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A Comparative Analysis of two Creation Mythologies

Anthropology has demonstrated that there is clearly a need to understand our natural world; and that this instinct is quite common across different cultures scattered throughout the planet. The most basic curiosity seems to be the need to explain the how and why we humans exist at all. When looking at the domain of creation stories virtually all cultures have built a collection of stories that are used to answer the ancient questions of who we are and where we came from. While some cultures have no such stories - the Pirah have no myths or religion at all most do. The Judeo-Christian approach to answering these questions is today the most repeated and well understood. Common to most sects of Judaism and Christianity, these religions propose that a single supreme being was responsible for all that exists. As an omnipotent entity he decided to bring the planets, animals and humans into being in a specific order; ending with a single couple often referred to as Adam and Eve. From here each generation would multiply, and eventually -- over approximately 6,000 years -- we find the world as it is today. In this story the being is a single god that has human attributes. If you think of an old man with a flowing white beard and white robe you arent far off the traditional view. Another view of the creation of our universe comes from the nearly extinct Native American tribe commonly called The
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Blackfoot.

Rather than a supernatural entity like the

Christian god, this legend finds its start within nature itself. The creator in this story is the Sun which is referred to as Napi meaning Old Man. The Sun interacts with elements of nature that are already in existence and have always been there. The Old Man asks a beaver and other animals to get some mud from the bottom of the lake. The Sun uses this to build some land and eventually people. While both myths are fantastic stories, the primary difference is the Native Indian story is far more connected with nature. While its obvious that both of these cultures had a common need to understand their beginnings; and its also interesting to note the fundamental differences. Within the Christian

tradition we see a human-like god that created us in his own image. However he appears to be a vengeful god that becomes angry with his creation (Adam & Eve) when they disobey him. This leads him to cast a curse on all of humankind. This curse is often referred to as Original Sin and humans must then attempt to behave and beg his forgiveness for generations to come. The potential reward is that while God has said humans must die due to the original sin; they can move to an afterlife if they live according to his rules while on Earth. So we see in the Christian tradition that God has brought the natural world and humans into being in order to learn how to
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behave and eventually move to another state of being. It is a monotheistic framework that has one supreme being that all must obey without question. These stories have been captured over the years in The Bible. To get an understanding of who this god is (often referred to as simply God) people refer to this book. Quoting from Exodus 34:14 in the Bible - in order to provide an insight into this god: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.1 You can see from this passage that humans are instructed to obey and view their god as the supreme god above all else. So humans and all of nature have been created; but the human condition is tainted by original sin and must do what it takes to get to a better place. Looking to the stories of the Blackfoot Tribe we see a different view of the reasons and purpose for being. As mentioned earlier this is a set of stories set within the framework of nature. In the Christian legend all things were created in short order and fully developed. Within the Blackfoot story early humans were not fully developed and they had hands like a bear with long claws (G.B. Grinnell). While this too is a monotheistic religion; the stories remain always within the context of nature. When dealing with death the Creator in this
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King James Bible

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story (The Sun) tells humans that they must die but there is no concept of sin or an afterlife. Quoting from the legend: We will undo nothing that we have done. The child is dead, but it cannot be changed. People will have to die."2 The god in this legend instructs humans on how to live within nature, and even helps early humans to build tools to hunt and shows them how to cook the animals and grow corn. These stories answer the how and why but do not make promises of anything outside of nature. Rather the stories reinforce that humans are a part of nature and must remain so until death which itself is natural. Comparing these two creation myths we see the JudeoChristian stories built around a supernatural and transcendent being that looks down upon humankind, with humans worshipping and looking for forgiveness. The world here is temporary and a better place awaits. With the Native belief system outlined we see an immanent being that once interacted directly with early humans to show them how to live within nature. The modern

Blackfoot tribe acknowledge the Sun as The Creator but live as their ancestors taught them as handed down by each generation of elders. For the Blackfoot the world is natural and must be protected and respected as there is no after life promised.

Blackfoot Legends : G.B. Grinnell

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References

Everett, Daniel. The Pirah: People Who Define Happiness Without God. Freethought Today 3 Apr. 2010:. Print.

Exodus 34: 14. Bible Hub. Biblos, n.d. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <http://biblehub.com/exodus/34-14.htm>.

Dwyer, Helen, and Mary Stout. Blackfoot History and Culture. 2nd ed. New York, New York: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2011. Print.

Grinnell, George Bird. Blackfoot Legends - Blackfoot Creation. Legends of America. Legends of America, Mar. 2010. Web. 29 Sep. 2013. <http://www.legendsofamerica.com/nablackfootcreation.html>.

Alter, Robert. Genesis. New York: W.W. Norton, 19971996. Print.

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