Saturday, May 28, 2011

Book Review: In the Beginning Creation Myths from Around the World

So in my stint as a new religious education teacher at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, I got to meet the author of the book being reviewed today. She was reading from this book as part of the service on origin stories. Needless to say, I was excited to see such a book- I gleefully pick up books for Rowan's library that I think will expand his horizons.

The book's author does re-tellings of 15 different creation myths: only two of which I know to be written down: the Genesis story from the Bible and the creation story in the Rig Veda. The others are stories from Iroquois, African Bushman, Wabenaki, Greek, Japanese, Maya, Chinese, Egyptian, Seri, Aborigine, Indonesian, Mali and "Wicca/Faery". Note the quotation marks- I had issues with that last one, given that it is a story from my personal religion. Which made me wonder: would everyone reading the retelling of their creation myth from their religion or culture experience the same dissonance as I did? Or did she only bungle mine?

Perhaps I should say what my issues are, perhaps that would clarify some things. First off- Wicca and Faery are NOT the same thing. They aren't even close. While we share a wheel of the year, we do not share the same creation story, nor do we share the same theological tenants- on most things. So to be lumped together was a little off-putting. It's like assuming all Asian people are Chinese. Bah!

But my really huge issue with this story is that its power has been stripped away. My religion's creation story is a sexual story- because all life comes from sex, period (and yes, hermaphroditic sex, mitosis, and parthenogenesis are all still sex). And the sex from the story (which is beautiful and profound) has been removed and sanitized in such a way that the things you are supposed to learn from the story are no longer present.

I can understand wanting to make the book suitable for children- but if you do not believe that healthy sexuality is a subject for children, then either skip that story or do not include it at all. Do not alter it. That is just wrong.

So I wonder- are all the creation stories in the book stripped of something essential? I know that the author significantly changed how the Genesis story is told- removing the gender from God, making all of creation equals sharing in the bounty of creation. But see, I like that change. Perhaps people who use the Bible would take offense to her retelling. I would welcome some of my Christian readers to pick up the book and tell me what they think.

Despite my dismay about the story closest to me theologically, I do like this book. It is a great "diving off place" to talk about many topics with children: creativity, the nature of the divine, sex, different cultures (and the fact that we think differently or the same on topics), animals, trees, and so much more. I will use this book with Rowan as he grows and think it will be a good addition to his library.

Formal Rating:

Title: In the Beginning: Creation Myths from Around the World
Author: Carolyn North and Adrienne Robinson
Publisher: ICRL Press
Price: $24.95 USD 
ISBN: 978-1-936033-02-7

Topics Covered: creation myths, cultures, multi-cultural stories and art, gods, polytheism

Target Audience: children ages 2-18
Witch Mom Rating: Two and a Half Hats
Like this book, but since I have reservations of the retelling of my creation myth, I wonder about the accuracy of other stories. Beautiful re-tellings and artwork. A great starting place to bring up myriad subjects.


  1. Thank you for the suggestion, I will add it to my "look for" list. My 6 year old is just entering the questioning phase...we have never really brought up much about God or the Goddess as we as a couple had not yet decided on what we wanted to teach. I am a Pagan/UU and hubby is an agnostic(who would rather avoid the topic all together lol) my boys have been to the UU but not really "taught" that we have decided to just take the UU/Pagan path completely hopefully it will get much easier to address the "God" issue that is now being brought home from school.

  2. Thank you for this review. I am always on the lookout for books that promote understanding and tolerance for other religions and/or cultures. I was especially interested in your comments about how the author got the Faery creation myth wrong. I have always been interested in learning more about the Faery religion, but from the information I've been able to find is either contradictory, inconclusive, vague, etc. So I pretty much gave up learning, concluding that the Faery community must be either secretive, exclusive, or both. So it was nice to hear thoughts from someone actually in the community. Honestly, I don't even have a clue what the Faery creation myth is. I consider myself Pagan, but I don't really fit neatly into any one category. I just kind of follow what I believe in my heart to be true. I guess I would lean more toward the Druid/Celtic side of things, but even so, there are some ideas I embrace and others not so much. I will have to check this book out (while keeping in mind that some parts may or may not be very accurate.) By the way, I love your site! Thank you for all of the input!


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