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Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs

On the Origin of Myths in Catastrophic Experience

Creation myths around the world reveal an intricate network of recurrent motifs. Many of these are counterintuitive and not widely known, describing a time when the sky was low, the stars did not yet shine, multiple suns appeared, the moon was brighter than the sun, no land existed, deities and mortals maintained frequent contact, a 'world axis' in the form of a tree, ladder or giant man connected the earth with the sky, a devastating flood or fire ended the old order, and so forth.

The present work, in multiple volumes, aims to find an origin for this cross-culturally and internally consistent body of traditions in a series of extraordinary natural events relating especially to the earth's transition from the last glacial period to the Holocene.

The two volumes listed below are now available. All remaining volumes have been completed in draft, but their preparation for publication will unfortunately require funding. Please contact me for further information.



volume 1
(Vancouver: All-Round Publications, 2019)

This first volume sets the stage for the interdisciplinary hypothesis. Essential lines of research receive a historical introduction: comparative mythology, catastrophism and the study of the mythical world axis in relation to the earth's rotation. Various astronomical and meteorological interpretations that are not strictly catastrophist are explored for several types of myths about the sun, the moon and the world axis, but leave many of the most intriguing traditions unexplained. It is argued that a structural core of the worldwide mythology of 'creation and destruction', in which the cosmic axis takes pride of place, points to a specific period of dramatic natural circumstances in real prehistoric time. A new synopsis is provided of this universal mythological substrate. It emerges that the mythical world axis cannot have been based on a single object seen or imagined at one of the poles, as has usually been supposed. This surprising conclusion paves the way for the innovative geomagnetic theory proposed in volume 2.

ISBN 978-1-9994383-2-6
With a foreword by Professor Trevor Palmer
XXXV + 441 pages, including 117 illustrations and index



volume 2
The Earth's Aurora
(Vancouver: All-Round Publications, 2021)

In this second volume, the earth's magnetic field and aurora take centre stage. Geomagnetic reversals are rare occasions when the field dwindles, the north and south magnetic poles trade places, and minor poles come into play. This process remains incomplete in the much more frequent case of a geomagnetic excursion. Throughout history, people have personified and mythologised the aurora. If a geomagnetic excursion had occurred within human memory, they could have observed spectacular transformations of the lights, even at low latitudes, and enshrined these in myths, monuments, images and rituals. Many elements of the primordial condition described worldwide may thus be explained - awe-inspiring luminous rings, arcs and columns, often dynamic and structured, that seemingly held up a gloomy, low-hanging sky.

Evidence is cited for two excursions that could have informed age-old traditions in this way. Specialists dispute both and a way out of the controversy is proposed. The unique effects that a geomagnetic reversal or excursion must have on the aurora are further explored through possible contemporary parallels on other solar-system bodies and in experimental work on terrellae, of which a historical survey is given. A wealth of new information is provided throughout on the history of geomagnetic studies and auroral physics.

ISBN 978-1-9994383-3-3
With a foreword by Dr. C. J. Ransom
XXXIII + 516 pages, including 168 illustrations and index


Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs

Traditional Cosmology The Global Mythology of Cosmic Creation and Destruction
(London: All-Round Publications, 2011; 2018)

This work, in 6 volumes, is a compendium of traditional cosmologies worldwide. The material includes the global mythology of creation and destruction, but also comprises information drawn from other areas of traditional knowledge, ritual, iconography, shamanism, costume, and dance. Relying on original sources, universal points of agreement are identified, often on counter-intuitive ideas. These suggest a single template, a blueprint for a universal mythology of origins with local variations.


volume 1
Preliminaries; Formation (2011)

In volume 1, the cosmos is seen to develop from an original state of chaos, via the transitory stage of a fundamental enclosing particle, into a 'sheet system' of sky, atmosphere, earth and underworld, joined by the cosmic axis.



ISBN 978-0-9556655-3-0
285 pages, including index


volume 2
Functions (2011)

Volume 2 offers an analysis of the basic properties of the cosmic axis. These include its role in cosmic stability, support and traffic; descriptions of the sky and the underworld at its extremities; its encompassing, peripheral or central geometry; its association with life; and its luminosity.



ISBN 978-0-9556655-4-7
300 pages, including index


volume 3
Differentiation (2011)

In volume 3, the nascent cosmos is seen to fragment in a variety of ways. Concentric rings or windings, cardinal directions, and layered heavens and underworlds develop around the cosmic axis. The column or its extremities split into two or three. And holes are formed at the intersection of the column and the framework of the cosmos.



ISBN 978-0-9556655-5-4
328 pages, including index


volume 4
Disintegration (2011)

In volume 4, the cosmos is seen to disintegrate through a number of catastrophic events. The cosmic axis is disrupted. The regions of the cosmos are freshly populated. Mythical beings depart from the earth and the mythical era is ended. The future is expected to bring a repetition of the past events of creation and destruction.



ISBN 978-0-9556655-6-1
379 pages, including index


volume 5
Solar and Lunar Anomalies (2018)

Volume 5 documents a large number of traditions concerning unusual and often undesirable properties and activities of the sun and moon. To name just a few examples, prominent beliefs were that the moon was originally brighter than the sun and that the earth once succumbed to the heat caused by the sun's former proximity, its greater strength, its failure to move or the appearance of multiple luminaries.


ISBN 978-1-9994383-0-2
335 pages, including index


volume 6
Miscellaneous Themes (2018)

Volume 6 offers a miscellany of traditions. Salient examples are the beliefs that the seasonal cycle was not always stable, that the morning or evening star used to be a comet or meteor, that objects or deities fell out of the sky, that the earth once turned over or changed places with the sky, that fossils are the remains of former giants and that specific areas now under water were originally dry land.


ISBN 978-1-9994383-1-9
196 pages, including index

The Mythology of the World Axis; Exploring the Role of Plasma in World Mythology
(London: All-Round Publications, 2007)
Towards the end of the Stone Age, the sky was ablaze with awe-inspiring forms not seen today. Dominant among these was a towering, life-like pillar of light stretching from near the horizon to high up into space - the tree of life, the world mountain, the ladder to heaven. This message is heard in virtually every ancient society on earth, but while this 'world axis' is familiar enough to scholars, little sense could be made of the stories. The most conspicuous feature of the ancient cosmologies also remained the most elusive.

From a modern scientific perspective, such traditional accounts no longer sound preposterous. Our growing knowledge of devastating events in recent earth history substantiates the possibility that prehistoric people witnessed a violent and prolonged display of high-energy auroras. This colourful book is an edited slideshow that was intended as an accessible 'appetiser' for the series listed above.

ISBN 978-0-9556655-0-9
91 pages

The World Axis as an Atmospheric Phenomenon
(London: All-Round Publications, 2007)

Cultural anthropologists often use the term axis mundi in a looser sense than the strict astronomical one. This poses a problem, because the objects they identify as ‘axis mundi’ in mythological and early cosmological sources do not correspond to the present state of the axis of the earth. The association of these objects with the axis of the earth does not appear to have been made explicitly and unambiguously before the 1st millennium BC, probably because the rotation of the earth around its axis was not commonly known in earlier times.

By contrast, the mythological phenomenon loosely identified as the axis mundi dates back to the earliest stages of civilisation and is described by the most diverse cultures in remarkably similar terms. It can be explained by reference to a once visible entity in the sky, with a complex, evolving morphology and a possible link to the zenith or the pole. The prototype may have been the zodiacal light or, as recent insights in plasma physics indicate, an enhanced aurora formed in prehistoric times.

ISBN 978-0-9556655-1-6
87 pages