This blog post was written by students in Carolyn Ross’s Writing and Rhetoric course, “Writing Nature: Discourses in Ecology, Culture, and Technology,” at Stanford University in California, USA, in response to their reading of two creations stories: Genesis 1-3 from the biblical Old Testament and a Pomo (California) Indian creation story, “Marumda and Kuksu Make the World.” In addition, it considers a third creation story of the students’ choosing to expand and enrich our discussion of these texts. Comments posted are from students in Mark Michael’s Rhetoric 102 course at The American University in Cairo, Egypt, and by other students in the Stanford class. The American University, Cairo, students have posted their own blogs, addressing the Judeo-Christian creation story, the Pomo Indian creation story, and other creation stories of their own choosing. For more on this exchange, visit this introductory post.
Many cultures have created myths and theories to explain the creation of the world. Even though they are separated by centuries and natural boundaries, there have been common themes between these theories. All three creation stories, Genesis, “Marumda and Kuksu Make the World”, and “Pan Gu and the Creation of the World” (Chinese), tell of a higher being that created from natural materials.
In the beginning of time, there was darkness and an egg. Inside that egg was the giant Pan Gu, sleeping there for eons. Once he had reached gigantic size, he stretched and broke the egg. The lighter parts of the egg became the heavens, and the denser parts became the earth, balanced in the form of Yin and Yang. Pan Gu decided that the heavens and the earth should remain separate and pushed them apart for 18,000 years. When they were sufficiently spread apart about 30,000 miles, in Pan Gu’s eyes, he fell asleep and died. Parts of his body became all the elements of the world. His breath became the winds and clouds, his voice lightning and thunder, his eyes the sun and moon, his arms and legs the compass directions, his trunk the mountains, his flesh the soil and trees, his blood the rivers, his veins into roads, his body hair and skin the grass, his bones and teeth the precious stones and minerals, his sweat the dew, his hair the stars, and his moods the weather. The parasites that ate his body became the many races of humankind. Thus, the higher being Pan Gu created human beings and the elements of the world from natural materials.
The creation story Genesis portrayed the idea that God’s creations, specifically humans in this excerpt, were derived from natural material. Physically, humans came to be when the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground. He breathed into the nostrils the breath of life, and man (Adam) became a living being. Humans remained connected to nature as God put us in the Garden of Eden, where trees for food, life, and knowledge existed. Under God’s direction, we were instructed to till and maintain the garden. Therefore, we coexisted with nature as we were allowed to eat the fruit grown. Furthermore, human characteristics were derived from nature. Exemplifying this is the encounter among Eve, the snake, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As a result, Adam and Eve gained knowledge in regards to good and evil. They realized that they were naked and felt the necessity to create clothes. They took more from nature than was necessary to survive, therefore initiating the exploitive nature of humans. For abusing the relationship with nature, God made humans live off the land. Thus, in the end, we completed our cycle with nature as we die. We return to the ground from which we were originally made.
Old Man Marumda, who lived in a cloud-house in the north, thought of making the world. He flew down south to his brother Kuksu to ask him how to do so. They smoked together then Marumda scratched off some armpit wax from his armpit. He gave it to Kuksu and Kuksu repeated and rolled the armpit wax into a ball. He then stuck it between Marumda’s toes. Then they did some other stuff and made a speech. They then blew tobacco-smoke in the four directions, and then turned around to the left four times. Marumda then put the ball of wax in his sack and flew back to the north while singing. He then tied a string to the ball of armpit-wax and passed the string through his own ear-hole and made it fast. He went to sleep and while lying asleep, the string started to jerk. He went back to sleep, and it jerked again. This continued for eight days and it became the earth. The armpit-wax grew large while Marumda was sounds asleep and jerked the string. He sat up and at last pulled it out of his ear and threw Earth into space. In this creation story there are the higher beings Marumda and Kuksu who made the earth using the natural material of their armpit-wax.
Each of these creation stories, Genesis, “Marumda and Kuksu Make the World”, and “Pan Gu and the Creation of the World” are almost completely independent stories; however, each share a common thread, the creation from natural substance from some higher being.
Shaheen Jeeawoody, Tenzin Sonam, Caleb Marshack, Monica Bendernagel