Stories of the creation of the universe attempt to make sense of the world and to give meaning to human life. Reflecting particular cultures, creation myths nevertheless exhibit universal elements. Legends from around the world ponder the most basic questions: Why are we here? Who are we? What is our place in the cosmos?
Even as modern societies have moved away from literal belief, creation myths still illuminate profound cultural truths. The influence of shared mythological belief systems, whether conscious or not, is still a deep current running through civilization that can unite or divide. These primal stories have been the inspiration for countless works of art, drama, music, and literature throughout the ages and are still studied by scholars and in the classroom as a way to examine modern life and cultural history.
Articles focus on archetypal creation myths that reflect the profound wrestling of civilizations around the world with the most important facets of human existence.
Mythological subjects covered in this two-volume set include:
- African Mandé creation myth, Serer creation myth, and stories of Olódúmaré and Unkulunkulu
- Greek cosmological myths from the Theogony and the Roman creation legend of the twins Romulus and Remus
- Mayan legend of Kukulkán and Tepeu and the Incan legend of Viracocha
- Finnish creation myth of Väinämöinen
- Norse & Celtic legends of the Vǫluspá and the LeborGabálaÉrenn
- Near East legend of EnūmaEliš and the Atra-Hasis Epic
- Far East Chinese myth of Pangu and the Ainu creation myth of Japan
- Native American Raven Tales and the creation myths of the Cherokee corn mother Selu, Ha-wen-ni-yu of the Iroquois, the Hopi sun spirit Tawa, and Awonawilona of the Zuni
- Egyptian writings on the Ogdoad, Atum, Ptah, and Amun
- Indian stories of Brahma and Purusha
- Pacific legends of the Kumulipo of the Hawaiian region and the Māori Rangi and Papa
The content is arranged by region and myth cycle. Regions covered include: Africa; the Americas; Egypt; Norse, Celts & Europe; the Far East; Greece; India & Central Asia; the Near East; the Pacific; and the Roman World. Each regional section begins with a number of Overview essays that discuss the literature, mythology, and art of the region.
All articles also include a section that surveys films, novels, and comic books that feature the mythical warriors and battles discussed in the write-up. Maps, illustrations, and poetry round out this two-volume set. Several Finding Guides list content by region and beliefs, in addition to a Subject Index.