Why do creation myths intrigue us so? What is it about our origins? Does it hold clues to what will be? Mythology, by its very nature, are stories steeped in politics. There is always a political ideology at the heart of every creation story. Whether it is the founding of a land, the founding of a new nation, the founding of a group of people or of a community.
Myths are stories. Are they true?
There’s always a fragment of truth in every story. Similarly, there is always a fragment of fiction in every single story. But does it tell the whole story? Probably not. And that is why every time I read a myth, I ask myself–what is the ideology of the author or authors?
In some of our founding stories, there is a man who roamed the earth alone. In other stories, there is a woman who roamed the earth alone. There is loneliness at the heart of these stories. The sense that someone wanted or needed a companion or a helper. When we talk about the origin story of humanity, there is usually a brother and a sister–cause that’s what they had to be if there was no one else. And through this union, future generations came to be.
So where is the political ideology in these stories? Well, Who is in charge? That’s where the ideology begins–who is in charge? Who is going to lead the way? For when there is nothing, we need someone to lead the way–and who is it going to be?
Is there an evil character in this story? A devil, a nemesis? Some sort of enemy–real, imagined, animal? What is it?
At the heart of every political debate and ideology are not facts or figures. We are fighting over who got the story right. And both stories–and usually there are more than two–all hold within them, a fragment of the truth. It is through these stories that we create a worldview. And it is through these stories that we create the world.
We decide someone is in charge and someone is there to help. But when ‘reality’ starts to change–the environment changes, the circumstances change–we still hold onto these stories. Not because they are no longer true, but because they describe the origin. The origin from which everything happened.
But where do you even find this origin? If you were to try to look for it, you probably wouldn’t find it now, would you? And why wouldn’t you find it? Where is this origin point, anyway? Is it in East Africa, as the scientists say? Do we search for clues within these stories? Or are these stories archetypal myths that exist in all traditions–where we change the characters around?
He was in charge… In the next story, she will be in charge. If it was an animal that was the enemy, in the next story, it’ll be a tribe. The more complicated our societies get, the more complex our enemies become. And then when you read their stories, we’re the enemy!
Oh my god! Oh my god! Which story to believe? Oh dear Lord, they’re all true and they’re all false.
That’s one of the things that every good storyteller knows. That all stories are true and all stories are false. And why do storytellers come to this conclusion? Let me tell you why. It is because we need these stories. Without them, we don’t know who we are. We really don’t.
That’s why when we are in a period of upheaval and in a period of change, we start rewriting these stories. We say, “No, this is not how the world is. Let’s tweak things a little bit. Let’s retell these stories.” Let’s account for diversity, gender and all of these aspects that these stories did not account for. And we create new ideologies, new myths and new stories–full and I mean full–of new political ideologies.
You said you were slaves, now we are free. You said man must rule over woman, no more. You said we were permitted to go to war under these circumstances, no we won’t. And as our ideologies start to change, so do our stories.
Stories have always been political tools. And creation stories–the foundation upon which everything flourished–even more so. Because when we are lost in the wilderness, in the desert–in whatever terrain that we find inhospitable–not because we’ve moved anywhere, we may have; but not because we’ve moved anywhere–but because something, somewhere has changed somehow.
We look back at these stories–this foundation stone–and think, “What was that?” Why isn’t it working anymore? Because the world has changed. Life has changed. Everything has changed…
But this story, if it doesn’t change–then we cannot change. But wait, we are changing… Hmm…
Guess we’ll have to change the story, then. But does it mean that what happened was false? Of course, not. Everything always has a fragment of truth.