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A Comparative Analysis of Global Creation Cosmology

Updated on December 27, 2016
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J. Schatzel works in agricultural/occupational medicine in rural upstate NY and has a Masters degree in history.

Haudenosaunee, Babylonian, Mandingo, and Hindu Comparisons

Throughout the world people of different regions have used different stories to explain the creation of the earth and the creatures that inhabit it. The Haudenosaunee, Babylonians, Mandingos, and Hindus have preserved their creation cosmologies which use similar elements of the same interactions between the natural and the supernatural. The stories of the Haudenosaunee Native American Sky Woman, Hindu Indian Rig Veda, Mandingo African Red Corn, and Babylonian Assyrian Eridu all contain similar stories of the earth’s creation in stages in which the supernatural molds the natural in a struggle between good and evil forces.

These stages are most closely aligned with the Haudenosaunee creation story in the Hindu story of the Rig Veda, in which the earth and its inhabitants are created in four stages. Just as the sky and area beneath it are barren of human life beneath Sky World in the Haudenosaunee creation story (Porter 48), the Rig Veda tells the vivid story of the earth and sky existing in the beginning without human inhabitants. In the Rig Veda story, earth and sky connect and thus the sky is impregnated with the deities of the Hindu faith. The deities then create water to inhabit the earth to make it habitable for other creatures (Brown, 56), and continue their role in creation by creating humans out of clay after populating the earth with creatures (Bayer, 324). Likewise, the Taoist creation cosmology which preceded the Rig Veda entitled “The Parting of the Way” argues that the heavens existed preceding the chronological creation of earth, earth’s ten thousand creatures, and human beings (Welch, 53). In the Haudenosaunee creation story in which Sky Woman falls to the turtle’s back from the hole beneath the Great White Pine in Sky World, the landscape to which she falls contains only water and no land (Porter, 48). Similarly, the Taoist creation story tells of an earth upon which “the world became a vast ocean, and at last dust and sand rose to cover the ocean surface and become earth” (Bayer, 328).

“When you go back to those people in Africa and China or in white Europe, wherever you can find some of the original teachings left, there are universal truths” (Porter, 41). One of these universal truths that can be found within multiple global creation stories is the struggle between good and evil forces. Just as the good twin and his brother duel throughout the Haudenosaunee creation story (Porter, 61), the Rig Veda explains that all elements of nature are either good or bad, and the two opposing forces are “in a natural state of enmity with one another” (Brown, 85). In Hindu creation cosmology perpetuated through the Rig Veda, “there is duality in all that is created; beauty is tempered by ugliness, joy with suffering” (Bayer, 325). Even in Babylonian creation stories such as the Assyrian Creation Myth of Eridu there is a struggle between good and evil forces exhibited through the epic struggles of Aspu and Tiamat; opposing sibling deities creating alternating creatures to inhabit earth “as an architecht builds a house” (Jastrow, 88), systematically creating beings in opposition to one another.

Another of the universal truths addressed by many global creation cosmologies is the importance of the foods necessary for sustenance. Just as the Haudenosaunee creation story emphasizes the origin of the Three Sisters (Porter, 58) including an emphasis on the importance of corn to the Haudenosaunee, the African Mandingo (hereafter referred to as Mande as the preferred title of the Mande people) Creation Myth emphasizes the importance of maize to the Mande people. The Mande creation story tells of the creation and importance of Red Corn which came first, and of the other types of corn which followed it (Jeffreys, 292). As a provider for the people, maize is emphasized for its importance in both the Haudenosaunee and Mande creation stories. The figure of a “Mother Earth” provider figure is another universal truth which permeates country boundaries and appears in numerous global creation cosmologies. The Haudenosaunee creation story makes many references to Mother Earth as the woman who brought the three sisters and other sustenance to earth to provide for humans (Porter, 58).

Similarly, the Taoist creation story “The Parting of the Way” refers to the Mother Earth figure as the “Mother Way” (Welch, 55) which provided a means of creation for the ten thousand creatures of earth and the humans who followed them in the order of creation. As stated in the Rig Veda tradition which followed the Taoist creation story, “there was something formlessly fashioned, that existed before heaven and earth; without sound, without substance, dependant on nothing, unchanging, all pervading, unfailing. One may think of it as the Mother of all things under Heaven” (Welch, 53). Reflecting the matriarchic nature of Hindu tradition and the value of women in Hindu society, the gender assignment of this Mother Earth figure as female and maternal echoes the Haudenosaunee’s elevated status of women within the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

Also along the lines of guardian figures, the Haudenosaunee creation story explains the position of the good twin as the “eldest brother” and guardian of living beings (Porter, 76). Similarly, the Babylonian epic entitled “Creation Myth of Eridu” places the good brother Aspu in a position of being the guardian of mankind following his triumph over his evil brother Tiamat; serving as a “representative of law and order” (Jastrow, 415). Likewise, the Hindu Rig Veda contains a struggle between good and evil forces that results in a good force named “Indra” taking the position of the male guardian figure of living beings. Under his guardianship, the living beings on earth experienced Indra’s protective forces, shown through such psalms of the Rig Veda as those stating “He who steadied the wavering earth, who stabilized the quaking mountains, who measured out the wide expanse of the atmosphere, who fixed a support for heaven…” etcetera (Brown, 28).

Another similarity between global creation cosmologies is the representation of a serpent as a demonic or dangerous figure. While the serpent is depicted as a “Horned Serpent” (Cornplanter, 60) aimed at causing harm to humans in the Haudenosaunee creation story, It is similarly depicted as a creature of deceit associated with pandemonium and demons in the Hindu Rig Veda (Brown, 88). Upon a reflection of the environment in which the Haudenosaunee and Hindus live, the temperate climates with an abundance of water seem to regard serpents as demonic; whereas the more barren environments of the Mande and Assyrian people might be more conductive to a portrayal of serpents as a sign of water (and thus a sign of precious growth and fertility). Although the Mande and Assyrian creation cosmologies offer no representation of serpents in either a positive or negative light, their failure to regard serpents as demonic creatures seems to echo the more desolate environments in which they had traditionally resided.

Throughout the world people of different geographical areas have used different stories to explain the creation of the earth and the creatures that inhabit it. The Haudenosaunee, Babylonians, Mandingos, and Hindus have orally passed down their creation cosmologies which use similar elements of the same interactions between the natural and the supernatural. As shown through an analysis of their written format, the stories of Sky Woman, Rig Veda, “The Parting of the Way”, Red Corn, and Eridu all contain similar stories of earth’s creation in stages in which the supernatural molds the natural in a struggle between good and evil forces. The reinforcement of similar themes throughout these stories reflects the presence of universal truths which echo the environments and resulting cultural beliefs of the people who have perpetuated them.

Sources

Bayer, Nassen. “Mongol Creation Stories: Man, Mongol Tribes, the Natural World, and Mongol Deities”. Asian Folklore Studies. Vol. 51. No. 2. pp. 323-334

Brown, Norman “The Creation Myth of the Rig Veda” Journal of the American Oriental Society Vol. 62, No.2, June 1942 pp.85-98

Brown, Norman. “Theories of Creation in the Rig Veda”. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 85. No. 1 March 1965. pp.23-34

Cornplanter, Jesse J. Legends of the Longhouse. I.J. Friedmen. ON. 1963

Jastrow, Morris. Et. Al. Aspects of Religious Belief & Practice in Babylonia and Assyria. Blom Inc. USA. 1971

Jeffreys, M.D.W. “Maize and the Mande”. Current Anthropology, Vol.12, No.3, June 1971. pp.291-320

Porter, Tom. And Grandma Said; Iroquois Teachings as Passed Down Through the Oral Tradition. Xlibris Corporation. USA 2008

Welch, Holmes. Taoism: the Parting of the Way. Beacon Press. 1957 pp. 53-58

Special Thanks

Special Thanks to my husband, for enabling my historical explorations!
Special Thanks to my husband, for enabling my historical explorations!

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