Dualistic cosmology

Dualistic cosmology is a collective term. Many variant myths and creation motifs are so described in ethnographic and anthropological literature. These motifs conceive the world as being created, organized, or influenced by two demiurges, culture heroes, or other mythological beings, who either compete with each other or have a complementary function in creating, arranging or influencing the world.

There is a huge diversity of such cosmologies. In a Chukchi example, the two beings do not compete, rather collaborate. They contribute to the creation in a coequal way. They are neither collateral nor consanguineous relatives.[1] In many other instances the two beings are not of the same importance or power (sometimes, one of them is even characterized as gullible). Sometimes they can be contrasted as good versus evil.[2] They may be often believed to be twins or at least brothers.[3][4]

Dualistic motifs in mythologies can be observed in all inhabited continents. Zolotaryov concludes that they cannot be explained by diffusion or borrowing, but are of convergent origin: they are related to a dualistic organization of society (moieties); in some cultures, this social organization may have been ceased to exist, but mythology may preserve memories in more and more disguised ways.[5]

Types of dualism



Gnosticism is a diverse, syncretistic religious movement consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect god, the demiurge, who is frequently identified with the Abrahamic God. The demiurge may be depicted as an embodiment of evil, or in other instances as merely imperfect and as benevolent as its inadequacy permits. This demiurge exists alongside another remote and unknowable supreme being that embodies good.

Bogomils, Paulicans and Cathars are typically seen as being imitative of Gnosticism. Whether or not the Cathari possessed direct historical influence from ancient Gnosticism is a matter of dispute. The basic conceptions of Gnostic cosmology are, however, to be found in Cathar beliefs (most distinctly in their notion of a lesser creator god). Unlike the second century Gnostics, they did not apparently place any special relevance upon knowledge (gnosis) as an effective salvific force.

Uralic peoples

In a Nenets myth, Num and Nga collaborate and compete with each other, creating land,[6] there are also other myths about competing-collaborating demiurges.[7]

Comparative studies among Uralic peoples and Kets

Among others, also dualistic myths were investigated in researches which tried to compare the mythologies of Siberian peoples and settle the problem of their origins. Vyacheslav Ivanov and Vladimir Toporov compared the mythology of Ket people with those of Uralic peoples, assuming in the studies, that there are modelling semiotic systems in the compared mythologies; and they have also made typological comparisons.[8][9] Among others, from possibly Uralic mythological analogies, those of Ob-Ugric peoples[10] and Samoyedic peoples[11] are mentioned. Some other discussed analogies (similar folklore motifs, and purely typological considerations, certain binary pairs in symbolics) may be related to dualistic organization of society — some of such dualistic features can be found at these compared peoples.[12] It must be admitted that, for Kets, neither dualistic organization of society[13] nor cosmological dualism[14] has been researched thoroughly: if such features existed at all, they have either weakened or remained largely undiscovered;[13] although there are some reports on division into two exogamous patrilinear moieties,[15] folklore on conflicts of mythological figures, and also on cooperation of two beings in creating the land:[14] the diving of the water fowl.[16] If we include dualistic cosmologies meant in broad sense, not restricted to certain concrete motifs, then we find that they are much more widespread, they exist not only among some Uralic peoples, but there are examples in each inhabited continent.[17]


A Chukchi myth (it has many variations) reports the creation of the world, and in some variations, it is done by the collaboration of several beings (birds, collaborating in a coequal way; or the creator and the raven, collaborating in a coequal way; or the creator alone, using the birds only as assistants).[1][18]


All three Fuegian tribes had dualistic myths about culture heros.[19] The Yámana have dualistic myths about the two [joalox] brothers. They act as culture heroes, and sometimes stand in an antagonistic relation with each other, introducing opposite laws. Their figures can be compared to the Kwanyip-brothers of the Selk'nam.[20] In general, the presence of dualistic myths in two compared cultures does not imply relatedness or diffusion necessarily.[17]

See also


  1. 1 2 Zolotarjov 1980: 40–41
  2. Zolotarjov 1980: 42
  3. Zolotarjov 1980: 43
  4. Gusinde 1966: 71, 181
  5. Zolotarjov 1980: 54
  6. Vértes 1990: 104, 105
  7. Zolotarjov 1980: 47–48
  8. Ivanov & Toporov 1973
  9. Ivanov 1984:390, in editorial afterword by Hoppál
  10. Ivanov 1984: 225, 227, 229
  11. Ivanov 1984: 229, 230
  12. Ivanov 1984: 229–231
  13. 1 2 Zolotaryov 1980: 39
  14. 1 2 Zolotaryov 1980: 48
  15. Zolotaryov 1980: 37
  16. Ivanov 1984: 229
  17. 1 2 Zolotarjov 1980: 56
  18. Anyiszimov 1981: 92–98
  19. Gusinde 1966:71
  20. Gusinde 1966:181


This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/28/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.