In earlier articles, we discussed mountains (26/08/10), volcanoes (31/08/10), eclipses (22/10/10), etc. Another important aspect of nature’s fury has been Earthquakes. Something as horrendous and destructive could not be outside the realm of people’s imagination or should I say creative justification? So how did our early civilisations see or understand Earthquakes? Let’s go through some of them –
According to the Greek Mythology, Poseidon was the Greek god of earthquakes and it was believed that whenever he was in a foul mood, he would strike the ground with his trident, which was his signature weapon, causing the earth to shake and lead to destruction.
The Greeks also had another myth, which said that wild winds would get trapped in cavers under the ground. When they struggled to come out, the struggle would lead to earthquakes. The Mexicans have a similar myth which says that the earthquakes occur when the devil and his friends rip apart the earth and try to come to earth through the cracks to create trouble on earth.
According to a Nordic Myth, earthquakes were the result of the suffering Loki, has to go through for the murder of his brother. When Loki, the god of trouble, killed Balder, who was the god of beauty, he was punished by being tied down in an underground cave where a poisonous serpent was placed above his head dripping poison. Loki’s wife stood by him with a bowl to catch the poison, but every time she would go to empty the bowl, the poison would fall on Loki’s head. Earthquakes occurred when Loki would try to jerk his head to avoid the poison from falling on his head.
The Japanese believe that earthquakes are caused by a giant catfish called Namazu, who lives in the mud beneath the earth and is restrained with a stone by the god Kashima. As and when the god lets his guard fall, Namazu thrashes itself, causing earthquakes.
According to a Hindu myth, the earth is held by four elephants who in turn stand on the back of a turtle. This turtle is further balanced on the head of a cobra. During the entire balancing act, if any one of the animals, move, understandably the earth would shake, leading to earthquakes! This myth has different versions, with the number of elephants varying, and sometimes the order of animals varying, but the logic is the same, and i.e. dis-balance.
have a very simplistic view. They believe that the earth is a living creature and like all living beings, sometimes it too feels sick and has fever. It is during such fevers, when the earth catches the chill, it shivers, and we experience earthquakes! Mozambique
Finally a myth which says earthquakes happen as fallout of love! According to a West African Myth, the earth is flat, and is held on one side by a mountain and on the other side by a giant. The giant’s wife holds the sky. The earth shakes, when the giant stops to hug his wife!
Every culture had its own way of understanding an earthquake. Its devastating effects on an unscientific mind have left its imprint in the form of such creative and lovely myths. However, a common thread amongst the majority of the myths across the world has also been that earthquakes occurred due to Gods anger and as a punishment for mankind. This was always the safest and for a god fearing community, this was never questioned. It is not surprising to find people saying even today, that god uses earthquakes and such disasters to reduce evil on earth. Again a relatively simplistic view of an otherwise mammoth problem.