- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology
Great Flood Legends of the World
The Great Flood
The Christian story of Noah and the Great Flood is not a unique recording in the history of mankind. There are over 500 "Great Flood" legends from different cultures around the world.
It has long been known that legends of a great flood, in which almost all men perished, are widely diffused over the world ...
- Folk-Lore in the Old Testament, pg. 105— James George Frazer
A few Flood Legends
Following are just a few of the many flood legends from different regions of the world. The event was of such major proportions to each civilization that it was recorded in some way for future generations to read and learn from. The basic teaching of each legend is one of moral responsibility that had been given to mankind by a supreme being.
The earliest known record of the great flood was found inscribed on a clay tablet excavated in Nippur, Iraq, the most ancient of all Sumerian cities. The Sumerians left a record of an ancient flood on clay tablets - the words carved deeply, dating to around 1600 BC.
Ziudsura, a priest and the last king of Sumer before the deluge, found out there was a pending disaster coming and that the gods conferred and made a decision to not save mankind. An ark was built by Ziudsura, or Atrahasis in a later version of the story.
The floods came and the huge ark survived after seven days and seven nights of storms and tremendous waves. When the flood was over, Ziudsura prostrated himself before the sky god, An, and was given eternal life because he preserved the animals and seed of mankind.
Ruins in Nippur, Iraq
In Book I of Ovid's Metamorphoses, ancient Greek mythology, Zeus became angry because King Lyacon of Arcadia, sacrificed a young boy to Zeus. This father of all gods was so infuriated about the savage sacrificial offering that he caused a great deluge to destroy the entire Bronze Age. Deucalion, son of Prometheus, was saved from the deluge because his father warned him of the coming disaster. Deucalion built a chest for him and his wife, Pyrrha.
Deucalion and Pyrrha gave thanks to Zeus for their survival then consulted the oracle of Themis as to how they could repopulate Earth. They were told to cover their heads and throw the bones of their mother over their shoulders. To ancient Greeks, Earth was Gaia, the Mother of all living things. Deucalion and Pyrrha did as they were told by picking up stones to cast over their shoulders. When the stones landed, they became people. Thus, the only surviving couple repopulated Earth.
Deucalion and Pyrrha
India, The Deluge of Manu
The legend of 'The Deluge of Manu' is included in the Shatapatha Brahmana, which was written in the 8th to 6th centuries BCE.
Sraddhadeva Manu, king of Dravida, was told by the appearance of the Matsya avatar of Vishnu about the pending Great Flood of cosmic proportion that would destroy the world.
Manu built a boat large enough to hold his family, the seven sages (saints), 9 types of seeds, and animals. When the deluge was about to come, Vishnu appeared as a horned fish and Shesha (primal serpent deity of creation) appeared as a rope. Manu fastened the rope to his boat and the other end to Vishnu.
From the Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the Mahabharata:
And Manu was endowed with great wisdom and devoted to virtue. And he became the progenitor of a line. And in Manu's race have been born all human beings, who have, therefore, been called Manavas.— Mahabharata
Matsya Aavatar of Vishnu
Abrahamic, Noah's Ark
In the legend of 'Noah and the Ark', God decided to destroy the world due to the immoral acts of people, and to return Earth to the state it was in prior to Creation, which was nothing but water.
He instructed Noah, who had found grace in the eyes of the Lord, to build an ark that would house his family and two of every sort of living things, plus grains, seeds, and foods. This was done, the ark loaded and locked up, then the flood came and destroyed all life except what was on Noah's ark. Noah and his people were on the ark for about five or six months. The ark came to rest on top of Mount Ararat in Turkey.
After the waters subsided God made a covenant (Genesis 9:1-17) with Noah that He would never again destroy the world with a flood. The covenant was sealed by the sign of a rainbow, which appeared after the storm and is seen as God's promise, known as the Rainbow Covenant.
Noah's Thank Offering
Hopi, Native American
The Hopi people of the Southwest, United States, believe we are currently in the Fourth World. Their legends tell of three previous worlds that were destroyed by Creator Taiowa and his nephew, Sotuknang. Each world thus far were destroyed because of sins, wickedness, and warring of the people. Creator had instructed Sotuknang to create nine worlds.
Sotuknang created Grandmother Spider to create life on the First World and to be a messenger between the people and Creator.
The First World was destroyed by fire after Sotuknang told the good people to go underground and live with the ant people. After the lands cooled off, the people emerged into the Second World.
Again, Sotuknang told the people to go back underground while he destroyed the Second world by having the two minor gods who held the north and south poles to leave their posts, which caused the world to spin and tumble. Great mountains fell into bodies of water and the world froze. The people emerged into the Third World.
When the frozen world began to melt, Grandmother Spider followed Creator's instructions and helped the people emerge into the Fourth World, where she placed them in reeds which she then sealed shut. The melting ice caused the Great Flood. The Hopi journeyed many days till they found and landed in a mountainous region where they populated and restored the Fourth World.
There is a petroglyph in Mesa Verde National Park that shows the place where the Hopi emerged each time into the new worlds. From where they emerged is called the Sipapu - it is very sacred to the Hopi. The location of the Sipapu is somewhere in the Grand Canyon, the Hopi will not disclose the exact spot of the place they emerged from.
Thoughts to Ponder on
When thinking or reading about any of the flood legends, in any culture, many questions may come to mind. It is very possible that the "world" in an ancient culture was only the lands the people knew of and lived in. It is more than likely in those very early days of humanity that people had no concept of other parts of the planet, nor did they know other civilizations other than their own even existed and survived.
Archaeologists are discovering new civilizations quite often. Just recently, in Dmanisi, Georgia located in central Asia, a human skull over one million years old was discovered. It adds to the collection of four other human skulls from the same area and time period.
Now, according to what is known as the Young Earth creationists, the Earth is only about 10,000 years old. The Old Earth creationists are of the belief which is in line with mainstream scientific thoughts, that Earth is over four billion years old. Well, the skulls found in Asia are 1.8 million years old. This is an interesting study to look into, but is better done in a more comprehensive manner than what can be done in this article.
Now, back to the flood. To use Noah as an example, when he was building his ark and gathering all the people, animals, supplies needed, was he aware that in a land that would one day become North America the Hopi people were preparing their own boats and supplies to survive the destruction of the "Third World"? No - he did not know about those who had to navigate waters that forged the Grand Canyon in Southwest America, nor did the Hopi know about Noah.
The Hopi and Noah only knew that Great Spirit / God had given the instructions on how to survive and begin a new civilization. Unaware of other civilizations, all those humans did what they had to do in their own little part of the world", believing they were the only humans to come out of the flood alive - therefore, they believed they were the first humans of the new world from which all other humans descended. By passing down verbal history to generation after generation, then eventually by written word, each legend could very well be based on factual happenings of the entire world where many human civilizations thrived, lost most of their people in a flood, and a handful survived to be the ancestors of all mankind.
If all of the flood legends are true, it would mean that it was not just one group that survived to populate the world, but over 500 groups that survived and restored the world and humanity. If there were on average 10 people per group (hypothetical), then 5000 people, with their animals, survived the Great Flood. This would explain how animals were dispersed over a wide area of the planet.
Were all these floods phenomenal flukes of Nature at different times that wiped out only some lands, or was it one cosmic cataclysm that destroyed the whole world at once?
Have you read or heard about these flood legends before?
© 2015 Phyllis Doyle Burns