A creation myth is a story that is used to explain the creation of the world or the role of people in it, often using imagery and allegory. Nearly every culture, both ancient and modern, has some explanation of how it came to be, or why it exists. The vast majority of creation myths stem from age-old cultures, and many were recorded on tablets, scrolls, or incorporated as part of a cultural literature handed down from generation to generation. It is often easier in the modern age to identify theories or reasons of existence apart from myth and legend. Ancient mythology is not concerned with theory, but rather with colorful explanation.
Nearly every ancient culture used folklore to explain and interpret the world around it. A creation myth is a specific type of story that is centered expressly on origins, usually of people, of the Earth, and sometimes of supernatural beings like gods and goddesses. Creation myths tend to be very unique in different traditions, though some similar elements recur almost predictably throughout the majority of them.
A creation myth almost always has a heavy focus on nature and the natural world. The stories strive to explain how islands formed, how trees grew to be so tall, or why birds can fly. They usually also delineate the difference between men and women, and how that difference came to be. Most stories also involve at least one supreme being, often incorporating the language of divine creation into the narrative. There is also almost always some strife or conflict, either amongst the creators or within the creation.
In most cultures, the creation myth is very closely related to the dominant religion or common faith belief of the people. Creation stories were told both as a way to make sense of the unknown, and as a means of reinforcing commonly understood truths. Most of the time, a creation myth was presented as a true accounting, though scholars often question how many of the ancients actually believed in the veracity of their extensive legend literature.
Subjective beliefs notwithstanding, creation myths have long been regarded as important facets of cultural formation and societal ordering. Many ancient cultures oriented themselves off of their mythology, living out the truths, balances, and distinctions set out in the stories. Gender roles, respect for nature, and care of animals are only a few of the mores that, once epitomized in ancient creation myth lore, can still be seen manifest in the outward aspects of many cultures.