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Cosmic Creation Myths Across Culture

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Two myths that I have chosen for my paper are on the Norse culture of Iceland Vikings and the Genesis creation of the Hebrew origin of Christian culture. Both creation myths begin with a void where chaos or conflict develops. The Norse myth narrates a conflict between the fiery realm or Muspell and the dark, cold realm of Niflheim within the emptiness called ginnungagap and where nothing could grow. The Genesis conflict was between God and nothing, loneliness, and the need to create something wonderful and beautiful. Genesis cosmogonies apply both the deus faber and ex nihilo motifs. In Genesis it often considered the ex nihilo myth, meaning “out of nothing” Genesis, of God’s creation in six days by speaking into existence light and darkness, sun and moon, stars and earth, plants and animals, and birds and fish. God then generates Adam in His image from the dust and breathes life into him and Eve was formed from one of Adam’s ribs. The Nordic creation myths tend to combine accretion/conjunction, secretion, and sacrifice motifs. It features the blending of fire and ice in a random joining of elements.

When the warm breath of Muspell meets the frost of arctic Nieflheim, ice melts and the resulting water drops come to life, creating the evil giant Ymir. As the giant sleeps, sweat from his armpits creates the first man and woman. The Norse culture is made up of what we call Vikings. They had a pantheon of 14 major gods and conceived the cosmos as divided into three levels: Asgard, Aesir, is the upper level and land of the major gods, fertility gods, and where light elves also lived. Midgard is the middle level where men, giants, dwarves, and dark elves lived. Niflheim is the lower level, better known as the underworld, where the evil dead died a second time in the fortress city of Hel. Yggdrasil is the enormous ash tree that apparently existed before the beginning. The Genesis creation myth is similar earth was shapeless, empty, void, and the darkness was covering the surface.

Although the Spirit of God was moving all around the surface of waters were preparing to fulfill God’s creative Word (Fairchild, 2013) in the beginning, God made the heavens and earth. The biblical authors anticipated the cosmos as a flat disc-shaped earth in the center, an underworld for the dead beneath, and heaven above. Beneath the earth were the “waters of chaos”, the enormous sea. The Greek gods were represented with beautiful bodies, where muscles, eyes, faces an hair would give them the most gorgeous appearance. Greek gods were named according to a place of a living or non-living things. God then began speaking his creation into existence. Day one, God made light and separated it from darkness, he called it light “day” and darkness “night.” Day two, God made the “sky” to divide the waters. On day three, God made the parched ground, calling it “land”, and putting all the waters, calling them “seas”. God made flowers and trees on the same day. “God created the sun, moon, and the stars to give light to the earth and to govern and separate the day and the night” on the fourth day (Fairchild, 2013).

These elements would also serve to establish days, seasons, and years. On the fifth day, God made every living thing of the seas and skies, sanctifying them to flourish. One the sixth day God made animals to fill the earth. Adam and Eve, were believed to be the first man and woman. “He blessed them and gave them every creature and the whole earth to rule over, care for, and cultivate” (Fairchild, 2013). The Norse story did not have one maker of good, but multiple elements and events that emerged from one evil giant in this creation myth. Ymir was malicious and wicked and when Odin and the other gods could no longer tolerate Ymir’s evil acts, they united to kill the giant. “Ymir’s huge body formed the earth, his blood became the sea, his flesh became the land, his bones the mountains and his hair the trees” (Distant Train, Inc., 2011).

The other gods and Odin shaped the sky with his skull, it was held up by four towering tall pillars. Odin created the sun and moon out of sparks of the fiery depths of Muspell and placed them in the sky. The ice began to melt in the new world of Ginnungagap from the illumination of the sun and moon and vegetation began to grow. Odin named the new world Midgard, meaning ‘The Middle Land’. Odin discovered two fallen trees, of ash and of elm, which he then extracted from the mud and shaped the first woman and man. “Odin breathed life into the beings, gave them reason and feelings, hearing and sight” (Distant Train, Inc., 2011). Similar to the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, Odin then called the man Ask and the woman Embla.


Fairchild, M. (2013, January 4). The Creation Story – Bible Story Summary. About.com Christianity. Retrieved from http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/p/creationstory.htm Leonard, S., & McClure, M. (2004). Myth & Knowing: An introduction to world mythology. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. Shmoop Editorial Team. (November 11, 2008).The Myth of Norse Creation Myth. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from http://www.shmoop.com/norse-creation-myth

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