re: creation myths & proto-science
- Came across an interesting creation story variant. Have been familiar with
the Japanese creation myth for a while but most myth books omit the initial
words. This particular creation story contains a reference to a floating
cloud in the midst of infinite space, before matter had taken any other
form. According to William Tyler Olcott in the "Myths of the Sun", "This
well describes the original nebula from which scientists aver the solar
system was evolved. It is strange to find in the pages of mythology that
record the creation of the celestial bodies allusions, that, in the light of
modern science, savour more of fact than of fancy."
"When there was neither heaven, nor earth, nor sun, nor moon, nor anything
that is, there existed in infinite space the Invisible Lord of the Middle
Heaven, with him there were two other gods. They created between them a
Floating Cloud in the midst of which was a liquid formless and lifeless mass
from which the earth was evolved. After this were born in Heaven seven
generations of gods, and the last and most perfect of these were Izanagi and
Izanami. There were the parents of the world and all that is in it..." [the
myth continues as per usual with these sorts of things]
-Olcott quoting Helen Clarke's "The Child's Guide to Mythology".
On a different topic, taking Christmas as the old winter solstice
celebration, and wherein we trim trees with lights to brighten the darkest
period of the year, the Japanese have a curiously "christian" story of their
own sun god. I use the term loosely, of course, but the parallels are
obvious to me and strike rather strongly.
Amaterasu is the Japanese sun goddess and she had two brothers: one was the
sea-god, Susanowo, and the other was the god of the moon, Tsuki-yomi.
Susanowo caused so many problems for Amaterasu that she ran away and found a
cave, entered and closed the door behind her, sealing it with a large
As a result of the darkness that had befallen the world, the other gods
assembled and discussed what they could do to remedy the situation. They
searched for some way to bring her back into the world. They placed a sacred
tree at the entrance of the cave; many things were made as offerings for
her, such as a mirror, sword and cloth materials; cocks were brought that
they might keep up a perpetual crowing; bonfires were lit, and a merry,
noisy dance was performed by a young goddess called Uzume. As she swayed to
the rhythm, she got caught up in the moment and undid her clothing, letting
it fall slowly, until she was completely naked. At the sight of this the
other gods were so amused that they all started laughing and Amaterasu
became curious about the activity outside her cavedoor.
As she opened the door of the cave slightly to see what was happening she
asked how it was that the gods could find the heart to laugh in darkness.
Then Uzume spoke, "We rejoice and are glad because there is a more
illustrious deity than the sun goddess." Of course Amaterasu wanted to see
this deity. When she opened the door she saw her own reflection in the
mirror they had set up outside the cave as an offering for her, and she was
dazed by the brilliance of her own reflection. In that split instant they
prevented her from being able to re-enter the cave by stretching a rope
The rope that was stretched across the entrance of the cave is known as the
shimenawa and continues to this day to serve an important purpose by being
draped across the entrance of shrines and along the streets at New Year's.
According to Joseph Campbell, this rope denotes "the renovation of the world
at the threshold of the return. If the Christian cross is the most telling
symbol of the mythological passage into the abyss of death, the shimenawa is
the simplest sign of the resurrection. The two represent the mystery of the
boundary between the worlds-- the existent nonexistent line."