Creation myth

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A creation myth or creation story is a symbolic narrative of a culture, tradition or people that describes their earliest beginnings, how the world they know began and how they first came into it.[1][2][3] Creation myths develop in oral traditions,[2] and are the most common form of myth, found throughout human culture.[4][5] In the society in which it is told, a creation myth is usually regarded as conveying profound truths, although not necessarily in a historical or literal sense.[4] They are commonly, although not always, considered cosmogonical myths—that is they describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness.[6] They often are considered sacred accounts and can be found in nearly all known religious traditions.[7][8]

Several features are found in all creation myths. They are all stories with a plot and characters who are either deities, human like figures or animals who often speak and transform easily.[9] They are often set in a dim and nonspecific past, what historian of religion Mircea Eliade termed in illo tempore.[8][10] And all creation myths speak to deeply meaningful questions held by the society that shares them, revealing of their central worldview and the framework for the self-identity of the culture and individual in a universal context.[11]

Mythologists have applied various schemes to classify creation myths found throughout human cultures. Eliade and his student, Charles H. Long, developed a classification based on some common motifs that reappear in stories the world over. The classification identifies five basic types:[12]

  • Creation ex nihilo in which the creation is through the thought, word, dream or bodily secretions of a divine being
  • Earth diver creation in which a diver, usually a bird or amphibian sent by a creator, plunges to the seabed through a primordial ocean to bring up sand or mud which develops into a terrestrial world
  • Emergence myths in which progenitors pass through a series of worlds and metamorphoses until reaching the present world
  • Creation by the dismemberment of a primordial being
  • Creation by the splitting or ordering of a primordial unity such as the cracking of a cosmic egg or a bringing into form from chaos

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