I take into consideration earthquakes practically day-after-day, in a single facet or one other. Once in a while I toy with the pre-scientific concepts about them. Earlier than science, earlier than literacy itself, each tradition saved information in regards to the world within the type of photographs and particularly in tales, advised and sung, that have been handed down the generations. Pure occasions have been generally assigned to the interactions of particular beings, with names and personalities, giving a relatable gloss to earthquakes, eruptions, meteorological phenomena and different doings that science reliably informs us are literally random.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the oral traditions of the Pacific Northwest tribes, who remembered the nice Cascadia earthquake and tsunami of 26 January 1700 in tales for greater than two centuries. Many variations recounted the occasion as an awesome conflict between Thunderbird, ruler of the wind and sky, and a sea creature referred to by conference as Whale. The identical two entities populate the tribes’ artwork in a motif that informs their most deep-seated tradition. And all of it connects with the abnormal prevalence, seen day-after-day alongside that coast, of eagles catching fish. Earthquakes and tsunamis include the nation and have seats across the night hearth.
In Japan there may be the character of Namazu, an awesome catfish who lives restrained deep underground. Once in a while it thrashes free, upending society with damaging shaking and floods from the ocean. In keeping with one authority, Namazu originated across the sixteenth century from “the Chinese language ao, a hybrid fish/turtle/dragon.”
Namazu acquired an enormous enhance with the Ansei Edo earthquake of 11 November 1855, the third of three catastrophic quakes in central Japan in 1854-1855. In Edo (modern-day Tokyo), the worst harm was within the rich quarter, and after a couple of weeks of aftershocks and widespread worry the town’s temper lightened as cash flowed to pay for rebuilding. Widespread cartoon leaflets from the time file the altering attitudes within the type of catfish imagery.
The earthquake, personified because the catfish Namazu, forces cash from rich property house owners. Wikimedia picture
That catfish, the Large One, remains to be round, able to thrash and able to hand when the Japanese want an emblem. A stylized Namazu is a part of the nationwide earthquake warning system‘s iconography.
Within the mythology of historical Greece, Poseidon the earth-shaker guidelines each the ocean and earthquakes. So does his historical Roman model, Neptune. Each personages embody the connection between earthquakes and tsunamis.
The U.S. Geological Survey has a small assortment of earthquake legends from these and different cultures.
These historical personifications all share the identical function: they current Earth forces as animate, as beings. The geologist’s Earth can be an energetic one, however we’ve at all times regarded it as, in Hutton’s 1785 phrase, “a machine of a peculiar building.” It doesn’t have a soul. The geologist’s Earth is an engineering conception — the extra science can perceive this model of Earth, the higher our engineering can be. It’s fantastic for what it makes doable, however not the primary and final phrase.
The fantastic thing about the animal personification is that an animal is an integral being, related inside itself. Today it will repay, I typically suppose, to carry the Earth and its attributes again into the household. I counsel that we may use personifications right this moment — not severely, however ceremonially.
I counsel that we consider the half-forgotten Makkeweks, a sea being like Poseidon and Namaku and Whale, as our native earthquake avatar. We’ve a single story, from the Rumsen Ohlones of the far South Bay, that refers to this being. Coyote got here to the shore together with his spouse, having instructed her in regards to the varied sea creatures — sea lions, sharks and so forth — and advised her to not worry them, as they’re our uncles. However he didn’t inform her about Makkeweks, and when Makkeweks confirmed up she was frightened to demise, whereupon Coyote needed to revive her.
It’s affordable that our native Ohlone tribes, of the Huichin group, shared a narrative very similar to this, maybe with the identical names. And so it’s becoming that the town of Oakland has commissioned and positioned a bronze statue of Makkeweks in Snow Park, down by the lake.
Perhaps someway we may acknowledge that Makkeweks, the Large One, is our uncle, a part of the household, an actor on the earth who belongs amongst us and for whom we should at all times make room in our lives.
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