Where did we come from and how did we get here?

The answer to life’s most fundamental question may remain unknown, but that doesn’t stop narratives from telling of the world’s beginning and how man came to be.

Neither proved right or wrong, creation myths have been passed down person to person, across generations and cultures since the beginning of time.

Some speak of birth and a Supreme Being while others say the elements formed life. Even stories from the same cultural origins have different versions and interpretations.

He The Creator

Christian, Jewish, and Islamic faiths share a common creation story.

In the Book of Genesis, God says “let there be light” and in six days he creates the sun, moon, land and sky and all living creatures.

He tells all to “be fruitful and multiply.” Another adaptation goes on to speak of God creating Adam, the first man, out of the earth’s dust.

He then created a female companion out of Adam’s rib who was given the name Eve, meaning mother of all living.

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Adam and Eve lived happily in God’s Garden of Eden until one day, a serpent who lived in the tree of forbidden fruit, persuaded the humans to eat an apple. As God had forbidden them to touch this fruit, their disobedience brought the awareness of good and evil in the world.

A Balanced Beginning

In one of the Chinese creation myths, first, there was a cosmic egg made up of two balanced opposites: yin and yang.

The egg held P’an Ku, the divine embryo. P’an Ku grew until the egg could not hold him, causing the shell to burst. So P’an Ku went to work right away making the world, with a hammer in hand. He dug out valleys, made way for rivers, and piled up mountains.

But the earth was not complete until passed away. It wasn’t until death that his flesh became soil and his bones the rocks. His eyes became the sun and moon and his head the sky.

From what was once his sweat and tears was now rain and the fleas that covered his body became mankind.

The Sacrifice

The earliest Vedic text in the Hindu religion, the Rig Veda, tells the tale of Purusha. He who had a thousand heads, eyes, and feet could envelop the earth with his fingers.

The gods sacrificed Purusha and his body turned to butter, transforming into animals, elements, the three gods Agni, Vayu, and Indra, and even the four castes of Hindu society.

Later on, a different interpretation developed that spoke of the trinity of creation. Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer makes a universal cycle of the world’s beginning and end.

Water of Life

The ancient Egyptians had numerous creation myths that all begin with the chaotic waters of Nun.

Atum, while considered genderless, appeared as the first god or goddess. It is said he created himself from his thoughts and will. From the dark waters of Nun, emerged a hill for Atum to stand upon.

This is where he made Shu, the god of air and Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. Shu and Tefnut created Geb, the earth, and Nut, the sky.

And from Ged and Nut came even more gods and goddesses. While the world’s order formed over time, Shu and Tefnut got lost in darkness.

Atum sent his all-seeing eye to search for them and upon their return, he wept tears of joy. The tears struck the earth and turned into the first men.

Three Tries

A Mayan creation story tells the tale of Tepeu, the maker, and Gucumatz, the feathered spirit.

After the two built the world with their thoughts, they decided they needed beings to look after their earth and to praise them for their creation.

First, they made animals from birds and snakes to deer and panthers but realized these creatures could not communicate their admiration. They had to produce another kind of being that was capable of worshiping them.

“They first created man from wet clay but when he tried to speak, he crumbled apart .”

They first created man from wet clay but when he tried to speak, he crumbled apart. In a second attempt, they made men out of wood and while they could talk, they were empty-headed and empty-hearted, producing words with no meaning behind them.

The third time around, they made four men out of the white and yellow corn. To their satisfaction, these men could think and feel and speak words out of love and respect. To ensure the human race continued, the gods created women as their mates and so mankind lived on.

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All around the world, creation myths help us make sense of man’s origin.

While many variations exist, these stories have built the foundation of the world’s largest religions and cultures.

There may not be a universal understanding but these legends, true or false, are the real roots of society today.


*This article was originally published at channel.nationalgeographic.com By Angie Shumov.