A Blog on Mythology and occasionally on Reality.

This is a Blog on Mythology, both Indian and World and especially the analysis of the myths.

In effect, the interpretation of the inherent Symbolism.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Volcanoes in Mythology

Volcanoes have some similarities with Mountains in Mythology, except that these were mountains that were angry, disturbed or negative forces, since they led to destruction. But one still can’t ignore the creative thinking on the part of early thinkers. It is not surprising to see that the myths related to volcanoes are more defined in areas where there were volcanoes, just as there is hardly any reference of myths related to volcanoes in India (if there are, then I would like to know about them).

It is said that the word ‘volcano’ came from the island of Vulcano in the Mediterranean Sea. In Roman mythology, Vulcan was the blacksmith of gods who made tools and weapons for the gods. A volcano was considered to be the chimney of the blacksmith’s workshop. The hot lava erupting out of the volcano was when the blacksmith was making thunderbolts and weapons for the other gods.

As per Sumerian mythology, in the episode titled “Gilgamesh and Humbaba”, Mt. Mashu is supposed to have been located in a forest, which is ruled by Humbaba. Humbaba is depicted as a one-eyed demonic monster, with the powers of a storm and breath of fire – an apt personification of a volcano.

Hawaiian myths have a very interesting reference of mountains in the form of volcano which is also linked to creation myths. According to the Hawaiian myth, a volcano is nothing but the goddess Pele dancing a hula. Pele was considered to be a beautiful and a tempestuous goddess and was prone to anger. She could cause earthquakes by stamping her feet. In opposition to Pele was Kamapua’a, the pig-human demigod. While Pele represented fire and lava, Kamapua’a was associated with the sea and rain. When the two met in a battle/marriage, new land was formed as the waters of Kamapua’a cooled the glowing hot lava of Pele into new terra-firma. The union of opposites resulted in new creation.

The Red Indians, the Mexicans, the Japanese and the Chinese too had some very interesting myths around volcanoes.

Associated with volcanoes were sacrifices in volcanoes. When science had not reasoned with people on the cause of such ‘firing mountains’, people tried to appease the volcanoes by offering sacrifices. There are a number of instances of offerings in the above mentioned cultures, from benign to bizarre. There are records of offerings of rice, fruits, flowers to pigs and chicken to children and virgins. But some of these offerings are not to be seen as acts of wilful elimination, but more of the belief-system of the times. More on sacrifices later.

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