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Creation Stories Names Beyond Adam and Eve

by Aili Winstanley Channer

As the debate between Darwinists and creationists continues, it is interesting to remember that every culture has developed its own unique view of the world and how it came into being. These myths are as striking in their similarities as they are in their differences and offer a fascinating insight into the human psyche. Here are a selection of names of deities and mortals involved in creation stories from around the world.

Ask (m) and Embla (f) – The tree is at the heart of Norse myth, with the whole cosmos being seen as a great ash called Yggdrasil, so it is not surprising that the first mortal man and woman were made out of trees. Ask, meaning “ash”, may be too similar to the verb “to ask” to use today, but has countless attractive relatives from the Old High German Asco to the Anglo-Saxon Ascwin (“ash tree friend”), Asculf (“ash tree wolf”) and, for girls, Ashwynn (“ash tree joy”).

The meaning of Embla is less clear, but “elm” and “vine” have been proposed. The Norse worldview is cyclical, with the world being set to be destroyed at Ragnarök, the Norse concept of the end of the world. Afterwards, a couple named Líf (f) and Lífþrasir (m), meaning “life” and “life-lover” respectively, would act as equivalents of Embla and Ask and repopulate the new world. The spunky Liv is the modern Scandinavian form of Líf; it is now #375 on Nameberry, 16 in the Netherlands and 44 in Sweden.

Beaivi – Still the word for the sun in the Sami language of northern Europe, Beaivi was viewed as a deity in the animistic belief system the people held before they were Christianized in the eighteenth century. The Sami are a Finno-Ugric people who have sadly been subject to persecution for centuries. Beaivi, sometimes considered female and sometimes male, was viewed as the parent of humankind. Roughly pronounced “beh-eye-vee”, the name has a lovely sound and rolls off the tongue in a pleasing way.

Erin – Sadly, the beliefs of the Ancient Celts on the creation of the universe have been lost to time. It has sometimes been speculated, however, that the goddess Ériu, who gave her name to Ireland and whose name means “earth”, may be an Ancient Irish version of the Mother Earth figure. Erin is an anglicized form of Eireann, the dative form of the Irish name for Ireland, Éire. Erin has had a good run of popularity in the United States, peaking at #18 in 1983, and still has plenty of appeal for parents who wish to honour the Emerald Isle in their child’s name. For those looking for something more original, Iverna is a poetic name for the country that derives from its Latin name, Hibernia.

Gikuyu (m) & Mumbi (f) – In the monotheistic tradition of the Kikuyu people of Kenya, God, known as Ngai, created the ancestors of the Kikuyu, Gikuyu (“great sycamore tree”) and Mumbi (“one who molds” or “creator”). The sycamore tree, along with the fig and the olive, were considered sacred to Ngai, who was also seen as being manifest in thunder, lightning, and celestial bodies. Gikuyu and Mumbi had nine daughters some of whose names were Wambui (“zebra”), Wangui (“singer” or “baby-carrier”), Nyambura (“of the rain”), Wairimu (“giant”) and Wangari (“leopard”). Kikuyu society was originally matriarchal, their nine clans were said to be founded by Gikuyu’s nine daughters and traditionally, all Kikuyu girls were given one of these nine names.

Pandora – We are all familiar with the story of Pandora, the first mortal woman in Greek myth, who accidentally let all evils into the world. Her name is playful and charming and gets a good deal of well-deserved attention on Nameberry, but remains controversial.

Rangi (m) & Papa (f) – In Maori mythology, the world was originally made up of the union between Rangi, the sky father, and Papa, the earth mother, who hugged each other in a tight embrace. Their many divine children eventually decide to push the two apart, allowing light into the universe. As the primordial parents of the universe, they are analogous to Uranus and Gaia in the Greek pantheon. The name Papa sounds too daddyish to western sensibilities, but Rangi could be more wearable.

Zhinu (shown)– Chinese myths contain many accounts of how the world came into being. In some versions, it was made out of the body of the primordial giant, Panga. In another version, it is the Jade Emperor god who molds the human race out of clay. The story of his daughter, Zhinu (??, “weaver girl” in traditional Chinese) is well-known; she was a weaver responsible for weaving the clouds in the heavens. Eventually, she fell in love with a mortal cowherd, infuriating her father, who made a river – the Milky Way – flow between Heaven and Earth to prevent the lovers from seeing one another. In the end he took pity on them and let them meet on a bridge once a year; Zhinu can be seen as the star Vega in the constellation Lyra, while her lover is the star Altair in Aquila.

Author’s note: This post is written purely out of onomastic interest and parents who are interested in using a name from another culture for their child – particularly in the case of names of deities or significant cultural figures – are strongly recommended to research the culture and the practices associated with the name thoroughly before proceeding.

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14 Responses to “Creation Stories Names Beyond Adam and Eve”

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lesliemarion Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 1:11 am

Calling someone’s faith a myth is offensive. As a Christian, I wouldn’t call a Jewish person’s faith a myth or a Native American or a Hindu, Muslim, or Buddhist, etc. They are different faiths for heaven’s sake. We don’t need to believe someone else’s faith to respect it as their faith.

Merry Christmas, nameberry.

linda Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 2:47 am

@lesliemarion I hesitated to use the author’s title myself, and and now changing it to stories.

Kew Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 6:24 am

I apologise if I have caused any offence, but it was never my intention to refer to any religion as a myth, and I thought this was clear. I did, however, speak of the creation stories of various religions, including my own, as myths. This was from a purely anthropological perspective where they are seen not as literal historical events, but reflective of a deeper truth, according to your beliefs.
From Wikipedia: “A creation myth (or cosmogonic myth) is a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it.” The story of Adam and Eve is listed there as the creation myth of the Abrahamic religions. This does not mean that it is not true or that it is of no value, and the same applies to every other story referenced in this post.

Kew Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 7:51 am

I just want to add that I have not only respect but a deep reverence for the beliefs of different cultures, so I am very sorry if I unintentionally made it seem otherwise.

SydneyIsGroot Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 8:17 am

Izanami and Izanagi are two from Shinto. The pair stirred islands out of primordial nothing using a spear. Izanagi also created the main goddess of Shinto Amateratsu after Izanami’s death.

SydneyIsGroot Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 8:19 am

*Amaterasu

detailsgirl Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 9:32 am

How is Lifprasir pronounced?

Maerad Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 10:05 am

This is fascinating!
I wish all 9 names of the daughter’s were given for the Kikuyu beliefs – unless they had 9 daughters but only used 5 names?

The only bit I’m not sure about is the ‘debate’ between Darwinism and Creationism, but Nameberry perhaps isn’t the place the have that discussion!

Kew Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 11:58 am

@SydneyIsGroot – Thank you for the fascinating contribution! Do you know what the names mean?

@detailsgirl – The character þ makes a th sound, so Lifþrasir is roughly pronounced “lif-thras-ur”.

@Maerad – Thank you! I originally included all nine names but for some reason Nameberry seems to have removed the remaining three, perhaps because their meanings are unknown. They are Wanjiku, Wanjiru, and Waithira (although there are some variances in the names depending on the version of the story). They are all very common names in Kenya.

I think that regardless of one’s opinion it’s hard to deny the existence of the debate. I would be interested to know how you would prefer to put it, though!

whatchamacallit Says:

December 26th, 2018 at 2:03 pm

One person’s “belief” is another person’s “myth”. There’s no reason to be offended by it. Plus, “myth” does not equal “lie”. We call the religions of the Ancient Greeks and Romans “myths”. I agree that stories sounds better but myth shouldn’t be a bad word.
Very interesting topic and awesome names.

wandsworth Says:

December 27th, 2018 at 11:08 am

I agree with @whatchamacallit. Myth isn’t a bad word.

purplepeach384 Says:

December 27th, 2018 at 3:44 pm

I also agree with @wandsworth and @whatchamacallit. The definition of the word myth is “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” That is, by nature, what these are. How on earth is “story” better or worse? There is nothing wrong with the original title. Respectfully, I do not get all up in arms when a religious person tells me “Merry Christmas” despite myself not personally celebrating Christmas. There is a difference between slander and opinion, and this is one of those things that does not need to be policed.

SydneyIsGroot Says:

December 28th, 2018 at 1:22 pm

@Kew “she-who-invites” for Izanami and “he-who-invites” for Izanagi. Always happy to share names!

jalila13 Says:

December 30th, 2018 at 4:55 pm

@SydneyIsGroot, Izanami and Izanagi were also my first thoughts when I clicked on this post.

In regards to the myth vs stories, I think it has more to do with the connotation rather than the denotation of the word myth as a lie, or made up thing. Even one given meaning for the word is “a false notion”. Therefore it is clear to see how this word could be interpreted when it comes to other’s faiths.

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