Summaries of Ancient Creation Myths

Stories of Coming Into Being

Here are summaries of stories of how the world and mankind (or the gods who produced mankind) came to be, from chaos, a primordial soup, an egg, or whatever; that is, creation myths. Generally, chaos in some form precedes the separation of heaven from earth.

Greek Creation

Aion-Uranus with Terra (Gaia)
Mosaic of Aion or Uranus and Gaia. Glyptothek, Munich, Germany. Public Domain. Courtesy of Bibi Saint-Pol at Wikpedia.

In the beginning was Chaos. Then came Earth which produced Sky. Covering Earth each night, Sky fathered children upon her. Earth was personified as Gaia/Terra and sky was Ouranos (Uranus). Their children included the Titan parents of most of the Olympian gods and goddesses, as well as many other creatures, including the Cyclopes, Giants, Hecatonchires, Erinyes, and more. Aphrodite was the offspring of Ouranos. (Read More here - Creation Myths - Greek Cosmogony.)

Norse Creation

Auðumbla Licks Búri. Illustration from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript.
Auðumbla Licks Búri. Illustration from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In Norse mythology, there was only a chasm, Ginnungagap, in the beginning (somewhat like the Greeks' Chaos) bounded on either side by fire and ice. When fire and ice met, they combined to form a giant, named Ymir, and a cow, named Audhumbla, to nourish Ymir. She survived by licking the salty ice blocks. From her licking emerged Bur, the grandfather of the Aesir.

Biblical Creation

Fall of Man, by Titian, 1488/90.
Fall of Man, by Titian, 1488/90. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The first book of the Old Testament is the Book of Genesis. In it is an account of the creation of the world by God in 6 days. God created, in pairs, first the heaven and the earth, then day and night, land and sea, flora and fauna, and male and female. Man was created in the image of God and Eve was formed from one of Adam's ribs (or man and woman were created together). On the seventh day, God rested. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden.

Rig Veda Creation

Rig Veda in Sanskrit
Rig Veda in Sanskrit. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

W. Norman Brown interprets the Rig Veda to come up with various underlying creation stories. Here is the one most like the preceding myths. Before the divine pair of Earth and Sky, who created the gods, was another god, Tvastr, the "first fashioner". He created Earth and Sky, as a dwelling place, and many other things. Tvastr was a universal impregnator who made other things reproduce. Brown says that although Tvastr was the first dynamic force, before him were the inanimate, inactive Cosmic Waters.

Source: "The Creation Myth of the Rig Veda," by W. Norman Brown. Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Jun., 1942), pp. 85-98

Chinese Creation

Portrait of Pangu from the Asian Library in the University of British Columbia
Portrait of Pangu from the Asian Library in the University of British Columbia. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Chinese creation story comes from the end of the 3 Kingdoms period. Heaven and Earth were in a state of chaos or cosmic egg for 18,000 years. When it broke apart, the high and clear formed Heaven, the dark formed Earth, and P'an-ku ("coiled-up antiquity") stood in the middle supporting and stabilizing. P'an-ku kept growing for another 18,000 years during which time Heaven also grew.

Another version of the P'an- ku (the first-born) story tells of his becoming earth, sky, stars, moon, mountains, rivers, soil, etc. Parasites feeding on his body, impregnated by wind, became human beings.

Source: "The Creation Myth and Its Symbolism in Classical Taoism," by David C. Yu. Philosophy East and West, Vol. 31, No. 4 (Oct., 1981), pp. 479-500.

Mesopotamian Creation

Detail of the standard of Ur showing a Sumerian Harpist and a Ruler, about 2600-2400 BC.
Print Collector/Getty Images / Getty Images

The Babylonian Enuma Elish tells an ancient Mesopotamian story of creation. Apsu and Tiamat, fresh and salt water, mixed together, created the great and too noisy gods. Apsu wished to kill them, but Tiamat, who wished them no harm, prevailed. Apsu was killed, so Tiamat sought revenge. Marduk killed Tiamat and divided her, using part for earth and part for the heavens. Mankind was made out of Tiamat's second husband.

Egyptian Creation Myths

Thoth. CC Flickr User gzayatz

There are various Egyptian creation stories and they changed over time. One version is based on the Ogdoad of Hermopolis, another on the Heliopolitan Ennead, and another on the Memphite theology. One Egyptian story of creation is that the Chaos Goose and the Chaos Gander produced an egg that was the sun, Ra (Re). The gander was identified with Geb, the earth god.

Source: "The Symbolism of the Swan and the Goose," by Edward A. Armstrong. Folklore, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Jun., 1944), pp. 54-58.

Zoroastrian Creation Myth

Court of Gayumarth (1499), Turkey
Keyumars was the first shah of the world according to the poet Ferdowsi's Shahnameh. In the Avesta he is called Gayo Maretan and in later Zoroastrian texts Gayomard or Gayomart. The character was based upon a figure from a Zoroastrian creation myth. Danita Delimont / Getty Images

In the beginning, truth or goodness fought lies or evil until lies was worn out. Truth created a world, basically from a cosmic egg, then lies awoke and tried to destroy creation. It was largely successful, but the seed of the cosmic man escaped, was purified and returned to earth as a plant with stalks growing from either side that were to be the first man and woman. Meanwhile, lies was locked inside the capsule of creation.

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Your Citation
Gill, N.S. "Summaries of Ancient Creation Myths." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Gill, N.S. (2023, April 5). Summaries of Ancient Creation Myths. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "Summaries of Ancient Creation Myths." Learn Religions. (accessed June 5, 2023).