Long before Galileo’s theories about the Earth, Sun, Moon and stars, in ancient times almost every culture had its own stories about how the Earth came into existence. Here are some from ancient peoples. When you have read them perhaps you could invent similar stories to explain night and day, the seasons, how the Sun and Moon travel across the sky or the why the tides ebb and flow. Perhaps reading Rudyard Kipling’s “Just So Stories” might help you too.
Geb the Earth god married Nut, the sky goddess, without asking the powerful Sun god Re. Re was so angry at Nut and Geb that he forced their father Shu, the god of air, to separate them. That is why the Earth is divided from the sky.
Coatlicue was the Earth goddess of life and death.
Coatlicue gave birth to her son Huitzilopochtli after a ball of feathers fell into the temple where she was sweeping. This weird pregnancy greatly offended her existing four hundred children. Led by one of their sisters Coyolxauhqui they decided to kill their dishonoured mother.
However, Huitzilopochtli was born at that moment, fully armed and saved her. Huitzilopochtli cut off the head of his sister, Coyolxauhqui and threw it into the sky to become the Moon.
The Maya believed the Earth was flat and that four jaguars held up the sky. Each was placed at a different corner and had a different colour.
Each corner represented a cardinal direction with its own colour: east-red; north-white; west-black; south-yellow. Green was the centre.
Rangi was the Sky Father and his wife, Papa, was the Mother Earth. At the beginning of time, Rangi, the male sky, and Papa, the female Earth, were entwined in a static embrace. Rangi wanted with this embrace to prevent the creation of the world.
Their children, also gods, could not escape from inside the embrace. The trapped gods tried in vain several times to separate from their parents. Then it was the turn of Tane, the god of the forest. Pushing away his father with his head and his mother with his feet, Tane finally succeeded.
He then set the Sun and the Moon, and decorated the heavens with stars.
When the Earth began there was just water. All the animals lived above it and the sky was beginning to become crowded. They were all curious about what was beneath the water and one day Dayuni’si, the water beetle, volunteered to explore it. He went everywhere across the surface but he couldn’t find any solid ground. He then dived below the surface to the bottom and all he found was mud. This began to enlarge in size and spread outwards until it became the Earth as we know it.
After all this had happened, one of the animals attached this new land to the sky with four strings.
Just after the Earth was formed, it was flat and soft so the animals decided to send a bird down to see if it had dried. It eventually returned to the animals with a result. The land was still too wet so they sent the great buzzard from Galun’lati to prepare it for them. The buzzard flew down and by the time that he reached the Cherokee land he was so tired that his wings began to hit the ground. Wherever they hit the ground a mountain or valley formed.
The animals then decided that it was too dark, so they made the sun and put it on the path in which it still runs today. The animals could then admire the newly created Earth around them.
In the beginning, the universe was like a big black egg. Inside was Pan Gu. Pan Gu woke from a long sleep. He felt suffocated, so he took up a broad axe and wielded it with all his might to crack open the egg. The light, clear part of it floated up and formed the heavens, the cold, turbid matter stayed below to form earth. Pan Gu stood in the middle, his head touching the sky, his feet planted on the earth. The heavens and the earth began to grow at a rate of ten feet per day, and Pan Gu grew along with them. After a long time, the sky was higher, the earth thicker, and Pan Gu stood between them like a pillar nine million li in height so that they would never join again.
When Pan Gu died, his breath became the wind and clouds, his voice the rolling thunder. One eye became the Sun and one the Moon. His body and limbs turned to five big mountains and his blood formed the roaring water. His veins became far-stretching roads and his muscles fertile land. The innumerable stars in the sky came from his hair and beard, and flowers and trees from his skin and the fine hairs on his body. His marrow turned to jade and pearls. His sweat flowed like the good rain and sweet dew that nurtured all things on Earth.
In the beginning, when the world was new, there was no sun and the humans and animals had to hunt and gather by the light of the dim moon. One day the brolga (a grey crane) and the emu had a huge argument over whose babies were best. The brolga got so furious that she stole one of the emu’s eggs which she threw into the sky. As she threw it into the air it smashed on a few sticks. The yellow yolk burst into flames and lit up the earth. The beauty of the land could be seen for the first time by the people of the sky. They thought the land was so beautiful that they decided to light a giant fire as soon as the morning star appeared. This didn’t work all the time because on an overcast day the star couldn’t be seen.
The people decided to ask the kookaburra to help because of his loud, striking call. He was asked to call every morning so that they knew when to light the sun.
That’s why the kookaburra can be heard first thing every morning before the fire starts to burn. The fire only lets a small amount of light and heat, and gradually it gets hotter and brighter. During the day, after it brightens, the fire begins to burn out, so the light dims again.