The Babylonians believed that Tiamat, the goddess of chaos and the oceans, lay with Abzu, the god of fresh water, and from their union the unnamed world was born. The Ancient Egyptians believed in a primordial craftsman called Ptah, who was so accomplished all he had to do was think about making something and it was instantly done. For the Kuba of Central Africa, the sun, moon and stars were vomited up by the god Mbombo after a spell of nausea. In Norse mythology, Odin, Vili and Ve kill the frost giant Ymir by cutting him to pieces. His brains become the clouds, his blood the oceans, his hair and bones the trees and hills, and his eyebrows become Midgard, where humans eventually live.
Despite the eternal claims of these stories, nothing stays the same. Civilisations come and go, and so do their creation myths. Cultures merge, absorbing one another’s icons and totems. What was once a powerful pagan earth goddess becomes a gargoyle to ward off evil spirits, a mask to hang on the wall.
And these creation myths play out on a smaller, more domestic scale. Each family will have its own version; we’ll all be well rehearsed in the specifics – the love notes in the office, the scratched pram in the hall of the flower shop, the book reading on the riverbank – and we’ll busily extend them with tropes of our own, working them into a weave that feels like something, a verifiable connection between the past and the future, a richly illustrated truth. It isn’t, of course. It’s just another way of imposing order on the world. And like any myth, one day it will have to change. Parents will die or become old, facts will emerge that don’t fit the narrative, affairs, abortions, revisions, elisions, things done and not done, dates that don’t work, things that trip the flow of it all and leave you wondering how you could ever have been so naive.