The “myth” of a paradisiacal past, or Golden Age, where people once lived in a fertile land/world of beauty, abundance and diversity is pretty well universal around the globe. The topic, though, is much too complicated for me to do it definitive justice, so instead I’m going to take the lazy way out and copy here for those interested some links to a few books and a video. I’ll also include some (granted, not greatly sourced) historical quotes I gathered around the web. Scholars have made a career investigating the subject. Unfortunately what likely has its roots in fact has been obscured and embellished by some who’ve used these stories to validate particular, and to me, peculiar mystical religious beliefs.
Anyway, that said:
Memories and Visions of Paradise: Exploring the Universal Myth of a Lost Golden Age by Richard Heinberg.
Dawn Behind the Dawn: A Search for the Earthly Paradise by Geoffrey Ashe
PBS has a video out called In Search of Myths and Heroes in which historian Michael Wood discusses four ancient legends with one being, ” Shangri-la: The Paradise Myth (book version here ). Synopsis here
“From Babylonia to ancient Tibet to Frank Capra’s movie Lost Horizon—the story of an earthly paradise has been immortalized through the ages. But was there a real Shangri-la?”
On to the cites:
“At the gate of paradise stand two mighty trees, lovelier than any ever seen on earth. Their fragrance, the richness of their foliage, the beauty of their blossom, the perfume of their fruit, the luster of their leaves – nothing could ever surpass. The birds on their branches sing in sweet harmony with the rustling of the leaves…at the foot of either tree there springs a fountain of the purest water, clearer than beryl, cooler and whiter than freshly melted snow…”
– Shakri ibn Muslim of Oriheula
“[Men] lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all devils. When they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, and they had all good things; for the fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They dwelt in ease and peace. ~ Hesiod Works and Days”
“Fields knew no taming hand of husbandmen
To mark the plain or mete with boundary-line.
Even this was impious; for the common stock
They gathered, and the earth of her own will
All things more freely, no man bidding, bore”
~ Virgil in Georgics
From the Wikipedia article Golden Age
“The Caribs of Surinam have a poignant memory of this fortunate epoch. ‘In a time long past, so long past that even the grandmothers of our grandmothers were not yet born,’ they say, ‘the world was quite other than what it is today: the trees were forever in fruit; the animals lived in perfect harmony, and the little agouti played fearlessly with the beard of the jaguar'”
“The South American Indians of Gran Chaco and Amazonia recall this as the Happy Place, where work was unknown because the fields produced abundance of their own accord.”
“The Hopi Indians proclaim that in the earliest time they were a marvelously contented race, at peace with their brothers. They knew nothing of sickness or conflict, and all things were provided by Mother Earth without any requirement of labor.”
“The Aborigines of Australia insist that their first ancestors enjoyed a Golden Age, a Paradise of abundant game and without conflict of any kind.”
“Northern Europeans once celebrated this earliest age as the ‘Peace of Frodi,’ a mythical Danish king. Throughout this peaceful epoch no man injured another and a magical mill ground out peace and plenty for the entire land.”
“Memories of a Golden Age pervade the myths of Africa. The distinguished folklorist Herman Baumann reported that ‘Everything that happened in the primal age was different from today. People understood the language of animals and lived at peace with them; they knew no labor and had food in plenitude.'”
“Sacred texts of ancient India recall this as the Krita Yuga or ‘Perfect Age,’ without disease, labor, suffering or war. The Iranians called it the age of the brilliant Yima, an age with ‘neither cold nor heat,’ an eternal spring.”
“According to ancient Chinese lore, the purest pleasure and tranquillity once reigned throughout the world. Mythical histories called it ‘The Age of Perfect Virtue’ and declared that ‘the whole creation enjoyed a state of happiness. . . all things grew without labor; and a universal fertility prevailed.'”
“In their myths, rites and hymns the ancient Sumerians contrasted their own time to the earliest remembered age–what they called ‘the days of old,’ or ‘that day,’ when the gods ‘gave man abundance, the day when vegetation flourished.’ This was when the supreme god An ‘engendered the year of abundance.’ To this primeval age, every Sumerian priest looked back as the reference for the preferred order of things, which was lost through later conflict and deluge.”
“In the city of Eridu at the mouth of the Euphrates, the priests recalled a Golden Age prior to familiar history. The predecessors of their race, it was claimed, had formerly reposed in the paradise of Dilmun, called the ‘Pure Place’ of man’s genesis. This lost paradise of Dilmun, about which scholars have debated for decades, is strangely reminiscent of the paradise of Eden. ‘That place was pure, that place was clean. In Dilmun…the lion mangled not. The wolf ravaged not the lambs,’ the Sumerian texts read. The inhabitants of this paradise lived in a state of near perfection, in communion with the gods, drinking the waters of life and enjoying unbounded prosperity.”
“Ancient Egypt, an acknowledged cradle of civilization, preserved a remarkably similar memory. Not just in their religious and mythical texts, but in every sacred activity, the Egyptians incessantly looked backwards, to events of the Zep Tepi. The phrase means the ‘First Time,’ a time of perfection ‘before rage or clamor or strife or uproar had come about,’ as the texts themselves put it. This was the paradise of Ra, and the memories of that time echoed through centuries of Egyptian thought. ‘The land was in abundance,’ the texts say. ‘There was no year of hunger. . .Walls did not fall; thorns did not pierce in the time of the Primeval Gods.'”
“Cosmic harmony, abundance, paradise on earth. To this paradisal, according to the great nineteenth century scholar Francois Lenormant, the Egyptians “continually looked back with regret and envy.” The golden age of Ra was, for the Egyptians, the great “example” setting a standard for all later ages.”
From The Mists of Avalon website.
It’s my belief that persistent, strong feelings, both positive and negative, especially if reinforced over generations, are etched into our genes. Thus children still instinctually fear the dark and monsters under their beds because those fears were deeply engraved into our consciousness’ over the eons. How long did our tree bound primate ancestors tremble in the night at the sounds of the growling, pacing carnivores below? When finally one nodded – too tired to stay awake – and fell into their waiting jaws, what a deep impression that must have made on its family members. So we grew and evolved to fear and hate them, we saw them as monsters rather than mothers. And when we learned how to, we declared war on them. Sadly, that war continues to this day and threatens to rob the world of its biodiversity.
But, too, the raw beauty of that ancient earth made an imprint, an indelible etching in our genes, on our souls. As we move into the future, and are lured away from nature by technology and citified lives, let’s not forget that we are a part of this earth. We need it, and all of our sister species.
Courtesy of HD Wallpapers