In the Beginning…

Have you ever questioned how Earth and the people on it began? Many cultures’ ideologies and religious beliefs have important, but different, creation stories that teach that the world was created by different deities through various processes. Enrich your travel experiences by paying attention to the footprints that local religions leave on each location. We’ve compiled a list of six creation stories from around the world to help you better understand the cultures you may visit. But don’t stop here! Before you travel, remember to research the local culture and religion to enrich your visit with the locals.

North America

The Cherokee Nation, like many Native American nations and tribes, believe in animal spirits. Before humans populated the earth, water covered the land. Above this water, the animals lived above a great rainbow. The animals sent Water Beetle to build more space for them. Water Beetle brought up mud from the bottom of the sea.

Grandfather Buzzard was then sent to discover if the ground had hardened. As he flapped his great wings, valleys and mountains were created. The earth stiffened, and the animals dissended from behind the rainbow.

People were formed by the Creator after the animals had lived on the earth.

South America

Living along the Andes mountains, the Incan empire had a rich and deep history of god fighting god. In the beginning, Con, the Creator, lived in the form of a man without bones. He cared for the first humans, supplying them with their needs. The first humans forgot about Con’s kindness, though, and so he punished them by causing a drought on the land.

A new god, Pachachamac, drove out Con, causing the first humans to rejoice. However, he then turned the first humans into monkeys. Pachachamac took the earth for himself and then created the ancestors to human beings.

Central America

Photo by Dennis Jarvis, cc

Photo by Dennis Jarvis, cc

The Mayan civilization spanned Mesoamerica in present-day Central America. The Mayans believed that Heart-of-Sky created animals first, but the animals were not able to worship and praise like humans can. So, Heart-of-Sky tried again, this time with mud. But, mud was too porous and crumbly. Heart-of-Sky went to the wisest spirits, Grandfather and Grandmother, and asked them what mankind should be made of. Heart-of-Sky, Grandfather, and Grandmother all determined that mankind should be made of maize, and so they were.

Dotted throughout the archaeological wonders of Central and South America are beautiful and ancient temples that you can visit to learn more about this civilization.

Norse

Hailing from the frigid north of Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland, the Norse creation myth is as rough as the land it comes from. After a world of ice and fire converged and formed giants and gods, Odin, child of a god and a giant, fought with Ymir, the first of the giants. Odin slew Ymir and formed the Earth out of Ymir’s blood, body, and hair. When visiting the Nordic region of the world, there might not be any religious temples to pay homage to Norse mythology, but be sure to pay homage to religion in the area by visiting a Christian medieval stave church. A lot of stave churches have been rebuilt to help you remember the past in this harsh territory.

Photo by zoetnet, cc

Photo by zoetnet, cc

Greece

The Greek creation story tells of rebellion and defeat. Gaea, the earth, gave birth to Uranus, the heavens. Heaven and Earth paired up to create different beasts and species. Uranus was a bad father and imprisoned many of his creations—including his and Gaea’s children, the Titans. The youngest Titan born of Gaea and Uranus, Cronus, overthrew Uranus. A prophecy told of Cronus being overthrown by his children, so when he and his sister, Rhea, began having children, he would eat them. Rhea, tired of this, concealed her son Zeus from Cronus. Zeus eventually defeated Cronus and helped his brothers and sisters escape from Cronus’s stomach. After some more battles, Zeus and his siblings declared dominance and created mankind.

When you’re next in Greece, visit the Parthenon or a different temple to learn how ancient Greeks worshipped these fighting gods.

Africa

Photo by Carolina Ödman, cc

Photo by Carolina Ödman, cc

All over Africa there are diverse stories about the creation of the earth. In central Africa, the Bantu tribe believes that the great god Bumba was in the beginning with darkness and water. One day Bumba felt pain in his stomach and vomited up the sun—then the moon, stars, animals, and finally men.

A tribe in Ethiopia believes in Wak, the creator god who lived in the clouds. When he created man, Earth was flat; in order to form mountains and shape the Earth, Wak created a coffin to hold man. Man entered the coffin, and Wak had fire rain down on the Earth for seven years to form the various landscapes. When man exited the coffin, he was lonely. Seeing this, Wak used his own blood to create woman.

As you travel across the diverse African continent, be sure to learn more about the various wonderful creation stories told by different tribes.

India

In Hinduism, there was nothing in the beginning. Then, a vast ocean washed up along the nothingness and on the ocean lay a giant cobra. Coiled up and sleeping on the cobra was Lord Vishnu, soul of the entire cosmos. A giant lotus flower sprang from the naval of Vishnu. On this flower was born Brahma, a four-headed god. Vishnu commanded Brahma to create the world, and Brahma obeyed. He divided the lotus flower into three, creating the heavens (night sky), earth, and sky (during the day). Onto the earth, he created the animals, giving them their senses.

Pay homage to this beautiful story of sacrifice by visiting a Hindu temple when you’re next in India.

Aboriginal

In Australia, the Aboriginal’s tales of creation are diverse. A main thread, though, tells of the Dreamtime, when gods walked the earth, sometimes in the shape of humans, other times in the shape of animals, and most times in a conglomerate shape of human, animal, and plant. Two beings, the Ungambikula, were wandering the world when they found half-made human beings, made up of a conglomerate of creatures, near where water holes could be created. With great stone knives, the Ungambikula carved the creatures into humans and, the work being completed, the Ungambikula and the wandering gods left Earth and the Dreamtime.

Photo by Jayson Emery

Photo by Jayson Emery, cc

As you visit Australia, be sure to appreciate the rocks, waterholes, trees, etc. that pay homage to the presence of the sacred gods of the Dreamtime.

Adam McLain

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