The Original Noah’s Ark and Other Deluge Myths

I’ve listed here all the Great Flood myths from around the world that I’ve been able to amass, over the years. By comparing them to the Noah’s Ark story (which I haven’t listed, because we know it so well), there are so many similarities in their core structures that it’s obvious that it’s the same story being told over and over again. But why?

I don’t think that this means that these stories are recording an historical flood which covered the whole of the Earth.

Originally, they were astronomical teaching stories about the precessional journey around the ecliptic and the change in the pole star. And when each pole star gave way to another new pole star, it is described as the end of an Age, which is signified by a flood in the heavens.

In these myths, the flood takes place in the Heavens, not on the Earth ~ although our ancestors would have also experienced great flooding on the Earth after the last Ice Age, which is possibly why they used it as a metaphor in their Mystery teachings for the end of an Age.

It’s impossible to tell which is the oldest flood myth of the 30 or so listed below – but officially, it’s the one about Atrahasis which is dated to the 18th century BCE. However, it is my educated guess that the Egyptian and Indian ones are equally old, if not older.

Three times (every 1200 years), the gods were distressed by the disturbance from human overpopulation. The gods dealt with the problem first by plague, then by famine. Both times, the god Enki advised men to bribe the god causing the problem. The third time, Enlil advised the gods to destroy all humans with a flood, but Enki had Atrahasis build an ark and so escape. Also on the boat were cattle, wild animals and birds, and Atrahasis’ family. When the storm came, Atrahasis sealed the door with bitumen and cut the boat’s rope. The storm god Adad raged, turning the day black. After the seven-day flood, the gods regretted their action. Atrahasis made an offering to them, at which the gods gathered like flies, and Enki established barren women and stillbirth to avoid the problem in the future.

The gods had decided to destroy mankind. The god Enlil warned the priest-king Ziusudra (“Long of Life”) of the coming flood by speaking to a wall while Ziusudra listened at the side. He was instructed to build a great ship and carry beasts and birds upon it. Violent winds came, and a flood of rain covered the earth for seven days and nights. Then Ziusudra opened a window in the large boat, allowing sunlight to enter, and he prostrated himself before the sun-god Utu. After landing, he sacrificed a sheep and an ox and bowed before Anu and Enlil. For protecting the animals and the seed of mankind, he was granted eternal life and taken to the country of Dilmun, where the sun rises.

The gods, led by Enlil, agreed to cleanse the earth of an overpopulated humanity, but Utnapishtim was warned by the god Ea in a dream. He and some craftsmen built a large boat (one acre in area, seven decks) in a week. He then loaded it with his family, the craftsmen, and “the seed of all living creatures.” The waters of the abyss rose up, and it stormed for six days. Even the gods were frightened by the flood’s fury. Upon seeing all the people killed, the gods repented and wept. The waters covered everything but the top of the mountain Nisur, where the boat landed. Seven days later, Utnapishtim released a dove, but it returned finding nowhere else to land. He next returned a sparrow, which also returned, and then a raven, which did not return. Thus he knew the waters had receded enough for the people to emerge. Utnapishtim made a sacrifice to the gods. He and his wife were given immortality and lived at the end of the earth.

The god Chronos in a vision warned Xisuthrus, the tenth king of Babylon, of a flood coming on the fifteenth day of the month of Daesius. The god ordered him to write a history and bury it in Sippara, and told him to build and provision a vessel (5 stadia by 2 stadia) for himself, his friends and relations, and all kinds of animals. Xisuthrus asked where he should sail, and Chronos answered, “to the gods, but first pray for all good things to men.” Xisuthrus built a ship five furlongs by two furlongs and loaded it as ordered. After the flood had come and abated somewhat, he sent out some birds, which returned. Later, he tried again, and the birds returned with mud on their feet. On the third trial, the birds didn’t return. He saw that land had appeared above the waters, so he parted some seams of his ship, saw the shore, and drove his ship aground in the Corcyraean mountains in Armenia. He disembarked with his wife, daughter, and pilot, and offered sacrifices to the gods. Those four were translated to live with the gods. The others at first were grieved when they could not find the four, but they heard Xisuthrus’ voice in the air telling them to be pious and to seek his writings at Sippara. Part of the ship remains to this day, and some people make charms from its bitumen

A Hellenistic-era Babylonian writer and astronomer from the beginning of the 3rd century BC.
The antediluvians were giants who became impious and depraved, except one among them that reverenced the gods and was wise and prudent. His name was Noa, and he dwelt in Syria with his three sons Sem, Japet, Chem, and their wives Tidea, Pandora, Noela, and Noegla. From the stars, he foresaw destruction, and he began building an ark. 78 years after he began building, the oceans, inland seas, and rivers burst forth from beneath, attended by many days of violent rain. The waters overflowed all the mountains, and the human race was drowned except Noa and his family who survived on his ship. The ship came to rest at last on the top of the Gendyae or Mountain. Parts of it still remain, which men take bitumen from to make charms against evil.

Equally old are the Indian (Vedic) and Egyptian accounts.

Manu, the first human, found a small fish in his washwater. The fish begged protection from the larger fishes, in return for which it would save Manu from a flood. Manu kept the fish safe until it grew large, and later the fish saved Manu from a deluge. “The Lord of the Universe,” to preserve king Satyavarata from dangers of the depravity of the age, sent him a large ship, and told him to gather himself, medicinal herbs, and pairs of brute animals aboard it to save them from a flood. Seven days later, the three worlds were flooded and darkened. The god appeared in the ocean as an enormous fish, a million leagues long, and Satyavarata tied the ark to its horn. There is also a Rig-vedic story about Indra, the storm god, releasing the waters of the deluge which had been damned up by the serpent, Vritra. The Egyptian story about Set (below) is similar with the Apap-dragon taking the place of Vritra.

There is a misunderstanding that Egyptian mythology has no flood myths. This is extraordinary as they appear to have nothing but flood stories, as far I can see.

The oldest Egyptian flood myth is dated to around 6,000 years old, and it’s before Set (or Sut) became the bad guy … which shows you how old it is. Set sent forth the deluge to destroy the evil Sebau, the Sami, the Apap-dragon and the long-armed ones. Later on, Osiris supersedes Set as Lord of the Deluge. But there is another story, this one about the Ark of Nnu that is conducted, in the death journey of the deceased, across the cosmic sea of Nun (the Milky Way) by the two birds, Isis and Nephthys. And another one about Horus steering his ark across the cosmic ocean as one pole after another is capsized, six in all, leaving only the seventh one as dry land, upon which he rested. And then there is the story where the goddess Hathor comes down to earth to destroy man with her ‘eye’ (the sun). She wreaks havoc and devastation but then appears to get a taste for it. Ra then takes pity on man and sends a flood of beer to put out the fires.

Zeus sends a flood to destroy all of humanity. But Prometheus warns his son, Deucalion, about the coming deluge, and advises him to build an ark.

In Norse mythology, there are two separate deluges. The first occurred at the dawn of time before the world was formed. Ymir, the first giant, was killed by the god Odin and his brothers Vili and Ve, and when he fell, so much blood flowed from his wounds that it drowned almost the entire race of giants with the exception of the frost giant Bergelmir and his wife. They escaped in a ship and survived, becoming the progenitors of a new race of giants. Ymir’s body was then used to form the earth while his blood became the sea. The second flood is destined to occur in the future during the final battle between the gods and giants, known as Ragnarök. During this apocalyptic event, Jormungandr, the great World Serpent that lies beneath the sea surrounding Midgard, the realm of mortals, will rise up from the watery depths to join the conflict, resulting in a catastrophic flood that will drown the land. However, following Ragnarök the earth will be reborn and a new age of humanity will begin. [/quote]

The Quechua (pre-Inca Andean)
The world wanted to come to an end. A llama, knowing this, was depressed. When its human owner complained that it wouldn’t eat, the llama told him of the imminent flood and suggested they go to Villca Coto mountain. They arrived there to find the peak already filled with all kinds of animals. The flood came as soon as they arrived and lasted five days. Afterwards, the man began to multiply once more.

The gods used a flood to destroy the wooden people, an early imperfect version of humanity.

The Shaur ( Andes Mountains)
In a tobacco-induced dream [Aha! – Ish] , a hunter was told by the daughter of the water spirit Tsunki to return to a river. He did so, met the woman, followed her to her father’s house, and became her husband. When he returned to his home on earth, she took the form of a snake. Once while he was off hunting, though, his two earthly wives tormented her, and she returned to her father. Tsunki, in a rage, flooded the earth, drowning everyone but the hunter and one of his daughters, who escaped to a mountaintop. These two repopulated the world.

The Caddo (Texas/Oklahoma)
Four monsters grew large and powerful until they were high enough to touch the sky. One man heard a voice telling him to plant a hollow reed. He did so, and it quickly grew very big. He, his wife, and pairs of all good animals entered the reed. Waters rose to cover everything but the top of the reed and the heads of the monsters. Turtle destroyed the monsters by digging under them and uprooting them. The waters subsided, and winds dried the earth.

The Hopi
The people repeatedly became distant from Sotuknang, the creator. Twice he destroyed the world (by fire and by cold) and recreated it while the few people who still lived by the laws of creation took shelter underground with the ants. When people became corrupt and warlike a third time, Sotuknang guided the ones who had retained their wisdom to Spider Woman, who cut down giant reeds and sheltered the people in the hollow stems with a little water and food. Sotuknang caused a great flood with rain and waves, and the people floated in their reeds for a long time. Finally, they came to rest on a small piece of land, and Spider Woman unsealed their reeds and pulled them out by the tops of their heads. They still had as much food as they started with. They sent out birds to find more land, but to no avail. They grew a tall reed and climbed it, but they saw only water. But guided by their inner wisdom (which comes from Sotuknang through the door at the top of their head), the people traveled on, using the reeds as canoes. They went northeast, finding progressively larger islands. The last of these was large and fruitful, and people wanted to stay there, but Spider Woman urged them on. They went further northeast, paddling hard as if going uphill, until they came to the Fourth World. The shores were rocky with seemingly no place to land, but by opening the doors at the tops of their head, they found a current that took them to a sandy beach. Sotuknang appeared and told them to look back, and they saw the islands, the last remnants of the Third World, sink into the ocean,

Michoacan (Mexico)
When the flood waters began to rise, a man named Tezpi entered into a great vessel, taking with him his wife and children and diverse seeds and animals. When the waters abated, the man sent out a vulture, but the bird found plenty of corpses to eat and didn’t return. Other birds also flew away and didn’t return. Finally, he sent out a hummingbird, which returned with a green bough in its beak.

Tarahumara (Northern Mexico)
People were once fighting among themselves, and Father God (Tata Dios) sent much rain, drowning everyone. After the flood, God sent three men and three women to repopulate the earth. They planted three kinds of corn which still grow in the country.

Toltec (Mexico)
One of the Tezcatlipocas (sons of the original dual god) transformed himself into the Sun and created the first humans to show up his brothers. The other gods, angry at his audacity, had Quetzalcoatl destroy the sun and the earth, which he did with a flood. The people became fish. This ended the first age. The second, third, and fourth Suns ended, respectively, with the crumbling of the heavens, a rain of fire, and devastating winds.

Nahua (central Mexico)
People in three previous ages were destroyed by being devoured by jaguars, swept away by the wind and turned into monkeys, and transformed into birds in a rain of fire. The sun of 4 Water lasted 676 years; then the heavens came down in one day, and the people were inundated and transformed into fish. In the next age, Titlacahuan (Tezcatlipoca) told a man known as Nata (“Our Father”) and his consort Nene to hollow out an aheuhuetl (cypress?) log and enter it during the vigil of Toçoztli, when the heavens would come crashing down. He sealed them in with a single ear of corn apiece to eat. When they had finished eating all the kernels, they heard the water declining.

Mixtec (northern Oaxaca, Mexico)
The earth was once well populated, when mankind committed a magical fault for which they were punished by a great deluge. The Mixtec people descended from the few survivors.

Quiché (Guatemala)
The wooden people, an early version of humanity, were imperfect because there was nothing in their hearts and minds, and they did not remember Heart of Sky. So Heart of Sky destroyed them with a flood. He sent down a black rain of resin; animals came into their houses and attacked them; and even pots and stones crushed them. The dogs and turkeys told them, “You caused us pain, you ate us. Now we eat you.” Their other animals and implements likewise turned on them. They tried to escape onto their houses, into trees, and into caves, but the houses collapsed, the trees threw them off, and the caves slammed shut. Today’s monkeys are a sign of these people, mere manikins. This was before the sun dawned on the earth. [/quote]

Kwaya (Lake Victoria)
The ocean was once enclosed in a small pot kept by a man and his wife under the roof of their hut to fill their larger pots. The man told his daughter-in-law never to touch it because it contained their sacred ancestors. But she grew curious and touched it. It shattered, and the resulting flood drowned everything.

Yoruba (southwest Nigeria)
A god, Ifa, tired of living on earth and went to dwell in the firmament with Obatala. Without his assistance, mankind couldn’t interpret the desires of the gods, and one god, Olokun, in a fit of rage, destroyed nearly everybody in a great flood. [/quote]

After seven years of drought, the Great Woman said to the Great Man that rains had come elsewhere: how should they save themselves? The Great Man counseled the other giants to make boats from cut poplars, anchor them with ropes of willow roots 500 fathoms long, and provide them with seven days of food and with pots of melted butter to grease the ropes. Those who did not make all the preparations perished when the waters came. After seven days, the waters sank. But all plants and animals had perished, even the fish. The survivors, on the brink of starvation, prayed to the great god Numi-târom, who recreated living things.

Yenisey-Ostyak (north central Siberia)
Flood waters rose for seven days. Some people and animals were saved by climbing on floating logs and rafters. A strong north wind blew for seven days and scattered the people, which is why there are now different peoples speaking different languages.

Tuvinian (Soyot) (north of Mongolia)
The giant frog (or turtle) which supported the earth moved, which caused the cosmic ocean to begin flooding the earth. An old man who had guessed something like this would happen built an iron-reinforced raft, boarded it with his family, and was saved. When the waters receded, the raft was left on a high wooded mountain, where, it is said, it remains today. After the flood, Kezer-Tshingis-Kaira-Khan created everything around us. Among other things, he taught people how to make strong liquor.

Tibet was almost totally inundated, until the god Gya took compassion on the survivors, drew off the waters through Bengal, and sent teachers to civilize the people, who until then had been little better than monkeys. Those people repopulated the land.

Ifugaos (Philippines)
A great draught dried up all the rivers. The old men suggested digging in a river bed to find the soul of the river. After three days of digging, a great spring gushed forth, but while the Ifugaos celebrated, a storm came, the river kept rising, and the elders advised people to run for the mountains. Only two people made it to safety, a brother and sister, on separate mountains. After six months, the waters receded. The sister later found herself with child and ran away in shame, but the god Maknongan assured her that her shame had no foundation.

[b]Kammu [/b] (Thailand)
A brother and sister, warned of the upcoming flood by a mouse, sealed themselves inside a drum, and emerged again after the flood receded. They looked far and wide for mates, but they were the only survivors. A malcoha cuckoo sang to them, “brother and sister should embrace one another.” They slept together. After seven years, the child was born as a gourd. A little later, hearing noises from the gourd, they burnt a hole in its shell, and people of the different races came out, first Rumeet, then Kammu, Thai, Westerner, and Chinese. [/quote]

New Guinea
Lohero and his brother were angry with their neighbors, so they put a human bone into a small stream. Soon a great flood came forth, and the people had to retreat to the highest peaks until the sea receded. Some people descended, and others made their homes on the ridges.

Batak (Sumatra)
Naga-Padoha, the giant snake on which the earth rests, grew tired of its burden and shook it off into the sea. But the god Batara-Guru caused a mountain to fall into the water to preserve his daughter. From her, the human race is descended. Later, the earth was replaced onto the head of the snake Yuma-Komashtam’ho, who caused a great rain and started to flood out the large dangerous animals. But he was persuaded that people needed some of the animals for food. So he evaporated the waters with a great fire, turning the land to desert in the process.

There are hundreds more from around the world, from various tribes and cultures, and so this has just been just a handful.

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  1. Pingback: Indivisible Realm | Beyond Life
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  3. Annie

    Thank you, Cai and Virginia, for your thoughts and thanks!

    Sending love and blessings to you both on this absolute belter of a Beltane!! xx


  4. Caigwyn

    There are deluge stories in the British Isles too. Look up the Llost Cantref Gwaelod (the bottom hundred). Some think this is between Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Others that it is the missing bit of Ceredigion (Cardigan) Bay (where the land would be, if a bay it was not).

    The British Isles were once connected to the main, by a pangea land bridge, which early post glacial settlers walked (and paddled round in canoes) over… which was lost as the icecaps melted, and sea rose. More flood legends….



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