Monday, October 24, 2011

Earth Diver Myth

            For this project, my topic is the creation myth of the Earth Diver. This character is common among many creation myths. I've found (through research as well as many stories) that this usually involving a god-sent animal to pull forth the lands from water or other land. A good example of this is the Maori Legend of the charcter "Maui" (who has magical powers) sneaks off to go fishing with his brothers. He uses his powers to find way not to be sent back home. He drops a magic hook into the water to receive a strong tug. With the help of his brothers he pulls up a great fish. The fish is today known as the main island of New Zealand. The capture of this fish might anger the gods so Maui goes to make peace with them. After he leaves, his brother began to beat this fish ferociously. This creates the mountains and hills in the lands.
           This theme appears throughout many earth diver myths. Most of the earth diver myths come from Native American folklore passed down through storytelling. These are not only limited to Native Americans but can also be found in Chukchi and Yukaghir, the Tatars and Finno-Ugrian folklore as well. The specific travel of these myth-creating patterns is often disputed. As far as Wikipedia states, the origin of these Earth Diver creation myths comes from the eastern Asiatic coastal region. These were spread appart as people migrated. These soon spread to the North American continent.
          These creation myths have effected societies of different culture in many ways. It gave many of them a way to explain to their children how the lands came to be, or how the shape of the land came. It gave them something to believe in when they didnt know for certain why certain things were the way they are. As previously stated, this appears often in Native American folklore. Below I have included another example of an Earth Diver Myth from the Seneca Native Americans.
The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (Seneca)
from Stith Thompson, Tales of the North American Indians (1929)

A long time ago human beings lived high up in what is now called heaven. They had a great and illustrious chief.

It so happened that this chief's daughter was taken very ill with some strange affliction. Every known remedy was tried in an attempt to cure her, but none had any effect.
Near the lodge of this chief stood a great tree, which every year bore corn used for food. One of the friends of the chief had a dream in which he was advised to tell the chief that, in order to cure his daughter, he must lay her beside this tree, and that he must have the tree dug up. This advice was carried out to the letter. While the people were at work and the young woman lay there, a young man came along. He was very angry and said: "It is not at all right to destroy this tree. Its fruit is all that we have to live on." With this remark he gave the young woman who lay there ill a shove with his foot, causing her to fall into the hole that had been dug.
Now, that hole opened into this world, which was then all water, on which floated waterfowl of many kinds. There was no land at that time. It came to pass that as these waterfowl saw this young woman falling they shouted, "Let us receive her," whereupon they, at least some of them, joined their bodies together, and the young woman fell on this platform of bodies. When these were wearied they asked, "Who will volunteer to care for this woman?" The great Turtle then took her, and when he got tired of holding her, he in turn asked who would take his place. At last the question arose as to what they should do to provide her with a permanent resting place in this world. Finally it was decided to prepare the earth, on which she would live in the future. To do this it was determined that soil from the bottom of the primal sea should be brought up and placed on the broad, firm carapace of the Turtle, where it would increase in size to such an extent that it would accommodate all the creatures that should be produced thereafter. After much discussion the toad was finally persuaded to dive to the bottom of the waters in search of soil. Bravely making the attempt, he succeeded in bringing up soil from the depths of the sea. This was carefully spread over the carapace of the Turtle, and at once both began to grow in size and depth.
After the young woman recovered from the illness from which she suffered when she was cast down from the upper world, she built herself a shelter, in which she lived quite contentedly. In the course of time she brought forth a girl baby, who grew rapidly in size and intelligence.
When the daughter had grown to young womanhood, the mother and she were accustomed to go out to dig wild potatoes. Her mother had said to her that in doing this she must face the west at all times. Before long the young daughter gave signs that she was about to become a mother. Her mother reproved her, saying that she had violated the injunction not to face the east, as her condition showed that she had faced the wrong way while digging potatoes. It is said that the breath of the West Wind had entered her person, causing conception. When the days of her delivery were at hand, she overheard twins within her body in a hot debate as to which should be born first and as to the proper place of exit, one declaring that he was going to emerge through the armpit of his mother, the other saying that he would emerge in the natural way. The first one born, who was of a reddish color, was called Othagwenda, that is, Flint. The other, who was light in color, was called Djuskaha, that is, the Little Sprout.
The grandmother of the twins liked Djuskaha [Little Sprout] and hated the other, so they cast Othagwenda [Flint] into a hollow tree some distance from the lodge.
The boy who remained in the lodge grew very rapidly, and soon was able to make himself bows and arrows and to go out to hunt in the vicinity. Finally, for several days he returned home without his bow and arrows. At last he was asked why he had to have a new bow and arrows every morning. He replied that there was a young boy in a hollow tree in the neighborhood who used them. The grandmother inquired where the tree stood, and he told her; whereupon then they went there and brought the other boy home again.
When the boys had grown to man's estate, they decided that it was necessary for them to increase the size of their island, so they agreed to start out together, afterward separating to create forests and lakes and other things. They parted as agreed, Othagwenda [Flint] going westward and Djuskaha [Little Sprout] eastward. In the course of time, on returning they met in their shelter or lodge at night, then agreeing to go the next day to see what each had made. First they went west to see what Othagwenda [Flint] had made. It was found that he had made the country all rocks and full of ledges, and also a mosquito that was very large. Djuskaha asked the mosquito to run, in order that he might see whether the insect could fight. The mosquito ran, and sticking his bill through a sapling, thereby made it fall, at which Djuskaha [Little Sprout] said, "That will not be right, for you would kill the people who are about to come." So, seizing him, he rubbed him down in his hands, causing him to become very small; then he blew on the mosquito, whereupon he flew away. He also modified some of the other animals that his brother had made. After returning to their lodge, they agreed to go the next day to see what Djuskaha [Little Sprout] had fashioned.
On visiting the east the next day, they found that Djuskaha had made a large number of animals which were so fat that they could hardly move; that he had made the sugar-maple trees to drop syrup; that he had made the sycamore tree to bear fine fruit; that the rivers were so formed that half the water flowed upstream and the other half downstream. Then the reddish-colored brother, Othagwenda [Flint], was greatly displeased with what his brother had made, saying that the people who were about to come would live too easily and be too happy. So he shook violently the various animals--the bears, deer, and turkeys--causing them to become small at once, a characteristic that attached itself to their descendants. He also caused the sugar maple to drop sweetened water only, and the fruit of the sycamore to become small and useless; and lastly he caused the water of the rivers to flow in only one direction, because the original plan would make it too easy for the human beings who were about to come to navigate the streams.
The inspection of each other's work resulted in a deadly disagreement between the brothers, who finally came to grips and blows, and Othagwenda [Flint] was killed in the fierce struggle.
Every society has a creation myth. Some are just more creative than others. In modern society there is the myth that God created man in his own image and put us on this Earth. (Not very creative) Scientists believe that this big rock we call Earth had a single-celled organism that crawled out of the primal sea and over time, evolved into animal and eventually man. So that leaves us the question of: "What do you as a reader believe in?".

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