Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

1 March, 2012

In the Beginning

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

In the beginning, there was nothing, only a great void, empty and lifeless. Then, at either end of it, two realms were created; one of smoke and ashes and ever-burning fires, the other of cold and snow and never-melting ice. The ice from the cold realm spread into the void which remained between the two, and there it met sparks from the realm of fire which melted it, and from the meeting of the two forces, a giant was born. And a cow. The cow provided him with milk, and fed itself on the salt stones from the cold realm. As it licked at a stone, a man appeared from within it, and came to life. He had a son, presumably with one of the creatures created from the giant’s sweat, who again had three sons. These three killed the great giant, plopped his corpse down in the void, and created the world from it – mountains from his bones, soil from his flesh, and the sky from his skull, that sort of thing. Finally, they took two logs of lumber, and made them into a man and a woman, and got the human race started as well.

I am currently reading a book which contains creation myths from various cultures all over the world. Not full holy books or epics, just salient excerpts concerning the creation of the world, the world order and mankind. The one I just recounted, as I’m sure you sussed out somewhere around the second sentence, is the Norse creation story, taken from Gylfaginning, a charming tale of a Swede getting swindled – just the sort of reading we like here in Norway. Though it would have been even better if he was a Dane.

In the beginning, the Plough married the Earth, and they had the Sea and the Cattle God. Then the Earth seduced the Cattle God, who killed his father and married his sister, the Sea, and had the God of the Herd, who also killed his father, and then married his mother (the Sea), who then killed her mother (the Earth), and they had a son who married his sister, the River, and killed both his father and his mother, and had the Shepherd God who married his sister, Graze-and-Poplar, and I think you see where this is going.

Ancient Babylonia was a bloody soap opera. I’m not really sure what lessons that particular tale of a generational bloodshed that puts the House of Atreus to shame imparts, but I am sure the ancient Babylonians saw their society reflected in it somehow. Mythology fascinates me, both the phenomenon as an expression of human culture and what it says about both the culture and humanity in general, and frequently also as stories in their own right. And what story could be more intriguing than the start of everything? As someone who endeavours to write his own stories, getting under the skin of the oldest and truest ones can only be a good thing.

In the beginning, there was nothing, which exploded.

OK, that one’s not in my book, that’s a Pratchett quote, and while I don’t mean to say that the scientists who work with this particular area don’t know what they’re talking about, I do think that the idea of the Big Bang has become a pretty much mythical event in the popular conciousness. Pop culture is, in a way, the mythology we produce in this day and age. I doubt there are many outside the labs who actually understand everything  about the theory; I am certainly not one of them.

In the beginning, the Earth fell from the sky – stones and mountains and soil and water plummeting down from the great Above to settle down here and into the shape of the world. From the soil, plants grew, and people too sprouted from the earth as little children, feeding of the soil. A man and a woman appears to give them clothes. As they grew up and became many, they cried out for dogs, and dogs appeared from the earth as well. Then people learned how to die, and society could get started.

That tale from Greenland is so refreshingly straightforward and unconcerned; I think it is my favourite so far, but there’s no guarantee it won’t have to share the limelight. I’m not very far into the book yet. I’m still at the beginning.


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