Eggs and Creation Myths – Part II

“Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.”

M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

The Egg as a universal theme in Creation myths represents the totality of primordial life, from inspiration and idea to molecule and form. The egg is featured in the cosmologies of many ancient civilizations, including those from Africa and Egypt, the civilizations of Babylonia and Persia, as well as China, Australia, North America, and far-flung Finland.

First, it would be a good idea to briefly explain the concept of the Creation Myth, and put it into perspective so as not to view our ancient ancestors as primitive or unintelligent. Indeed, the very artifacts, relics and earliest artistic renderings we have witnessed testify to a creative imagination and awareness that surely must be the fuel of logical, linear, left-brained thinking. Not that one is “better” than the other, just different, and all good when in balance.

The characteristics of a myth often feature gods, goddesses, or a deity of some kind, or a hero in possession of god-like qualities, and not all myths are of ancient origin. They are often used to explain natural events or phenomena such as earthquakes and lightning or birth and death. These traditional stories that answer the questions of life are presented dramatically in order to explain archetypal themes and events such as a “great flood” which appears in the mythology of multiple civilizations (which poses yet so many other questions).

A creation myth, therefore, is understood to be a symbolic account of the very beginning of all that “is”, and perhaps more importantly, of how humans came to be a part of “all that”. 

Some creation myths chronicle what might even be described as a “big bang”, a literal, literary explosion of events after an unknowingly lengthy gestation. Many creation myths feature a “supreme deity” or creator – often self-created – who then goes on to fashion the earthly creatures and their habitats, including humans, and not always in the form they are today.

Myths differ from from folklore and legend in that myth is focused on the origins of a thing. The fictional collection of tales known as folklore has a more immediate relevance to everyday human events, such as conflict, romance, or even animal omens; this could include the stories about Paul Bunyan and his great ox Babe. Legends are generally stories about people or occasions, which may or may not be substantiated but have taken on a cultural importance because they inspire or offer poetic license to their re-telling because there is already so much fodder for the imagination, such as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Fairy Tales could be considered legends about supernatural or fantastic beings with extraordinary abilities,  and occasionally sinister intentions; life is not all Airy Fairy in the Grimm Bros. version of Disneyland, whose fairytales instill moralizing lessons based on the culture from which they were created.  Creation myth has no such agenda, although their telling has often shaped the way people respected their existence by living with their surroundings rather than in spite of their surroundings.

P’an Ku, the Divine Embryo

One creation myth from China tells about how the universe was formed. There is more than one version of the myth, and the all start out with this single premise: All matter and form arose from Chaos.

illustration c. 1607 CE

In the Beginning, a great Cosmic Egg floated all by itself in the void, and within this egg was Chaos, or “no-thing”, indistinct matter. A divine embryo called P’an Ku began to form from within the Chaos. And although it took P’an Ku eighteen-thousand years to mature – a length of time which seemed like “forever” – he grew by leaps and bounds each and every day within the Cosmic Egg. P’an Ku is usually depicted as a very hairy, very primal being, with horns on his head and tusks coming out of his mouth, holding a hammer or mallet in one hand and a chisel in the other like a true master craftsman. Finally, after breaking open the Egg and emerging from the existence he had always known, P’an Ku created Yin and Yang, the conceptual essences of receptive and expansive; He also created actual day and night, land and sky, all the wonders of the world as we know it, mountains, lakes, rivers, animals, and also people… which were formed from the fleas in P’an Ku’s hair! He worked so hard in his many labors that he eventually died, sacrificing his own body, returning to – as well as becoming – the very Earth this Creator God himself had fashioned.  

Brahmanda, the Hindu Cosmic Egg

The Cosmic Egg is mentioned in several sacred Hindu texts including the Rig Veda, and is called Brahmanda, the very name of which means “Brahma” the supreme creator god, and “egg”.  Sometimes referred to as the Golden Embryo, this egg existed in a void of darkness, floating without volition or meaning, knowing neither dark nor light, earth nor sky, death nor life. Nothing was the only thing in this so-called place of non-existence. And then, after an undetermined amount of time (and not unlike the 18-thousand year gestation of P’an Ku), through sheer spiritual passion and the raw primordial movement of molecules, Brahmanda the Golden Fetus became, and was called the “One Before whom the world of matter is a trifle”, and hence the totality of life and all the greatness of the cosmos was brought into existence.

It is easy to see that this Creation Myth from India stirred the imagination of artists past and present, because there is much sacred art devoted to Brahma, as well as the whole pantheon of supreme or divine beings of the Hindu religion. Some compare the stones called “Shiva Lingham” to the cosmic egg Brahmanda, because of their long ovoid yet almost phallic-like shape.

The Egg that became the Sun

This is an Aboriginal Dreamtime myth from Australia. Dreamtime is considered to be the spiritual order of life, given to the people through teachings and stories of and from the ancestors. Dreamtime is a foundation of spiritual knowledge and understanding that is over sixty-thousand years old.

Here is the story: One day Emu and Dancing Bird got into a tizzy for no apparent reason, maybe it was too hot, maybe the wind was too blustery, but they were antagonizing each other, and Dancing Bird was known to be a trouble-maker anyway. Dancing Bird went over to Emu’s nest and took one of her eggs, flinging it away like so much debris. The flung egg broke open and the yolk hit a pile of scrap wood which had been gathered up by Cloud Man. Lo and behold, the woodpile suddenly combusted into a brilliant fire, which illuminated the sky and then miraculously became The Sun. The world was now a place of light, with beautiful flowers and grasses, sunsets and sunrises. Cloud Man still gathers scrap firewood at night to keep the flames of the sun’s light blazing throughout the day… and that is what the egg symbolizes to this most ancient of surviving cultures, a world of beauty and light.

art by Mirree

Qorikancha, the Temple of the Galaxy

At the behest of the ruling Inca nobility during the 15th century, a great temple in the Peruvian Andes at Cuzco called Qorikancha, Coricancha, or Korikancha, was constructed with the finest of masonry techniques. The stones were cut with extreme precision, indicating the skill of the stone-masons as well as importance of this site, which is believed to be astronomical in nature. Furthermore, the temple itself is located at the center of four (not-so-primitive) highways, dividing a wide region into four districts. The temple Qorikancha was richly decorated with native gold in numerous applications, not the least of which is a large golden solar disc which reflects the sunlight coming in through the open skylights and illuminating a secret chamber on the summer solstice.

What is particularly outstanding about the temple is what appears to be a “wall map” of the stars at the main altar, which is also fashioned completely out of gold. On this map are symbols, pictographs, and astronomical renditions of many star systems. At the very top of the map is the Southern Cross constellation, and right below that is a large oval shape, an egg, representing creative light and resurrection, also known as the Supreme Godhead, Huiracocha. This elliptical shape also marks a large grouping of stars as seen on contemporary astronomical maps, with the Great Dog star, Canis Major, located at the lowest section of this ancient golden egg. The whole ancient city of Cuzco, which had been occupied by pre-Inca civilizations for over three-thousand years before their subsequent reign, is a World Heritage Site, and has been mostly preserved or restored in spite of the Spanish conquest in the 16th century and all events thereafter. While this site is not about a creation myth per se, it gives us insight into how the people might possibly have believed they originated… perhaps from a different planetary system? What if it were true?  

The Orphic Egg

In modern artistic renderings, the image of a snake sinuously wrapped around a large egg is usually associated with what is called the Orphic Egg, or the World Egg. The origins of this image are much more complicated, thanks to the ancient Greek philosophers.

According to the scientific and philosophic works of the Orphic priests of 5th century Greece – those tutors who discussed the teachings of the legendary Orpheus – the originating principle called Chronos (or Time) produced a symbolically infinite Chaos accompanied by a finite Ether. The enveloping Night surrounded the infinite Chaos, which in turn allowed the creative Ether to become an organization of finite matter. The final shape of this Chaos-and-Ether-coupling was an Egg, surrounded by the shell of Night. Within the vaulted sky of this Orphic Egg, Light was born, the very first Being. Thus, the creation of Light from within the egg, together with its shell of Night, formed Heaven and Earth… and it all began with Chaos and the stuff of Ether.

In another metaphysical version of creation, a pupil of Aristotle and historian of science Eudemus of Rhodes (b. 370 BCE) determined that at the beginning of Time, only Desire and Darkness existed. From this duo were born Aer (air) or pure intelligence, and Aura (breath) or The First Being Proceeding from Movement. As written in the New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, Aer and Aura “then produced the Cosmic Egg, in conformity with the intelligible spirit.”

Who or What this intelligible spirit is was not defined… was it Desire and Darkness?

©  Doreen Shababy

This article is from a larger work in progress.