Creation Of Humankind
Myths about how humans were created are intrinsic to all major religions. The Christian story is set out in the opening chapters of the Book of Genesis, although some believe that they pre-date the Old Testament. Our pre-Christian ancestors had their own creation myths which evolved from those of older Indo European cultures. In presenting these two myths, it is hoped to show that, whilst they differ in several regards, they also contain similarities and complement each other. As such, in reading both we can gain a deeper understanding of what they are both trying to tell us and recapture some of the ancient wisdom of our ancestors that has been lost.
The Christian Story
On the creation of humankind, we read in the Old Testament:
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.." (Genesis 1:26), and
"And so God created man in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them" Genesis 1:27.
These two lines from the first chapter of Genesis certainly pose some interesting questions. For instance, God refers to "us" not "me" and to "our" image not "my". This has been interpreted in mainstream Christianity as God talking to the whole of the company of heaven as opposed to referring to Himself in the plural. But this does not make sense to me as God alone is the creator, not the company of heaven. Whilst this is myth and not to be taken literally, it is a strong indication that God is a plurality. The EFC considers this to be not just God as Trinity, but also the hypostases or emanations we call our folk Gods and Goddesses.
Verse 27 of the first chapter of Genesis also tells us that God created man; male and female. But there is an interesting change between singular and plural in this verse. It actually says, "in the image of God created he him". This seems to be saying that God created a single human being. Then it goes on to state, "male and female created He them". This seems to suggest two forms of this single being, male and female - both created in the likeness of God.
Indeed, in Chapter 2 we are given more detail about the creation of the first humans.
"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7).
This verse tells us two more important things. Firstly, that God formed us from the dust of the ground, from the earth. Our material bodies are made from the 'earth' or rather from the material of this world. This body is part of this world and will return to it on our death, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust". The Hebrew word ‘Adam’ means red and is thought to refer to red clay, from which the first humans were moulded.
Then we are told, God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul". In other words, the 'real' us is not of this world at all. Our 'soul' is made from the breath, or spirit, of God. It is our 'soul', the real us, that survives our earthly death and progresses towards heaven, leaving our bodies to return to the earth.
The word 'man' in this context is the usual English translation of 'Adam' or 'Adamah'. This is referring to the first human being rather than specifically a 'male' human being. This seems to reflect the first part of verse 27 of Chapter 1 "in the image of God created he him" - with 'him' in this context referring to humankind in general. In considering this point, we should bear in mind that the English word man originally meant humans in general - a male human was called a 'werman' and a female a 'woman'.
We are then told in the second chapter of Genesis how God created Eve (Woman) from a rib taken out of the body of Adam (Man). This seems to reflect the separation of the single being into its two constituent parts related in the second part of verse 27 of Chapter 1; "male and female created He them". The chapter goes on to tell how the separate male and female forms of the human condition are intended to join together to re-form the mystical union of the whole.
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
So human beings are, spiritually speaking at least, a single entity, created in the image of God. Only in this world, in our earthly condition, have we been physically separated into distinct genders. This further reinforces the view that God is also 'one', the wholeness of male and female - neither one nor the other, but the dynamic unity of both. The joining together of the male and female in marriage is recreating the whole, bringing the earthly male and female together to produce the spiritually whole human. Ideally, we literally find our soul partner who we join with spiritually to become one.
Germanic Creation Mythology
The earliest account of the beliefs of the Anglo Saxon English comes from the Roman historian Tacitus, who writes in the early first century AD:
“In ancient songs, the only kind of record or annal they have among them, they celebrate the god Tuisto born of the earth. To him they attribute a son Mannus as the origin of their people, to Mannus three sons and founders from whose names those nearest the Ocean may be called the Ingaeuones, those in the middle the Herminiones and the rest the Istaevones”.
Some consider that Tuisto is a name meaning 'separated', 'two fold' or 'twin'. As such, our understanding of Tuisto is almost certainly related to that of the Norse Ymir and Buri (who are also 'separating' beings). Mannus is a collective personality for the early Norse and Germanic tribes; literally ‘people’. The reference to Mannus as the progenitor of the Germanic people is in itself interesting. In the ancient Vedic and Hindu tradition, Manu (also meaning ‘man’) is considered to be the first of the creator God Brahma's sons and a progenitor of human race. We see here a clear link between the Indo-European traditions of ancient India and of our pre-Christian ancestors.
From Mannus, the three main tribal groupings of the Germanic world at the time of Tacitus are derived. As part of the north western people living by the ‘Ocean’ as Tacitus puts it, the ancestors of the people we now call Anglo-Saxons fell into the group he calls the Ingaeuones. It is likely that the name ‘Ingaeu-ones’ means something along the lines of ‘friends of Ing’ - or given that he is seen as the progenitor of the tribe, ‘people of Ing’. Ing is more commonly known by his Norse name Yng-Freyr.
Some authors link Tuisto with Tiwaz, Tir or Tyr who is cognate with the Indo-European, 'Dayaus', Latin 'Deus' and Greek Theos; simply meaning 'God'. Whilst this is not universally accepted, it seems likely especially as Tiwaz (God) would relate to Brahma who is seen as God in the Vedic and Hindu tradition.
Ruth Ellis Davidson tells us the story of the Semnones (who later became the Alamanni) who worshiped a deity they simply called God or 'Ruler of All'. The characteristics of this deity suggest he is the same as the Norse Tyr or Old English Tir. Indeed, Tir is thought by many to be the original Germanic Sky Father. Only later, did others such as Odin take over this role.
More information about how the first humans were created is contained in the Norse accounts. These were written down more than 1000 years after the birth of Christ and in a period after the conversion of the Scandinavian people to Christianity. It is likely, therefore, that they have been affected by the Genesis story, but are no doubt blended with earlier myth since they hold much in common with other much older Indo-European mythology.
Voluspa contains the story of how one day, as the three Gods Odin, Hoenir and Lođur were walking by the seashore, they found two trees. The first was an ash and from this they made man. The second was an Elm and from this they made woman. We can actually be quite confident that this myth was known in some similar form to the Anglo-Saxons. The emergence of the first people from vegetative matter, especially trees, is a fairly common element of Indo-European mythology. This "vegetative" state is our material body of this world - the same dust or earth we read about in Genesis.
Fundu a landi, litt megandi
Ask ok Embla, Orloglausa.
Aund ţau ne atto, Oţ ţau ne haufđo
La ne lćti, Ne lito Gođa.
Aund gaf Ođin, Oţ gaf Honir
La gaf Lođur, ok lito Gođa.
Found on the land, faint and feeble
Ash and Elm, with no destiny assigned to them.
They did not have spirit (breath), nor senses
Neither did they have blood or life-hue and the form of the Gods.
Odin gave them breath, Honir gave them senses
Lothir gave them blood and the form of the Gods.
Voluspa 17 & 18
This is also picked up in Havamal 49:
"My clothes I gave along the way to two wooden men.."
This passage of Voluspa is difficult, not least because there are several different translations of the various 'gifts' of the three Gods. The translation above is based on a composite of several, particularly that of Auden and Taylor.
According to Victor Rydberg, this story has its root in an ancient Aryan myth, in which the first parents were plants before they became human beings. The Iranian version of the story is preserved in Bundehesh, chap. 15. There, it is stated that the first human pair grew at the time of the autumnal equinox in the form of a rheum ribes with a single stalk. After the lapse of fifteen years the bush had put forth fifteen leaves. The man and woman who developed in and with it were closely united, forming one body, so that it could not be seen which one was the man and which one the woman.
So in the original pre-vegetative state, the male and female human being was one. It is in their earthly, or vegetative, bodies represented by the two trees in the Norse myth that they become physically separate. In this sense, our ancestral mythology is telling us much the same as the Genesis story.
Our earthly bodies are made from the material of this world. This earth-substance is called in Old English our "Lic", pronounced Lych. It is our Lic that returns to the earth after our earthly death.
It was into this substance that Odin, Honir and Lođur added the gifts of life. The gift of Odin, or Woden, is "Aund" (sometimes spelt "Ond") which means breath or spirit. In Old English we could translate "Aund" as "Gast", literally meaning ghost or spirit. In this, we see the spirit of God - the Holy Ghost - being breathed into our inert earthly bodies. This essence of life is God given, is part of God and is our real self - our spirit or soul. When we die, we still say "giving up the ghost", meaning our spirit moves on and our Lic returns to the earth.
Our "Gast" is more than just a life-giving spirit though. Given by Odin (Woden), it is that part of us which strives for wisdom, knowledge and understanding. It instils in us a sense of inspiration, passion and artistic and poetic creativity. This is called our "Wod" recognising that it is a real presence of God as Woden within us.
Honir's gift, "Ođ" (Oth), refers to our senses. This can be seen as our "ego" or personality, perhaps best summed up by the Old English word "Willa". It is our "Will", our driving force. It is the part of us that determines what we want and gives us the ability to desire and aspire. Our "Will" is what makes us more than mere robots, programmed to carry out just those tasks we need to survive. It is our "Will" that drives us to improve ourselves and advance both physically and spiritually. The word "will", in one form or another, still means "want" in many Germanic languages and indeed carries this sense even in modern English. Honir is sometimes referred to in Norse mythology as ‘Villi’, which can be translated into Old English as 'Willa'.
Linked to our "Will" is our intellect, known in Old English as our "Hyge" (higher). This gives us our power of rational thought and "higher" emotions, such as love and caring. Another Old English word which describes our senses is "Mynd". This refers to our memory and relates to our ability to learn from past actions. The word "Gemynd" means recollect or remember. This ability for cognitive recollection and learning lies at the heart of our ability to think and to reason. It is our particular abilities in this direction that distinguish us from other animals and is a reflection of the God-force that lies within us. We recall that Odin’s two ravens are called Mind and Memory, a reflection on this aspect of the gifts of the Gods.
The gifts of Lođur are probably the hardest to deal with. The Old Norse words "la" and "lćti" have been translated differently by different authors. Sometimes they are translated as a single modern English word, sometimes as two separate words. The more common translation is "blood". "Character" is also used. This equates with the Old English word "Blod", meaning "blood". However, unlike our modern understanding of this word, the term does not refer so much to the red liquid that runs through our earthly bodies as to our physical and other characteristics that run through our whole self. We inherit these physical and other attributes from our ancestors and pass them on to our children. Modern science may refer to them as our genetic make-up. Indeed, we still say "we share the same blood", meaning we are genetically related or "Cyn" (kin).
There is another crucial point, though. Our "Blod" is a direct gift of Lođur. In otherwords, our blood is his blood and his blood ours. This is the essence of a folk faith - our people are a part of the divine personalities we relate to as God. This is unique between our folk and God as we know God. It is quite separate to any relationship between other peoples and the personalities of the divine they may relate to. Indeed, the personalities of God we relate to actually only exist because of this relationship - without our folk they would not exist and vice-versa. For this reason it is literally our religious duty to survive and prosper as a folk.
Lođur passed another important gift on to us. The Old Norse words "lito gođa" are often translated as a "goodly hue" or "life hue". Others argue it literally means the "form" of God. This reflects the Genesis account which tells us that humans were made in the "image" of God. The term "lito" perhaps signifies that the Godly form is an inner light or divine radiance. The Old English word "Scima" (shima), which literally means radiance, could be used to describe this as it suggests the "inner radiance" that the Norse term is conveying. It is an "aura", or an inner body of light which transcends and surrounds our physical body. Most of us are not able to see it, but some can. Some scientists claim to have identified it and even photographed it! For those able to see beyond the reality of our mundane plane of existence, the "Scima" is an indicator of our physical, mental and spiritual state. But more profoundly, it is the spark of divinity that exists within each and everyone of us. This is literally, wholeness or holiness. For this reason, Lođur is sometimes called ‘Ve’ in Old Norse; a name we can translate into Old English as ‘Weoh’ meaning Holy or Sanctified. Holy shrines were called Weohs and will form the most basic ‘place of worship’ within the English Folk Church.
Taken together, our personality and character can be seen as summing up our "persona", or inner self. In Old English this could be called our "Mod" (mood). In some senses, the modern use of the word gives a good idea of what is meant by the Old English usage. But Mod here is intended to describe a part of our make-up and not just our state of mind.
Each of us also has a unique and special component to our make-up which at the same time has a separate existence of its own. This is our "Faecce"(Fetcha) or personal guardian Angel. Our "Faecce" is able to see the emerging patterns of Wyrd and is therefore able to warn us of dangers ahead and even offer us a measure of protection. It communicates with us at a deep sub-conscious level, perhaps giving rise to a "feeling" that something should be avoided, that something is not right or that we should be doing something. Our "Faecce" remains with us, even after our earthly death. Indeed, this is the first time that most of us will become conscious of it.
The Christian and pre-Christian creation stories are different, but actually contain a great deal more similarity than you might at first expect. Not only this, but they complement each other and do not conflict with each other on key points. Taken together, we can establish a clear picture of what these creation stories are telling us. That God created humankind out of the raw substance of earth, that he breathed life, or spirit, into these forms and so the ‘real’ us is our spiritual selves and not our Lyc which will return to earth. Furthermore, we were made man and woman as one to be joined in marriage. And finally, our pre-Christian story reinforces the Genesis account that God intended the different folk groups to remain separate, kind after kind. The symbolism of our folk Guardians, appointed to look after us, giving us their various gifts. Thus we are literally a part of our folk Guardians, sharing their spirit and characteristics, just as other people are part of their folk Guardians.
go back to our creation myth and the cosmos