Running Head: COSMIC CREATION MYTHS ACROSS CULTURES 1
Cosmic Creation Myths Across Cultures
COSMIC CREATION MYTHS ACROSS CULTURES 2
Comparing and Contrasting Creation Myths
In this paper I will compare and contrast two myths from different cultures. The two
myths chosen for this paper are the Genesis creation (Hebrew origin) of the Christian culture,
and the Norse culture of Iceland (the Vikings). Both of these creation myths start with an
emptiness where conflict and chaos eventually develop. The Genesis conflict is between God,
nothing, blackness, emptiness, loneliness, and the need to create something. The Norse conflict is
between the dark cold realm of Niflheim, within the emptiness of ginnungagap, and the fiery
realm of Muspell, where nothing can grow.
There are nine classifications of creation myths, which most include more than one motif.
The Genesis cosmogonies applies both ex nihilo, and deusfaber motifs. The story begins with
the ex nihilo myth, which God creates the light, the dark, the sun, the moon, the earth, the stars,
plants, animals, birds, and fish, within six days out of nothing. This account is told in Genesis,
the first book of the Old Testament. Then God creates a man, Adam, in his own image from the
dust of the earth and breathes life into him. When God realizes it is not good for man to be alone,
he causes a deep sleep to come upon Adam. Then he takes a rib from Adams side and forms a
woman. Therefore, combining deusfaber (the "maker-God") with ex nihilo motifs.
The Norse creation myths combines secretion, sacrifice, and accretion/conjunction
motifs. It combines fire and ice in a random conjoining of elements. The myth begins with
Muspells warm breath meeting with Nieflheim, the frost of the arctic, and causing the ice to
melt. The results produces water droplets that come to life, creating Ymir, the evil giant. As this
giant sleeps, the sweat from his armpits creates the first man and woman. However, the other
giants grow to despise Ymir, and the story continues with them slaying and mutilating Ymir.
COSMIC CREATION MYTHS ACROSS CULTURES 3
Worlds and Elements Represented in these Myths
In the Genesis creation myth, the earth is nothing but floating matter, formless, and the
darkness covered the waters. Then Gods Spiritcovered the surface of the waters and he created
the heavens, and the earth beneath. According to biblical authors, the cosmos is a flat disc shaped
earth in the center, heaven is above, and the underworld is below. The waters of chaos, also
known as the cosmic sea, is below the earth, and is the home of the mythic monsters, which were
defeated and slain by God. There are also waters above the earth, also known as the firmament, a
solid bowl that keeps the waters from flooding the earth.
The Norse culture, also known as the Vikings, had 14 major gods. Their perception is the
cosmos is divided into three levels, Asgard, Aesir, is the upper-level where the major gods, such
as Odin, along with the fertility gods, and the light elves lived. Midgard is the middle level where
dwarves, giants, men, and the dark elves lived. Niflheim is the lower-level, also known as the
underworld. Niflheim is where the evil dead died a second death in the fortress city of Hel.
Above heaven is Yggdrasil, the enormous ash tree, whose existence was before the beginning of
Creators and Creation Cycles of these Myths
From the book of Genesis, the earth was dark, empty, formless matter. Then the Spirit of
God covered the waters to prepare and perform his most creative work (Fairchild, 2013). Then
God spoke and his creation was formed. Day one, "God created the light and separated the light
from the darkness, calling light "day" and darkness "night" (Fairchild, 2013, para. 2). Day two,
"God created an expanse to separate the waters and called it "sky" (Fairchild, 2013, para. 3). Day
three, "God created the dry ground and gathered the waters, calling the dry ground "land," and
COSMIC CREATION MYTHS ACROSS CULTURES 4
the gathered waters, "seas" (Fairchild, 2013, para. 4). God also created the plants, flowers, trees,
and grasses on day three. Day four, "God created the sun, moon, and the stars to give light to the
earth and to govern and separate the day and the night" (Fairchild, 2013, para. 5). These also
serve to mark the years, days, and seasons. Day five, "God created every living creature of the
seas and every winged bird, blessing them to multiply and fill the waters and the sky with life"
(Fairchild, 2013, para. 6).Day six, "God created the animals to fill the earth" (Fairchild, 2013,
para. 7). Then God created man in his own image, both male and female, and instructed them to
multiply and replenish the earth (Genesis 1: 27-28). He made them rulers over the earth to
cultivate and care for it, and every living thing upon the earth (Genesis 1: 28). On day seven,
God said his work was done, so he blessed the seventh day, making it a day of rest.
The Norse creation myth does not have one maker of good, but many events and
elements that emerge from one evil giant. In this story a cow slowly licks away mountains of ice
from two beings, creating the god Buri and his goddess wife (Distant Train, Inc., 2011). "They
had a son named Bor, and his son was named Odin, who became the king of all the gods"
(Distant Train, Inc., 2011, para. 6). Ymir was an evil, brutal, and cruel giant. One day Odin and
the other gods plotted to kill Ymir because they could no longer follow his evil ways. Ymir's
body became the earth, his flesh became the land, his blood became the sea, his hair became the
trees, and his bones became the mountains (Distant Train, Inc., 2011). Odin and the other gods
created the sky from Ymirs' skull, which was held up by four pillars (Distant Train, Inc., 2011).
Odin created the moon and the sun by collecting sparks from the fiery depths of Muspell, and
then placing them in the sky. Because of the sun's rays, the ice began to melt in the new world of
Ginnungagap, and now trees and plants were able to grow. Yggdrasil, the largest tree, grew in
the center of the world, and later became known as the tree of life. "Its roots penetrated into
COSMIC CREATION MYTHS ACROSS CULTURES 5
thebottom of creation and its leaves reached the very top of the sky" (Distant Train, Inc., 2011,
para. 10). When Odin was satisfied with his creation, he named the new world Midgard, which
means "The Middle Land," but it needed people to take care of it. One-day Odin found two fallen
trees, and ash, and an elm, which he took from the mud and created the first man and woman. He
breathed life into them and gave them feelings, reasoning, hearing, and sight (Distant Train, Inc.,
2011). Odin named the woman Embla,and the man he named Ask, and from them came the
whole entire human race (Distant Train, Inc., 2011). This Norse story is similar to the Genesis
story of Adam and Eve.
Role of Cosmic Occurrences or Natural Phenomena of these Myths
In the Genesis creation myth, the story identifies God as the creator of the earth, and
every living thing upon it. He created the sun, moon, stars, heaven, and hell. In the Genesis
creation we are faced with a divine drama of the beginning that can only be understood through
faith. How long did it really take? Are Gods days the same as ours or are they longer? These
questions may never be answered in this life time, and are not the focus of the Genesis creation.
It is more about the spiritual and moral revelations. Genesis 1:26, God said, "Let us make man in
our image, after our likeness..." In the creation of the world, this is the only time God refers to
himself in the plural form. Then God took the man Adam, and the woman Eve, and placed them
in the Garden of Eden to take care of it, and he told them to be fruitful, and multiply, and
replenish the earth (Genesis 1: 28). Then God commanded Adam and Eve saying, "Of every tree
of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou
shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17).
The story continues with the devil, also known as the serpent, tricking Eve into eating from the
forbidden tree and convincing her to get Adam to eat also. The result of them going against Gods
COSMIC CREATION MYTHS ACROSS CULTURES 6
commandment was being expelled from the Garden of Eden, and being forced to labor over the
earth. Humans will experience pain and suffering, weeds, thorns, and thistles, and all humans
The Viking culture is dependent on the stars, the moon, and the sun, to help navigate
them through the vast oceans and rugged mountains that exist in their world. These elements of
the natural world and their origin are described in the Norse creation story. "The Norse creation
myth not only describes the creation of the world the Vikings would have seen every day, but
also ones they didn't: whole other worlds populated by gods, trolls, dwarves, and spirits"
(Shmoop, 2013, para. 2). The Norse creation also shows the violent lives the Vikings lived.
Nothing could be more natural for them than a creation story that begins with destruction in a
culture where fate depends on the success of the battle. From bloodshed and murder comes order
Western cultures tend to rank spiritual or metaphysical cosmogonies, such as the account
of God-Elohim, speaking the world into existence in a higher than natural, physical, or elemental
accounts of creation by excretion, division, accretion, copulation, parturition, or dismemberment
(Leonard & McClure, 2004). However, most of us are self-conscious about our cultures
assumptions. What is normal? Many cosmogonic myths have presented creation as part of a
natural process that has the understanding that it is an act of divine and creative will. However,
the birth of the cosmic order in many creation myths, are portrayed as aevolutionary, and a
naturalprocess. They are not perceived asthe act of a master magician, or as an engineering
project. Therefore, ranking one myth higher, or more cultured, or another as more primitive, or
COSMIC CREATION MYTHS ACROSS CULTURES 7
lower, derives from cultural biases. The method to studying myths effectively is to free one's self
from the possible prejudices we hold from our cultural backgrounds and surroundings.
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Distant Train, Inc. (2011). Norse creation. Retrieved from
Fairchild, M. (2013.About.com. Christianity.The creation story-bible story summary. Retrieved
Genesis. (1979). The Holy Bible. King James Version.The Old Testament. The Book of Genesis,
chapter 1 and 2.
Leonard, S., & McClure, M. (2004).Myth & knowing: An introduction to world mythology. New
York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Shmoop.(2013). Norse creation myth. Retrieved from http://www.shmoop.com/norse-creation-