Tag Archives: gods

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.

The Origin of the Korean Nation

The origin of Korea is shrouded deeply in myth, though there is one widely circulated story that is most popular. This is a version of the story told to me by my father, who grew up in Korea for 30 years before immigrating to the United States.

호랑이와 곰이 사람이 되고 싶어서 환웅이란 사람한테 부탁했는데, 마늘이랑 쑥을 100일 동안 먹으면 사람이 된다고 했다. 그런데 호랑이는 포기하고 곰은 100일 동안 참고 먹어서 진짜 사람이 된다. 사람이 된 곰(여자)은 나중에 환웅이랑 결혼해서 한국이란 나라가 만들어졌다.

Romanization:

ho-rang-ee-wah gom-ee sa-ram-ee dwe-go sheep-uh-suh hwan-oong-ee-ran sa-ram-han-teh boo-tak-het-neun-deh, ma-neur-ee-rang ssook-eur bek-ear dong-an mug-eu-myun sa-ram-ee dwen-da-go het-da. geu-run-deh ho-rang-ee-neun po-gee-ha-go gom-eun bek-ear dong-an cham-go mug-uh-suh jin-jja sa-ram-ee dwen-da. sa-ram-ee dwen gom(yuh-jah)eun na-joong-eh hwan-oong-ee-rang gyur-hon-heh-suh han-gook-ee-ran na-ra-ga man-deur-uh-jyut-dah.

Transliteration:

A tiger and a bear person wanted to become so to Hwanung a person they asked, and garlic and mugwort if they eat for 100 days they will become a human. But the tiger gave up and the bear for 100 days endured and ate so they became a real person. The bear who became a person (female) later married Hwanung and the nation of Korea they created.

Translation:

A tiger and a bear wanted to become a person so they asked a man named Hwanung, and he said that they would become people if they ate garlic and mugwort for 100 days. The tiger gave up but the bear endured and ate for 100 days, and she eventually became a human. The bear who became a person later married Hwanung and they created the nation of Korea.

This myth is very deeply engrained in Korean folklore and history, as it tells the story of the marriage between Hwanung and the bear. It is widely told that the two produced a son named Tangun (sometimes Dangun) who is regarded as the legendary founder and god-king of Gojoseon, the first Korean kingdom. He is said to be the “grandson of heaven” and “son of a bear”, and to have founded the kingdom in 2333 BC.

Personally, I really enjoy this story because it links the heavens with humans and animals, who all play a vital role in the subsequent creation of Korea. Seeing the relationship between the divine member and the animal-turned-human was quite novel to me, as I had never seen animals actively approaching deities before. The inclusion of the vegetarian diet requirement was fitting for the mythological founding of Korea as well, since the people were a mostly agriculture based society. I also found it ironic that the bear becomes the wife of the founding father of Korea, although the tiger is most commonly attributed to the country and serves as its national animal. Perhaps this creation myth was hinting at the future, as Siberian tigers are now extinct in Korea while wild bears still roam the lands.

Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ in Vietnamese Folklore

Main Piece:

AL: The tale of Lạc Long and Âu Cơ:

Lạc Long Quân was born in 2800 BC. He is the sun of a mountain god… and his mother is uh the sea god. His body is a dragon of some sort even though his parents… Was a sea dragon and his father the son of mountain… [He] was like a human-ish figure. His name, Lạc Long Quân, translates to Dragon Lord of Lạc. Lạc is a place in Vietnam…

Âu Cơ is the daughter of the northern chief… And fairy from the mother… Lạc Long Quân, the dragon, decided to take the form of a handsome man because he has that power, and Âu Cơ is a fairy. And so they married, and um *laughs* interestingly enough, Lạc Long Quân married the daughter but killed the father. I know. It’s weird… You would think that you shouldn’t kill the daughter’s father…

Anyway, so they had sex, and uhm she gave birth to a sack of a hundred eggs, and they grew into a hundred boys… Or children, depending on lore, and reestablished Vietnam. Uhm they say that all ancestors descend form these 100 children… Âu Cơ loved the mountain, so she really liked the north side. Lạc Long Quân loved the water because his mother is a water dragon… And so they decided to split the kids in half, or not in half— *laughs* divide the kids in half, fifty-fifty, and take them to either location… Half of them in the mountain and half of them near the sea… It was agreed by both parents that they would help each other in need. Lạc Long taught his children to fish and tattoo. Âu Cơ taught her children to farm and breed animals.

In Saigon, there are two streets who intersect. One is named Lạc Long, and one is named Âu Cơ, and they intersect because they’re married to each other… It’s very cute… Probably intentional… And then Lạc Long is known as the first king of Vietnam…

Context:

Taken from a conversation with my roommate in the Cale & Irani Apartments at USC Village. Him and I are of Vietnamese descent.

Analysis:

Myths are like adult versions of fairy tales. Historically, they have helped societies try to understand elements of the natural world or the scientific phenomena around them. Here, this myth plays into patriotic ideals in the founding of a nation and a unification between the rivalry of North and South Vietnam. These cross-generational stories are kept alive by the communities performing them. These two figures are so deeply incorporated into Vietnamese culture that there’s many pieces of art dedicated to them. In fact, there is a temple dedicated to the Dragon Lord. Furthermore, the intersecting streets are just further proof of how stories like these unify people through their collective imagination, childhoods, and rich cultural histories and beliefs.

Egyptian Myth

The following was recorded from a conversation I had with a friend marked EAL. I am marked CS. She shared with me a religious myth she grew up learning in school.

 

EAL: “So basically like this is one of the Egyptian myths out there and one of the most influential. So Osiris he was like a god and the king of Egypt. And his…um, brother Set, who is the god of chaos basically, imprisons him in a sarcophagus and so like Set takes the throne. And…um, Osiris’ wife Isis still has their son whose name his Horus. And basically she like protects him because he’s vulnerable or whatever. And once Horus grows up to where he’s strong enough, he fights Set and tries to take the throne back for his family and resurrect Osiris.

CS: “Does he do it?”

EAL: “Yeah so he defeats Set and Osiris becomes the king of the afterlife and restores ma’t (the order of the universe).”

CS: “How did you learn this story?”

EAL: “I read a book called the Red Pyramid Chronicles. And I also learned a lot of it through my art history class because it features a lot of Egyptian art.”

 

Background:

The participant is a freshman at the University of Southern California and was raised in Chicago, Illinois with a strong Christian religious background. Her mom introduced her to mythology, mostly Greek and Egyptian, at a very young age.

Context:

An in person conversation that was recorded while walking to an event.

 

Analysis:

I found this myth to be interesting because she has learned the story in two completely different facets of knowledge: a young adult series and an art history class. The idea that both referenced this Egyptian myth at some point in time really reflects the idea that folklore travels into all fields and this is an agreeable reason why it is always subject to variation.

“It’s A Promesa”

The informant’s family originated in Cuba. Her mother was born and raised in Cuba but her father was born and raised in America. Her Cuban culture and background comes from her mother’s side and folklore that her mom picked up over the years and shared with her. The folklore from this informant comes from family stories that are shared amongst the family as lessons or as advice. 

Its a Promesa” 

The informant…

“My Abuela Nina had strange rituals that she would perform. Abuela Nina was involved with the Santeras who have beliefs that if they do different promesas then they would be given something by the Gods. Abuela Nina bagan to pull her eyelashes out at some point in her life and wouldn’t give an explanation to anyone as to why she was doing it except for “it’s a promesa”. She finally revealed that the Santeras taught her that if she never let her eyelashes grow back the Gods would do something in her favor. Abuela Nina also practiced other Santera traditions referred to as promesas as well. As her sons grew, she kept all of their hair, nail clippings, and teeth in jars. She would only give the answer “its a promesa” when asked why, but it is believed among the santeras that is someone were to get a hold of those things they could create voodoo on that person, so it was safer to keep them hidden in a jar.”

When I asked the informant what the Santeras specifically were she described them to me as witch doctors. They have strange voodoo, magic, are connected to the Gods in some way, and other traditions they practice they believe to work. I also asked her what a promesa is. She said that a promesa is translated as a promise, but to the Santeras it is a promise to the Gods or like a thing that you do for the gods. The informant also added that her Abuela Nina is said to be so weird or strange.

Analysis…

When the informant told me this stuff about her abuela Nina, I didn’t know how to respond. It was so different than anything I have heard before. The closest thing to a witch doctor that I have ever seen has been on the discovery channel so to hear about it face to face with someone who’s family knows a lot about it was interesting. Similarly to witch doctors, the closest form of voodoo magic I had ever heard about has been on movies. Hearing about Abuela Nina has expanded my cultural perspective and awareness. I think it is interesting that the informant has that in her culture and I was given the opportunity to be able to hear about it.