Creation Myths
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Basic Information

One of the oldest questions mankind has asked about the universe is, "How did the world come to be?" For much of mankind's history, this question was the exclusive province of Religion, and the answer has been inextricably woven with the culture's notions about God. In modern times, Science has taken over this question, but its answers still resonate with the religious implications of the original question.

This entry lists some of the stories different people in different times have told about How Things Came to Be. That these are classified here as "myths" is not intended as an indictment of untruthfulness. In fact, just to be a stinker, I've included some scientific theories here as well, on the assumption that even the most logical construct can take on a mythological hue if looked on the right way.

A Common Template

Many of the creation myths from all over the big old list of mythologies follow a common template. In the beginning there was nothing, or darkness, or chaos, or an infinite ocean. Usually, there was just one being that existed in this void, and they used either the power of light, or magic, or a powerful words to cause all of reality to come into existence, usually starting with the earth.

Another common variation is that instead of creating everything from nothing, they separate the chaos into two things (such as dividing it into light and darkness, or dividing it into earth and another element such as sky or water). That first mover (or one of his first creations) then populated the earth with plants and animals and humans, and often other supernatural entities. Usually these creations came about in staggered waves, and it's pretty common for humans to be in the final wave.

The other common way for the universe to be created is for some God or Titan or other big-deal entity (like the first-mover mentioned above) to die, often killed by the younger generation. Then their body is taken apart, and the various parts of it used to create places and things. Eyes or blood become bodies of water. Flesh or bones become mountains. Etc. This may be the start or end of a generation war between the handful of powerful creatures in existence at this time, and may serve as the justification for sacrifice rituals.

It's not uncommon for there to be a big tragedy: if not the aforementioned generation war, then a massive flood, an act of hubris and punishment that caused everyone to speak different languages, or even a false-start and a do-over of the whole creation project. Maybe more than one of the above. After this rough start mankind might be able to secure some sort of promise from on high that we wouldn't get another nasty hard reboot, at least until the end of days rolls around. It depends on how trustworthy and humane the gods are in this particular pantheon.

As time marches forward, Mankind frequently experiences a series of eras or ages. In the earliest age, people were few but extra-epic, and possibly very long-lived. During that era, some sort of trickster or culture hero emerges to steal the secret of fire from the gods, or teach valuable lessons about morality to future generations. Those were the good old days of the golden age, and they just don't make people like that any more… or so the stories go.

Those are of course sweeping generalizations. Not every mythology hits every story beat, but the events listed are definitely the most commonly recurring tropes of creation myths the world over.


Game and Story Use

  • When creating an original gameworld, you might want to consider inventing a Creation Myth for your world.
    • The myth need not be true; only accepted and taught by the society you are creating.
    • Even if the particulars of the story never actually come out in game play, what the people of that culture believe about their origins will color what they believe about other things.
      • For example: In the Middle Ages it was held that because Adam was given dominion over the earth, that anything man did to subdue the earth was justified.
      • On the other hand, another school of thought that has become more prominent today holds that the same Bible passage gives man a special responsibility to take care of the earth and nurture the creatures that live on it.
  • In a fantasy setting, especially one in which the gods are active, a Creation Myth may actually be true.
  • It's also entirely possible to have a (very) high fantasy campaign in a setting which isn't finished yet - perhaps there is a titanomachy in progress for control of the developing world, or there is a heroic age in play, where the gods still roam the earth and sufficiently powerful mortals can work with or against them to alter the shape of things to come.
  • Before you set the dials on your Time Machine to the year 4004 BC, ask yourself: do you really want to go there…?
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