ANT 225 – Laura Kerr Molly Huff April 30, 2011 Vedic and Samoan Cosmogony, A Comparison
Origin myths, along with Flood myths, hold more than just a personal journey within their deeply encoded formulae; they hold some sort of genetic memory of eons past.
Origin myths tell us who we are, why we are, and how we relate to everything else. Echoes of textbook definitions of Anthropology lend depth to this definition: the study of what we do, what we have and what we are—our life ways—send us in search of reasons and history.
Even before we were and long after we are gone, there will be a story. In the creation of the world, the course of events and the reason for them was not written until everyone and everything was fully formed, so we address the most basic issues of identity with the origin myth.
The idea of substance emerging from formlessness is the one that seems most conceptually potent .
In one of the earliest songs of the Rig Veda, Purusa (or Purusha) is the primal progenitor, the universe past, present and future, the Consciousness that sacrificed itself to give life to the universe. In the midst of the void, Purusa looked around and saw that there was nothing but itself. It shouted to the void, “It is I!” And for the first time, being alone frightened Purusa.
Purusa craved Delight then, as a hungry person craves food, so this Self divided itself into two parts—man and woman. From that embrace the human race arose. But because the female half of the Self realized that one cannot become two, create many, and remain distinct, she ran from her male counterpart.
Sri Purusha Suktam. http://www.oration.com/~mm9n/articles/purusha/6.htm
Prakriti, the female incarnation of Purusa, made herself into a cow; he found her, became a bull, and mated with her, giving rise to the bovine species. She became a mare; he found her, became a stallion, mated with her, and they created horses. This went on and on and on, through donkeys and goats and sheep and winged things and swimming things and so on, until she had run out of ideas. By the time they had created ants, all pairing creatures had come into existence, and the male half of the self stopped. He looked at what they had done, realized that their united Self was, itself, Creation, and he congratulated himself.
This man was dull as mud. No intelligence at all, just the inert shape of Man. Then Tagaloa commanded the creation of Spirit, Heart, Will and Thought; he put them into the dull mud man, and the man became a living, soul-filled entity.
In another, earlier version, Tagaloa had a daughter. He sent her down in the form of a turi , or snipe (sandpiper), to check out his flat rock, but she wanted more than just one spot.
He sent her back to revisit the rock, and—lo and behold—it was growing, its dry surface extending all around.
Tagaloa was the great contemplative spirit in this case, dwelling in the “Expanse”, as the sole intelligence, moving to and fro but alone. After a great deal of moving to and fro, Tangaloa stood still. A rock appeared for him to rest upon.
Whether Tagaloa caused this flat rock to appear by his will or it simply sensed that it was needed, it became the foundation of the earth, because Tagaloa then told it to split into Earth, Sea, Fresh Water, Sky, Immensity, Space, Height and Man.
Siu Point, Tau Island, Samoa, http://www.terragalleria.com/parks/np-image.npsa3756.html
Tagaloa sent Turi down again, this time with some earth and a creeping vine to plant in it. Eventually, the vine began to spread, but on a subsequent visit Turi discovered the vine withered and worm-infested. Eventually, these worms became women and men. It still remained for Tangaloa to give them souls, for they were formless, dull, wormy blobs until he did so.
Imbued with intelligence and a soul, these people were sent by Tagaloa to populate the islands.
Immensity and Space gave birth to Night and Day, who united to bring forth Sun and Stars. Altogether, this family comprised the “First Heavens”. Next, Immensity and Space give birth to Le-Langi, the “Clear Blue Sky” that is the Second Heavens. From Langi came all the other heavens up to the ninth, which were peopled by Immensity and Space; above the First Heaven, all was serene, bright and calm.
Tagaloa created clones of himself to tend the vast regions coming into being, and turned his attention to the still rugged and unproductive islands on earth. To make them more habitable for his people, Tagaloa walked upon them to smooth them.
Specter of the Broken from Mount Alava, http://www.terragalleria.com/pacific/american-samoa/pago-pago/picture.samo3893.html
As a Creator, Purusa is a pre-existing force or element.
Though something may seem to arise out of complete and utter nothingness, the Rig Veda acknowledges that there must be a causal force or element.
Its myth contain the concept of duality, of male and female, earth and sky, practical and ethereal.
Linguistic evidence suggests that great migrations of people from northern Asia, commonly known as Aryans, may have passed through or settled in India during pre-Vedic times (2000 BCE). At least partial assimilation could have occurred, disseminating Vedic mythology throughout vast areas of Asia and beyond.
The expansion and contraction of the universe is a central part of Vedic mythology, with everlasting entities that go through cycles of creation and destruction.
Purusa finds delight by sacrificing part of itself.
The male half of Purusa must pursue a shape shifter for that delight, though, only enjoying it when he can catch it.
As a Creator, Tagaloa is a pre-existing force or element.
Samoans, accustomed to the presence of creatures they cannot always see, in the depths of the ocean and flying far from land, seem to find it natural and reasonable that creation must have a causal force or element.
At first Tagaloa seems to be alone. He has no “other”; just like the creatures that fly overhead and swim below, he keeps to himself in the vastness. Where Tagaloa’s daughter came from is a mystery. Perhaps she always exists, too, and thus represents the other half of Tagaloa.
Duality is at the center of this creation myth, with male and female, earth and sky, practical and ethereal.
Aryan and Vedic migrations may have helped to populate many Melanesian islands, contributing ancient cosmogenetic threads.
Everlasting entities in Samoan mythology go through cycles of creation and destruction.
Tagaloa resides in the Ninth Heaven, serene, bright and calm, to soothe and inspire him. He has no need to chase after delight.
Word of God or Shiva’s dream? Big Bang or a construct of our collective unconscious? Where did it all begin?
We tell these stories to explain the universe to ourselves. We have no proof, so we depend on a highly evolved and intuitive form of fantasy: the creation myth.
The agents of creation may be giant eggs, dissatisfied male deities, the Earth Mother or monsters. The effects of creation may be permanent or transient. Or the mystery may be so deep that we must rely on faith instead of reason.
But there will always be a story. Without it our cultures would cease to exist, and without the telling of it, they become impoverished.
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