The Cosmic Egg
When we study creation myths from ancient cultures and civilisations the cosmic egg or the mundane egg is one of the most popular motifs. World egg is a representation of the universe, the primordial sea or some primordial being that comes to existence by ”hatching”.
"Ilmatar" by Robert Wilhelm Ekman, 1860
Water birds used to have great spiritual signifigance among many uralic people. In the proto-uralic creation myth world was created by a waterbird who dived into the primordial sea bringing pieces of land in it´s beak to the surface. Finnish creation myth is based on the proto-uralic myth. In Kalevala the Finnish national epic waterbird hatched an egg into the legs of Ilmatar the goddess of air. In original Finnish folk tales waterbird hatched it´s egg into the leggs of Väinämöinen the shaman and the ruler of water. In these myths water bird is described to be a blue duck, an eagle or a loom. Myths about the water birds as the creators of the world are also known as the earth diver myths.
And became the earth below
And it´s upper half transmuted
And became the sky above.
From the yolk the sun was made.
Light of the day to shine above us;
From the white the moon was formed.
Light of night to gleam above us:
All the colored brighter bits
Rose to be the stars of heaven
And the darkest crumbs changed into
Clouds and cloudlest in the sky.
- Kalevala, The Song of Creation, Elias Lönnrot, 1835
In Norse myths cosmic egg is equivalent to the rune Hagalaz which symbolised the ancient chasm. The void that existed even before god Odin willed himself to be. Eggs were important part of nutrition in the ancient times. Especially in northern parts of the world where winter was long and cold and eggs were nowhere to be found. In magic rites seer, the seidr took the egg and in their imagination fertilised it with the desired outcome. Egg was cracked to release what was built up inside and the desired energy manifested into being.
For the ancient Chinese the universe was contained in an egg. Outside this egg was nothing but void. From this material inside the egg grew god Pan Gu. He slept inside the egg for 18 000 years growing into a giant. The egg broke into two halves. The upper side became the sky and the lower side became the earth. As the god grew taller the earth and the sky grew larger and became more further away from each others. When the god died his body parts became different parts of the earth. His arms and legs became mountains, his veins turned into rivers. His voice became the thunder and his breath became the wind.
There are several creation stories found from Egyptian mythology. One of the myths is about the Ogdoad. It was the state of the world before the gods were created. One of the forms of Ogdoad was the cosmic egg where all the deities and spirits were born. In the stage called ”the first occasion” sun god Ra hatched from the egg bringing all life with him.
According to the Orphic myths hermaphroditic god Phanes was born from the cosmic egg and created all the other gods. World egg was hatched by the titans Chronos (time) and Ananke (Nessecity).
In the Cook Islands there is a legend that has similarities to the idea of the cosmic egg. Legend tells that deep in the Avaiki (the Underworld). There was a place that resembled a hallow coconut shell. There in the deepest depths was the primordial mother goddess Varima Te-Takere. Her domain was described to be so narrow that her knees touched her chin. She created the first man called Avatea. He was a hybrid, a merman, half-man half-fish. Avatea was the god of light and Varima Te-Takere sent him to the land of men to bring them light. It was told that his eyes were the sun and the moon.
Some of the first literal mentions of the cosmic egg come from Sanskrit texts. Sanskrit term for the cosmic egg is Brahmanda. Which is derived from two words: ”Brahma” who is the creator god in Hindu mythology and ”anda” meaning egg. In Vedic myths the cosmic egg is seen as the beginning of the universe and it is called Hiranyagarbha. Which literally means ”golden fetus” or ”golden womb”. Egg floated in the emptiness and the broke into two halves which formed Dyaus (sky) and Prithvi (the earth).
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler and a Fairy Shaman.
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