Tag Archives: creation story

Aztec Creation Story of the Sun

Background: The informant is a 19 year old girl who is currently a college student in Chicago, Illinois. She was also born and raised in the city. Her father is Mexican-American and she also grew up with aunts and uncles to pass on traditions.

Context: The informant mentioned hearing about it when she was younger, but she relearned the myth in detail when she took a Latin American Studies class  at her college last year.

Text:

“So, from what I remember, this is the Aztec creation story of the Fifth Sun. So, with the Aztec, there’s a bunch of different gods and, like, their story involves different suns – like in the sky, not a boy. Their suns are the five different births of the world, so to speak. There’s birth, death, and that’s all I can remember as of right now but anyways, –all the gods were kinda standing around the fire that created the light of Earth, and they were trying to keep going. And this fire was dying out. These gods were like ‘what can we do?’

“And, I believe the different gods offered little things they were associated with. Like, one was associated with nature and would offer flowers. It didn’t really work in terms of the fire. They were like ‘hm, okay, this is a bit of a problem.’ Eventually, there were two gods. I forgot their names, but what’s important is what they represented. One was associated with frail and sickness. And the other was associated with richness and wealth. He was abundance and gold and luxury. 

“And, so these two very different gods were like… ‘I’m gonna go and sacrifice myself into the fire.’ For about a week of time, they prepared themselves for the fire. But, what happened was, when preparing themselves, they were thinking, well only one of them can do it.

“Then, When it came down to it to throw themselves in the fire, the god associated with luxury was like “Yeah! I’ll go” and then when he ran towards the fire, he went “Psyche!” and didn’t go into the fire. So, the other one, who was running right after him to go second, went into the fire, but there was no change in the fire. But, his courage and bravery was applauded by all the other gods who were watching. So, then, all the other gods sacrifice themselves into the fire. Which is how the sun was able to keep going.”

Analysis:

Informant: She finds the information particularly interesting because the Aztecs hail from Latin America, and are commonly disregarded as a great civilization. She has retained the myth in her head since taking the class, and has shared it with others, revealing how she thinks the information is worth sharing and knowing.

Mine: It’s always exciting when creation stories are retold through modern lenses because it gives a new perspective on it. Hearing the gods talk in casual terms, or the one deity yells “psych!” would never be something heard in the past, but perfectly conveys the same meaning – that the god was trying to trick the other one into sacrificing first. Finding other examples of the story online, another variation of the myth is how it created the sun and moon from the two gods who jumped in. They both deal very similarly, until the last message of how something was created, and they both have slightly indifferent tones to them. In the one performed by the informant, it holds a tragic, yet content, element in how all the Gods sacrificed themselves to keep the sun and life alive. In the second one, it seems like more a lighthearted story, where God wasn’t trying to trick the other but simply hesitated in fright. As Chicago is very far away from the Mexican border, it may reflect how the myth has changed over time to reflect a new telling.

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.

The Story of Izanami and Izanagi

Main piece: 

EG: So my dad’s from Japan, and there’s this story about how the island of Japan was made with the gods izanagi and izanami, and there was something about how izanagi was stirring the sea to create the island of Japan. And then there was something about izanami hiding a cave, so the sun wouldn’t come up because he’s related to the sun or something. And then she would come out of that cave when she heard music, and that’s why they have Taiko drumming.

Interviewer: And how does that relate to your childhood?

EG: Uh as a kid my family went to Japan every summer so it can relate that way. And since we were in the countryside, or like suburbs, or like near the mountains, there’s a lot of shinto shrines and stuff and a lot of the Japanese kids shows had elements of Japanese folklore like kappa and stuff. 

Context:

My informant, EG, grew up in the US and visited her dad in Japan every summer. Being surrounded by Japanese suburban culture there was a very special experience to her, which is why she remembers the story––especially when Japan in western media is generally only depictions and stories about the very urbanized areas. EG was also the president of the Taiko club at USC, which would explain why she remembered the bit about Taiko drumming. This story was collected over a phone call about her time in Japan.

Thoughts:

Upon doing further research to fill in the gaps of the story, it turns out that Izanagi and Izanami were two, occasionally interpreted as a romantic couple, who created everything as we know it. They created more than just the ocean and Taiko. I think that this story is really interesting because the world springs forth from their bodies; like Izanagi’s eyes became the sun and moon deities, for example. This happens in a lot of other culture’s folklore. A famous example would be the Greek version of the Earth, Gaia, and how the parts of her body create the world. I think it’s interesting that creation stories often have this thread of the world being a singular body.

(For another version of the story of Izanami and Izanagi, please see this link:  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Izanagi, Encyclopedia Britannica.)

The Sun and the Moon

The 22-year-old informant was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. at a very young age. She chose to share this story because they are commonly told in Korean culture.

“There’s this tiger and he sees this brother and sister, and he’s like ‘Can I please have some food?’ and they give him rice cakes, and he tries them, but doesn’t like them, so he starts chasing the brother and sister to eat them, which is messed up! So the children climb up a tree and the tiger’s like, ‘How did you get up there?’ and the brother’s like, ‘We used oil to climb up the tree,’ so the tiger rubs oil on his paws and tries to climb up the tree, but then he slides down. And then the sister’s like “Ha ha!” so then the tiger takes an axe and chops the tree down, so they get chased again. So they’re running and they start to pray to God and they’re like ‘Hey God, please let us live and bring down a rope that we can climb up.’ So two ropes fall in front of them. Then the tiger comes and is like, ‘Can I also have a rope, God?’ So then God brings down a rope, except it’s a rotten rope, so he starts to climb it and he falls and dies. So the brother and sister keep climbing and going up the rope and they become the sun and the moon.”

 

This is an origin story of the sun and the moon, but the story also serves a moral, which is essentially that good things come to those who are good. Basically– you get what you deserve.

Satanai Flower

Lady Satanai saw a beautiful flower behind a forest in Kabardian. She wanted to plant this flower in front of her house, to let everyone see just how beautiful it was, so she brought it home. She planted the flower, but when tomorrow came, the flower had wilted, which made her very sad.

Later, she brought the same kind of flower, hoping it would not wilt like the other one, and planted it in her front garden. This flower also ended up wilting.

She again brought the same kind of flower, thinking that, this time, this flower wouldn’t die. But it also wilted! She began to regret taking these flowers from the forest, thinking she should have just left them alone. Suddenly, a storm came, and it began to rain heavily.
The next day, Lady Satani looked at the flower, and it had come back to life – the rainwater had revived the flower. She was overjoyed. From then on, humanity valued water’s benefits, calling water equal to the soul.
Background information: This is a Circassian story, told to her by her mom.
Context: The informant told me this story in a conversation about folklore
Thoughts: I thought this was a nice story, telling the importance of water to life. It also strikes me as a type of creation story – this is when the role of water on this planet is recognized. Perhaps this might even be the first instance of water.