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Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World

Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World

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by Barbara C. Sproul, Paul Quin (Designed by)

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A comprehensive collection of creation stories ranging across widely varying times and cultures, including Ancient Egyptian, African, and Native American.


A comprehensive collection of creation stories ranging across widely varying times and cultures, including Ancient Egyptian, African, and Native American.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.96(d)

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Cagn Orders the World The Bushmen of Southern

The Bushmen of Southern Africa are related to the Pygmies and Hottentots in their short stature, complex languages, and rich mythology. As nomadic hunters, their social groupings were necessarily small, rendering them vulnerable to the Bantu and white settlers who moved into their territory south of the Zambezi River. Those who survived with their culture intact moved to the more remote desert regions of Namibia, South Africa, and southern Angola.

The Bushmen believe not only in a good creator god (Kaang, Khu, or Thora, depending on the specific tribe) but also in an evil deity (Gauna or Gawa, god of the dead and of wicked spirits), the source of all trouble in the world. Some scholars have argued, however, that these high gods reflect Bantu influence. All agree that the main feature of the Bushmen's religion is belief in animal spirits, the most prominent of which (Cagn) is the hero of this myth.

Sometimes confused with Kaang, as he is here, Cagn is a perfunctory creator at best. His real interest lies on earth, where he reigns as the great magician and organizer. Ordering the world, enjoying endless adventures, and even slaying monsters, Cagn himself finally dies and is reborn sacred event whose story is repeated during the initiation of young men so that they may die to their youth and be reconstituted in a similar manner.

CAGN was the first being; he gave orders and caused all things to appear, and to be made, the sun, the moon, stars, wind, mountains, and animals. His wife's name was Coti. He had two sons, and the eldest was chief, and his namewas Cogaz; the name of the second was Gewi.... He was at that time making all animals and things, and making them fit for the use of men, and making snares and weapons, He made then the partridge and the striped mouse, and he made the wind in order that game should smell up the wind-so they run up the wind still....

A daughter of Cagn became cross because her father had scolded her and she ran away to destroy herself by throwing herself among the snakes (qabu). The snakes were also men, and their chief married her and they ate snake's meat, but they gave her eland's meat to eat, because the child of Cagn must eat no evil thing. Cagn used to know things that were far off, and he sent his son Cogaz to bring her back, so Cogaz went with his young men, and Cagn lent him his tooth to make him strong. When the snakes saw Cogaz approaching with his party, they became angry and began to hide their heads, but their chief said, "You must not get angry, they are coming to their child," so the snakes went away to hunt, and his sister gave him meat, and they told her to tell her husband they were come to fetch her and she prepared food for the road and they went with her next morning, and they prepared themselves by binding rushes round their limbs and bodies, and three snakes followed them. These tried to bite them, but they only bit the rushes; they tried to beat them with reins, but they only beat rushes, and they tried throwing sand at them to cause wind to drive them into the water, not knowing he had the tooth of Cagn, and they failed. The children at home, the young men with the chief of the snakes, knew that when those snakes came back they would fill the country with water. So they commenced to build a high stage with willow poles, and the female snakes took their husbands on their return and threw them into the water, and it rose about the mountains, but the chief and his young men were saved on the high stage; and Cagn sent Cogaz for them to come and turn from being snakes, and he told them to lie down, and he struck them with his stick, and as he struck each the body of a person came out, and the skin of a snake was left on the ground, and he sprinkled the skins with canna, and the snakes turned from being snakes, and they became his people....

Cagn sent Cogaz to cut sticks to make bows. When Cogaz came to the bush, the baboons (cogn) caught him. They called all the other baboons together to hear him, and they asked him who sent him there. He said his father sent him to cut sticks to make bows. So they said-"Your father thinks himself more clever than we are, he wants those bows to kill us, so we'll kill you," and they killed Cogaz, and tied him up in the top of a tree, and they danced around the tree singing (an untranscribable baboon song), with a chorus saying, "Cagn thinks he is clever." Cagn was asleep when Cogaz was killed, but when he awoke he told Coti to give him his charms, and he put some on his nose, and said the baboons have hung Cogaz. So he went to where the baboons were, and when they saw him coming close by, they changed their song so as to omit the words about Cagn, but a little baboon girl said, "Don't sing that way; sing the way you were singing before." And Cagn said, "Sing as the little girl wishes," and they sang and danced away as before. And Cagn said, "That is the song I heard, that is what I wanted, go on dancing till I return"; and he went and fetched a bag full of pegs, and he went behind each of them as they were dancing and making a great dust, and he drove a peg into each one's back, and gave it a crack, and sent them off to the mountains to live on roots, beetles and scorpions, as a punishment. Before that baboons were men, but since that they have tails, and their tails hang crooked.

Then Cagn took Cogaz down, and gave him canna and made him alive again.

Meet the Author

Barbara Sproul is Director of the Program in Religion at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

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Primal Myths: Creation Myths Around the World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This collection of creation stories from around the world was fascinating and got me thinking. Read it.