Top 10 Myths About the Origin of the Earth

Since the beginning of time, humankind has tried to explain not just our presence on this planet, but also the creation of our beloved planet. Religions, beliefs, and cultures around the world have their own, unique perspective and theories about the creation of Earth. Each of them have their own mythology aiming to explain just how we came to be. Although there are hundreds of mythical explanations put forth by scores of belief systems, here are the top 10 most popular myths about the origin of the Earth.

1. Greek mythology: Creation myths

The earliest and most accepted account of the origin of the world, or “creation myths” as they are called, came from an ancient Greek philosopher named Hesiod, in his book, Theogony. The myth begins with Chaos, an eternally present nothingness, a void. From this void appears Gaia, or the Earth. Along with Gaia are other primary divine beings which appear as well, such as Eros (Love), the Tartarus (or the Abyss), and the Erebus (which is a part of the Underworld). Gaia gave birth to Uranus (the sky) independently, who then consummated with Gaia. Their union gave rise to 12 Titans, namely Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Hyperion, Iapetus and Oceanus as the male titans. The female titans were Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Theia, Themis and Tethis. After the birth of Cronus, the last and youngest of the Titans, came the one-eyed Cyclops and the Hecatonchires, or the Hundred-handed ones. On account of their monstrous tendencies, Uranus threw both Cyclops and the Hecatonchires into the Tartarus, or the Abyss. An infuriated Gaia then conspired to overthrow her husband, along with the assistance of Cronus. Cronus castrated and killed his father, and became the ruler of all the Titans with his sister-wife Rhea. Fearing his own children would overthrow him in the same manner, Cronus consumed every child Rhea gave birth to. Finally, Rhea had had enough, and when her sixth child was about to born, she wrapped a big stone in a blanket and fed it to Cronus in place of the child. The saved child grew up to be Zeus, the ultimate god of the Greek pantheon, who killed his father by mixing poison in his drink, leading Cronus to vomit out all the previously eaten children as well as the stone. After freeing the monsters from the Tartarus, Zeus eventually killed Cronus and became the topmost deity of the world.

2. Norse mythology 

Norse mythology is the mythology of the North Germanic people, mainly natives of Scandinavian countries which are Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Finland.  The story goes like this: prior to the existence of any kind of nature–soil, trees, sky–there existed a gaping, bottomless void, called Ginnungagap. Ginnungagap existed between the land of elemental fire, called Muspelheim, and the land of elemental ice, known as Niflheim. The vast and flowing fire from Muspelheim eventually met with the ice from Niflheim in the Ginnungagap, melting the ice after a substantial amount of explosive action. The melted ice formed drops which transformed themselves into Ymir, the first giant-god. Ymir was a hermaphrodite and thus did not need any other force to reproduce. From his sweat came more giants into existence. The ice continued to melt until a sacred cow, Audhumbla, was born. Ymir nurtured and nourished her with salt from the ice and she, in turn, fed him with her milk. Due to her licking, the ice eventually uncovered Buri, the first of the Aesir tribe of gods. Bor was Buri’s son who married Bestla, the daughter of the giant Bolthorn. The half-god, half-giant children of Bor and Bestla were Odin, Vili and Ve. Odin later the became the chief of the Aesir gods, slaying Ymir and constructing the world from his body. Ymir’s brain and skull became clouds and the sky respectively, while his muscles and skin fashioned the soil. Trees and other vegetation was created from his hair, and the oceans from the giant’s blood. The gods eventually created Ask and Embla, the first humans, and placed them in Midgard, or the Earth that they had created from Ymir’s corpse.

3. Indian mythology – Vedic creationism

Hindu/Vedic mythology has a number of explanations and creationist theories about the creation of the universe; a lot of them contradictory. However, the most commonly accepted story is that of Purusha. Purusha was the eternal, non-natural man, and much like Ymir in the Norse pantheon, the world was fashioned by the gods from his body. Natural forces such as air, water, fire, soil, the sky, the heavens, and also the geographical directions, animals and vegetation were made by the gods from the Purusha entity. Another theory suggests that the cosmos manifested from the Hiranyagarbha, or the cosmic golden egg. This egg is the soul of the universe, and floated in the abysmal darkness of the universe for about a year before splitting into two halves. These halves formed Swarga (heaven) and Prithvi (Earth) respectively.

4. Egyptian mythology

Like Indian mythology, Egyptian creationism, too, has multiple versions. However, for the sake of summarizing the myths, the most common elements present in these myths are as follows. All of them believe that the world arose from the lifeless waters of Nu, or chaos. The very first thing to emerge from the waters was a pyramid-shaped mound, called benben. Historians believe these beliefs are mostly centred around water and such waterlike bodies due to the flooding of the Nile river each year. Every time the Nile waters receded, it left only fertile soil behind, resulting possibly in the ancient Egyptian people believing in the power of water to give rise to the world and existence. The image of the pyramidal mound emerging from the receding water may also be suggestive of the mountains arising from the receding Nile river.

5. Native-American mythology – Apache tribal creationism

Much like most of the previous stories, Apache, a Native American tribe, believed in the idea of the world originating from darkness. In this darkness emerged a huge disc, which golden yellow on the eastern side and silvery white on the west. In the centre was a bearded entity, much like the Purusha, who created the world. His upwards vision gave birth to the sky filled with light, and when he looked down he created a sea full of light. From his sweat, came three other god-like entities, representing the Male, the Female, and the Sun.

6. Zimbabwean mythology

The creation myth from Zimbabwe, Africa, begins with a similar entity to that of Ymir and Purusha, named Modimo. Modimo represented everything that was good and righteous. However, he was a dual character, in the sense that he had the power to destroy everything and bring about natural disasters and devastation as well. When he was the entity of goodness, he resided in the east in the form of the element of water. When he was destructive, he resided in the west in the form of elemental fire. Modimo was the first presence and the only one to ever have existed. He was also the force responsible behind the creation of the earth, skies, clouds, soil, and vegetation.

7. Chinese mythology

Chinese mythology begins with the presence of a semi-divine entity called Pangu, who separated the cosmic world-egg called hundun into two parts, heaven and earth. This egg was filled with chaos for eighteen thousand years until they separated thanks to Pangu. Whatever was clear, transparent and clean became the Heaven, and whatever was soiled, muddy and sedimentary became the Earth.

8. Japanese mythology – Shinto creationism

According the Shinto religion of Japan, the universe was a misshapen mass of chaos and darkness at the very beginning. Eventually, the particles present in this began stirring, consequently creating a sound. With this sound, illumination and the lightest particles arose upwards. However, the lightest particles were not as swift as illumination, thus, they lagged behind. Thus, illumination resided at the topmost part of the Universe, whereas the lightest particles settled below it, forming the clouds and subsequently, the Heavens, called Takamagahara. The rest of the particles that were dense and heaviest stayed below, forming the Earth, soil, and vegetation.

9. Bantu tribal mythology

The Bantu tribal mythology stems from the Bantu tribes of Africa. In their belief system, animals and the universe are eternal. However, mankind is seen to have a beginning and a starting point. One of the common myths of this faith is that man came from a plant; he arose from a bamboo stem in Zulu Bantu tribes, whereas in Herere Bantu mythology, mankind evolved from a tree called Omumborombonga. A lot of other myths hold that man came from a cave, or a deep hole in the soil. It is interesting to note, that since these tribes were mainly primitive, it is not exactly inclusive of all kinds of man. For example, Bantu farmers that thrived on cattle believe that men and cattle appeared on the Earth together, while holding that every other living vreature has always been eternal, therefore, without origin.

10. Cherokee mythology

Another Native american tribe, the Cherokee creation myth believes that the Earth was once a vast, floating island surrounded on all sides by seawater and held up by the four cardinal points, namely East, West, North and South. One day, the sacred Little Water Beetle called Dayuni’si travelled from the heavens to the earth to see what was below the expanse of water. Since he could not find a solid place to top and catch his breath, he dove underwant and brought up soil which then expanded to create the Earth. The other animals in the heavens or the sky realm, known as Galunlati, wanted to come down and explore this newly made land for themselves. First, the birds flew down to check whether the soil was dry. However, they soon got tired and their giant wings brushed against the smooth surface of the damp soil, forming mountains and valleys. Finally, when it was dry, the rest of the animals were called to settle on the land. It was too dark, therefore they set the sun to run on a track from east to west, so as regulate it’s heat.

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