In what seems to be the growing pattern lately, I’m rather late getting a jump on this post from a combination of going to school, doing homework and helping to straighten the house for my Grandmother coming tomorrow.
Which, looking ahead slightly, will probably give me an easy post for tomorrow. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
For now, I was struggling to decide what I wanted to write about out of a rather mundane day. But then I realized (thanks to a helpful little push from Mom) that there isn’t anything wrong with just regurgitating some information I learned through my studies today as an interesting tidbit to fill a quick-and-dirty blog post.
So that’s precisely what I’m going to do.
As I’m sure some of you remember, I wrote a nice piece the other week about Charles Darwin as I was in the midst of reading his “Origin of Species” for my Honors Evolution and Creation class. Since then we have begun to move out of talking exclusively about the origins of evolution and into some early examples of creation myths.
Soon enough that will evolve into a more Christianity-centric religious creation as the latter half of the class will focus a large chunk of time on the oft cited debates in America, but until then we’ve been reading creation myths from a number of different groups around the world.
My reading tonight featured at least one that had a detail so specific and bizarre, I felt it was worth talking about.
Though for general reference, we’re primarily reading excerpts from “A Dictionary of Creation Myths,” by David Adams Leeming and Margaret Adams Leeming for the assignment I just worked on tonight. If anyone is curious as to where I’m pulling this stuff from.
While the excerpts our professor pulled together were all generally interesting and spoke to varying degrees of shared human thought and experience when crafting their creation stories, the Yoruban creation story out of Africa (specifically the Nigerian region today) in particular, caught my eye.
According to the text (which summarizes the stories more than it does recreate the entirety of the myth), everything began when the supreme deity Olurun (or Olodumare) sent the lesser god Obatala down to the earth.
At that point, the earth was only water and chaos. Obatala brought with him a shell, some iron and a rooster as he descended down a chain which hung over the water from the heavens. He placed the ground-filled shell on top of the iron before letting the rooster spread the land further.
Once there was enough dry land, other gods descended to help create everything else.
As the rest of existence took form, apparently Obatala took control of creating humanity — shaping beings out of earth so Olurun could bestow life upon them. All children born are thereafter shaped by Obatala in their mothers’ wombs.
While the story of creation set up here is fascinating to me in how it differs from so many other myths depicting a complete void from which things emerge, it isn’t entirely novel. Most of the Native American myths we read out of this same collection also depicted beings rising earth out of the waters in a similar fashion.
What makes the Yoruba creation story stand out most to me is a detail that seems pretty insanely specific and unique. I’ll write out what I have here exactly, because I’m not sure I could summarize it any better:
“… one day [Obatala] got drunk and by mistake started making cripples, who are now sacred to Obatala.”
We had to read 15 creation stories for this assignment. On top of that, three stories were read for our assignment due today on Judeo-Christian stories.
Yet between all of those stories and everything else I’ve personally heard before now, not once have I heard of any one society going so far as to explain the existence of cripples.
It’s actually fascinating to think that was a detail they wanted to include. Kind of goes to show that we have a desire to explain everything about the world around us, even if you need to collage a variety of different cultures to get the full picture.