Tag Archives: creation myth


“Jinns are in the Quran and they are creatures made by Allah and they can’t be seen by the human eye. They were created before mankind was created. Unlike ghosts or spirits they are a separate entity, just like cats and dogs and birds and other species, and human beings can’t really see them and they were created from a smokeless flame or something like that, like how God created humans from dust and dirt. When God made Adam, jinns were made before Adam, God asked all the jinns to bow down to Adam and one jinn did not. This jinn refused to bow down to Adam which earned him the wrath of Adam. This jinn became Shaitan, or Satan. There are good and bad jinns though.Growing up in Pakistan it was a very inherent factor of our culture to believe in jinns, my mom was a big believer and my dad was very pragmatic. My mom used to hide it from my dad and go to this shaman or preacher who would read from the Quran to get the bad jinns away from my mom. My mom had a very troubled life and her mother believed it was the jinns causing this trouble so they went to this person. Fast forward many years and my sister was unwell so the religious person came to my house, and my dad had a garden he loved. The garden had this wooden statue, and the woman came over and said that a jinn was in this statue. I was a bit naive, and I went to that statue and threw it out so my sister would be better. It didn’t work though, I just got in a lot of trouble with my dad. They say some people could see them and they could take the shape of different things, like they could be this chair. There was actually a second hand belt I had got somewhere and in my mind I was so convinced it was a jinn. So eventually I drove it outside and I pulled out my zippo lighter and I burned the belt. And I was kind of susceptible at the time, a lot was going on in my life at the time. I’ve become more pragmatic now but there’s a part of me I can’t shake off. I was convinced i got rid of the jinn after burning it. Even if I didn’t really get rid of it, I got rid of one element, one thing that was bothering me, now I can move on. 


J is a 47-year-old woman who grew up in Pakistan until she was in her mid-twenties. Her family is Muslim, though she’s currently no longer actively practices the religion. 


Jinns seem to be a part of the Muslim religion’s sacred creation story, part of the myth of how the earth was created. They were created before man and there is myth surrounding their own creation, they are believed to have existed way before humans and continue to exist in the world. The speaker mentioned how Disney has turned these religious figures into a mythical, magical version of a blue “genie” in a lamp. This is another example of how Disney has taken folklore through tales and myths and turned them into caricature versions of themselves. Because of Disney’s prominence, this is the idea we first get when we think of jinns, even though it’s very far removed from the actual beliefs surrounding jinns. Through her information I can see the connection between the jinn and the genie lamp, because jinns are able to transform into objects. jinns aren’t actually a magical blue creature as Disney has sold us though, they seem akin to angels to me. Islam is an Abrahamic religion, so it has similar roots and stories to Christianity. The story of Shaitan is extremely similar to Satan and the story of Lucifer being cast from heaven and turned into the devil for not bowing to Adam. The speaker then shares her personal experiences with jinns. Her last story highlights the importance of ritual. She says even if there wasn’t really a jinn in the belt, that ritualistic burning helped her move forward and release trouble that was going on in her life. This exemplifies how even when folklore isn’t supported by science, it doesn’t mean that it is false. These rituals and creatures can provide real experiences for people that are very meaningful and impactful. 

Celestial Myth- Why Does The Moon Have A Crater?


Ganesha is a god in Hindu mythology who has the head of an elephant. So one day, Ganesha was riding on the mouse in the forest. The mouse saw a snake – it got scared and ran away. Ganesha fell down. The moon saw this and started laughing at Ganesha. Ganesha got angry and threw his tusk at the moon. The point where the tusk hit the moon is where the moon has a crater. This is also why he has one broken tusk.


JG is 59 years old and my mother. She grew up in India with a very religious Hindu family, before immigrating to the USA. She still practices Hinduism to this day, and follows all of the religion’s traditions, observes the festivals, and believes in its myths to this day. She tried to pass this on to me as a child, but her religious beliefs never really connected with me. She agreed to retell this celestial myth to me for this assignment.


Ganesha is one of the most prominent and common figures in Hindu mythology. He is mostly known as the remover of obstacles, which is why Hindus like to worship him first before worshipping other gods or starting big tasks/activities. This myth shows Ganesha’s impulsiveness and short temper, which follows as his father is said to be the Destroyer. The origins of this myth probably come from the Indus River civilization, as its inhabitants tried to explain natural phenomenon in the sky with stories about the gods. Now, we know the factual, scientific reason why the moon has craters. However, this story remains as something that’s told to children, to entertain them and to familiarize them with the basics of Hinduism from a young age.

Lord Ganesha


My informant, NT, is my roommate and good friend. She is a junior at USC and she is Hindu. The reason she shared this story with me was actually very random. She has a small statue of a Hindu god in our room, but for most of the semester it was covered by her makeup bag on her desk. When we were cleaning, she said, “OH NO, I’ve accidently had a god hidden, no wonder I’m not thriving,” in a completely humorous and sarcastic manor. This led me to ask why the statue had an elephant head.

Main Piece:

NT’s summary- The Goddess Parvati created her son Ganesha so that he could always guard her chamber, and never let anyone in no matter who they were. One time, Ganesha didn’t allow the Goddess’ husband, Shiva, in the chamber. Shiva freaked out and was so angry that he chopped Ganesha’s head off; this enraged the Goddess so much that she threatened to destroy the world, he was not brought back to life. So, Shiva saw an elephant, cut its head off and gave it to Ganesha. The Goddess was still unforgiving, so Shiva bestowed a great amount of divinity to Ganesha and made it a rule that everyone had to pray to him before any other god.

Interviewer: So why is this the god you choose to have a statue of Ganesha, is there personal significance behind it?

NT- When I was a little girl, my mom took me on my first trip to India. I really didn’t know much about my own culture, which was kind of sad. I would always pray with my parents and repeat what they said but I never really understood what any of it meant. So, when we were in India, my mom decided to buy me a bunch of kid’s books about all the stories of the gods so that I could understand the myths behind each one and why we pray to them. I had probably like 20 of them, but my favorite one was always the one about Ganesha. He’s definitely the most well-known god among people who don’t know anything about Hinduism, mostly because he has an elephant head. But I was always taught (even though I didn’t understand) that we needed to pray to Ganesha first before ANY other god, even if it was a holiday celebrating a different god. I always thought it was so weird, but then i read the story of how ganesha came to be and what happened to him (how his father cut off his head lol) and that was the story that really got me into my culture. so now i even have an idol/statue thing of ganesha in my room because not only is he the remover of obstacles but he also brought me closer to my culture.


NT shared with me a myth from her religion; by her very easy recall of details, it’s obvious that it holds a special and sacred place in her heart. A very common motif amongst religious myths is the creation factor, hence the creation story for the god of obstacles. Using Levi-Strauss’ paradigmatic approach, myths can be analyzed by how they relate to the underlying patterns in life. People can use myths as a guide for what to do on earth, so Ganesha’s perseverance can be translated into one’s own challenges in the real world. Being able to find commonality and comfort in myths is a reason that people hold them so sacred.

Pangu Creation Myth


Informant is a 53 y/o Chinese woman who is a first-generation immigrant to the US and has lived in the US for around 23 years.

Main Piece:

(trans.) “A long time ago, our world had no shape, just an expanse of chaos, which eventually shrinks into a large egg. Inside the egg was a giant named Pangu who was birthed from this egg. When he stood up, he grew taller each day, and was eventually able to separate the egg into the sky and the earth. Many thousands of years pass as Pangu stands with his arms holding up the sky and his feet firmly planted on the ground, and eventually, he passes away. Pangu’s corpse becomes many different things, his eyes are the sun and the moon, his blood is the river, ocean, etc., the details I’ve forgotten, but just like that we now have our world today.”



This conversation took place over the phone. I asked my informant about Chinese creation myths she knows of.


Around the world, myths are few in number—myths are often creation stories with transcendental truths in them that answer why the world is the way it is, exploring the relationship between humans and the cosmos. The belief in myths doesn’t stem from the literal narrative it tells, but rather from the sacred meaning behind it, which is why myths have many different variations, but they generally do not change over time. Myths can be analyzed using Levi-Strauss’ structuralism approach, which takes the smallest components of a myth and how they relate to each other, which is most commonly presented through binary oppositions, and thus come to an understanding about that particular culture’s ways of thinking. In this Chinese creation myth, there are a couple of key symbols. First, the primordial chaos that is contained, specifically, into an egg, the egg is then separated into Earth and Sky, there is then the birth and growth of a giant, who eventually dies, and finally his corpse turning into various celestial and natural elements present in the earth and sky. While extremely simplified, these binaries are all somewhat related to the ideas of recycling and reincarnation, and that nothing is ever truly destroyed—Pangu splits the egg, his body dies but turns into the natural world. 

Either way, it is interesting to think about this creation myth in the context of modern China, which generally doesn’t push for any specific religion, and these myths are now usually found more in written texts rather than passed along by speaking. This myth is generally associated with Daoism, though elements of reincarnation lean more towards Buddhism. 

For another version of the Pangu myth, see Goldin, Paul R. “THE MYTH THAT CHINA HAS NO CREATION MYTH.” Monumenta Serica, vol. 56, 2008, pp. 1–22, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40727596.

Legend of the owl.

H is a Caucasian-Native-American male originally from Tucson, Arizona. H is currently a corporate manager based in Austin, Texas.

H performed this folklore while visiting LA on a business trip. I met H in Downtown LA for lunch in order to collect folklore he had previously agreed to perform for me. The following is the second of two stories he provided. H first heard the following story from his grandfather.

H: Another legend is of the owl. The Apaches have nothing to do with owls, they see them as the night creature and if you see an owl, you run, my Grandfather would stop if we saw an owl and the trip would be over. The big owl in the Apache stories was evil, he was a giant. Sometimes he was man-like. They were able to paralyze humans with their stare or they could cry and everyone who heard it it was like thunder, and it would cause you to stop, uh, some owls were seen as cannibals and they would eat children, and so you avoided them. The Apaches claimed that the big owl was the sun of the sun, and.. when he was slain, his body hit the earth and his feathers flew off in every direction and those feathers transformed the owl that now live in the forest. And if you saw an owl, you turned and went home.

Reflection: Owls in Apache culture appear to have the same negative connotations that crows have in European culture. As far as I know, crows are not perceived the same way in Apache culture, so I find it interesting that their culture happens to consider the owl, a different type of bird, an evil portent. Based on H’s detail that owls in Apache legend have the power to paralyze people with their cries, there appears to be a direct link between how unsettling or intimidating a bird sounds and how it is perceived across European and Native American cultures. The deep “hoots” of an owl are an evil omen just as the harsh “caws” of a crow are associated with death in European culture.