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Science & The Supernatural: A Discussion of the World Around us - Based on Science with an Interest in the Supernatural ...
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 Post subject: Creation-Myth Motifs
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2009, 21:06 
Guardian of the East

Joined: 22 Dec 2008, 02:47
Posts: 589
In Scott Leonard's book Myths and Religion (online as pdf) is some discussion of various classifications of creation-myth motifs. Of them, Marta Weigle's is the most detailed; she worked from the work of Mircea Eliade, Charles Long, Marie-Louise von Franz, and Anna Birgitta Rooth to obtain:
  1. Primordial elements meet or mingle or otherwise get disturbed.
  2. A god creates by secreting something, like sweat or blood or semen or a parthenogenetic child or a spun web or excretions.
  3. A god either sacrifices him/herself or gets sacrificed to form the raw materials for creation.
  4. The hatching of a cosmic egg or dividing a closely-embraced earth and sky.
  5. Someone dives into the primordial ocean to get some sand or mud to create land with.
  6. The first people emerge from a small, cramped world into our larger world.
  7. There are two creators who either cooperate or compete.
  8. Deus faber is the "divine maker"; where a god forms something out of some material.
  9. Ex nihilo is "out of nothing", often creation by a god's command (ab mandato?).

Some of these motifs are easy to recognize in various creation stories:

The first Genesis story has #9, of course, though it also has a vestige of #3 in the form of God doing three separations. It is likely a heavily edited version of the Babylonian Enuma Elish, which features #3: Marduk dismembering Tiamat to create our Universe.

The second Genesis story has #8, with God forming Adam out of dust and Eve from Adam's side or rib; it also has a bit of #2 in God breathing the dust Adam into life.

Hesiod's Theogony starts off with #1 and continues with #4 (Kronos separating Ouranos and Gaia) and lots of #2 (gods having children). It also has some #8 in Epimetheus and Prometheus creating humanity and animals.

The Norse one in the Elder Edda starts off with #1, and contains #3 (the dismemberment of Ymir to create our Universe) and #8 (creation of the first people, Ask and Embla, from wood).

And here is how the Universe according to modern science fits in:

Biological evolution is #2, where the mode of secretion is ordinary reproduction.

The origin of the Solar System is #1, where an interstellar cloud collapses under its own weight. And likewise for the origin of galaxies, which also originated in that fashion about a billion years after the Big Bang.

The origin of the Universe remains a mystery, but the common speculation of origin from a quantum fluctuation is essentially #1. The Big Bang itself is vaguely like #4 (the hatching of a cosmic egg).

 Post subject: Re: Creation-Myth Motifs
PostPosted: 23 Mar 2009, 11:53 
Grand Poobah
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Joined: 18 Sep 2007, 11:26
Posts: 5793
Location: Buffalo, NY
I'd add sciene will have #6: The first people emerge from a small, cramped world into our larger world.

If you consider the seasa as cramped and dangerous and the land empty...

Chloride and Sodium: Two terribly dangerous substances that taste great together!

 Post subject: Re: Creation-Myth Motifs
PostPosted: 02 Nov 2011, 12:47 

Joined: 02 Nov 2011, 12:41
Posts: 1
The actual title of Leonard's book is Myth and Knowing: An Introduction to World Mythology (McGraw-Hill, 2002). He's got a course-related web page if you care. His Myth & Knowing pages are an awesome online resources for high-quality websites on relevant areas.

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