Adapted from When God Speaks for Himself: The Words of God You’ll NEVER Hear in Church or Sunday School, by Mark Tier and George Forrai (Inverse Books, 2016). Reprinted with permission from Mark Tier.
From Chapter 5: In the beginning…
…God created the heaven and the earth.”
— Hebrew [Genesis 1:1]
…was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
— Christian [John 1:1]
…were Spider Woman (the earth goddess) and Tawa (the sun god) who lived in Spider Woman’s lair, Under-the-World.”
— Hopi [American Indian]
…there was darkness everywhere and the creator, Karora, lay sleeping…”
— Arandan Aborigines [Northern Australia]
…there was the great goddess Eurynome, who emerged naked from chaos and divided the waters from the sky so she could dance lonely upon the waves.”
— Pelasgian [Greece — before the Greeks]
…was the void, chaos, from which sprang Gaia, “wide-bosomed Earth,” a firm foundation for Mount Olympus and the gods who would live there.”
— Greece, circa eighth century BCE
…Shuzanghu lived alone with his wife, Zumaing-Nui. Tired of having nowhere to set their feet, they made love and gave birth to a girl (Earth) and a boy (Sky.)”
— Dhammai [Northeastern India (non-Hindu)]
…Akongo lived with us [humans] in the sky, but he got so tired of human quarrels that he left and has not been seen since.”
— Ngombe [Zaire]
…there was only water and twilight everywhere and the island place of the gods.”
— Fiji Islands
…after water and bulrushes came about, there was Mbir the worm slithering about in the rushes. Eventually he became a man….”
— Guarani [Bolivia]
…then even nothingness was not, nor existence. There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it. What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping? Was there then cosmic water, in depths, unfathomed? Then there were neither death nor immortality, nor was there then the torch of night and day. The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining. There, was that One then, and there was no other.”
— Hindu, from the Rig Veda
The Stories of Creation
When I visited Ayres Rock in central Australia, I learned the Anangu Aborigines’ what was missing: there was no mention of the sea.
The absence of a sea is also a feature of other inland peoples’ creation stories, like those of the Ute (Colorado) and Winnebago Indians (Midwest).
Not surprising, you might think, given that for each of these peoples the nearest ocean beach is thousands of kilometers away.
Several creation myths are unspecific, or “generic.” Like Genesis (“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”) or the Hindu’s Rig Veda (“Then even nothingness was not, nor existence”), they could be talking about anywhere or everywhere.
But others have clearly local references, naming geographic or climactic features, animals or plants showing that this story could only have happened in this place. This is most strikingly obvious in the stories of creation from island societies.
For the Ainu (the original inhabitants of Japan) the world was just a mixture of mud and water until the Creator sent a bird to make earth. The bird flapped its wings until a few dry spots emerged — the islands the Ainu call home.
The Japanese have several creation myths; two of them (although both far more complicated) have similarities with Ainu’s. In one, Heaven and Earth are joined until Heaven decides to lift himself up, creating islands in the process. In another, the ancestors thrust a jeweled spear into the waters and when they lifted it up the island of “Onogoro-jima (Spontaneously Conceived Island)” came into being.
In the Fiji islanders’ story, Rokomautu brings up the islands from beneath the waters (and the home of the Fijian gods, naturally enough, was another island); while to the Kodiak islanders (near Alaska) the first son of the first man and the first woman played with a stone which became Kodiak Island.
There are many other examples. Herewith, just a few:
— Greece: the first feature to come into existence after the creation of Gaia (the world) from the void of chaos was Mount Olympus, the home of the gods.
— The Incas’ predecessors believed that Pachacamac (the sun — also an Inca god) rose from Lake Titicaca and then created everything else.
— Ngurunderi (southeastern Australia): Ngurunderi (the great ancestor) canoed along a small stream chasing his runaway wives. Ahead of him was a giant fish which turned the stream into the Murray River as it swam.
— Aymara (Bolivia): the main deity is Kun, the snow god.
— Kukulik Eskimos (Bering Strait): a man visited the sun to ask for reindeer. Instead, he was given pebbles and told to throw them in the sea, whereupon they turned into whales.
— Norse/Icelandic: the Creator is Ymir (or Imir), the Frost or Ice Giant (who, unusually in creation myths, is evil).
— Arandan (Northern Australia): playing a major role in the Arandan’s story of creation are bandicoots (still sacred to some tribes), wallabies and kangaroos, and the bullroarer.
— Pomo (Californian Indians): to create the sun, Old Man Madumda smoked his pipe for a while and then threw it into the sky — where it still burns today.
— Netsilik Eskimos (Greenland): the world was free of ice and icebergs until an old witch-woman became angry with a man, Kivioq. While trying to kill him she created sea ice.
— Keraki (Papua New Guinea, where there are more languages per square mile than anywhere else on earth): humans grew inside a palm tree. While they were still inside the creator, Gainji, heard them talking in many different languages. When they emerged they dispersed into different language groups — and so it still is today.
Excerpted from When God Speaks for Himself by Mark Tier and George Forrai. Copyright © Mark Tier and Pronto Express, 2010. All rights reserved.
 A Dictionary of Creation Myths by David Leeming with Margaret Leeming [New York: Oxford University Press, 1995] pi4.
 ibid, p124.
 ibid, p224.
 ibid, p206.
 ibid, p68.
 ibid, pl\2.
 ibid, p93.
 ibid, p108.
 ibid, pp 140-141.
 Unless otherwise noted, A Dictionary of Creation Myths is the source of this and the other references in this section.
— Church and State (@ChurchAndStateN) January 23, 2018
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