h Phoenix Qi: Many men-of-mud myths from various cultures

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Many men-of-mud myths from various cultures

Greek terra-cotta doll c. 800 BC

Not every culture has myths about the first humans being fashioned from earth or soil; the Norse myth has the first man and woman being made from the ash and the elm tree. However, many cultures from China to Africa to Native America do have stories about the first humans being made from soil and then having the spirit breathed into them by a deity. For a story about that, see Breath and Spirit of Life on the Spirits In Harmony blog.

Here are a few stories from around the world about the earthly origins of human beings.



Christian Bible – the name Adam means clay…


Adam: This is the Hebrew word for "man". It could be ultimately derived from Hebrew adam meaning "to be red", referring to the ruddy colour of human skin, or from Assyrian adamu meaning "to make". According to Genesis in the Old Testament Adam was created from the earth by God (there is a word play on Hebrew adamah "earth").


Genesis 2: 7-8: "Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Thus the man became a living creature."


The word for "ground" is adamah. Adam was made of adamah (a female form of the noun).22

-- Footnote 22 - Perhaps this is where the idea of "Mother Earth" originated. Nations the world over speak of "Father Heaven" and "Mother Earth."

Man was formed. But he was still lifeless. There was no continuity whatever with any lower form of life. Man was lifeless until something else happened. The next phrase says, "He breathed (or blew) into his nostrils the breath of life, the mishnat chayyim (the very breathing in and out of life) and man became a living soul (or being)."

When God blew man's breath into his nose, He also blew in his being! (Paul used this terminology when he spoke much later to the Athenians in Act 17, "In Him we live and move and have our being.") The moment He withdraws His breath from our nostrils, we lose our life and we become dust again. We lose our being, as far as the physical body is concerned. But, once we have being, we cannot be destroyed altogether.


The Shilluks of the Nile region, for example, tell a story in which humankind is fashioned out of clay. In each region of the world in which the creator traveled, he created humans from the materials available, making some white, others red or brown, and the Shilluk black.

He then took a piece of earth and gave them arms, eyes, etc. This story says much about their values and culture. In distributing the characteristics to man, he chose first to give them the ability to do work through the use of their arms and legs.

They were then given the ability to see and taste their food. Finally, they were given speech and hearing with which to entertain oneself ("An African Story"). This shows the value system at work among the Shilluk, that work comes above all else. It also attempts to explain the differences between men of various races by telling of how they came about.

A West African creation tale explains how two spirit people were accidentally sent down to earth by the sky god. Lonely, the people decided to create children from clay, but feel they must hide them when the sky god comes down. Because they are hidden in fire, the children soon turn to various shades based on how long they had been exposed to the heat. Over time, these clay children grow up and move to various regions of the earth, ultimately populating it (Fader). Much like that of the Shilluk people, this story serves a two-fold purpose: it explains both the creation of man as well as accounts for the differences among him. This tale shows the West Africans value these differences because they feel that all men are created equal and should be treated as such.



KANE was the leading god among the great gods named by the Hawaiians at the time of the arrival of the missionaries in the islands. He represented the god of procreation and was worshiped as ancestor of chiefs and commoners. According to the possibly late edition of the Kumuhonua legend, he formed the three worlds: the upper heaven of the gods, the lower heaven above the earth, and the earth itself as a garden for mankind; the latter he furnished with sea creatures, plants, and animals, and fashioned man and woman to inhabit it.

(a) Fornander version (1). In the first era Kane dwells alone in continual darkness (i ka po loa); there is neither heaven nor earth. In the second era light is created and the gods Ku and Lono, with Kane, fashion the earth and the things on the earth. In the third era they create man and woman, Kumu-honua (Earth beginning) and Lalo-honua (Earth below). In the fourth era Kane, who has lived on earth with man, goes up to heaven to live and the man, having broken Kane's law, is made subject to death.


Chewing Black Bones, a respected Blackfeet elder, told Ella E. Clark the following creation myth in 1953. Clark later published the account in her book, "Indian Legends from the Northern Rockies."

One day Old Man decided that he would make a woman and a child. So he formed them both of clay, the woman and the child, her son.

After he had molded the clay in human shape, he said to it, "You must be people." And then he covered it up and went away. The next morning he went to the place, took off the covering, looked at the images, and said "Arise and walk." They did so. They walked down to the river with their maker, and then he told them that his name was NAPI, Old Man.

This is how we came to be people. It is he who made us.


Kato (Mendocino County, California):

The previous world had a sky of sandstone rock. Two gods, Thunder and Nagaicho, saw that it was old. They stretched it, propped up its four corners, created flowers, clouds and other pleasant things. They created a man out of earth, putting in grass for the stomach and heart, clay for liver and kidneys, pulverized red stone mixed with water for blood.


Lithuanian Religion and Mythology

Lithuanian ethological legends speaking about creation of the man occasionally state Dievas made a man from the dirt or clay and then inspired spirit in to the form. This motive does not differ in any detail from the Biblical story. It is quite truthworthy that even before Christianity Lithuanians had a version of the first "Molding" of a man, because it exits in many other isolated nations; the "dirt" version of the human being is also seen in the parallel between the words "Žmogus" (a human being) and "žemė" (earth), cf. Latin Homo-humus, Hebrew Adam-Adama. Possibly the idea of a human being stemming from earth irrespective of the Biblical influence exists in many agricultural nations. However, though Lithuanian version of molding must have existed some time ago, it became obliterated by the Biblical version in the legends, therefor it is impossible to discriminate it and to prove that it really existed.

However for Lithuanian tradition undoubtedly belongs human appearance from the Gods' saliva version: the God has walking along the water and spat and on his way back saw some creature, which as it turned out appeared from his saliva. In one legend this is the way how two people appear: a man and a woman, in other places just a human being and still in other instances Liucius (Liuciperis). These legends are rather numerous. One rare legend, true states that Dievas in stirring fire place smeared his face and started washing, a drop of water while he was washing fell on the ground and in this way the man appeared. A similar motive is stored in shanty and mansiu tribes and in arctic and Siberian mythologies. In either way the overall picture is still here, human being springs from the matters related to the God hitting the ground.

In Lithuanian tales this creativity is completely accidental. Dievas did not intend to create human being, he just spits, without any intention and in seeing a being appear is surprised himself and in some tales he addresses the new creature: "Who are you?", and, of course the answer is that it does not know. Dievas had to wreck his head for a long while before he remembers that before some time he spat here. This legend is a reflection of a very ancient ideology, Dievas is not interested in the human being and does not intend to create it.


After the Good Spirit completed the earth, he created man out of red clay. Placing the man upon the earth, the Good Spirit instructed the man about how he should live.


When Enki made man of the clay from over his apsu in Eridu, he ordered all the gods to first take three ablution baths on the 1st, 7th and 15th of the month, to absolve them of "blood-guilt" in the slaying of an Igigi god, whose flesh and blood was mixed into the clay animating mankind. So Solomon's brazen bath may recall this momentous event.

[In the Roman calendar, the 1st of the month was called the Calends, the 7th called the Nones, and the 15th called the Ides. Quite a coincidence that these sames days would be the days for purification...especially since they also represent the lunar phases of New, First Quarter, and Full Moon! ~Phoenix~]

"In five extent major cosmogonies of the Eridu tradition, ENKI THE SPRINGWATER fertilizes earth by means of rivers and canals, causing life (including human life and cities) to rise along their banks. Under this tradition is included the distinct tradition of Enki's creating individual human beings out of clay." (p. 32. "Sumerian Texts.")

The Mesopotamian myths have several contradicting accounts regarding mankind's creation by the gods. One account has them popping up out of the earth like plants! However, my interest here is in exploring those myths that seem, to me, to be preserved in Genesis. The Igigi gods' threatened revolt in Sumer is located at two different locations, FIRST, at Eridu, where man is made of "water and clay"; and SECOND, at Nippur, where the of the "flesh and blood" of a slaughtered Igigi ring-leader god is ground into the clay to make man (Note: Man at Nippur is made on Enki's orders on the Shapattu/Shabattu Day, the 15th day of the month, the day of the FULL MOON. Enki is ultimately responsible for man's creation at both locations)



Nuwa Story as Creator

It is said that Nüwa existed in the beginning of the world. She felt lonely as there were no animals so she began the creation of animals and humans. On the first day she created chickens. On the second day she created dogs. On the third day she created sheep. On the forth day she created pigs. On the fifth day she created cows. On the sixth day she created horses. On the seventh day she began creating men from yellow clay, sculpting each one individually, yet after she had created hundreds of figures in this way she still had more to make but had grown tired of the laborious process. So instead of hand crafting each figure, she dipped a rope in clay and flicked it so blobs of clay landed everywhere; each of these blobs became a person. In this way, the story relates, were nobles and commoners created from the hand crafted figures and the blobs respectively. Another variation on this story relates that some of the figures melted in the rain as Nüwa was waiting for them to dry and in this way sickness and physical abnormalities came into existence.


The Islamic View of Creation (The first created human was Adam (peace be upon him).

In the Qur’an, Allah says what means: *{And of His signs is this: He created you of dust, and behold you human beings, ranging widely!}* (Ar-Rum 30:20)

In another surah, we are told that: *{He created man of clay like the potter’s.}*

(Ar-Rahman 55:14)

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