MYTHS OF CREATION
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from the Greek γόνος :
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* H I E R O -
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* D E L U G E *
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* C A T A -
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- C L Y S M *
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* D E B A C L E *
* E K P Y R O S I S *
from the Greek ἐκπύρωσις
* I G N I S
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“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice ...”
— Robert Frost
It was universal to all mythopoeic peoples that the Earth was under the sway of different planets during different Ages; and many ancient myths detailed how these successive Ages were initiated by certain appearances or manifestations of particular planets — such as reoccurring interplanetary conjunctions or even the appearance of multiple sun-stars seen in the sky all at once.
But the cosmovisions under consideration here were not concerned with Astronomical forces alone. In all mythopoeic communities people commonly and customarily associated happenstances in the sky above directly with those transpiring in the terrestrial world below; — and invariably portrayed our present world as having only recently emerged from the aftermath of a battle among cosmic forces; — universally maintaining that violent changes in the natural order of planet Earth itself had always accompanied the turning over of previous World Ages as well.
Geophysical, atmospheric and climatological phenomena, as such (including traditional interpretations of natural events as supernatural incidents), account for an equally substantial portion of the most commonplace themes and tropes in all peoples’ traditional mythic histories.
Creation stories in both primitive and advanced cultures also frequently spoke of the act of creation as a refashioning of planet Earth out of raw, rough-hewn material already preexisting prior to the new creative activity taking place.
— Whereas, creation ex nihil (”out of nothing”), on the other hand, was a theme rarely, if ever attested at all; — indeed, the very concept seems to have been practically unknown in the ancient world at large. It was not present, for instance, in Babylonian, Egyptian, or Greek cosmogonies in the East; nor in any of the old Native American traditions in the West; nor in any of those recovered from further abroad; — and its attested presence among Iranian and Hindu thinking, much like that ascribed to Hebrew accounts of origin, may indeed be interpreted quite differently vis a vis the broader global picture under scrutiny here. . . .
Nor, in most mythological schemes, was this refashioning of the physical substance of the cosmos the property of a singular masculine god alone. . . .
In one of the most commonly attested mythos, the world was described as the progeny of Primordial Parents Mother Earth and Father Sky, who together comprised an older creation’s compact wholeness prior to the appearance of any of the astral gods, at a time when heaven and earth were not yet completely separated, and darkness and light were still chaotically intermingled.
In all cases, a violent disruption of the formerly close-fitting union of the primal parents was catalyzed by the sudden antagonistic theophany (or hierophany) of one or more astral deities — who were themselves just as often regarded as Sky and Earth’s own rebellious offspring, until then still tightly situated between the two; — and who, in search of more room for themselves (and thus a different orientation in space), caused the Sky above to recede in a blaze of upspringing light and the Earth below to come into full bloom with a new Creation of her own making.
In other closely related instances, Creation was said to be derived from the hatching of a Cosmic or World Egg.
— Similar to the separation that ensued between the preceding cosmogonic unity of the World Parents, the cracking open of the cosmogonic Egg was seen as the breaking open of the ‘mundane shell’ of the Sky over the Earth, as well as the climactic incipience of a new Creation here below.
Also equally common to practically all polyarchal religious systems were folk-histories of major natural disasters that directly affected ancient societies on a catastrophic scale. — A diverse variety of these phenomena are prominently described in traditional Myths of Creation —typically cast in terms of supernatural characters and actions.
In many early societies Creation Myths commonly ascribed the unevenness of the landscape, the upraising of hills and mountains, earthquakes, landslides, volcanic eruptions and other related forms of geological upheavals to ancient mishaps or the intentional undertaking of powerful malignant forces.
In some cases, the sudden outpouring of violence that was unleashed upon the World was said to have been powerful enough to plunge entire continents beneath the waves — and tip once warm and fertile regions of the globe into realms of deathly ice and snow.
In other related mythos, intense rainfall, hefty hailstones, volcanic ashfall, torrential winds or debris from tornadoes and waterspouts provoked perceptions of the Sky falling, with the world being destroyed by a rain of burning hot stones, killing all but one couple or a small handful of survivors, from whom a new generation was subsequently sprung.
The associated notion of a period of cold Chaotic wet darkness is another familiar archaic trope found in almost all parts of the world. Such periods of intense darkness were likewise held to be the outcome of several phenomena, including solar eclipses, dust storms, smoke from large-scale fires, or volcanic ash plumes.
In the most extreme renditions, a continuous winter was held to have covered the whole world with snow and ice, destroying almost all life in the process.
Of particular interest are Creation Myths describing catastrophic devastation caused by Floods and/or Firestorms.
A great worldwide Flood — by far the most prevalent type of creative destruction in all peoples’ mythos — was regularly singled out as being among the earliest — and deadliest — cosmogonic disasters; — and furthermore, it was nearly universal doctrine that the Earth had already been destroyed two or three times by global Floods before.
In most of the myths, these Floods reoccurred periodically throughout a longer, more complex series of cosmogonic events; — and in many traditions the final Flood was identified as being one of the last or most recent events in the same sequence of global catastrophes — and as such was commonly held to have initiated the present World Age in which we now still live.
We may further subdivide the theme of the World Flood into two major types:
When the Flood took the form of exceptionally heavy rainfall inundating the entire world or major regional portions of the planet, the rains from the heavens (possibly caused by anomalies in the atmosphere) were most often accompanied by fluvial flooding, a rapid rise of the global sea level, large-scale silting of the seas, and the flowing forth of subterranean waters, as well.
2) Cataclysm (or Debacle)
A second type of Flood disaster found in various traditions were events forced by the sudden release of gigantic quantities of water from ice-clogged glacial lakes, or the breaking loose of sediment dams in submarine landslides.
Other coastal destructions, primarily attributed to tsunamis, may have been born out of an earthquake at sea, a volcanic eruption, or even the oceanic impact of large meteorites.
Floods, however, were not the only catastrophe with which the gods repeatedly threatened to annihilate all life on Earth.
In many peoples’ mythos the Flood is also associated with other scourges, especially the widespread burning of the Earth in large-scale Firestorms ....
Volcanic eruptions, infalls of burning debris, or stupendous outbreaks of lightning were also said to have triggered uncontrollable conflagrations.
But many peoples’ mythos also spoke of ‘ignis coelis’ - firestorms or pouring torrents of flame descending in blasts from the heavens in concert with erratic movements of the planets, which quickly sparked large-scale holocausts on the ground as well.
In most cases, catastrophes like these were immediately followed by a swift climatological downturn, accompanied by widespread wasteland conditions of virulent plague, famine and terrible drought.
All in all, each disaster was viewed as a distinct event separated by lengthy periods of time — a sequence of World Ages punctuated by periodic Floods and Fires, customarily described as being instigated by disastrous conjunctions among cosmic powers at war in the skies above.
And in each instance, when geophysical upheavals, floods and fires overturned the old world, the ensuing destruction always preceded the creative refashioning of a new world, as well as the genesis of a new generation of man in a subsequent season of prolific regreening as the new world restabilized.
This led some cultures to view such catastrophes as forms of heaven-sent “purifications” preceding the consequent rebirth and renewal of a new Earth in a new Age.
Another related mythic theme concerned a World Tree, cosmic pillar or pole that supported the Sky above and sent nourishment down through its roots to Earth below — which was often enough referenced first in connection with the cosmogonic separation of Sky and Earth, and the first actual appearance of the wrathful astral deities who served as the willful agents of their world-changing severance.
— A similar, if not identical, trope spoke of two visibly lit axis poles standing due North and South, bending away from the Sun both above and below the Earth at times when the world turned ‘topsy-turvy’ and upset the usual course of the sun, moon and stars.
This has led some cosmologists to consider the possibility that global cataclysmic fluctuations — such as the types of geophysical upheavals, floods and fires from myth referenced above — could have in fact been brought about by either:
1) a Gyroscopic pole shift
(a temporary tilting or tumble of the Earth about its rotational axis, which remained fixed); or
2) an Astronomical pole shift
(a sudden change in the tilt of the Earth’s rotational axis itself, which would result in the physical globe of the Earth turning over permanently).
— Either way, such a scenario would also lead to a sudden shifting of the positions of the stars, especially those circling around the northern & southern celestial poles.
By the same token, Creation Myths concerning the sudden displacement of the circumpolar stars formed such an integral part of our forebears’ mythopoeic heritage, it may be easily suggested that these tropes refer back to something once commonly observed by all these cultures all around the globe. . . .