So, my last post on wolves really got me thinking. Where does this idea that people have dominance over animals come from? Honestly, I can’t tell you where and when it might have originated. However, I was browsing around the internet and I came across an article called; “Creation Myths: Sami Animism and Christianity.”
In the article the author compares and contrasts two different creation myths, but I am sure you guessed that much. What I wanted to point out is that the Bible is a very old text, and a very influential text in the dominant culture in America. And here it is folks;
” Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth. (Genesis 1:26) ”
“Dominion over.” Not coexistence alongside of. But as resources to be exploited, to use as we wish. This is a dangerous idea from an ecological perspective, and to say nothing of the ethical, or philosophical issues it might raise.
I have commented before on how narratives shape our experience and worldview. As such, it got me thinking about alternative creation stories, and the alternative worldviews that may result. As such, drawing from the article, I want to look at what we have of the Sami creation story, as well as adding the Norse story into the mix for comparison.
Two different poems are presented in the article as facets of the Sami creation myth. Here, I want to outline only one, called “The Son of the Sun’s Courting in the Land of Giants.
From the article;
“We are told that in the Land of the Son of the Sun there is a dearth of women. The Son (of the Sun) sets out on a quest to claim a bride from a land “to the west of moon and sun” that is filled with precious metals and rich treasure. Sailing with a crew of his best men, they travel for a year before reaching the land of the giants. The Son meets “The Giant’s fair young maiden”
She is smitten by him, but he must first defeat her blind father in a test of finger-pulling. With the daughter’s aid in tricking the blind old man, he wins and gains the right to marry her. The Son and the Maiden are married on a sheet of whale skin, mixing blood and tying knots against bad luck. Her dowry is several chunks of gold and silver loaded in the Son’s boat. The Son and the Maiden know each other physically before they leave.
The couple begins to journey back to the Sun’s domain, but once the new bride’s brothers discover her absence, they give chase. The Son and his new wife outrun them by using her magic handkerchief. Once the brothers are struck by the Sun’s rays, they are petrified and the couple make good their escape. They are married in a traditional Sámi manner… to the Sun’s sons she gave birth.
These sons are the Gállá-bártnit, the ancestors of the Sámi, who later ascended to the heavens and took their place in the night sky.”
For more context, I quote further;
“In the Sámi animistic view, the Sun and the Earth existed first. The Sun is the father of all and the Earth is the mother of all. Between the two of them, they gave birth to the creatures that roam the earth. Every thing was descended from the divine, not just created. They also had a son and daughter. These too were legendary figures, semi-divine and curious of the new world. In searching, the Son found another world, beyond the Sun and Moon. The Sun does not shine here. In fact, the rays of the Sun destroy the brothers of the giant maiden, “…The Suns rays melt them/Turn their foreheads to stone…” From this we may assume that the sun did not create the giants or the land that they inhabit. Therefore, there are other creative forces for life in the universe, not just the children of the Sun.”
Now, what about the Norse creation myth? This is told, and retold in several places across the internet. For that reason, I selected a quick version from Wikipedia;
” In the beginning, there were two regions: Muspellsheimr in the south, full of fire, light and heat; and Niflheimr in the north, full of arctic waters, mists, and cold. Between them stretched the yawning emptiness of Ginnungagap, and into it poured sparks and smoke from the south and layers of rime-ice and glacial rivers from the north. As heat and cold met in Ginnungagap, a living Jötunn, Ymir, appeared in the melting ice. From his left armpit, the first man and woman were born. From his legs, the frost jötnar were born, making Ymir the progenitor of the jötnar. Most sources identify Ymir’s oldest son as Thrudgelmir, who bore Ymir’s grandson, Bergelmir. The other jötnar are usually unnamed. Ymir fed on the milk of the cow Auðhumla. She licked the blocks of salty ice, releasing Búri.
Búri’s son Borr had three sons, the gods Odin, Vili and Vé. The three slew Ymir, and all of the jötnar (giants) except for Bergelmir and his wife, who were drowned in the blood of the others. From Ymir’s body, they made the world of humans: his blood the seas and lakes, his flesh the earth, his bones the mountains and his teeth the rocks. From his skull they made the dome of the sky, setting a dwarf at each of the four corners to hold it high above the earth. They protected it from the jötnar with a wall made from Ymir’s eyebrows. Next they caused time to exist, and placed the orbs of the sun and moon in chariots which were to circle around the sky.”
All three of these stories present very different ideas and worldviews. In the Biblical version, we see a world created by an all power and all knowing God. All things are subject to his will, and man is the dominate among his creation, being made in God’s own image.
The Sami version, shows a world full of beings descended from the Sun and Earth. As was pointed out by the author of the article, all things are divinely descended, not simply created. Also, as pointed out by the author, there are other beings besides those descended from the Sun and Earth. The “other” giants, which do not seem to be “outside” of the story.
Giants, better than anything, offer a good segway into the Norse story. Here, we have the creation story of warriors, and conquerors. First the world came into being from Fire and Ice, and was inhabited by giants. Then, the might gods came and conquered the world, and set it in order by their own will. By the will of Borr’s sons, Odin and his brothers, was mankind brought forth.
Each of the stories shapes experience in a very different and unique way. The take away from it all is how much the stories we create shape our lives. True or not doesn’t make much difference. Even if a story is entirely fictional, it can still shape our experience into something meaningful.