Prachya Review, Spring 2017
The earth’s surface was covered by water. One day Chukwu, God, created the first human family – Eze Nri, his wife, their sons and daughters, and sent them to earth. Chukwu helped them by making the earth more livable and giving them instructions. And thus, the Igbo people believe, creation took place. In one of many Hindu myths Vishnu, in the shape of a boar, plunged into the cosmic waters and brought forth Bhumi or Prithivi, the earth. And in Greek myth there was Chaos, the abysmal nothingness, and out of the void emerged Gaya, the earth.
From chaos to nothingness to cosmic waters – the world emerged out of many things. Sometimes it was an egg, sometimes it was on top of a turtle. Or sometimes it just was – like in Jain doctrines – it always existed, unique and uncreated, since beginningless time. Where did the world come from – our predecessors asked this question several times, and came up with several answers. And it was important to know the answer to this question, because it lead to another, more important question – where did we come from. Our ancestors created stories to make sense of the world, their lives, and everything else around them. One story lead to another and they became what we now call mythology. Mythology was their attempt to make sense of creation, nature, history, and custom. And it was also one of the oldest works of fiction, not only rationalizing the world but also making it far more interesting than it really was.
Myths were more than just stories, of course, they had a symbolic meaning as well. And the postmodern era focused more on that. Myths were not just stories with gods and goddesses anymore but they were stories with people and things all around us, stories that we created. Myths were seen as a system of signs that along with their original meanings included new meanings. In the postmodern era myths were not ancient anymore, and they were not grand narratives anymore. They became more contemporary, and they became more personal, more political.
Myths have remained a significant part of our lives: in literature, in art, in popular culture, in our beliefs. And myths, as it turns out, are not static. They are dynamic, they are ongoing – constantly in the making, constantly reinventing. We still tell our stories through them, subvert them, reinvent them. With the ancient myths from all over the world, we create our own. Mythologies have persisted. And they have persisted, in all over the world, with their diversities and occasional similarities.
This issue of Prachya Review is dedicated to myths of all kinds – from the archaic to the folk to the postmodern to the personal – including both the renowned myths and the new and unknown ones.