Different cultures have myths to explain the origin of nature and themselves as a people. The prevailing myths in the western nations and the middle east are that of a single deity who created the universe and created humans to have dominions over the earth. Other cultures have credited creation to multiple deities, with each deity responsible for a specific aspect of nature. This is most apparent in the Viking and Hindu myths. The most apparent similarity that is observed in the various creation myths is having spiritual beings responsible for creation. It suffices that the question of the origin of the world and humans has bothered has bothered people for so long that they developed beliefs and spiritualism to answer it. Creation myths are a critical component of every religion on earth.
The main similarity among all the creation myths is that they are all considered sacred by the cultures that embrace them and are a guiding component of their religious beliefs. The cultures that subscribe to Judaism and Muslims regard creation as having been the work of one supreme being. This supreme has powers beyond comprehension and created humans in his image so that they may obey and worship Him. The Biblical account of creation is most prevalent in the western nations. Ancient Sumerians have a creation story in which the creator is feminine. They referred to their goddess as Nammu or Apso and credited her to have given birth to all creation. She gave birth to heaven and earth all the things that are found within them. This sacred nature of creation myth is replicated in all the cultures in the world as they attempt to explain the origin of the world and human beings.
The creation myths also contain events that are not normal in the real world. An example is the Christian explanation of God having created everything in the universe out of nothing but by word of mouth. The Babylonians believed that their god, Marduk, fought with the goddess monster called Tiamat. Having defeated her, Marduk created the world out of her dismembered body parts. One of the native American tribes believes that all the terrestrial life conceived from the copulation of Mother Earth and the Sky Father in the four-fold womb of the earth. The characters and incidents in these myths cannot be experienced in the everyday lives of people and are mostly a part of the culture’s imagination. Most of the conservative persons in the numerous cultures in the world tend to believe these myths at face value, yet the enlightened ones think that they are metaphorical.
Birth is a common feature in creation myths. This birth can be in the form of an egg that contained all the original elements or life or childbirth that was unusual. The male or female gods are the ones that play the role of birthing children. Also, the element of mother and father is common in most myths. The mother is usually the earth while the father is either the sun or the sky. A sense of unity of the gods is implied in the myths which are similar to the concept of marriage. Most of the cultures have multiple gods whose joint efforts led to the formation of the earth, sky and other aspects of nature. Others preferred just one single creator, and they are the ones with a monotheistic approach to religion. Many of the creation stories allude to a time when the whole earth was covered by water. Many of the myths have a supreme being doing something to the water to retrieve the earth and cause the growth and flourishing of the terrestrial creatures.
Creation myths of many traditional communities include animals playing an important role in the creation process. This is often a reflection of how the members of those communities feel about the animals. If the cultural group is dependent on animals for their sustenance, the more prominence such animals are given in their creation stories. The creation stories of many cultures view darkness with negativity and fear. The setting of the sun brings with it darkness, characterized by chaos and fears. The chaos and fear are often represented by fire whose potential for destruction is unlimited. Many creation myths contain an element of sin, which tries to explain the causes of disease, hunger, suffering and the other evils that plague humanity. Suffering is a consequence of sin. The creation stories give the man a special position in the hierarchy of creatures. There is a connection between human beings and the spiritual realm, which makes him superior to animals but inferior to gods. The myths contain explanations for the origins and formation of physical features such as the seas, rivers, mountains, and valleys found in the vicinity of the culture.
Creation myths have so many similar elements such that it is a task to point out their differences. The ancient creation myths present the supreme creator as a female. Most of the ancient creation stories such as the one of the Sumerian have a goddess, which is different from the conventional creation stories where the supreme creator is male. These are indicators that the ancient cultures were mostly matriarchal and something happened along the way that changed the societies into patriarchal ones. Another difference in the creation stories is the reliance on animal spirits in the traditional Native American and African cultures. In these cultures, the animals are given the same privilege and respect as humans in the creation stories. In Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, humans are given priority and considered special. However, the cultures that practice animism value animals just as much as humans.
Another difference in the creation myths is derived from the locality of the cultures that came up with them. Communities living in the deserts would have an explanation of how the winds and the sands were created while those in snowy areas, islands, coasts, and mountains would have their creation anchored on how those physical features came into existence. Differences in creation stories can be found in the way that the deities manifest themselves. In the monotheist cultures, there is only one God who is responsible for the creation of all things inclusive of the sky, the earth, the sun, moon, and all the stars. He is also responsible for creating all plant and animals. Humans are his best creation, and he has given them the responsibility of lording over the rest of the creation. The eastern cultures such as Hindu practice polytheism. In these cultures, the creation story is different, as it is the collaboration of different deities that brought nature into existence. Each aspect of the creation, whether physical or otherwise is under the control of a particular deity. The Nordic cultures also practiced polytheism.
Recurring Themes, Images, and Concepts
The recurring themes in the creation stories include spiritualism, an intelligent design, order, chaos, suffering, father and mother imagery, sin, evil and suffering. Spiritualism is evident in the sense that most of the creation myths attribute the existence of the world as having resulted from the actions of a supreme spiritual being whose nature has not been fathomed fully. The supreme being may or may not have helpers. The supreme being is capable of blessing the earth and humans and also capable of harming them should they not follow a set of rules given by the supreme being. The origin of the creation fables is human imagination after they were unable to account for their existence and that one of their environments. They concluded that there must be an intelligent being that put creation together to make it as amazing as it is. Even scientist admit that nature is programmed and arranged in a manner suggesting that an intelligent being might be behind it.
In the time before the creation of the universe, most myths explain that there was chaos that prevented any form of life from existing. However, the supreme being or beings who began the creation process ensured that there was an order that would be conducive for occurrence of life. The order is in the form of day and night and also the occurrence of different seasons that enable the environment to replenish itself. Father and mother imagery is mostly found in the traditional creation fables of the polytheist cultures. The copulation of these two resulted in the birthing of the world and everything in it. Sin is used to express the inherent imperfections and weakness of humans that result in them being out of tune with nature. Evil is to blame for calamities and suffering of humans and other cultures. Evil is usually pitted against the creator, with the assumption that the creator will always triumph.
Prevailing Theories on Why There Are So Many Similarities
One of the prevailing theories explaining why there are so many similarities in the creation myths of different cultures is that humans are by nature storytellers. This is one aspect that differentiates humans from all the other animals. The stories they tell are derived from their experiences and imaginations. When they fail to explain a particular concept such as creation, they derive imagery from their environment and use it to explain what existed before the earth, and how some divine being created it. As humans tend to behave the same way cognitively and psychologically, then they came up with creation fables that had similar elements.
The second possible theory that can explain the similarities is that humans were once living in the same locality. As they dispersed to go and form different communities and cultures, they carried the beliefs that they originally had and perpetuated them to later generations with alterations taking place in the process. A third theory that can try to explain the similarities is that there is an intelligent being who created the universe. The supreme being has manifested differently to various cultures, yet retaining the same basic characteristics.
Why Certain Theories Are Correct or Incorrect
The theory that humans were once living in the same locality has been proven scientifically. All humans are said to have originated in Africa. Therefore, that theory is valid to some degree. However, the existence of God has not been empirically proven. This inability to prove the existence of a spiritual being scientifically discounts that theory.
There are numerous similarities in the creation fables of the various cultures of the world. The differences are mostly regarding the understanding of the creator and the creation process. The creative nature of the minds of humans is expressed in the many creation accounts and their line of reasoning proven to be strikingly similar.