Questions 31 and 32
Choose TWO letters, A—E
Questions 33 and 34
Choose the correct letter, A, B or C
Match the creation mythologies to their features.
Write the correct letter, A, B, C or D next to each feature.
You will hear a talk on the topic of world mythologies. First you have some time to look at questions 31 to 40.
Listen carefully and answer questions 31 to 40.
Today’s lecture is about some of the common themes in world mythologies. Why do all cultures invent mythologies, and what do they have in common? Well firstly, these stories provide explanations for the questions we all ask: How was the universe created? Where does the sun come from? What are the stars? A mythology is not the same as a religious doctrine, but nevertheless, most mythologies describe the creation of the world, and how it was populated with people and animals. Mythological heroes are usually god-like characters with superhuman abilities and qualities, though they are not always benevolent. Some of them are jealous, proud and deceitful, just like the humans who invent them. Although they are fantastical, the stories are accepted as a psychological reality by the cultures that create them.
However, mythology has more than psychological meaning. Here’s one example. In the period of ancient Chinese history known as the Warring States, China was changing, but the traditional mythologies reinforced the old political order. The Emperor’s chief minister noticed that some scholars were undermining the Emperor by travelling through the country telling the old legends to the common people. Their stories were exerting a powerful influence on the community. The Emperor forbade the telling of myths and commissioned the writing of new stories that supported his political ideas.
Do not dismiss mythology as being old-fashioned and irrelevant to modern society. For example, George Lucas’s Star Wars saga is a powerful retelling of an ancient mythological theme. When Luke Skywalker’s story begins, he is an exiled and orphaned member of royalty, who is then called to an adventure where he meets the powerful wizard Ben Kenobi. During his quest he overcomes many dangers, slays the evil character Darth Vader, and rescues his beautiful sister princess Leia. So, you can see that we’re still busily creating new myths in the form of movies, comic books and science fiction stories. This retelling of ancient legends speaks to us all at any age, as do the old stories that we have inherited from our own cultures.
Stories from widely different cultures bear a strong resemblance to each other, and one of the best examples of this is the striking similarity of creation myths from around the world. In some of these stories, such as those from some American Indian tribes and Aboriginal Australians, there is a creature, for example, a crab or a giant tortoise. This creature dives into the ocean and retrieves a small piece of earth from which everything else is created. Water and earth are the two most common elements in all the creation myths.
However, in many creation myths, the world starts in a state of chaos, or a void, where there is no delineation of earth and sky. In Norse mythology, for example, a supernatural human being emerges from this void and mountains, rivers and earth are formed from his flesh and blood. This god-like creature is called Ymir. This creation of natural features from the bodies of the gods is a common thread in other creation mythologies, such as those of Mesopotamia. It frequently takes place after a god has died or been killed, and this introduces another common mythological theme: family rivalry.
The Greek culture is a good example of a creation myth that features a family of quarrelsome and aggressive gods, all battling for power and a role in the creation of the earth. Gaia the earth gives birth to Uranus, the sky, and these two create a family of children, including monsters, who imprison, torture and sometimes even kill and eat their own offspring. Creation myths do not provide examples of the cardinal virtues, but they do address universal themes of jealousy, war and lust for power.
Another common element is the image of a cosmic egg. One of the Chinese myths represents chaos as a hen’s egg, from which a creature called Pangu hatches. The parts of the egg separated; the heavy parts formed the earth, while the light parts formed the sky. For eighteen thousand years, the distance between earth and sky increased by 3 metres a day, while Pangu grew at the same rate, his body filling the space between the two. Another mythology which features the earth and the sky separating comes from the Maori culture in New Zealand. In this story, the sky father Rangi, and the earth mother Papa, lie touching each other. They have many children, all boys, and these children plot together to separate their parents, so that they can live in the light. After many failed attempts at separation, Tane, the god of the forest, lies on his back and pushes his parents apart with his legs.
And where do humans feature in these stories? Most often, they are formed after the creation of other natural features. For example, in the Chinese myth, humans were created from the fleas on Pangu’s body. Once they had arrived on the scene, the humans often tried to elevate themselves to god-like status by taking knowledge from the gods. In Greek mythology, the humans tried to secretly take the knowledge of how to make fire.