Having A Buffalo Moment In A Laotian Creation Myth

by hermes7 on October 12, 2012

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Why a 2nd buffalo post? Do I have a really weird animal fetish?

No, but I do greatly appreciate Southeast Asian cultures. And the more deeply you delve into a culture’s roots, the more you can enjoy it. So I’ll tell you a short story from Laos about creation. It shows how much humanity’s ancient relationship with this sturdy animal has influenced thought in one of the world’s most fascinating regions.

Once upon a time, the supreme deities ordered all people to give them offerings at each meal. But the people, being human, disobeyed. The gods caused a flood which covered the earth and drowned almost everyone. But 3 elders saved themselves,  their wives and their children on a raft. Not too different from Noah’s ark so far.

But they sailed to the gods’ kingdom and hung out there for a while. When the waters receded, they left, and the king of the gods gave them a buffalo. When they returned to the earth, they began to plant rice with the help of their new partner.

Three years later, the noble beast died. A vine grew from its nostrils, and 3 enormous pumpkins emerged from it. The elders pierced the fruits, and humanity came into the world from them. The elders taught them how to cultivate rice, build houses, and they explained the importance of marriage.

Humanity’s birth from pumpkins issuing from a dead buffalo makes this story different from the Noah’s ark tale, and it expresses the worlds of Southeast Asia rather than the West. Yahweh created Adam directly. But the Laotian tale says we’re consubstantial with animals and plants. We’re embedded in nature, and its energies generate many life forms together.

But we didn’t come from just any animal. We issued from a creature that our ancestors have had a partnership with in producing crops since ancient times. The patterns of civilization are thus close to the forces of creation.

Whether you’re a Christian or not, it’s hard not to find this optimistic view of the world appealing. Life forms are embedded with each other in an ecosystem that’s civilized. I found the lush green fields ringed by mountains during the rainy season stunningly beautiful. Many walks through them made it easy to see how this view of the world could have emerged.

Other aspects of the environment, like rivers, also encouraged this sense that all lifeforms are intertwined.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

hamlet December 15, 2012 at 4:25 am

I found your this post by stumbling on stumbleupon. nicely written. i like these myths about gods and creation of the earth.

thank you. :)

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