Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Creation Myth of the At'ein'zei

       I'm in the process of revising for publication Beneath the Mountain of Heavy Fear, v.4 of The Labors of Ki'shto'ba Huge-Head.  In this book Ki'shto'ba and its Companions venture into the lands of the At'ein'zei, the People of the Root, a variant species of the Southern Nasutes.  They sojourn briefly in a fortress called No'ka'rim'bu'u, where Di'fa'kro'mi the Remembrancer learns the following tale, extracted from Chapter 2 of the book.  If you're interested in comparing it with the Creation Myth of Di'fa'kro'mi's people, the latter can be found in the sixth chapter of the second half of The Termite Queen, v.1: The Speaking of the Dead.

I never lost my curiosity about Creation Myths, however, and the Remembrancer of No’ka’rim’bu’u was willing to relate her own.  The Nameless Mother, she said, lives in the Primal Cave among the roots of a giant tree that the At’ein’zei consider to be the centerpost of the world.  She nourishes it with the secretions of her integument, for if it should die, she would die as well and then the world would end.  This is why these people were called the Offspring of the Root.  The shell of the Primal Cave keeps the world stable; groundquakes happen when rocks slip out of place in the Holy Walls.
The Sta’ein’zei, the Remembrancer informed me, believe something similar, but their Cave contains no root and they have no myth of a Primal Tree.  Their beliefs lack this softer vegetable component – perhaps that explained why they were so warlike …
       Whatever the nature of the center of the world, the Highest-Mother-Who-Is-Nameless laid her first eggs without benefit of a King’s insemination, and she was so fecund that soon the chamber became crammed full.  This forced some of the eggs to burst out of volcanic vents onto the surface of the world, from which they shot up into the sky and hatched into stars.  These were the first manifestations of light above ground.  Still other eggs burst their shells within the ground and heaved up the mountains.  Others emerged as rivers and fungi.
       However, after a while the Nameless Mother grew lonely and caused some of her eggs to hatch into Kings, not for the purpose of insemination but to serve as companions for herself.  Then she hatched others into Alates so she and her Kings could have cooler light than that which came from the hot stones of volcanoes.  Thus, they call Alates “Fire-Wings” rather than “Star-Wings,” and light-making, which we regard as fit only for Alates of the dimmest wit, is a highly respected occupation among the Southern Nasutes.
       Even then, the Nameless Creator was not fully satisfied, so she resolved to populate the world with creatures like herself.  She produced a copy of herself and made a Holy Chamber for this First Mother near the surface of the ground, where she could lay eggs of her own.  At first the only Castes were Alates and Workers and King-Companions; they all had eyes and could do anything they liked except dig their way to the surface.  But the Mother and Kings and Workers soon broke that taboo – only the Alates remained faithful to the Nameless One’s command – and when they saw the world with its rivers and mountains and stars, they fell in love with it.
So the Nameless One was angered and she resolved to punish her creation.  She took away the Workers’ eyes so they could not see the world they loved.  Then she ordained that they should no longer be nourished on the Great Root but should live in the World Above forever, dependent on whatever they could glean therein.  Furthermore, they would have to contend with one another for living room and sustenance.  For that purpose she created Warriors, eyeless and dependent on Workers for their food so they could not grow too powerful.  The Alates, who had never disobeyed her, were allowed to keep their eyes and she rewarded them by making them a conduit of holiness from herself to her creation.
       Soon she realized her offspring were languishing in this dark world, where the only thing to eat was fungus and the only warmth came from the volcanoes and the only light, from the stars.  So she made the sun out of the excess of the world’s hot volcanic excrement so they would have warmth and light, and she caused the Primal Root to send up shoots and generate the first trees and all the other plants so there would be a greater variety of nourishing food.  Then, having become infatuated with the act of creating, she made the animals also, simply because she could.  She discovered that this new order of things amused her greatly.  She would sometimes thrust her head out of the ground so that during darktimes her eyes were visible in the sky watching her world.
She had disciplined the Mothers by immobilizing them underground and making them dependent on the King-Companions for procreation, but when this latter arrangement proved more of a comfort than a punishment, she decided to give her own Kings the same function.  Ever since then she has mated, but it is said that even to this day the Highest-Mother-Who-Is-Nameless does not really need her Kings and sometimes grows tired of mating and casts them aside, or even eats them.  When this happens, great storms and droughts and catastrophes come upon the world.
       All of this was quite novel and fascinating to me, since it was both unlike the Shum’za Creation Myth and reflective of it.  Indeed, our own tale was beginning to seem a bit oversimplified to me.  I have related only the barest chitin of the myth here.  It closely resembled the Yo’sho’zei version, although that latter was even more complex.


  1. Perhaps Di'fa'kro'mi is doing the best he can to describe the myths of other Shshi than his own group when they don't make sense to him. I'm about half-way through Huge-head V2 where he's trying to figure out the religious differences war between the Mother-Who-Is-Nameless resides in the sky, or Mother resides in the earth. I think Swift covered such differences well with the Big Endians and Little Endians.

    1. Well, us conworlders love Creation Myths! Di'fa'kro'mi is also very interested in the cultural differences between his own people and the peoples he encounters during the Quest. The opposing myth is new to him at the point where you are, but by the time he reaches At'ein'zei lands, he has become much more comfortable with its premises. You do realize that I'm doing The Song of Roland in parts of the book you're reading, I'm sure. It's the Saracens vs. Charlemagne. I was struck by how this conflict is still going on in our own times and I thought the way I worked it out is quite relevant..

  2. Song of Roland, eh? I'm still trying to work out the labors of Hercules. You need more footnotes! Kaitrin can give us some hints now and again.

    1. Actually, I should keep my mouth (or fingers) shut! You don't really need to know the sources to read the story. Just let it flow and carry you along. I have written elsewhere, however, that I based the tales on Greek myth and also on certain medieval epics. So just enjoy and don't worry about underlying themes or interpretations. I don't want to footnote the sources I used, because the Companions don't know they are reliving the myths of another planet. See the Seer Thru'tei'ga'ma's words under the title of this blog. He knows all!