How did the world begin?

The Universe, Earth, Life?



  1. 0 Votes

    Burning ice, biting flame; that is how life began”—at least that’s how it happened according to the Vikings. 

    Over the history of human existence, there have been many explanations of how the world began.  In the Western World, many of us are familiar with the “Let there be light!” story of the beginning of the Universe, the six-day creation, and Adam and Eve, but this was not the first explanation, nor was it the last.  Below are a few of the many beautiful and vibrant stories from around the globe of how we got here.

    (Please note: this is nothing close to a complete list; please add your favorites!)

    Egypt: Atum

    Ancient Egyptian creation myth varied from region to region.  This is the story of the city of Heliopolis; elsewhere, Atum is associated with Ra. 

    Before anything else, there was a dark swirl of waters, called Nu.  Out of these waters rose Atum, who created his own body out of thought and willpower.  He had nothing to stand on, so he created a hill, which became the foundation of the city of Heliopolis.

    Atum was alone in the world, so he unified himself with his shadow in order to give birth to other gods.  Because of this he was sometimes called “the Great He-She”.  Spitting, vomiting, and sneezing, he gave birth to Shu, god of the air, and Tefnut, goddess of moisture, and they created the principles of life and order in the world. 

    In the chaos of the waters of Nu, Shu and Tefnut were lost, and Atum sent his only eye, the Sun, in search of them.  They returned in time with the eye, and Atum wept joyful tears, which grew into men and women when they touched the ground.  Shu and Tefnut gave birth to Geb, the earth, and Nut, the sky.

    China: Pan Gu and Nu Wa 

    A long time ago, all the matter in the universe was a cloudy chaos shaped like an egg.  A giant, Pan Gu, grew and developed inside the chaos for 18,000 years, until one day, when he awoke.  He stretched out and the egg broke, releasing all matter.  The lighter elements floated up to become the sky, while the heavier ones settled to become the earth.  Pan gu worried that the earth and sky might mix back into chaos again, so he held them apart for 18,000 more years until he finished growing up, and the sky was 30,000 miles away from the earth.  He held them there for a long time, until he felt comfortable that they were stable, and he died.  His arms and legs became the four directions and his blood ran into rivers.  His voice turned into thunder, and his breath into the wind.  His hair made grass; his teeth and bones became the rocks and mountains; and his flesh became fertile soil.  Last, his eyes remained in the sky to become the Sun and Moon. 

    Hundreds of years later, a goddess named Nu Wa roamed the wild earth all alone.  One day she decided she wanted company.  She stooped to the edge of a pond one day, and molded some mud into the first man.  At first he was lifeless, but as soon as she set him down, he began dancing to rejoice his new life.  He made her happy, so she formed more.  She couldn’t make them fast enough, so she dipped a vine into the mud and swung it around her head, sending drops of mud all around the world that turned into men when they hit the ground.  She knew that when they died, she would need to create more, so she divided them into men and women, so that they could reproduce by themselves.

    Scandinavia: Odin and Ymir

    Niflheim was made out of nothingness, in which a spring fed twelve rivers.  To the north was the ice of Ginnungagap, and to the south was the burning region of Muspell, guarded by a giant with a flaming sword, called Surt.  When the sparks of Muspell blew into the ice of Ginnungagap, water dripped down into the shape of a man, the first of the frost giants, Ymir.  More ice melted and formed a cow, which fed Ymir with the four rivers made from its milk.  The cow fed by licking the salt trapped in the ice, and her licking formed it into another giant, Buri.  Buri had a son who married one of the giants who gave birth to Odin, the king of the gods, and his two brothers.

    Ymir began to turn evil, and fought with the giants and young gods.  In one fight, Odin and his brothers killed Ymir, and so much blood dripped from his wounds that it flooded the world and became the sea, his hair became trees, and his bones became rock.  Odin made Ymir’s skull the sky, and imbued it with sparks of Muspell to become the stars, and out of his brains Odin made clouds.  On the seashore, Odin and his brothers found two logs, which they made into a man and a woman.  One brother breathed life into them, the second gave them thoughts and the ability to move, and the third brother gave them faces, speech, sight, and hearing.  All people are descendents of this man and this woman.

    Modern Science: “Big Bang” Theory and Abiogenesis

     The most popular scientific model, the Big Bang theory, followed by abiogenesis, is the modern creation story.

    Before time began, there was nothing.  About 13.7 billion years ago, suddenly—no one knows how—there was a singularity, a point of finite matter with infinite density and a temperature far higher than anything we can imagine, which contained a huge amount of energy and began to expand outward.  It did not explode like a bomb, but inflated like a balloon.  Over the next few billion years, the matter cooled and pulled together into formations such as galaxies full of stars, around one of which, our planet, Earth, was formed.

    As early as 200 million years later, water, in large quantities on earth, reached its condensation point, and liquefied into the oceans.  Chemical reactions continued to occur as the earth cooled, and eventually, amino acids were formed from non-organic chemicals, a process which has been reproduced in a laboratory.  Those amino acids are the building blocks of all life, and countless forms of life evolved over the next few billion years, leading right up to Homo sapiens sapiens, modern humans.

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    As a terrestrial planet, Earth is mostly composed of heavy elements such as magnesium, silicon, iron and oxygen.  An accepted theory for the origin of our solar system describes a process whereby gas and dust particles in the universe gradually coalesced together and compressed to form individual planets though accretion.  The molten core of the Earth presents a mystery; science does not have a definitive answer for how the core of the Earth first became hot enough to melt.  

  3. 0 Votes

    Nobody really knows quite how the world began, but both science and the tales of many ancient civilizations point the way toward knowing of both the physical and spiritual origins of the planet Earth as well as the rest of the universe.

    The best available scientific theory of how the world began is known as the Big Bang Theory. The idea is what it sounds like: there was an enormous bang of all energies in the universe being released simultaneously in some primordial form, where they rapidly shifted through many different incarnations before settling down into the arrangement in which we know them today, and the nature of the various particles, waves, and other forms we know through science continues to shift and evolve every day, as does scientific understanding of them.

    Every society has had its creation myths, and the scientific theory of the Big Bang is what I like to call ours, since there is some element of truth in every myth. I grew up in the Jewish faith, and so I like to appreciate the creation myth from my people as a metaphor for our own wonder and mystification at the grand cosmic mystery. Many other people have their own views of how the world began.

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    The Big Bang theory is popular among the scientific community, which states that at one point, all matter in the universe was a single point of infinitely small, infinitely hot energy called the “singularity.” This point somehow exploded in the Big Bang, expanding at a speed faster than the speed of light an scattering into the form that created our universe as we know it.

    In the world of creation stories, the Lakota Sioux version might be one of my favorites. I’ve pasted in here. The link citation is below.


    A long time ago, a really long time when the world was still freshly made, Unktehi the water monster fought the people and caused a great flood. Perhaps the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka, was angry with us for some reason. Maybe he let Unktehi win out because he wanted to make a better kind of human being.

    Well, the waters got higher and higher. Finally everything was flooded except the hill next to the place where the sacred red pipestone quarry lies today. The people climbed up there to save themselves, but it was no use. The water swept over that hill. Waves tumbled the rocks and pinnacles, smashing them down on the people. Everyone was killed, and all the blood jelled, making one big pool.

    The blood turned to pipestone and created the pipestone quarry, the grave of those ancient ones. That’s why the pipe, made of that red rock, is so sacred to us. Its red bowl is the flesh and blood of our ancestors, its stem is the backbone of those people long dead, the smoke rising from it is their breath. I tell you, that pipe, that *chanunpa*, comes alive when used in a ceremony; you can feel power flowing from it.

    Unktehi, the big water monster, was also turned to stone. Maybe Tunkshila, the Grandfather Spirit, punished her for making the flood. Her bones are in the Badlands now. Her back forms a long high ridge, and you can see her vertebrae sticking out in a great row of red and yellow rocks. I have seen them. It scared me when I was on that ridge, for I felt Unktehi. She was moving beneath me, wanting to topple me.

    Well, when all the people were killed so many generations ago, one girl survived, a beautiful girl. It happened this way: When the water swept over the hill where they tried to seek refuge, a big spotted eagle, Wanblee Galeshka, swept down and let her grab hold of his feet. With her hanging on, he flew to the top of a tall tree which stood on the highest stone pinnacle in the Black Hills. That was the eagle’s home. It became the only spot not covered with water.

    If the people had gotten up there, they would have survived, but it was a needle-like rock as smooth and steep as the skyscrapers you got now in the big cities. My grandfather told me that maybe the rock was not in the Black Hills; maybe it was the Devil’s Tower, as white men call it , that place in Wyoming.

    Both places are sacred. Wanblee kept that beautiful girl with him and made her his wife. There was a closer connection then between people and animals, so he could do it. The eagle’s wife became pregnant and bore him twins, a boy and a girl. She was happy, and said:
    “Now we will have people again. *Washtay*, it is good.”
    The children were born right there, on top of that cliff. When the waters finally subsided, Wanblee helped the children and their mother down from his rock and put them on the earth, telling them: Be a nation, become a great Nation – the Lakota Oyate.”

    The boy and girl grew up. He was the only man on earth, she the only woman of child-bearing age. They married; they had children. A nation was born.

    So we are descended from the eagle. We are an eagle nation. That is good, something to be proud of, because the eagle is the wisest of birds. He is the Great Spirit’s messenger; he is a great warrior. That is why we always wore the eagle plume, and still wear it. We are a great nation.
    It is I, Lame Deer, who said this. .

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    There is also a theory informally known as the Multiple Big Bang theory, or cyclic universe model,  in which our Big Bang was just one in huge number of previous big bangs, stretching back over a trillion years. In this theory, advanced by Professors Neil Turok (of Cambridge) and Paul Steinhardt (at Princeton), each big bang is like a bubble – it expands, creates a universe, exists for a while, then dissipates, until another huge Big Bang happens and replenishes it. For a full, diagrammed article written by Professor Steinhardt, see the second link below.

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