World Civilizations

The Darkness, the Water, and Breath:
Ancient Birth of the World Mythology

The first step is to analyze the three creation myths assigned, Hebrew, Babylonian and Indian. As you read, look for common themes and symbols, including but not limited to water, breath, darkness. Look for elements which appear in some tales, and not others, such as violence, or blood sacrifice. Look for basic understanding of God and the earth which is implied in each story. Is God a person-figure or a force? Is he/she/it capable of movement, action? Do the God or Goddess figures appear to be benevolent, malicious, or capricious? As you think about these questions while you read and take careful notes, consider what you have learned about the cultures which produced these myths. Does their geography and history offer you any insight into their perception of God and the world around them? Can you incorporate these insights into your paper?

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Genesis-The Hebrew Creation Myth
Text with notes. If you want to learn more about Robert Alter's highly regarded new translation of Genesis published by W.W. Norton in 1996,
The Rig Veda -Indian (S.E. Asia) Creation Myth
Text with notes. 10:129. Primordial chaos, organization.
The Rig Veda -Indian (S.E. Asia) Creation Myth
Text with notes. 10:90. Primordial sacrifice, creation of man, animals, social structure.
Enuma Elish -Babylonian Creation Myth
Nice introduction, with footnotes. However, no return to text key, so you'll have to do some scrolling. Other versions are available at Grimoire and St. Joseph's University.
Now, choose a few more myths to round out your study. Try myths from Africa, Japan, or Pre-Columbian America to get a more global picture. Do these myths have mention the themes you have identified? Which themes? Do you have any ideas about why these themes might be occuring?

From Primitives to Zen, by Mircea Eliade.
This collection of creation stories represents cultures from all over the world. Here are just a few of the cultures you can sample from this work:

Now, you've read through several (at least five) creation myths. You have taken careful notes and observed some similarities and differences. Choose three or four of the most prevalent and interesting themes, and organize your paper around your choices. Construct a thesis sentence which incorporates the elements you've chosen (such as water, darkness, blood, gender, or even geography) and make some conclusion about what you've learned. What does your study teach us about humanity? Prove your claim or conclusion by supporting it with evidence from your readings.

Possible themes:
Female role in creation--does she or doesn't she?
The unmoved mover, who started it all?
Birth and death metaphors in creation myths
Geography's effects on creation stories

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World Civilizations

RESEARCH: Ralph'sWorld Civilizations
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Last revised January 29, 1997.
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