While the Murngin tells the origin of rites from myth and Genesis tells the origin of humankind, both describe similar narratives on the power relationship between females and males, a dynamic revealed in how they rely heavily on placing certain symbolic weights on the female gaining and losing power and the snake figure.
For the Murngin, the Wawilak sisters’ have gained autonomy through wrongful sexuality and can go about the country turning food into ceremonial artifacts through naming power: “You will be maraiin by and by” (180). But the very fact that they have gained autonomy has put them on a fated path toward destruction – “If they hadn’t done wrong in their own country this would not have happened” (184). The snake – “the masculine principle in a pre-social “animal” form (181) – consumes them, internalizing their power, and through a series of gastric maneuvers, releases the power for men to utilize through ritual. On the other hand, in Genesis, woman gains power by being tricked into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and transfers that knowledge onto man by sharing the fruit (15). Both times, it is the woman who gains knowledge/autonomy/power (?) and transfers it onto man. However, the snake figure for the Murngin represents a noncensensual tunnel of power transfer while for Genesis, the snake figure gives the woman two options – consent to eating the fruit or not (an interesting question is whether or not woman is in the position to even give consent…).
Furthermore, both myths rely on the priority of man over woman. It’s not the clansman that’s banished, but the woman; it’s not Adam created from Eve’s rib but vice versa. I don’t understand the original reason(s) for placing woman as the derivative of man, but it seems that because of this derivation, their status as a reproduction allows them a certain ability to disobey laws (one Wawilak sister is banished after having incestuous relations, p180; Eve eats from the tree of knowledge, p15). By breaking law, they trigger some sort of destruction phenomenon (“woman’s sexuality generates the mortal cycle of generation and decay” p186; “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” p16) in which humans become mortals. Interestingly enough, a Greek equivalent myth is Pandora’s box.
Thus, in both myths, there exists a causal relationship: woman sins which leads to humans becoming subject to decay. I don’t want to put too much weight on this causality, but I can’t help but extrapolate that there seems to be a primordial point in myth-making at the beginning of many major civilizations where there comes into being a narrative in which women are deprived of power. Why is that? How is that? What does that mean and how can it be challenged?