Every society needs to way to describe its history to the next generation. While history does comprise much of early literature (either written from a religious standpoint or the mere cataloging of events like The Venerable Bede,) the existence of myth has been a method to instill traditions and social mores for thousands of years. However, the myth itself is never about obedience (per se) or conformity. It conspires to pass down the most necessary information in its most impactful manner. Furthermore, as it is largely based (as much of Literature is) on oral history, it also regularly carried the implication of being readily adaptable.
The creation myth is a chosen method to explain the unexplainable. In Ancient Egypt, they believed the universe arose from a primordial ocean known as Nun. In the heart of the ocean, lie a giant pyramid called Benben, The deity Atum emerged from Benben and created Shu (air) and Tefnut (water.) When Shu and Tefnut united they made Geb (earth) and Nut (sky.) The pair were madly in love and literally bound together. Atum ordered them to separate, and Geb gave birth to the first four Egyptian gods Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys.
In chilly Europe where they had more grasslands than sand, pre-Norse culture, their lifeforce Ymir also existed in a similar in a massive sea, Ginnungaggap. Ymir was fed by a mythic cow Audhumla. Ymir's beads of sweat produced a pair of giants, while a third emerged from her legs. Audhumla subsisted upon the salt sediments of Buri, the first true Norse God. When Audhumla licked Buri, Buri was manumitted and quickly mated with Ymir producing Odin.
In South America's vast Mayan culture they actually wrote their creation story down in hieroglyphics in Popol Vuh. Like Buri and Ymir, and Geb and Nut, Tepeu, the maker, and Gucumatz, the spirit joined together to create the universe as well as man. Their first attempt with clay crumbled. Their second try with wood was also dissatisfactory. However, on the third time, the pair tried maize dough and suddenly their creation could move, think and speak. Tepeu and Gucumatz wanted to give their new work a sumptuous world to live in. So they made the parrot, the coyote, the fox, and the crow. Each of these creatures went off in their own direction to make their own home.
What began in Ancient Egypt traveled the world until it even materializes within the campfire stories told with the Five Civilized Tribes of the First Nation that once resided here in the Southern U.S. The Cherokee believed that The Great Spirit, Unetlanvhi created the world for its children. The sky, Galunlati, was the animal world packed to the point of near overpopulation. So, The Great Spirit charged Dayunisi, the water beetle to see what was below the water below. After skirting the surface, Dayunisi dived down and brought mud from the floor back to the surface. Dayunisi spread the mud in every direction and it became the Earth.
The animals of Galunlati were curious about the new place below. The buzzard flew down to inspect but found the ground too soft. As he flew lower, the beating of his wings stirred the mud around and created great hills and valleys. After the Earth solidified, the animals migrated to this dark new land. Unetlanvhi set the sun on its track but hung it too low and Earth was burned. After two more tries, Unetlanvhi hung the sun just right and told the plants that they would receive a wonderful gift - provided they stay awake for seven days and seven nights. Only a few trees and creatures passed the test. Of those who stayed awake, the wolf, the bat, the owl, and the panther were given night vision. The cedar, spruce, holly, laurel, and pine were given the gift of remaining evergreen.
Built into each myth, no matter what continent or climate even, is both the metaphorical and metaphysical. Each story encompasses things that can be seen and unseen explanations for those that cannot. In addition, all myths establish order to an entity that exists in chaos. Actions correspond with each other across the boundaries of time and land. They also unfold sequentially to insure a deeper understanding. Perhaps most importantly, these myths assign human-like characteristics to spirits and even some creatures - promoting mankind and nature coexisting. Finally, deep within the subtext of the creation myth, no matter where it is derived or discovered, we are all really the same.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.
NEW MUSIC FOR THE WEEK OF NOVEMBER 11, 2021
COURTNEY BARNETT - Things Take Time, Take Time
Awesome Aussie Courtney Barnett is no stranger to contemplative writing. Strangely enough, her deadpan monochromatic songwriter has grown into thumbnail sketches of an artist no longer finding her place in this world - but finding the world has changed around her. Beginning in late 2020, Barnett and Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa began working on songs that were - sincere. That is not to say it is largely different, but it is not the Courtney you knew before.
DAMON ALBARN - The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows
The Blur frontman continues to make the second half of his career about travel. In the acclaimed (and highly recommended) Blur film "No Distance Left To Run," the only time we really see the "real" Damon Albarn is when he is lost in his surroundings overseas. Furthermore, the last Blur album "The Magic Whip" was created around their being stranded in Hong Kong. So, it is only fitting that Albarn takes his personal recording project on the road to Uruguay, Montenegro, Iran, and (primarily) Iceland. The Iceland tracks are the most compelling as they capture a mellow inspiration from nature that steers clear of the trappings of New Age. While Gorillaz remains a fantastic repository for his melodies and songs, solo recordings like this feel appropriate and pallet-cleansing during a time when most of us are unable to follow our wanderlust.
IDLES - Crawler
If you thought that the COVID era would change the pugilistic punch of Idles, rest assured they will still never fight a man with a perm. However, they wisely change up their producer for the adventurous Kenny Beats, most well known for Hip-Hop based works with Denzel Curry, slowthai, and Vince Staples. "Crawler" is Idles expanding their sound. "The Beachland Ballroom" is a ballad with a kick. "Car Crash" flirts with both Post-Punk and Hip-Hop. "Crawler" chronicles Joe Talbot's quest for sobriety and the stark changes fatherhood has forced him to make. While largely a change in perspective, again no worries, Idles still pull no punches.
GOV'T MULE - Heavy Load Blues
When a "jam" band limits themselves to one sound, it is amazing how well they tighten up. 25 years as a band (and four since the last album,) Gov't Mule dive straight into making a pure Blues record. The sound is stark and muscular as if they modeled themselves off of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band stepping off Maxwell Street in Chicago and wandering to the West Coast to record. Working in covers and organ bursts makes "Heavy Load" feel much lighter than most modern Blues/Rock records. In addition, you can also hear how well they practiced these songs up capturing their peak for recording ("Snatch It Back and Hold It" takes a dramatic turn and does not let go.) The title cut shows how effective Warren Haynes is on his own.