September 28, 2010

Hari Ragat: Creation Myths

I took elements from the mythology of the Bagobo and other Filipino indigenous cultures for this creation myth, and the Maragtas epic for the story of man’s settlement of the Jangalan Isles.

Creation Myth

In the beginning there was nothing but the sea, without even a sky above it; and under the sea rested the Eldest God, Aman Bathala. Out of the deepest abyss of the sea crawled Oryol, the first and mightiest of the dragons, and she attempted to devour Aman Bathala for his power.

For thousands of years Aman Bathala and Oryol wrestled, and the tumult of their struggle caused the sky to separate from the sea. At last Oryol bit off one of Aman Bathala’s gonads, but before she could swallow it to gain his power he took hold of her jaws and tore her apart.

Then from Oryol’s bones Aman Bathala fashioned the land; and from her flesh sprang the first plants, the first fish, the first birds, and the first beasts. And from the brains and organs of Oryol sprang the first giants, from her unlaid eggs the first dragons, and from her venom, the first demons. But from Aman Bathala’s spilled blood there sprang the Diwatas, the guardian spirits of nature.

Then Aman Bathala left to make his abode in the sky, where he created the sun, moon and stars and married Inang Silangan, the Sun Goddess, and from her begat the rest of the gods.

The Origin of Men

As for Aman Bathala’s missing gland, it disappeared into the depths of the sea, but in time washed ashore in the form of a clam. Then a hawk, espying the clam, came down and pecked at it until its shell broke.

Then spilled from the clam a myriad number of seeds, which grew into the first men and women. The first people were tiny, and got into the hawk’s feathers like insects; and when the hawk took flight they were shaken off one by one over the lands of the earth. There they grew to full stature, and so the world was peopled.

Then Aman Bathala saw them and realized they were the fruit of his seed, so he blessed them and sent the lesser gods to teach them how to live.

Creation of the Jangalan Isles

Aman Bathala’s granddaughter Sinaya was wooed by the twin storm gods Amihan and Habagat. When she could not decide between either of them despite a thousand years of courtship, they confronted her and got into a heated argument; at last the brothers began to pull at her, Amihan to the east and Habagat to the west, until all her clothes were torn and her pearl necklace broken, the pearls falling into the sea.

Then Aman Bathala saw what was happening to his granddaughter, and pronounced swift justice. Amihan and Habagat were banished from the heavens, to blow continually as the winds of Karagatan; Amihan always blowing from the east, and Habagat from the west.

As for the pearls of Sinaya, the magical jewels had taken root in the ocean floor and burgeoned into thousands of fertile islands, so lushly covered with growth their Vijadesan discoverers would call them the Jangalans, the Forested Isles.

Origin of the Vijadesans

Legends say the kingdom of Vijadesa was founded by Lakan Vijaya, son of the god Maragayon and a mortal woman. Lying on the coast as it did, Vijadesa soon became a sea power and its rulers claimed the title Hari Ragat, All-Ruling Ocean King. Vijadesa flourished for hundreds of years, until the time of Hari Ragat Raja Samil, who was born accursed. For Raja Samil was born from the rape of a Babaylan, a priestess of the Diwatas, and so he was cursed by the Diwatas of the land.

In time Samil became king, but he was possessed of a growing madness that made him a great burden to his people. Raja Samil oppressed the people with his demands for tribute and labor on his great temples and palaces, got thousands killed in his wars with neighboring kings, and ordered massive witch hunts throughout Vijadesa that took many innocent lives. At last, tired of the king’s abuses, ten princes secretly set sail with their families and retainers into the unknown waters of the Western Sea.

There they found the Jangalan Isles, and after drawing up a treaty dividing the islands equally between them, went their separate ways. The Vijadesans of the isles all trace their descent from these Ten Sires and their followers. It is said the settlement of the Jangalan Isles happened some 500 years ago. In that time the Vijadesans prospered and increased, but conflicts born of passion, pride and wounded honor have driven them apart.

It is also said that Raja Samil’s evil reign was finally cut short by the wrath of the goddess Lalahon, Queen of the Fiery Mountains. Old Vijadesa was destroyed by volcanic eruptions, leaving the Island Vijadesans the last of their people.

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