Throughout history, civilizations have written different legendary interpretations that have given rise to the most widespread cosmogony and cosmogonic myths of the world . Mythology is nothing more than the attempt of men to explain the universe and the origin of existence. From these cosmogonies we have inherited several explanations that convey to us very varied ideas of the meaning of the world.
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Definition of cosmogony
Cosmogony is the part of mythological and legendary narratives that deals with explaining the creation of the world. While myths were the symbolic description of those phenomena for which civilizations had no answer, explaining the mystery of how the universe and the earth were created became one of the main tasks of mythology.
The cosmogonies share some common elements: they start from nothing and darkness to explain, in different ways , the creation of the sky, the seas, the earth, and what inhabits them . The cosmogony that is best known to us is the Judeo-Christian (Genesis). Here we narrate another six corresponding to six historical civilizations.
6 cosmogonic myths about the creation of the world
There are many interpretations about the origin of the world and the universe, and each one of them carries a symbology and a meaning. Let’s see some of the most interesting:
1. Greek cosmogony
In the western world, apart from the Judeo-Christian explanation of the origin of the world, the Greek cosmogony is the most widespread. This is based on the mythology of Ancient Greece and has reached our days in numerous writings, although the main reference is undoubtedly Hesiod’s Theogony.
The tradition of the archaic Greeks tells that the state preceding existence is Chaos.. Gea (the Earth) and the underworld represented by Tartaro are born from him. Night (Nix) and Day (Hemera) also appear.
Thanatos (death), Hypnos (sleep) and Moors (destiny) are born from Nix, in addition to other divinities that represented envy, revenge, violence, anguish and deception , among others.
In an asexual way, Gaia had as offspring Uranus, the Sky that gives shelter to the gods, and Pontus, the seas . From her union with Uranus himself were born the Titans and the Titanides, who represented the rivers, intelligence, light, mortal life, time, herds, memory, languages, justice, and fertility among others.
- To know more: Greek Gods: 12 names, myths and mythology.
One of the best known cosmogonic myths of Greek cosmogony is the one that tells of the dispute between Uranus and Chronos. Uranus had predicted that one of Cronus’ children was called to dethrone him, so he ate all of his children, one by one, as they were born.
His wife Rhea, angry, decided to secretly give birth to one of his children, Zeus, who became the god of Lightning and Olympus. Zeus freed his brothers from the bowels of Cronus and declared war on the old generation of Titans.
Zeus stands victorious in the War of the Titans and together with his brothers Hades and Poseidon the sky, the seas and the underworld are shared. From there, the reproduction of the divine lineage was centered on the figure of Zeus himself.
2. Egyptian cosmogony
It is one of the most complex cosmogonies due to its diversity: there were several explanations scattered throughout the empire , which were unified until they led to two great mythologies, that of Heliopolis (physical explanation) and that of Hermopolis (version spiritual).
According to the Heliopolitan cosmogony, the most accepted in Egypt, the precedent of existence is an aqueous chaos formed by cloudy water that contains the germ of life. Through it emerge the mountains and the different geographical accidents. At the top of the central hill stands the egg from which the Sun was born.
In the narrative the god of creation is Ra, who creates Heaven and Earth and all existing life forms. He does it through his mouth (by the mere fact of mentioning them) but also through masturbation , as Ra himself proclaims in the Egyptian book of creation.
- To know more: Egyptian Gods: 10 names, myths and mythology.
This is how the nine gods of the cosmogony of Heliopolis are configured , which together with Ra make up Shu (the air), Tefnut (humanity), Geb (Earth), Nut (celestial bodies), and their four children Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys.
According to Hermpolitan cosmogony there are eight divinities that form four couples and act together . The first couple is Naun and Naunet (chaos), followed by Heh i Heket (infinite space), Kuk i Kauket (darkness) and Nia and Niat (life). These divinities represent the principle of life, the essential.
From the action of these four elements appears the first hill on which rests the egg of the sun that gives rise to creation.
3. Celtic myths
The Celtic cosmogony is probably the most linked to its territorial origin of all the mythological explanations about the origin. More than trying to explain the creation of the world, it tries to narrate how Ireland, the cradle of Celtic civilization, was created .
Legend has it that life arose from Nothingness (Annwn), in a preexisting state of emptiness called Manred. The first beings on earth were the giants of the sea , with a terrifying appearance (they had only one leg, one hand and one eye on their forehead) and supernatural powers. The Fomore came to the land called Ireland committing the worst misdeeds with infinite cruelty.
Later Partholan arrived with his wife Dalny and a communityof 24 men and 24 women who waged a 300-year struggle against the Famore giants while expanding the land and lakes for their livelihood. However, a pandemic swept through the lineage of the Partholians.
Thirty years later the Nemedios would arrive in several boats, only one of which was saved. Their patriarch Nemed, along with 4 men and 4 women, again defied the Fomore who had returned to Ireland. Once again, having conquered the land, they perished in a plague, and only years later their descendants Firbolg and Tautha (Danaans) managed to return to defend it from the giants.
Between the Danaans and the Fomore a final war was waged that ended withthe victory of the Danaans thanks to the contest of the divinity Lugh (god of light ). Since then the two Irelands are created, the material one, populated by the Danaans and their descendants, and the spiritual one, with the performance of the divinities.
4. Mayan mythology
The Book of Popol Vuh tells that at the beginning everything was silence and calm . In the midst of the most absolute darkness, the gods of Creation called Tepeu and Gucumatz lay crouched covered with blue and green feathers.
Legend has it that the two met at the edge of the night and made the decision to create man with the first light of day .
First they ordered the waters to recede and the land to emerge, that the sky cleared up and the mountains, the valleys, the rivers and the trees appeared. And so the Heaven that was previously in suspense and the Earth that was submerged before were united.
Secondly, the creator gods formed the animals: the quadrupeds, the birds, the reptiles. They gave them a place to live and commanded them to worship them , but they could not speak, only cackle, and so they created man.
According to the myth of the Mayans, the first man was created from clay, but he was weak and although he could speak, he could not think. After destroying them, they created the wooden man , whose ingenuity was still insufficient, and ordered the flood for his annihilation.
It was then that they created man from an ear of corn.At birth, the first four men thanked the gods, but they knew and could see too much, which limited their knowledge.
Then the woman was created, and this is how Pol Vuh’s book concludes one of the great myths about the creation of the world, so that men have more understanding than animals but without supplanting the divinity of the gods .
5. The Chinese cosmogony myth
So far we have seen cosmogonies related to divinity, but there are other types of myths that explain the origin of the world through chance , such as the Chinese cosmogony.
The precedent of the current world, according to the Chinese, was a large black egg in which the god Pangu slept.in a long lethargy of 18,000 years. Upon awakening, he broke the egg with an ax and the pieces of the shell dispersed, while the white of the egg ascended forming the heavens. In the yolk the Earth was formed.
The Chinese myth of creation resorts to the dualistic explanation of the world, because within the egg that formed the universe in the beginning lived the Yin and the Yang: good and evil, cold and heat, the masculine and the feminine, the light and the dark. And it is the struggle of opposites that makes Pangun definitely wake up.
Chinese legend says that Pangu’s body remained between heaven and earth for another 18,000 years. His head was in the sky, his feet on the ground, and only when he died exhausted by the effort, his body gave rise to the rest of the elements of creation.
From Pangu’s breath came the wind and the clouds, and from his voice the thunder. His eyes were the sun and the moon. The stars were created with his hair and his beard. Her arms and his legs formed the mountains , and his blood bathed the rivers and oceans. From his veins spread the roads and his muscles created the fertile land.
Human beings are the fleas that inhabited Pangun’s body.
6. Scandinavian mythology
As in most myths about the creation of the world, the Germanic Scandinavian peoples of what is now northern Europe believed that in the beginning there was only darkness.
According to the Voluspa, a book that collects the Nordic cosmogony, the north was a kingdom of ice and mist, clouds and shadows, called Niflheim, while the south was a land of fire called Muspelheim. Nothing reigned in the middle, the void , in the kingdom of Ginnungapap.
The Nordic legend says that in the northern kingdom there was a natural source of icy waters that flowed into the Ginnungapap, until it was filled with ice. In Muspelheim the embers of fire jumped and when they fell on the frozen ground of Ginnungapap they formed clouds of steam. These, on their way north, were melting the frozen waters from which the giant Ymir, the first living being on earth, and the cow Audumla, who suckled the giant, were born.
From the marriage of Bestla (daughter of Ymir) and Bor (grandson of Audmula) were born the three gods, Odin, Vili and Va, who exterminated the giants. The body of the giant Ymir was brought to the surface of the overflowing waters after the thaw ; and thus the earth was created: his bones were the mountains, and his blood the oceans. With his hair the trees were created, and his skull was used to build the vault of the heavens, whose darkness was illuminated by Muspelheim’s embers turned into stars.
From the trunks of two inert trees Odin created men , to whom the rest of the gods gave understanding, soul and beauty.
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