In 1974, at the beginning of my career in teaching my host teacher, Nel Simmons, gave me the germ idea for this exercise. Originally the assignment was much more formless. A Creation Myth of at least five pages was all that was asked for. Now my students read and write a variety of world creation accounts including the Judeo Christian story in Genesis. After a paraphrase of the Genesis account and after reading the first half of Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces,
students are given a handout and told to let their imagination run free. The handout is also a form of rubric that helps to define grading criteria. Sometimes I have the students use illustrations or photomontages to accompany the assignment. At the completion of the assignment the myths are read aloud to the class, graded and returned. Sometimes the best myths are posted. It has a twenty-five plus year track record of success. Native American myths are short and particularly effective.
A myth has been defined as " . . . a story embodying and declaring a pattern of relationship between humanity, other forms of life, and the environment" (R. J. Stewart). As such, myths and creation accounts and stories help to provide a unifying framework for the people who believe, either literally or figuratively, in this shared account. It is not a falsehood or an unscientific lie; rather, it is a poetic and shared vision.
Some of these mythic elements that derive from the Oral Tradition are: 1) The use of repetition for emphasis and ease of recall; 2) The use of poetic devices such as alliteration, personification, metaphor and simile, and symbolism; 3) A concern with numbers, often times repeated; 4) The power of "The Word" (Logos) and the subsequent use of concrete nouns to label important elements (both human and non-human).
Your creation myth story should include some of the above highlighted elements along with:
- How evil and death entered the world.
- How and why a mate was created for the first human.
- What is the relationship between humans and other forms of created life? Are humans above the cyclical scheme of the natural world, or are they part of this organic cycle?
- Is the created world static, or evolving or devolving?
- Was the world / universe created out of something or nothing? What was this something? Was the original material undifferentiated, chaotic, or . . .?