There are hundreds of legends that have come down from ancient peoples through cultures all around the globe.
Three inferences can be drawn from these legends. 1) There must be a common ancestry to the peoples of the world since most cultures have legends with similarity of subject matter. 2) The legends, though differing in details, tell similar stories. 3) The legends draw from events in the ancient past they believed to be historical.
"The answer to the problem of the similarity of the motifs in the folklore of various peoples is, in my view, as follows: A great many ideas reflect real historical content. There is a legend, found all over the world, that a deluge swept over the earth and covered hills and even mountains. We have a poor opinion of the mental abilities of our ancestors if we think that merely an extraordinary overflow of the Euphrates so impressed the nomads of the desert that they thought the entire world was flooded, and that the legend so born wandered from people to people. At the same time, geological problems of the origin and distribution of till, or diluvial deposit, are awaiting explanation."
(Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, (Garden City: Doubleday, 1950) p. 304)
The ancient legends touch on many subjects. Those that are the most interesting to this writer are the creation and flood legends.
"Wikipedia" lists eighty six creation myths. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_creation_myths
"Creation Stories" (http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab83)
"Native American Myths of Creation" (http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab83)
"Indian Legend.com" (http://www.indianlegend.com/california/california_001.htm)
"The Babylonian Legends of Creation" (http://www.sacred-texts.com/ane/blc/index.htm)
"Lake Titicaca: creation legends" (http://snobear.colorado.edu/Adina/Watson/Lake%20Titicaca.htm
"Creation Myths from the Philippines" by D.L. Ashliman. (http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/creation-phil.html)
"Creation Stories of the Ancient Near East" by Dr. David Livingston. (http://davelivingston.com/creationstories.htm)
"From Under the Dust of Ages" (http://www.wisdomlib.org/mesopotamian/book/from-under-the-dust-of-ages/d/doc2796.html)
"Creation Myths of Many Countries common to Guam" (http://roland.web.gu/fire.htm)
There are more than six hundred flood legends (see http://globalflood.org/) from civilizations around the globe. Virtually all ancient peoples had knowledge of the stories that were passed down from Noah and his family. In fact, many of these legends are very similar in content to the flood story in Genesis.
It makes you wonder how all the various cultures around the globe would have similar flood legends in their ancient past unless the Biblical text were true; that all mankind descended from the lineage of Noah after the flood.
The most famous of the flood legends is the Assyrian "Epic of Gilgamesh" discovered by Austen Henry Layard in the library of Ashurbanipal in Nineveh in 1949.
George Smith was given the task of piecing together the 10,000 stone fragments that were being stored at British Museum.
The following is from: Kendall K. Down, Digging Up The Past, 2011, Lesson 4, (http://www.diggingsonline.com/)
"Suddenly George put down the tablet he was reading, leaped from his chair and to the scandal of the other men in the room he began to run around the table, shouting incoherently and ripping his clothes off! When he had finally calmed down a little he told his astonished companions that now, at last, he was going to be famous.
His prediction was correct. A little over a month later he was invited to present a second paper to a meeting of the Society for Biblical Archaeology and on the appointed night the room was packed with the cream of London society, including even the British Prime Minister, William Gladstone - the first and only occasion on which a prime minister has attended a lecture on Assyriology! George began with this preamble:
I have recently been examining the Mythological and Mythical tablets, and from this section I obtained a number of tablets, giving a curious series of legends and including a copy of the story of the Flood. On discovering these documents, which were much mutilated, I search over all the collections of fragments of inscriptions, consisting of several thousands of smaller pieces, and ultimately recovered 80 fragments of these legends; by the aid of which I was enabled to restore nearly all the text of the description of the Flood, and considerable portions of the other legends. These tablets were originally at least twelve in number, forming one story or set of legends, the account of the Flood being on the eleventh tablet.
This was sensational news, because the current of scientific thought at the time was that there were no catastrophes and that planet earth had evolved through a long process of gradual change. The Biblical Flood of Noah was rejected by any thinking man as myth with no historical value whatsoever - and here was an independent account of the same event! George Smith continued with his translation of this eleventh tablet; here is his translation and the opening speaker is Utnapishtim - the Akkadian Noah."
All I possessed I collected it,
All I possessed I collected of silver,
All I possessed I collected of gold,
All I possessed I collected of the seed of life.
I caused to go up into the ship,
all my male and female servants,
the beasts of the field,
the animals of the field,
and the sons of the army
all of them, I caused to go up.
... A flood Shamas made,
and he spake saying in the night,
"I will cause it to rain from heaven heavily;
enter to the midst of the ship, and shut thy door,"
The raging of a storm in the morning arose,
from the horizon of heaven extending and wide.
Vul in the midst of it thundered,
and Nebo and Saru went in front.
The surface of the earth, like .... it swept;
it destroyed all life from the face of the earth,
the strong tempest over the people, reached to heaven.
The gods feared the tempest, and sought refuge;
they ascended to the heaven of Anu.
The gods, like dogs with tails hidden, couched down.
Spake Ishtar a discourse,
uttered the great goddess her speech,
"The world to sin has turned,
Six days and nights passed,
the wind tempest and storm overwhelmed.
On the seventh day was calmed the storm,
and all the tempest which had destroyed like an earthquake,
I was carried through the sea.
The doer of evil, and the whole of mankind who turned to sin,
like reeds their corpses floated. ...
To the country of Nizir, went the ship;
the mountain of Nizir stopped the ship,
and to pass over it, it was not able. ...
On the seventh day in the course of it
I sent forth a dove and it left. The dove went and searched
and a resting place it did not find, and it returned.
I sent forth a swallow, and it left.
The swallow went and searched
and a resting place it did not find, and it returned.
I sent forth a raven, and it left.
The raven went, and the corpses on the waters it saw,
and it did eat, it swam, and wandered away,
and did not return.
I sent the animals forth to the four winds;
I poured out a libation,
I built an altar on the peak of the mountain.
To the people of that time, who were familiar with the Bible, the parallels with the story of Noah were dramatic and compelling. In both the gods decide to bring the flood because of man's wickedness (though in one version of the Gilgamesh Epic the gods complain that mankind makes too much noise!) Both heroes build boats and fill them with plants and animals, both go into the boat and shut its door, a storm rages in both and the boat is driven onto mountain in both. The occupants of the boat test the state of the flood by releasing three birds and when the final bird fails to return, leave the boat and build an altar.
Some have tried to claim that the Biblical account is a copy of the Sumerian or Akkadian stories of the Flood, but in view of the differences between the two stories and of the large numbers of totally independent folk legends concerning a universal flood that can be found all over the world, it is more likely that both are accounts of a genuine historical event. That, at least, was the opinion of George Smith, as he said at the close of his presentation. (The italics are mine.)
On reviewing the evidence it is apparent that the events of the Flood narrated in the Bible and the inscription are the same, and occur in the same order; but the minor differences in the details show that the inscription embodies a distinct and independent tradition. In spite of a striking similarity in style, which shows itself in several places, the two narratives belong to totally distinct peoples. The Biblical account is the version of an inland people, the name of the ark in Genesis means a chest or box, and not a ship; there is no notice of the sea, or of launching, no pilots are spoken of, no navigation is mentioned. The inscription on the other hand belongs to a maritime people, the ark is called a ship, the ship is launched into the sea, trial is made of it, and it is given in charge of a pilot.
The following flood legend is from the Pima Indian tribe from Arizona.
The legend quoted below is reprinted from: Margot Edmonds & Ella E. Clark, Voices of the Winds, Edison: Castle Books, 2003, pp. 64-66.
The Flood on Superstition Mountain
In the state of Arizona, the Pima Indian tribe declares that the father of all men and animals was Great Butterfly -- Gherwit Make, meaning the Earth-Maker.
One day long age, Great Butterfly fluttered down from the clouds to the Blue Cliffs, where two rivers met, later called the Verde and Salt rivers. There he made man from his own sweat.
From that day on the people multiplied, but in time they grew selfish and quarrelsome. Earth-Maker became annoyed with their behavior and decided it might be best to drown all of them.
But first, he thought to warn them through the voices of the winds.
"People of the Pima tribe," called North Wind. "Sky Spirit warns you to be honest with one another and to live in peace from now on."
Suha, Shaman of the Pimas, interpreted to the people what North Wind had warned them about.
"What a fool you are, Suha, to listen to the voices of the winds," taunted his tribesmen.
On the next night, the same warning from Earth-Maker was repeated ty East Wind, who added, "Chief Sky Spirit warns that all of you will be destroyed by floods if you do not live nobler lives."
Again, the Pimas mocked the winds and ignored their warnings. Next night, West Wind spoke, "Reform, people of the Pimas, or your evil ways will destroy you."
Then South Wind breather into Suha's ear, "Suha, you and your good wife are the only people worth saving. Go and make a large, hollow ball of spruce gum in which you and your wife can live as long as the coming flood will last."
Because Susa and his wife believed the warnings and were obedient, they set to work immediately on a high hill, gathering spruce gum and shaping it into a large hollow ball. They stocked it with plenty of muts, acorns, water, and bear and deer meats.
Near the appointed time, Suha and his good wife looked down sadly upon the lovely green valley. They heard the songs of the harvesters. They sighed to think of the beauty about them that would be destroyed when the flood came because of the people's selfishness. Suddenly, a bright lightning flash and loud thunder rocked the Blue Cliffs. It was a signal for the flood to begin.
Suha and his wife went into the gum-ball ark and closed the door tightly. Swirling, dark clouds surrounded them. Torrents of rain poured down everywhere. For many days, the ark rolled and tossed about on the deepening sea.
After many, many moons, the downpour of rain stopped. The ark settled upon the land again, high on a mountaintop. Suha opened the door and stepped forth to see a tuna cactus growing near his feet. He and his wife ate some of the red fruit of the cactus plant. Below them, they saw water everywhere.
That night they retired again to the ark. They must have slept a very long time, because when they awoke the water had disappeared, the valleys were green, and the bird songs rang forth again.
Suha and his wife descended from Superstition Mountain, a name later given to the mountain upon which the ark had landed. They went down into the fertile valley and lived there for a thousand years. The forthcoming people prospered, becoming known as the Pima tribe.
Suha, Shaman and inspired leader of the Pima tribe, taught his people to build adobe houses, to dig gardens with bones and stones, to irrigate their lands from the rivers; to raise sheep, horses, and cattle, and, above all, to live in peace with one another.'
On his dying day, Suha gathered his people and foretold:
"If you ever grow arrogant with wealth, if you ever become covetous of others' lands, if you ever make war for gain, if you ever disgrace yourselves before Chief of the Sky Spirits -- another flood will come upon you.
"If that happens again, bad persons will never be saved; only good persons will eventually live with the Sun-God."
Since that time, Pimas have believed Suha's prophecies; and they never, never go onto Superstition Mountain.
But their people love to tell the story of why and how the gum-ball ark landed on Superstition Mountain, saving Suha and his good wife, who became the beloved ancestors of their large and important Pima Tribe.
(Skinner, Myths and Legends of Our Own Land, Vol. II, pp. 215-218.)
"Flood Stories from Around the World" by Mark Isaac (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/flood-myths.html)
"Flood Legends from Around the World" (http://www.nwcreation.net/noahlegends.html)
"There Was a Great Flood..." by Thomas F. King. (http://archaeology.about.com/od/climatechange/a/masse_king_3.htming ing_3.htm)
"New Finds Worldwide Support Flood Myths: by Brian Handwerk. (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/692765/posts)
"National Geographic News" Thursday, October 28, 2010. ( http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/05/0528_020528 528_sunkencities.html)
© 2012 Gregory Drake