Creation myth, C. 5000 BCE by Unknown

A story that explains how humanity, life, and the universe came into existence

Hands of Adam and God, Sistine Chapel: (1508 - 1512), by artist Michaelangelo.

Hands of Adam and God, Sistine Chapel: (1508 - 1512), by artist Michaelangelo.

Creation myths, offering a traditional explanation for how the universe originated, exist across cultural boundaries and come in myriad forms, detailing the creation of everything from humans to animals to natural phenomena.They offer a range of explanations: stories of creation by a powerful maker (such as the Abrahamic religions), of the world being created from a primordial mother and father (such as the Babylonian myth "Enuma Elish”), origin from an ancient cosmic egg (found in the Hindu tradition), creation by divers who pull the earth out of a body of water (common in Native American folklore), and many others.

As humans evolved into modern Homo sapiens and their capacity to think and reason expanded, their thoughts turned to questions about their origins and how the world came to be. It is impossible to know when the first such tale was created as they all originate from prehistoric times and existed only as oral stories. However, the first known myths come from ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to around 5000 BCE. Many of the myths share common themes, images, or motifs, such as the existence ofdivine beings or spirits. They also reflect humanity’s understanding of nature, relating common experiences of birth, destruction, and death as they reflect on how it all came to be.

"Creation myths are the deepest and most important of all myths.” - Marie-Louise Von Franz, Creation Myths (1972)

Before scientific inquiry allowed humanity to shed light on the natural world, creation myths provided both answers and cultural foundations. Societies and religions identified themselves by such stories, and these cultural bonds and shared religious identities remain today as both unifying and destructive forces. 

Who created us? Why are we here? The crazy stories civilizations have used to answer these questions range from masturbating Gods to exploding cosmic eggs. Which civilization believed life on Earth started with a wave of period blood? 


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Article by Mark Theoharis. Mark is a writer and comer attorney living in Kansas, United States. He writes about legal issues for Law firm businesses, and professionals who need to reach lay audiences.

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