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The World Cosmogony

May 9, 2012

The World Cosmogony
By James, b Chigozie
Department of English and Literary Studies
University of Nigeria, Nsukka

From time immemorial, there has always being an inquisition into the origin of the world. The question has always being “how and when does the world began”. One thing we should be mindful of is that the basis of the creation of the world is solely in the Bible for the Christians but for others the validity of this account remains questionable and mythical. However, the focus is not on the Biblical rendering of the cosmological emergence of the universe but on the mythological orientation of people since antiquity as it pertains to the Chinese, Greeks, Egyptians, South Americans and Indians.

Cosmogony is the account of how an ordered universe came into being; the origin of the universe and life in general. Fundamentally, every account of the origin of the universe is shrouded in myth and the validity of such account espoused is upheld by the people who owns the myth. In essence, it is true for them and false to others.

The first on the radar of this mythic discourse is the Egyptian cosmogony. Like any other people of ancient civilization, the Egyptians have a belief system on how life and the universe came into existence. Like numerous other myths, there was no life except for shoreless waters wrapped up in darkness that fills the world space. This endless primeval water was called Nun. There exists inside the primeval waters an already existing male and female seeds alongside a proto-soul that was filled with the desire and urge to create. This proto-soul was the god Thot. Already, the image and what the world would looks like had been formed in Thot’s eyes. Nun, through the words of Thot began to move thus manifesting the four pairs of deities, male and female: Nun and Naunet (the god and goddess of the primeval waters), Kek and Keket (the forces of darkens), He and Hehet (the spirits of boundlessness) and Amun and Amaunet (the invisible powers). Thus, from these four deities, the universe and the things inherent therein began. This myth to some extents bears a resemblance to the Biblical account vis-à-vis the formlessness and water submerging everywhere.


On the shoulders of the Chinese cosmogony lied their own belief on how the universe arose. It involved the god Pan Gu who separated the world egg-like “Hun tun” (Primodal chaos) into heaven and earth were once inextricably interwoven like a chicken’s egg in which is Pan-ku. After a long period of 18,000 years, there was a split. The bright and light part formed heaven while the dark and heavy part formed the earth. To separate heaven and earth from each other, Panku stood and forced them apart. For another period of 18,000 years, both the earth, heaven and Pan Ku continued to increase in feet and height. While Pan Ku grew 10 feet a day, the earth increased in feet and thickness and the heaven increased in feet and height also. This myth also accounted for how heaven and earth’s distance of 30,000 miles came into being.


Just like the Chinese mythology, chaos is a key figure in the cosmogony of the Greeks. Chaos, an empty-void was the beginning of all things. Chaos is said to have given birth to Gaia, the mother earth, who later gave birth to Uranus, the sky. Due to her consummation with Uranus, she became pregnant with six male and six female Titans. After the war between father and son, Cronus married Rhea, his sister. Before the children were born, Cronus would ask for them and swallow them but in the case of Zeus, Rhea replaced him with a stone, so Cronus got to swallow a stone instead of Zeus. Rhea then took Zeus to Crete where he was raised by a goat. However, Zeus brothers and sisters were later vomited by Cronus after having a drink from Metis. The vomited titans helped Zeus in becoming the supreme god by defeating other deities.

Hesiod, the Greek poet posited that four races of humans existed before now. The titans created the men of the golden age who lived in perfect peace and comfort until their death. The second race to be created was the silver race, created by the Olympian gods. This race was however destroyed by Zeus for failing to honour the gods. Zeus, proceeded with the creation of the bronze race, a warlike and brutal people who perished due to constant fighting amongst themselves. The last to be created was a race of heroes.


The ancient Incas like the Egyptians believed that the earth was overwhelmed with darkness until ConTiqui Viracocha, the god emerged from the lake, bringing with him the first set of people. More people were formed and made out of rocks from where they were sent to inhabit the whole earth. As a result of the rebellion, they were punished with the stoppage of rain by ConTiqui viracocha. Another god, Pachachama overthrew Con Tiqui viracocha and created a new group of people whom the Incas believed to be the ancestors of humans. Like other races, the myths of the Incas were fashioned, championed and tailored towards the glorification of their culture.


The myth of the Indians regarding creation is tied to the belt of their religious belief, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. For the Hindus, creation originated from Bradma the god who brought the world and the universe into being by his thoughts. In the Indian “Hymn of Creation”, everything was void, there was neither man, “death nor immortality” nor sign of “day or night”. It was in the mix of this perpetual formlessness that the “primeval seed” emerged. Despite this, what we have running through the lines are doubts as they is no one categorically who creates the universe, rather it is assumed that only the one who live above knew how the universe came into being. In spite of this, doubt lingers.


Fulani cosmogony of the universe totally alienates and deviates itself from the common shackles that binds other cosmogonies emphasized in this essay. Unlike others where there was complete darkness, there was a “huge drop of milk.” It was from the “huge drop milk” that the creator, Doondari originated. Hence, he created the five elements; stone, iron, fire, water and air. These five elements were used in creating man. Due to man’s innate desire to be proud and corrupt, Doondari created another element; blindness to defeat man. We see that the creation of one element after another was as a result of pride and to curb this menace, another element need to be created. As a last resort to curb the terrorizing menace of pride, Doondari has to come down himself the third time as Gueno, “the eternal one” and put an end to all.

From what has been espoused above, we see that the cosmogonies and beliefs of these people emerged from nothing except the Fulani cosmogony or creation story. They are pointing to the same direction in cementing the fact that “Every single story about human origin is only a devaluation or expansion of the Biblical account” according to Mr. F.U. Okoro.

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