Epic Cosmic Battles and the Forces of Creation and Destruction in Belief Systems around the World
Stories of epic cosmic battles can be found in many world cultures. In these battles, the lines are often drawn clearly, with the forces of good on one side and the forces of evil on the other. For some cultures, the cosmic battle began at the beginning of time, and is responsible for the order of things as they are in the present. On the other hand, there are also battles set in the future, events that have not come to pass, but which may materialize at some point in time.
The ancient Mesopotamians believed that a cosmic battle of epic proportions took place at the dawn of creation. This story is recorded in the Epic of Creation , known also as the Enûma Eliš , which are the opening words of the epic. According to the myth, two primeval forces, Apsu, representing fresh water, and Tiamat, representing sea water, existed at the beginning of time. From these two gods sprang lesser gods. The resulting noise made by these younger gods caused great annoyance to Apsu and Tiamat. Although Apsu desired to kill his children, Tiamat was against his plan. This resulted in the slaying of Apsu by his children, who were led by Ea. Ea then became the chief god, and had a son, Marduk, who was given the winds to play with. This caused great annoyance to Tiamat and some of the gods still residing in her. These gods persuaded Tiamat to wage war on Ea and his supporters. As the other gods were unable to deal with Tiamat, Marduk offered to save them, provided that he was allowed to remain as their leader after the primeval goddess was defeated. A battle ensued between Marduk and Tiamat, in which the latter was slain. Additionally, Tiamat’s new husband, Qingu, was killed as well, and his body used to create the earth. Finally, Qingu’s blood was used to create mankind, who were tasked with doing the work of the gods.
The Sun God battles the Chaos Monster. Ancient Mesopotamian religion speaks of Enûma Eliš, the Epic of Creation. Credit: Wikipedia
Similar stories of cosmic battles at the origin of time are present in the ‘war in Heaven’, as found in Christianity and Judaism, as well as the Titanomachy in Greek mythology. These battles served to explain the reason for the existing state of things. Yet, creation as a result of a cosmic battle is just one side of the coin. On the side, are the believers in a great cosmic battle that may one day destroy the human race.
Michael casts out the rebel angels, from Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’. Credit: Wikimedia.
The most famous of these battles can perhaps be found in the Bible’s Book of Revelation . According to a literal interpretation of the book, there will be a great battle between good and evil at Armageddon, understood by some to mean the site of Meggido, an actual place in the Levant. According to this belief, the forces of evil will be defeated, and the devil will be thrown into the bottomless pit for 1,000 years. After this time has passed, the devil will return to Earth, gather his army, and wage war against God for one last time. After the devil’s defeat, he will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, and a new era of peace under God’s rule will commence. A similar apocalyptic battle can be found in the Norse Ragnarok, in which many of the Norse gods will be killed, and the world submerged in water. Like the Book of Revelation , Ragnarok is not the end, but a prerequisite for a brighter future, as some of the gods will survive, a new world will arise, and it will be repopulated with people.
"The downfall of the Æsir". The heavens split and the "Sons of Múspell" ride forth upon the Æsir at Ragnarö. The Norse apocalyptic battle, Ragnarok. Credit: Wikimedia
To conclude, epic cosmic battles can be found in many cultures, as they help explain the world as it is, or provide a message of hope for people. Stories of such battles inherited from our ancestors will continue to be told, and new stories will be made by our society. The popularity of such works as The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars , which contain epic battles fought between good and evil is proof that mankind continues to be enthralled by such tales.
Featured image: The Fall of the Rebel Angels. Credit: Wikipedia