Comparison of Four African Creation Myths
The four creation myths found on the internet, "An African Cosmogony," "An African Story of the Creation of Man," "Egyptian Cosmogony and Theogony," and the Yoruba creation myth found under "The Minneapolis Institute of Arts," have similar elements and incorporate values and norms common across many African Ethnic groups. One of the dominant values common to many ethnic groups is the value of the family and group. All four myths directly illustrate the belief that a person is described in terms of his or her family and lineage. "An African Cosmogony" and the Yoruba creation myth specifically emphasize this attention to lineage. The former, after creation is complete, refers to the creator as the "First Ancestor" from which "came forth all the wonders that we see and hold and use" (Leach). The latter symbolically describes the lineage through a palm nut, sent down to earth by the creator, that eventually grows into a tree with sixteen branches. The deity then created sixteen sons and grandsons for each of the branches to go off and establish kingdoms ("Cirriculum"). These two myths, as well as the other two, reveal the importance of the ancestors and has probably lead to the great amount of respect given to them.
A commonality between all of the myths except "An African Story of the Creation of Man" is that creation is by way of the mouth or spoken word accompanies creation. in "An African Cosmogony" Bumba, the creator, brings forth everything in the world by vomiting them up; all things first pass through Bumba's mouth before coming into existence. Likewise, life is brought forth in this same fashion in "Egyptian Cosmogony and Theogony." The myth states , "Numerous are those who became, who came out of my mouth." (Piankoff). "An African Story of the Creation of Man" differs slightly from the others. Here man, himself, does not directly come out of the mouth of the deity, but words of creation are spoken while man receives the body parts necessary to live on earth. The importance of "The Word" and the ability to speak well are valued across many African ethnic groups.
Also throughout many African ethnic groups is the belief that the human being is superior to all other creatures. In all of the creation stories but the one in 'An African Cosmogony" where man is created only after all of the animals, man is the first creature to be created and he is the central figure in the story. In "An African Story of the Creation of Man," the entire myth is about Juok's creation of men from the clay and the different features Juok gave them on (assuming) the already created earth. The story does not tell how the earth/ land was created and it does not explain the creation of other living creatures.
Noting that certain factors are left out or not explained in the creation stories gives rise to the thought that maybe they were not significant to some of the different ethnic groups. In two of the stories, the Yoruba myth and the myth in "An African Story of the Creation of Man," there is absolutely no mention of women in the original creation. Possibly the stories go on to eventually explain their creation, but as far as these versions go, women were never created. In the Yoruba myth, Odudwa had sixteen sons and grandsons and sent them off to establish kingdoms, but how were they to fill those kingdoms with people if Odudwa never had daughters and granddaughters? In the myth in 'An African Story of Creation," Juok, the creator, sends his perfect man out into the world and the story ends there. The fact that women are not mentioned in these stories of creation shows indifference towards women; it shows the position of women and the social mores of the cultures from which these stories come.
Throughout other African cultures the view of women may be different as portrayed in the other two creation stories. "An African Cosmogony" and "Egyptian Cosmogony and Theogony" give the female sex representation-- the objects lightning and Eye of the sun god respectively are given female pronouns-- but they are given negative attributes. The lightning is described as a "trouble-maker" that 'leaps down and strikes the earth and causes damage" (Leach), and the Eye of the sun god becomes enraged until she is placed above the other two eyes (Piankoff).
The many commonalties between the four creation myths illustrate general values, mores, and norms that dominate in a great number of African ethnic groups. Though, there are some significant differences between all of them that reinforce the individuality and uniqueness of each culture.
An African Cosmogony
Egyptian Cosmogony and Theogony