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Author Topic: BERBER CREATION MYTH  (Read 156 times)
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« on: May 23, 2008, 12:09:49 am »


The First Human Beings
In the beginning there were only one man and one woman and they lived not on the earth but beneath it. They were the first people in the world and neither knew that the other was of another sex.

One day they both came to the well to drink. The man said, "Let me drink."

The woman said, "No, I'll drink first. I was here first."

The man tried to push the woman aside. She struck him. They fought. The man smote the woman so that she dropped to the ground. Her clothing fell to one side. Her thighs were naked.

The man saw the woman lying strange and naked before him. He saw that she had a taschunt. He felt that he had a thabuscht. He looked at the taschunt and asked, "What is that for?"

The woman said, "That is good."

The man lay upon the woman. He lay with the woman eight days.

After nine months the woman bore four daughters. Again, after nine months, she bore four sons, And again four daughters and again four sons. So at last the man and the woman had fifty daughters and fifty sons. The father and the mother did not know what to do with so many children. So they sent them away.

The fifty maidens went off together towards the north. The fifty young men went off together towards the east. After the maidens had been on their way northwards under the earth for a year, they saw a light above them. There was a hole in the earth.

The maidens saw the sky above them and cried, "Why stay under the earth when we can climb to the surface where we can see the sky?"

The maidens climbed up through the hole and on to the earth.

The fifty youths likewise continued in their own direction under the earth for a year until they, too, came to a place where there was a hole in the crust and they could see the sky above them.

The youths looked at the sky and cried, "Why remain under the earth when there is a place from which one can see the sky?"

So they climbed through their hole to the surface.

Thereafter the fifty maidens went their way over the earth's surface and the youths went their way and none knew aught of the others.

At that time all trees and plants and stones could speak. The fifty maidens saw the plants and asked them, "Who made you?"

And the plants replied, "The earth."

The maidens asked the earth, "Who made you?"

And the earth replied, "I was already here."

During the night the maidens saw the moon and the stars and they cried, "Who made you that you stand so high over us and over the trees? Is it you who give us light? Who are you, great and little stars? Who created you? Or are you, perhaps, the ones who have made everything else?" All the maidens called and shouted. But the moon and the stars were so high that they could not answer.

The youths had wandered into the same region and could hear the fifty maidens shouting.

They said to one another, "Surely here are other people like ourselves. Let us go and see who they are." And they set off in the direction from which the shouts had come.

But just before they reached the place they came to the bank of a great stream. The stream lay between the fifty maidens and the fifty youths. The youths had, however, never seen a river before, so they shouted. The maidens heard the shouting in the distance and came towards it.

The maidens reached the other bank of the river, saw the fifty youths and cried, "Who are you? What are you shouting? Are you human beings, too?"

The fifty youths shouted back, "We, too, are human beings. We have come out of the earth. But what are you yelling about?"

The maidens replied, "We, too, are human beings and we, too, have come out of the earth. We shouted and asked the moon and the stars who had made them or if they had made everything else."

The fifty boys spoke to the river, "You are not like us," they said. "We cannot grasp you and cannot pass over you as one can pass over the earth. What are you? How can one cross over you to the other side?"

The river said, "I am the water. I am for bathing and washing. I am there to drink. If you want to reach my other shore go upstream to the shallows. There you can cross over me."

The fifty youths went upstream, found the shallows and crossed over to the other shore. The fifty youths now wished to join the fifty maidens, but the latter cried, "Do not come too close to us. We won't stand for it. You go over there, and we'll stay here leaving that strip of steppe between us."

So the fifty youths and the fifty maidens continued on their way, some distance, apart, but traveling in the same direction.

One day the fifty boys came to a spring. The fifty maidens also came to a spring.

The youths said, "Did not the river tell us that water was to bathe in? Come, let us bathe."

The fifty youths laid aside their clothing and stepped down into the water and bathed. The fifty maidens sat around their spring and saw the youths in the distance. A bold maiden said, "Come with me and we shall see what the other human beings are doing."

Two maidens replied, "We'll come with you." All the others refused.

The three maidens crept through the bushes towards the fifty youths. Two of them stopped on the way. Only the bold maiden came, hidden by the bushes, to the very place where the youths were bathing. Through the bushes the maiden looked at the youths who had laid aside their clothing. The youths were naked. The maiden looked at all of them. She saw that they were not like the maidens. She looked at everything carefully. As the youths dressed again the maiden crept away without their having seen her.

The maiden returned to the other maidens who gathered around her and asked, "What have you seen?"

The bold maiden replied, "Come, we'll bathe, too, and then I can tell you and show you."

The fifty maidens undressed and stepped down into their spring.

The bold maiden told them, "The people over there are not as we are. Where our breasts are, they have nothing. Where our taschunt is, they have something else. The hair on their heads is not long like ours, but short. And when one sees them naked one's heart pounds and one wishes to embrace them. When one has seen them naked, one can never forget it."

The other maidens replied, "You lie."

But the bold maiden said, "Go and see for yourselves and you'll come back feeling as I do."

The other maidens replied, "We'll continue on our way."

The fifty maidens continued on their way and so did the fifty youths. But the youths went ahead slowly. The maidens, on the other hand, described a half circle so that they crossed the path of the youths. They camped quite close to one another.

On this day the youths said, "Let us not sleep under the sky any more. Let us build houses."

A few of the youths began to make themselves holes in the earth. They slept in the holes. Others made themselves passages and rooms under the earth and slept in them. But a few of the youths said, "What are you doing digging into the earth to make houses? Are there not stones here that we can pile them one upon the other?"

The youths gathered stones and piled them one on the other in layers. When they had built the walls one of them went off and began to fell a tree.

But the tree cried and said, "What, you will cut me down? What arc you doing? Do you think you are older than I? What do you think to gain by it?"

The youth answered, "I am not older than you, nor do I wish to be presumptuous. I simply wish to cut down fifty of you trees and lay the trunks across my house for a roof. Your branches and twigs I will lay within the house to protect them from the wet."

The tree answered, "That is well."

The youth then cut down fifty trees, laid their trunks across his house and covered them with earth. The branches he cut up and stored away inside the house. A few of the larger trunks he set upright in the house to carry the weight of the roof. When the others saw how fine the house was they did even as he had done.

Among the youths there was a wild one, just as among the maidens one was wild and untamed. This wild youth would not live in a house. Rather he preferred to creep in and out among the houses of the others seeking someone whom he could rend and devour. For he was so wild that he thought only of killing and eating others.

The fifty maidens were encamped at a distance. Looking, they saw how the fifty youths first dug themselves holes and tunnels in the earth and how they finally built their houses.

They asked one another, "What are these other humans doing? What are they doing with the stones and the trees?"

The bold maiden said, "I'll go there again. I will sneak over and see what these other humans are doing. I have seen them naked once and I want to see them again."

The bold maiden crawled through the bushes to the houses. She came quite close. Finally she slid into a house. There was no one there. The maiden looked around and saw how fine the house was. The wild one came by outside. He scented the maiden. He roared. The maiden screamed and, dashing out of the house, made for the place where the other maidens were encamped.

All the youths heard the maiden scream and all jumped up and ran after her. The maiden ran through the bushes and screamed. The other maidens heard her. They sprang to their feet and ran in her direction to help her. In the bushes the fifty maidens and the fifty youths came together, each maiden with a youth. They fought in the bushes, the maidens with the youths. Even the wild maiden encountered the wild youth in the bushes.

It was dark in the bushes and they fought in pairs. No pair could see the next one. The fifty maidens were strong. They hurled the fifty youths to the ground, and threw themselves on top of them. And they said to themselves, "Now I will see at last if the bold maiden lied."

The maidens seized the youths between the thighs. They found the thabuscht. As they touched it, it swelled and the youths lay quite still. As the maidens felt the thabuscht of the youths, their hearts began to swell. The fifty maidens threw aside their clothes and inserted the thabuscht in their taschunt. The youths lay quite still. The fifty maidens began to ravish the fifty youths. Thereupon the fifty youths became more active than the fifty maidens.

Every youth took a maiden and brought her into his house. They married.

In the house the youths said, "It is not right that the woman lies on the man. In the future we shall see to it that the man lies on the woman. In this way we will become your masters." And in the future they slept in the fashion customary among the Kabyls today.

The youths were now much more active than the maidens, and all lived happily together in great satisfaction. Only the wild youth and the wild maiden, who had no house, roamed here and there seeking others to devour. The others chased them, and when they met them they beat them.

The wild ones said to each other, "We must be different from these humans that they treat us so badly. We will do better to keep out of their way. Let us leave this place and go to the forest."

The wild ones left and went to the forest from which, in future, they emerged only to steal children whom they devoured. The wild maiden became the first teriel (witch) and the wild youth the first lion. And they both lived on human flesh. The other young men and women were happy to be rid of the cannibals. They lived happily with one another. Their food consisted only of plants, which they uprooted.
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« Reply #1 on: May 23, 2008, 12:11:32 am »

The Beginning of Agriculture

Meanwhile the first man and the first woman wandered under the earth. One day they found a great pile of millet in a corner. Beside it lay piles of barley and wheat and seeds of all the food plants. A pile of everything lay in a corner.

The first man and the first woman looked at the seeds and asked, "What does this mean?"

An ant was running along beside the piles of seeds. The first man and the first woman saw the ant. The ant removed a grain of wheat from its husk. The ant ate the grain of wheat.

The first man asked, "What is the ant doing?"

The woman said, "Kill it! Kill the ugly creature!"

The man said, "Why should I kill it? Someone created it just as someone created us."

The man did nothing to the ant but watched it instead.

The first man asked the ant, "Tell me what you are doing. Can you tell me anything about the millet and the barley and these other seeds?"

The ant said, "I will ask you something. Do you know of a spring, of a brook or of a river?"

The first man said, "No, we know only the well."

The ant said, "Then you know what water is. The water is there so that one may wash one's self and one's clothing. The water is there that one may drink. It is also there that one may cook one's food. All this grain is good if one cooks it in water. Now come with me. I will show you and the first woman everything."

The first man said, "We will come with you."

The ant led the first parents to its hole which led from under the earth to the earth's surface.

The ant said, "This is my path, come on my path with me."

The ant led the first parents through the passageway and on up to the surface. The ant led them to a river and said, "Here flows the water in which you may wash yourselves and your clothing and which you may drink. This is the water with which you cook your corn after you have ground it."

The ant led the first parents to some stones and said, "These are the stones with which you grind the corn to meal."

The ant showed them how to lay one stone on the other and how to insert a stick in order to turn the upper stone. The ant showed them how the grain should lie between the two stones. The ant said to the first parents, "This is a house-mill. With it you must grind the grain to meal." The ant helped the first human beings to grind the corn.

The ant showed the first woman how to make dough with water and meal and how to knead it. The ant said to the first woman, "Now you must make a fire." The ant took two stones from the river bed and took some dried plants and said, "This is a fire tool." The ant also brought dried grass and wood.

The ant struck a fire with the flint and threw wood and twigs on it.

The ant said to the first woman, "When the fire has grown strong and large and has become a heap of glowing ashes you must clear it to one side. On the hot place you must lay your flat cakes of kneaded dough. Then cover them up and throw the hot ashes and the glowing coals over them. After a while the bread will be cooked and you will be able to eat it."

The first woman did what the ant had told her. And when she had cleared away the ashes for the second time the bread was done. The first man and the first woman ate the bread and said, "Now we have full stomachs."

The first man said to the woman, "Come, we will take a look at the earth."

The first man and the first woman took plenty of barley and wheat with them, and they took the millstones with them and they wandered over the earth. On the way they lost, here and there, a few grains of wheat and barley. Rain fell. The grain which had fallen to the ground took root, grew and bore fruit. The first parents came to the place where the forty-nine young men had built houses and where they lived with the forty-nine maidens as their wives. Till then the forty-nine young men and the forty-nine maidens had eaten only plants which they plucked from the earth. The first parents showed them how to make bread even as they had learned it from the ant. The forty-nine young men and women ate their first bread.

They told their parents, "This food is very good. We would like to accompany you to the place where you found the ant and the grain in order to fetch some more of it."

The first parents went back with the forty-nine young men and their wives.

On the way back they saw the wheat and barley which had sprung up out of the grain which they had lost and which had fallen to the ground.

They said, "That is the same grain which the ant showed us how to cook and eat." They grubbed up the earth and found that each plant had grown up out of a single grain.

They said, "Every grain which fell to the earth has brought forth twenty to thirty grains. In future we will eat half our grain and put the other half in the earth."

They threw half of their grain on the earth. But it was the dry season and the sun burned. The corn didn't grow. They waited and waited but the corn did not appear.

Thereupon, they went to the ant and said, "When we let a few grains fall for the first time they took root and grew and each grain produced twenty and thirty others. Now we have thrown grain on to the earth again, and not a single stalk has appeared. What is the reason?"

The ant answered, "You have not chosen the right season. After it has been hot for a long time you must wait till rain has fallen. When the earth is damp then throw in your corn. And then it will rain again and you will enjoy a rich harvest. But if you throw your grain on the earth in the hot season it will bum up and you will harvest nothing, for the grain will have been dried up."

And the human beings said, "Aha, so one must do it that way!"

Men thereafter did as the ant had taught them. They sowed half their grain after the first rains had fallen. The grain waxed and each stalk bore twenty-fold and thirty-fold. And the other half of their grain they ate.


Source: Leo Frobenius and Douglas C. Fox, African Genesis: Folk Tales and Myths of Africa (New York: Dover, 1999), pp. 49-61. The Dover edition is an unaltered republication of the work originally published by Stackpole Sons, New York, in 1937, under the title African Genesis.

The Kabyl people belong to the Berbers of North Africa. They are native to the Djurdjura Mountains of Algeria.

Leo Frobenius (1873-1938) was a German explorer, ethnologist, and authority on prehistoric art. He led twelve expeditions to Africa between 1904 and 1935.
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