In the Beginning

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


A few times a year our Sunday School teacher would sit us down and have us open our Bibles to Genesis and we would read two accounts of the creation of man, starting with Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  Genesis 1 KJV edition, emphasis mine

Genesis 1 was the correct story of man’s creation, Genesis 2 being the myth where man was made from mud and woman from man’s rib. In Christian Science Adam never awoke from his “dream” (when God put him under to make Eve), and that is why we perceive there to be in and suffering in the world.

I never got an answer on why God didn’t wake Adam up (so much easier to blame a talking snake and a woman), and I never got a firm answer on anyone in Christian Science about what I learned (or didn’t learn) in school about biology, evolution or creation science. I was allowed to drift and be influenced by a local Christian Radio station that regularly talked about the Grand Canyon as being evidence of Noah’s flood. I’ve since become pickier about my scientific sources, and more curious about other traditions’ creation mythologies.

As part of my goals to introduce my children to other religious and mythological traditions in a non-indoctrional way came across In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Barry Moser.

I’ve started reading some of these stories with the children and we’ve been talking about them.

The first story we read was The Pea-Pod Man, Raven the Creator where man emerges out of a pea-pod and meets Raven who can transmogrify into a humanoid and make little animals, and a companion woman for man, out of clay. Death does not enter this story, but little animals (and woman) out of mud do.

We also read about Death the Creator and Quat the Creator, both stories introduce death as being caused by some sort of stupidity. In Death the Creator, it is because the God Alatangana kidnaps Death’s daughter and marries her, and Death demands one of their children.

In Quat the Creator, Quat is one of twelve brothers born from the stone-mother Quatgoro. Quat was the eldest and he made little figures out of clay and danced life into them. One of Quat’s younger brothers, Tangaro the Fool, carved little figures out of wood, danced life into them, and then lost interest and buried them, about a week later he unburied them but they were stinky and rotten, so they had to be buried again. Because of Tangaro’s actions death entered the world.

There are more wonderful stories, including (but not limited to) First Man Becomes the Devil – Ulgen the Creator, Turtle Dives to the Bottom of the Sea – Earth Starter the Creator, Spider Anase finds Something – Wulbari the Creator, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky – Divine Woman the Creator, In the Beginning – Elohim the Creator.  The Frost Giant – Imir the Creator, The Sun-God and the Dragon – God Ra the Creator, First Man, First Woman – Yahweh the Creator. 

As we read, we talk about how these ancient cultures were trying to explain everything happening around them, and answer the big questions: where did we come from, why do we die, who or what created us, what is going on in our world. We are also noticing similarities in the stories — there is a lot of mud-building and stupidity.

Some of the stories are strange and dark, which makes sense, life is strange and there are dark moments that need to be explained. Where did we come from? We emerged out of a pea-pod! We were made from earthen or little mud figures (this is a popular one). How did death enter the world? Someone was foolish and buried little wooden people. Someone was disobedient and listened to a talking snake. Someone married Death’s Daughter without his permission.

In the Beginning is a wonderful resource to explore a wide range of creation stories. I highly recommend it for children and grownups of all ages who are curious about other culture’s creation stories, and in learning how our ancestors explored the answers to life’s big questions.

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3 thoughts on “In the Beginning

  1. Rocky says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It does sound like an interesting read and, as a sociologist, I am always curious to learn about different belief systems and perspectives on why and how things work, mythologies though they may be.

    On another note, I think you might find that reading MBE’s chapters “Creation” and “Genesis” might clarify some things for you. I know you’re not interested in returning to CS, and I don’t suggest it for that anyway. I just remember hearing the explanation that God never woke Adam up in SS and from CStists too, but that’s not actually what MBE wrote or taught. It’s an oversimplification, and a misrepresentation, frankly. Personally, I find going to the source, and bypassing other people’s often limited or incomplete understanding, as the best way to find my own understanding of things.

    • kat says:

      “It’s an oversimplification, and a misrepresentation, frankly.”

      MBE’s works seem to be full of opportunities for that to happen.

  2. EG says:

    Something to add to my growing reading list. From the little research I have done, along with some interesting documentaries I’ve seen, there are some similarities to be found among various creation stories in cultures throughout the world. Also, as we all know, many ancient cultures also have flood narratives. The Bible is not unique in any way, except for the fact that it has managed to endure as a singular volume of collected myths, and is taken by some to be their sole guide to life–something that deeply worries me.

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