traditions permit creaturely freedom and promise final bliss for all souls that choose it. And God enters into nature in many forms to help suffering beings, so that God can truly be called good.
Hindus would say that God is not spiritually superfluous, since the perfect state of intelligence and bliss is realized in one supreme being, and to know the supreme being is the greatest happiness for finite souls. Nor is God a speculative concept, since the doctrine of creation is not primarily a doctrine about the beginning of the universe (there have always been universes). It is a doctrine about the present union of all finite beings with and their dependence on the one Supreme Lord, conscious realization of which is the supreme spiritual goal.
In the Abrahamic faiths, mainly Judaism, Islam and Christianity, there is a shared doctrine that the universe is the creation of one supreme and perfect God. This is usually said to be a free, nonnecessitated act of bringing into being things other than God. In Christianity, creation is through the Logos, the eternal Son, who is construed as the archetype of all creation and the uncreated image of the divine Wisdom. So the universe is seen to be contingent—it did not have to be as it is—and yet supremely rational. Some have argued that such a belief made modern science possible because it encouraged the view that nature can be understood by reason, that it is ordered and unitary, having one rational creator, yet because it is contingent, observation is necessary to discern its laws. Moreover, since nature is not divine, but it is a created object, humans can investigate it without offending the spirits. It may even be held that such investigation, at first encouraged but also impeded by the excessive authority given by the Church to Aristotle in the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries, really began to flourish only when, after 1500, that Church authority was challenged by the Reformation. So the scene was set for the rise of the natural sciences in a European culture in which reliance on close observation, insistence on critical freedom, and belief in the rational structure of nature all coalesced in one dynamic matrix.
The word creation has usually been used to refer to the origin of the universe, but theologically it has always been clear that it more properly refers to the relationship of every time and place to God. In this sense, when and how the universe originated is not of primary importance. Some theologians and scientists have held that if the universe can be shown to have a beginning in time, this would raise the probability that it was created. For many years it was argued that if the universe had no beginning in time, the universe would not be created, since it would necessarily always be there. Medieval philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas argued in Summa Theologica (1a; qq. 46, art. 2) that this view is a misunderstanding. If creation means that nothing can exist unless it is part of a world-system that God wills, it does not matter whether that system has existed forever or if it had a beginning. What the believer needs to know is not that God was needed to start the universe, but that the universe, whatever its age or size, could not exist at any moment without a self-existent creator. The doctrine of creation depends on the truth of the assertion that the material universe is not self-existent, and that it can reasonably be seen as the effect of a free act of a conscious being that is of supreme value—God.
Creation and science
All the great religious traditions formulated their views of the universe long before the rise of modern science, and they incorporate theoretical beliefs that need to be reconstructed if the findings of science are to be fully accepted. East Asian traditions in practice embody many quasi-magical practices—Feng Shui and astrology, for example—that would be regarded by most scientists as superstitious, and based on misunderstanding of or simple errors about how the laws of nature work. In the Indian traditions, the ideas of rebirth and of the soul as distinct from matter create tensions with evolutionary biology, neurophysiology, and genetics in particular. The Abrahamic faiths have traditionally believed in six-day creation, in a primal paradisal state without suffering or death, and in a very short history for the universe, with earth at its center, all of which is rendered obsolete by evolutionary cosmology, with its fifteen billion year history for the universe, and belief in the principle of natural selection as at least a major driving force of biological evolution.
If religious belief in creation is not primarily a speculative hypothesis, but an existential apprehension of dependence on a transcendent reality, these traditional beliefs can be revised without much difficulty. They can simply be said to express spiritual insights into the limited terms of their understanding of the universe. Their creation stories can be seen as myths, as primarily symbolic attempts to depict the human situation of alienation from a supreme transcendent reality, and the way to overcome that alienation.
It will remain important, and it is part of the drive to understanding that motivates science, to have some view, however provisional, of how the universe relates to the transcendent spiritual goal of religion. The scientific investigation of nature is important to religion because it reveals the sort of universe there is, and therefore by implication the way in which the universe could be related to a transcendent reality. If this is an evolutionary universe, in which consciousness and freedom evolve from a simple primal singularity as emergent properties of matter itself, and if this happens through the interplay of mathematically ordered laws and processes of random variation and natural selection, a number of questions need to be asked before a doctrine of creation could seem plausible. One will need to ask whether the system is well-designed, whether it shows signs of rational order or of creative freedom, whether it can be seen as purposive or directional, and whether it could be willed by a being who can be termed good.
Since humans will in all likelihood continue to give different answers to these questions, the "religious transcendent" will not always be interpreted in terms of a creator god. Many in the renouncing traditions will continue to focus on an "impersonal" state of wisdom, compassion, and bliss which has no causal role in the universe, but which can be attained by humans. In the Western Christian tradition, the element of design has been so strongly emphasized that sometimes the universe has been seen as a quasi-machine, with the creator as a cosmic clockmaker. However, some contemporary theologians, like Arthur Peacocke, have preferred to picture God as an artist, expressing the divine being in creation. Process theologians have adopted an even more organic view of the relation between the universe and its creator. In this respect they have drawn nearer to the dominant Indian traditions, which speak of the creation as "one" with the creator—meaning that the universe realizes elements of the divine nature that are in some way essential to its being what it is.
Often a contrast is drawn between Indian cyclic view of time and Semitic linear views. It is true that the Indian tradition speaks of vast repetitive cycles of creation, and the Semitic tradition speaks of this universe as having a definite beginning, end, and purpose. But it needs to be remembered that even the early Christian theologian Augustine acknowledged in Book 11 of City of God that God could create many universes, and for Indian thinkers each universe can be said to have the purpose of expressing the creative play of Brahman, of working out the destiny of souls, and of making liberation possible. Both these traditions agree that, however finite or infinite time may be, however repetitive or creatively new, it is wholly dependent on the intentional act of a being of supreme value that is supra-temporal. That is the heart of the idea of creation. It is widely shared between Semitic and Indian religious traditions. And while some revision of the original creation myths of these traditions is required by science, the new understanding of the cosmos that science brings may well be felt not to challenge a basic belief in creation, but to increase a sense of the wisdom, power, and infinity of the creator.
See also Creatio Continua; Creatio Ex Nihilo; Design; Genesis; Life, Origins of
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lott, eric. vedantic approaches to god. new york: harper, 1980.
müller, f. max. introduction to the science of religion (1873). varanasi, india: bharata manisha, 1972.
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polkinghorne, john. science and creation: the search for understanding. boston: new science library, 1989.
richardson, w. mark, and wildman, wesley j., eds. religion and science: history, method, and dialogue. new york: routledge, 1996.
schleiermacher, friedrich. the christian faith. (1830-1831), trans. hugh r. mackintosh and james s. stewart (1928). edinburgh, uk: t&t clark, 1989.
tylor, edward b. primitive culture (1929). gloucester, mass.: peter smith, 1970.
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"Creation." Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/creation
"Creation." Encyclopedia of Science and Religion. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/creation
- Adam and Eve first man and woman. [O.T.: Genesis 1:26, 2:21–25]
- Allah made man from flowing blood. [Islam: Koran, 96:2]
- Apsu primeval waters, origin of all things. [Babyl. Myth.: Leach, 68]
- Aruru goddess pinched man, Enkidu out of clay. [Assyrian Myth.: Gaster, 9, Babyl. Myth.: Gilgamesh ]
- Askr first man; created from ash tree. [Norse Myth.: Benét, 58]
- Ea made man from primordial ocean clay. [Babyl. Myth.: Gaster, 9]
- Embla first woman on earth. [Norse Myth.: Benét, 58]
- Frankenstein’s monster living man created by a physiology student from body parts. [Br. Lit.: Mary Shelley Frankenstein ]
- Genesis Old Testament book dealing with world’s creation. [O.T.: Genesis]
- God created the world in six days. [O.T.: Genesis 1]
- the Hatchery mass produces everything, including human beings. [Br. Lit.: Brave New World ]
- Khnum ram god, created man from clay on potter’s wheel. [Egypt. Rel.: Parrinder, 155]
- Prometheus molded man of clay, animated him with fire. [Gk. Myth.: Wheeler, 304]
- Shiva Lord of creation; danced to begin life. [Hinduism: Binder, 23]
- Star Maker, the the creator and destroyer of the universe, depicted primarily as an artist detached from it. [Sci. FL: Stapledon Star Maker in Weiss, 248]
- Tocupacha molded man from clay. [Aztec Myth.: Gaster, 18]
"Creation." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation
"Creation." Allusions--Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation
People have long wondered how the world came into being. They have answered the question with stories that describe the origin of the universe or the world and usually of human life as well. Creation myths, known as cosmogonies, express people's understanding of the world and their place in it.
The world's mythologies and religions offer an immense variety of creation stories. Yet scholars have discovered that the cosmogonies of different cultures fall into broad categories and contain many shared themes.
epic long poem about legendary or historical heroes, written in a grand style
Forms and Themes of Creation
Some creation stories, such as those of Africa and Polynesia, existed for years in spoken form but were not written down until recently. Other cultures preserved their cosmogonies in written texts, and some of these have survived from ancient times. The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish, written thousands of years ago, tells how people in Mesopotamia* explained the beginning of the world. A Mayan text called the Popol Vuh describes the creation of the ancestors of the Maya.
Types of Creation. Some methods of creation appear again and again in cosmogonies from different parts of the world. One of the most common images is a description of the beginning of the world as a birth, a kind of creation familiar to everyone. The birth may result from the mating of a pair of cosmic parents. The Maori of New Zealand, for example, say that the union of Rangi and Papa (Father Sky and Mother Earth) produced all things.
The hatching of an egg is another familiar kind of birth. Some creation myths tell of a cosmic egg containing the seeds or possibilities of everything. The hatching of the egg lets the possibilities take form. The Hindu texts known as the Upanishads describe the creation of the world as the breaking of a cosmic egg.
Another type of cosmogony says that the actions, thoughts, or desires of a supreme being or creator god brought the world into existence. The book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible tells how God created the world and everything in it. Other accounts of creation by a supreme being can be found in many regions, from the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan to the island of Tierra del Fuego in southern South America.
Sometimes the created order simply emerges from a primal chaos—a state of disorder. In Norse* mythology, the scene of creation is an emptiness of wind and mist until clouds form and harden into the frost giant Ymir, from whose body the world is made. Many Native American myths tell how animals and people appeared on earth by climbing out of a chaotic or primitive underworld.
The primal chaos is often a flood or a vast expanse of water. The people of ancient Egypt—who relied on the yearly floods of the Nile River to support their agriculture—said that before creation there existed only Nun, a watery abyss. In some flood myths, creation takes place as the waters recede or as land rises. In others, an earth diver, a bird or an animal, plunges to the bottom of the water and brings up mud that becomes the earth. Such myths, which are common among Native Americans, seldom explain where the mud or the earth-diving creature came from. Many cosmogonies concern the shaping or ordering of the world rather than its creation from nothingness. They often begin with some substance, being, or active force already in existence.
In some mythologies, the creation of people occurs through emergence from the earth. Native American groups such as the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo say that the first people traveled though a series of lower worlds to reach their permanent home. In some stories, a flood forces the occupants of the lower worlds to climb upward until they arrive on the surface.
cosmic large or universal in scale; having to do with the universe
primal earliest; existing before other things
underworld fand of the dead
abyss very deep gulf or hole
Themes in Creation Myths. In explaining how creation led to the world as it now exists, cosmogonies explore several basic themes. Most creation myths illustrate one or more of these themes.
The theme of separation or differentiation deals with the forming of distinct things out of what was once a formless unity. Separation may be a physical act. In Polynesian myth, for example, the children of Mother Earth and Father Sky force their parents apart so that the world can exist between them. Cosmogonies may describe creation as taking place in stages that mark the process of differentiation. The Old Testament says that God took six days to create light and darkness, the heavens, the earth and plants, the sun and moon, the sea creatures and animals, and the first people.
A second theme is imperfection. According to many cosmogonies, the creator planned to make a perfect world, but something went wrong. As a result, flaws such as evil, illness, and death entered the creation. The Dogon of West Africa say that the world is imperfect because one of a pair of twins broke out early from the cosmic egg. The Hawaiians relate that the earth goddess Papa cursed humans with death after she discovered an incestuous affair between her husband and daughter.
Dualism, or tension between opposing forces, is an underlying theme of many creation stories, especially those that revolve around conflict. Greek myths about the war between the Titans* and the gods are just one example of conflict between cosmic parents and their offspring. Sometimes the conflict involves twins or brothers. Some Native Americans of the northeast woodlands explain that the world is the way it is because two gods played a role in its creation. Gluskap, good and wise, created plants, animals, and people. His evil, selfish brother Malsum made poisonous snakes and plants.
The theme of sacrifice reflects the idea that life is born out of death. Someone must die, or at least shed blood, before the world and life can begin. The Enuma Elish tells how the god Marduk killed the primeval goddess Tiamat and cut her body into two parts that became the heavens and the earth. Sometimes the first people are made from a god's blood, perhaps mixed with dust or clay. Creation may also involve the slaying of a primal beast or monster.
A few cosmogonies describe cycles in which the world is created and destroyed a number of times. Hindu scriptures say that Brahma* has remade the world many times. Four ages, or yugas, make a kalpa, or eon. When a kalpa ends, creation dissolves into chaos.
The Omaha Big Bang
Modern scientists think that the universe began billions of years ago with an explosion of matter and energy called the Big Bang. The Native American Omaha people have their own "big bang" account of creation. At first all living things were spirits floating through space, looking for a place to exist in bodily form. The sun was too hot. The moon was too cold. The earth was covered with water. Then a huge boulder rose out of the water and exploded with a roar and a burst of flame that dried the water. Land appeared. The spirits of plants settled on earth. Animal spirits followed. Finally the spirits of people took bodily form on earth.
differentiation process of becoming different and separate from another thing
The Aztecs of Mexico believed that the present world was the fifth that the gods had created. It was fated to end in universal destruction by earthquakes. The four previous worlds had been destroyed by a great flood, the falling of the sky, a fire storm, and a wind storm. The Maya believed that the gods made three unsuccessful attempts to create human beings before achieving a satisfactory result. Their first creations—animals, people made of mud, and wooden people—disappointed them in various ways, and they abandoned or destroyed them. Finally, the gods made people of maize (corn) who were perfect, so perfect that their creators clouded their vision to prevent them from seeing too far.
Stories of the Great Beginning
Every region of the world has produced numerous creation stories, and some cultures and religions have more than one. A sampling of myths from various sources shows both the endless variety of cosmogonies and the similarities in their structures and themes.
Africa. Some African creation myths feature a huge snake, often identified with the rainbow, whose coils make up the universe. In West and Central Africa the idea of creation from a cosmic egg is common.
Twins or paired, dualistic powers appear in many African creation stories. The Fon of West Africa tell of the first mother, Nana Buluku, who gave birth to the twins Mawu (moon) and Lisa (sun), the parents of all the other gods, who were also born in sets of twins. Some African cosmogonies, however, are less concerned with the creation of the physical universe and the gods than with the appearance of the first man and first woman and the ordering of human society.
The notion of a supreme creator god appears throughout Africa. The Bushongo people of the Congo region called the creator Bumba. He was the sole inhabitant of a watery universe until he vomited up the sun, which dried the water. Then he vomited up the first animals and people.
The Americas. The Incas of South America claimed that darkness covered the earth until the god Con Tiqui Viracocha rose out of a lake, bringing with him the first people. He made more people out of rocks, then sent them out to populate the whole world. When these inhabitants rebelled against Con Tiqui Viracocha, he punished them by stopping the rainfall. A god named Pachachamac overthrew Con Tiqui Viracocha and created a new race of people, the ancestors of humans.
Creation myths of Native Americans generally explain how the world took its present form, including the origins of human culture. Some tales feature a creator god or pair of gods, such as the Sun Father and Moonlight-giving Mother of the Zuni people. Many groups, including the Cheyenne, have stories of an earth diver.
Indians of the Southwest may have developed myths of emergence because their agricultural way of life led them to think of growth as a movement upward from below the earth's surface. The Hopi of Arizona say that creation brought four worlds into existence. Life began in the bottom level or cave, which eventually grew dirty and crowded. A pair of twin brothers carried plants from heaven, and the people climbed up the cane plant into the second cave. When that place became too crowded, they climbed up again into the third cave. Finally, the brother gods led the people out into this world, the fourth level of creation.
dualistic consisting of two equal and opposing forces
Near East. The ancient Egyptians believed that before the world existed there was only Nun, the watery nothingness. Then a mound of land rose, giving the first deity a place to live. In some accounts, the first deity took the form of a bird. Others said that a lotus flower containing a god rose from the water. Cults developed around several Egyptian creator gods: Amun and Atum, the sun gods; Khnum, who made men and women from clay and breathed life into them; and Ptah, who created the other gods by saying their names.
Among the Semitic* creation myths of western Asia is the story of how God formed the world, the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve, the first parents. It is the cosmogony of the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths.
In the dualistic Persian or Iranian cosmogony, the good and wise lord Ahura Mazda began creation by sending beams of light into an abyss where Ahriman, lord of evil and sin, lived. Ahura Mazda cast Ahriman into hell for 3,000 years. This gave Ahura Mazda time to create spirits of virtue, angels, and the creatures of earth, including Gayomart, the first man. When Ahriman's time in hell ended, he created flies, germs, pests, and other evils. One of his wicked followers brought disease and death to Gayomart, but a plant that grew from Gayomart's remains bore fruit that became the human race.
Asia. Japanese tradition, preserved in a volume of mythological history called the Kojiki, says that before creation there was an oily sea. Gods came into being in the High Plains of Heaven. After seven generations of deities came the first human ancestors, whose task was to make solid land. They stirred the sea with a jeweled spear. Drops that fell from the spear formed the islands of Japan.
A Chinese creation myth tells how Pan Gu hatched from a cosmic egg. One part of the eggshell formed the heavens; the other part became the earth. For 18,000 years, Pan Gu stood between them, keeping them apart by growing ever taller. Finally he became weary, lay down, and died. From his eyes came the sun and moon, from his hair the stars, from his breath the wind, and from his body the earth.
deity god or goddess
cult group bound together by devotion to a particular person, belief, or god
Indian mythology, linked to both the Hindu and the Buddhist religions, contains many creation stories. Hindus often speak of Brahma as the creator god who brought the universe into being through his thoughts. Sometimes creation involves the sacrifice of a primal being such as Purusha, from whose body all the gods were made. Other myths describe the breaking of a cosmic egg or the union of heaven and earth as cosmic parents.
Australia and the Pacific. In the mythology of Australia's native peoples, the period of creation was called Dreamtime, or The Dreaming. During this time, ancestral beings created the landscape, made the first people, and taught them how to survive. Some Aboriginal myths tell of a great flood that destroyed the previous landscape and the former society. According to many accounts, a great serpent caused the flood when he became angry with the ancestral people.
The vast Pacific Ocean contains the Polynesian, Melanesian, and Micronesian island groups, which produced a variety of cosmogonies. Not surprisingly, many of these myths involve water.
According to some Polynesians, a creator god named Tangaloa sent a bird messenger over an endless primal sea. At last Tangaloa threw a rock into the sea so the tired bird would have a place to land. Then the god created all the islands in the same way. The bird made the first people by giving arms, legs, hearts, and souls to maggots. Other Polynesian stories describe creation as the union of two opposing qualities: Po (darkness) and Ao (light). Polynesian and Micronesian cosmogonies often include the act of separating the earth from the sky. Melanesian creation myths generally involve ancestral heroes who wander from place to place, forming the landscape and creating the rules of society.
Other entries related to creation stones are listed at the end of this article.
Europe. Norse creation myths tell how the giant Ymir took shape in the huge icy emptiness called Ginnungagap. Ymir's great cow licked the ice, creating the first gods, including Odin* . The gods killed Ymir and divided his body into a series of worlds on three levels: Asgard, the realm of gods; Midgard, the realm of people, giants, dwarfs, and elves; and Niflheim, the realm of the dead. The gods created the first man and woman from an ash tree and an elm tree. (The creation of people from trees has a parallel in Native American stories about Gluskap making man from an ash trunk.)
Greek cosmogonies, echoed by the Romans, begin with birth and end with struggle. Gaia, the earth mother, emerged from chaos and gave birth to Uranus, the sky. The union of Uranus and Gaia produced plants, animals, and children, the Titans. Imprisoned by their father, the Titans overthrew Uranus, only to be overthrown by their own children, the gods. Another Greek creation myth, possibly borrowed from the ancient Near East, combines many images and themes. It tells how a primal goddess emerged from the waters of chaos. Her union with a serpent produced a cosmic egg that split to become the heaven and the earth.
See also African Mythology; Australian Mythology; Aztec Mythology; Buddhism and Mythology; Celtic Mythology; Chinese Mythology; Dreamtime; Egyptian Mythology; Enuma Elish; Finnish Mythology; Floods; Gluskap; Greek Mythology; Hinduism and Mythology; Inca Mythology; Japanese Mythology; Mayan Mythology; Melanesian Mythology; Micronesian Mythology; Native American Mythology; Norse Mythology; Persian Mythology; Polynesian Mythology; Roman Mythology; Semitic Mythology; Upanishads.
* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.
[See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.
* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.
"Creation Stories." Myths and Legends of the World. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/creation-stories
"Creation Stories." Myths and Legends of the World. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/creation-stories
"Creation, The." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation
"Creation, The." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation
cre·a·tion / krēˈāshən/ • n. 1. the action or process of bringing something into existence. ∎ a thing that has been made or invented, esp. something showing artistic talent: she treats fictional creations as if they were real people. 2. (the Creation) the bringing into of existence of the universe, esp. when regarded as an act of God. ∎ everything so created; the universe. 3. the action or process of investing someone with a new rank or title.
"creation." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation-1
"creation." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation-1
creation science the reinterpretation of scientific knowledge in accord with belief in the literal truth of the Bible, especially regarding the origin of matter, life, and humankind.
"Creation, the." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation
"Creation, the." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation
"Creation." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation
"Creation." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation
"creation." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation-0
"creation." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/creation-0