All places, people, cultures and religions have a beginning; something or someone had to create the land, sea, animals and people. The story of creation varies from culture to culture but in some instances you can find similarities between two cultures that were divided by an ocean and thousands of miles. The two creation myths are those of the Christians and the Navajo peoples. These myths have been passed down from generation to generation and never forgotten. The creation myths for these two cultures are the building blocks for their futures. These two cultures weren’t only divided by an ocean and thousands of miles but by different languages and the time period in which each creation takes place. Despite the difference between these two myths, the similarities that are found are quite remarkable. The creation myths of the Navajo and Christian people contain specific symbolisms that make each unique, from the different characters, to the presence and development of evil and the floods that wiped out life or moved life forward, these show that no matter how great the distance there can be similarities and not just differences.
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Each creation myth will be assessed individually because it is easier to fully understand the relation between the two myths. The Christian creation myth will be addressed first because it is the most well known of the two. In the Christian creation myth there was one God, The Triune God that consists of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. He was the divine creator in the Christian creation myth that is told in The Book of Genesis. The Lord God of the Christian creation myth has the ability to create anything from nothing. He takes an earth that does not yet have form to it and creates the heavens, the land and all living creatures on it, including man. When God creates the earth it takes him six days to create the world and he rests on the seventh day. He didn’t create the earth all at once, he did it in steps. First he created light, then the heavens, then the land and plants, next the sun and moon, then the fish and birds and on the final day he created the animals and man. The Lord God, The Divine Creator, is a figure of great power and wisdom that is not always believed to be true later in the bible.
If you look past the initial creation of the earth and focus on the sixth day when man was created you will find two characters that started human life on earth. Adam was the first male to be created. He was created from dust and the breathe of god that gave him life and breathe of his own. God created Adam to rule over all the animals and to tend to the Garden of Eden. Adam was also tasked with the job of naming all the birds and animals. God tried to find a helper for Adam so that he didn’t have to care for Eden alone, but none of the animals god created was capable of helping Adam. Since God could not find a suitable helper for Adam he put him into a deep sleep and removed one of Adams ribs and used it to create the first woman, Eve.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve could eat whatever plants and fruits they wanted, except the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eating the fruit was forbidden and they both were told that if they ate it, they would die. This is the part of the story where the first instance of evil is introduced. One day when Eve was working in the garden she was approached by a serpent. This serpent was no normal serpent, it was Satan disguised as one of God’s creatures. As the serpent, Satan tricked Eve into eating and sharing with Adam a fruit from the forbidden tree. When Satan is disguised as the snake, he is seen as a trickster who gets his way through tricking and manipulating the helpless. When God found out what Adam and Eve had done he cursed them, as well as the serpent. The serpent was cursed to forever crawl on his belly and eat dust for the rest of his life. Eve was cursed with severe pains when birthing children and that her husband will always rule over her. When God got to Adam he cursed the ground that he will plant his crops and it will produce inedible foods. All of this pain and suffering was all because of a trickster.
After Adam and Eve were banished from Eden for eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they made love and Eve got pregnant. The lord had blessed them with their first son and they named him Cain. Eve looks as her son as a blessing and realizes that the lord had given her Cain and also realized that he is the ultimate source of life. Eve also had another son that was named Abel. Cain worked the land and soil and Abel watched and worked the flocks of sheep or other various animals. When these two men went to bring gifts to God, Cain brought gifts of fruit from the soil and Abel brought gifts of fat portions from the younger part of the flock. The lord favored Abel’s gift over Cain’s and this made him angry.
The Lord God asked Cain why he was so angry and explained to him that if you allow sin to get a grasp on you it will eventually lead to something terrible. After this talk with God, Cain went to find Abel and asked him to go to the field with him. Once there Cain attacked and killed Abel because he was jealous of how God favored Abel’s offering over his. When he returned from the field God asked Cain where his brother is and he told him that he didn’t know where he was. God knew what had happened to Abel and cursed Cain and told him that the ground will never yield crops to him again. Cain left his home and became a wanderer and said that whoever finds him will kill him. God said that that is not so for whom ever kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over. This is because he wants Cain to live as long as he can so that he will always have the burden of knowing that he killed his brother. Cain and his wife lived in the land of Nod which was east of Eden. Cain eventually married and his wife had a child named Enoch. Cain built a city here and named it after his son. Enoch eventually has sons who had sons that. Down the lineage one of the family members of Cain had murdered a young man and he was also cursed like Cain. Adam and Eve were blessed again with another child in place of the slain Abel, his name was Seth. Seth also had a son, he called him Enosh. After Enosh was born the people of the land started to call to the lord and pray to him.
The conclusive symbolic event that happens in the Christian creation myth is the flood that destroys all living creatures below the heavens. The flood is brought on by God because he was disgusted by how corrupt and violent life on earth had become. God spoke to a man that he felt would bring balance back to earth after the flood; this man’s name was Noah. God instructed Noah to build an Ark made from cypress wood to his exact dimensions. After the Ark was built Noah was told to gather two animals of every kind, one male and one female and put them on the ark to save them from the flood. He was also told to bring seven pair of the “clean” animals onto the ark. The “clean” animals were to be used for sacrifice once the flood waters had receded. God also instructed him to bring his wife, all three of his sons and his sons wives onto the ark as well. Noah was given seven days to complete all this before the rain started. Once the rain started it would not stop for 40 days and 40 nights. The water from the rain rose so high that they covered the highest mountains on earth.
Eventually the rain stopped, but the water did not recede for one hundred and fifty days, the God sent a wind that started lowering the flood waters. As the flood waters receded the ark found a resting place on the Mountains of Ararat. Noah sent a raven to see if it could find dry land and it returned with nothing. Later he sent a dove out to do the same thing and it too returned with nothing. Seven days after the first dove returned, Noah sent out the dove again and this time it returned with an olive branch. In another seven days he would send the dove out again and this time it would not return. This told Noah that the flood waters receded and it was now safe to leave the ark. After Noah, his family and all the living creatures left the ark; God came to Noah and told him and his family to repopulate the earth. After the flood God vowed never to curse the ground again because of humans, he originally cursed the ground because of Adam and Eve’s betrayal and it led to the death and destruction of all life on earth.
From these symbols, it’s easy to see how they all, in their own way, affected the creation of earth. Of the different themes in this creation myth the one that defines God as the Divine Creator is the most extensive one because he has the ability to create anything from nothing. At the beginning of the creation myth there is only one being, the divine creator, God. His power of creation is never rivaled during the telling of the Christian creation myth. As he creates the earth and all the creatures, man is created in his likeness.
When Adam is living in Eden with Eve another meme is introduced; the division of good by evil. This takes place when Eve is tempted by Satan, as the form of a serpent, to eat an apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She does so and also shares some of it with Adam. When this happens, it divides Adam and Eve from God and he curses them and the serpent. Satan, as the serpent, is pleased because he successfully divided God from man. Eating that apple leads to corruption and violence on Earth. This is when God purges the earth with the flood. It seems that, with the creation of land, water, creatures, or man, evil will be present in some form.
You have read about different symbols and themes in the Christian creation myth but the form in which it was originally to be important as well. The story was passed down from person to person through speech. It was an oral tradition for quite a while. It was not recorded in written form until God gave it to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The source of the story is in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible in the Book of Genesis. The book of Genesis is one of five books that comprise the bible.
It is felt by many scholars that the language in the Christian creation myth was formally recorded. The bible as it is known today in the United States is a translation of the original bible that was recorded thousands of years ago. When the bible was originally translated from Hebrew to English, it is said that they translated it word for word instead of translated phrases or whole sentences or thought for thought. The story that is heard today is the translation of Hebrew text that was passed down from God. The Christians believed this story of creation when it was first written and they still believe in it and all its characters today.
The people to which the Christian creation myth came to was the Hebrew people. The role of women in their culture can be seen as being below man all through the bible. Its starts pretty early when God is cursing Eve for eating the apple and he tells her that she will forever be ruled over by man. This lack of respect for women is found in almost every book of the bible in various ways. Women are treated like lesser beings. This is even true in the Christian religion today. Men are considered the ruler of the house and of the church. In the modern church women don’t play any major roles. Women cannot be priests, bishops, cardinals or even the pope. I don’t think that will ever change due to the strict beliefs and history towards women in the Christian church.
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The Navajo creation myth compared to the Christian creation myth is a bit more complicated. The story of the Navajo creation begins in a dark world, on a piece of land that is surrounded on four sides by water. Each side represented a direction and color; white for the East, blue for the South, yellow for the West, and black for the North. On this piece of land were the insect people. No actual “god” is present at this point but someone or something has to be with the insect people because they are expelled from the first world for arguing too much. Unlike the Christian creation myth, no god or creator is visible at the beginning of the Navajo creation myth.
After the insect people leave the first world, they go to the second world where they meet the bird people and not long after are asked to leave because they continued to argue. When they emerged into the third world, they meet the grasshopper people and got along with them for awhile. Eventually, however, they were asked to leave this world, too. They left this world and emerged with four grasshopper people; each colored the same color as one of the directions. In this world there were for mountains, each facing a specific direction. The insect people searched for people to the south, east, and west, and they found nothing. Then they traveled north and came across farming community. It’s people, the Pueblo’s, taught the insect people to farm, along with other necessary skills for survival.
At this point in the creation story, the first god appears to the insect people, sometime during the first autumn. The god’s name was “talking god” and with him appeared four other gods called: White Body, Blue Body, Yellow Body, and Black body. The Black Body God spoke and told the insect people to be more god-like or human and less like insects. They were also told to do a thorough self-cleanse and the Gods would return in twelve days. The Gods returned in twelve days with the Blue Body and the Black Body gods each carrying holy buckskins and the White Body and Yellow Body gods each carrying an ear of similarly colored corn. One buckskin was laid down facing east and the ears of corn were placed with eagle feathers on the buckskins and then covered with the other buckskin. By the request of the gods, wind blew between the buckskins, one from the east and one from the west. While the winds were blowing, eight mirage people encircled the mirage four times. When the top skin was removed, a man was where the white corn had been placed and a woman was where the yellow corn had been placed. They were known as the first man and first woman, or the holy people.
The men and women did not always get along. Much like in the Christian creation myth there seemed to be a divide between the men and the women. The Navajo people had an argument about the true reason that men hunt. This reason is that the sexual power of the women makes them hunt. The men became angry at this notion. The women felt that men and their abilities were not needed and they left the men. They traveled to the other side of the river where they lived for four years. During this time each side had performed “unclean” sexual acts. The women masturbated and the men would have sex with dead animal parts such as the liver of a slain deer. These unclean acts lead to the creation of monsters that will later devour and plague the people for some time. Once instance where this happened was during a river crossing with a man, woman and their two young daughters. The man and woman got across but realized their daughters did not. This is when the two people and coyote went in to the river to find the girls and they eventually did in the lair of the water monster. The water monster did not resist when the parents came to take their children back. During this time when everyone was distracted, Coyote stole the water monsters two babies and hid them under his robe.
One of the symbols that keep repeating throughout the Navajo creation story is the number four, along with multiples of four. This may be because there are four main directions in the world. However, this is not made clear. Eight years after man was created a archetypal trickster appears in the creation myth. The trickster is a coyote, much like the serpent in the Christian myth. The coyote is a trouble maker and, although he is mischievous, he is not an evil being like the serpent was in the Christian myth. Coyote secretly stole the children of the water monster. This act of thievery is actually helpful in the long run. More than anything, he seemed to make bad situations worse and never seemed to be helpful.
In the Navajo creation myth, there is a flood as well. However, it differs from the Christian myth because the Navajo gods did not cause the flood in order to destroy all life on earth. The people were noticing that animals were starting to leave and realized the flood was approaching. They carried with them soil from the sacred mountains and, in that soil; they planted four reeds that combined into one with a hole in the east side. All the people climbed the reed as the flood waters came. The climbed up the reed and emerged into the fifth and final world. They soon realized, however, that water was following them through the hole and they used the stolen water monster children to plug the whole.
When everyone emerged into the fifth world, an argument broke out between the Navajo people and the Pueblo people. This causes the Navajo and the Pueblo people to move apart from each other at this time. Later in history, they would meet again and teach each other different skills. After this split between Pueblo and Navajo, the first man and the first woman remade the four mountains with help from the gods; using the soil from the mountains in the fourth world. All the symbols found in the Navajo creation story have a specific role or purpose.
The theme of the Navajo creation myth is not a story of a divine creator, such as in the Christian myth, but it is a story of emergence through four worlds that each has their own difficulties. The Navajo emergence story is called the “Dine Bahane” and is one of the most complex stories to be originally presented orally. It is eventually written down, but for many years it was simply passed on from person to person verbally. It was not until much later that the oral rendition was translated and taken to written form. It is said that when Navajo people want to feel reborn or renewed as a culture, they perform a special ceremony. During this ceremony, they reenact the emergence creation myth. This story is just one of many ways that the creation myth is still remembered today.
In conclusion, when comparing the Navajo and Christian creation myths, the symbolism that arise between the two is quite similar considering the distance between these two cultures. The research shows similar archetypes, symbols, and how the myth was first presented and passed down to its audience. The two cultures represented within these distinct creation myths lived thousands of miles apart, and yet still had a few striking similarities within their myths. However, although they had their striking similarities, they also had many dramatic differences between the two that clearly distinguishes one creation story from the other. No matter what creation myth you believe to be true, no one knows for certain how humans came to inhabit the earth.