From the very beginning of human existence, man has been in search of answers for the riddles that natural disasters had put before him. He was baffled by the monstrous forces of nature that created unexplainable natural disasters and unbearable losses. Great legendary tales and stories of myths about these forces that created these disasters have been handed down from generation to generation.
Man stood shocked at the earthquakes. He stood mad when great mountains spewed fire into the sky. He couldn’t understand why the giant waves of the sea punished whole societies.
Ancient Myths on Natural Disasters
We can’t omit aside the myths of all civilizations which have countless mythological legend stories since these stories may have an element of truth in them. They show clearly man’s unquenchable quest to probe into the cause of these natural disasters. There have been myths and legendary stories in all religions and civilizations about the Great Floods, cyclical disasters and comic havocs which were considered to have been punishment of humanity or the doom of the gods.
1) Disaster Myths in Mayan Civilization
The word ‘hurricane’ itself is about myth of Mayan civilization as this word ‘hurricane’ comes from ‘Hurakan’ the name of the creator god of winds and storms. ‘Hurakan’ means one-legged god who lived in the mists over the primeval flood and was believed to be the creator of the ancestors of the Mayan people. It was believed by them that he destroyed the previous inhabitants of Earth by sending floods.
2) Disaster Myths in Chinese Tradition
From the very beginning of the ancient Chinese civilization, they were observing their surroundings with keen curiosity which led to numerous mythologies. They readily connected the natural disasters with heavenly powers and they were of the opinion that their state and culture enjoyed a genetic relationship with the supreme power residing. Natural disasters in the Chinese tradition and history have consistently been playing a vital role in balancing the celestial powers. Disasters in Chinese Mythology and Tradition are sent by heaven.
3) Disaster Mythology of Tibet
According to an ancient Tibetan mythological folklore, the earth is being held on its back by a giant frog. When the frog moves on the land, or jumps into water, it causes an earthquake. Bali tradition of North India also has mythological legends of the same story.
4) Natural Disasters in Aztec Myths
The interesting Aztec myth of the five suns explains how the earth was destroyed by disasters. They say that the world had been destroyed four separate times in the struggle between gods. First, the world was destroyed by jaguars, secondly by a great hurricane, third by fire, and fourth by a flood. Presently we are living in the fifth world which is predestined to be devastated by earthquakes, floods and other disasters.
5) Disaster Mythology of the Romans
Romans have many legendary mythologies of natural disasters. The hot lava eruption was associated with ‘Vulcan’, a Roman mythological god. According to a myth, Vulcan who is known as the god of fire married the goddess Aphrodite. The Romans still have many mythological legends of gods to explain natural disasters, such as Hephaestus god of fire, Poseidon lord of the sea, and Zeus god of storms.
6) Natural Disasters of Buddhism
Buddhism associates natural disasters with the ‘Karma’ of the universe. A recent explanation by the Buddhist leader Venerable Lama Choedak Rinpoche is to be noted that natural disasters purify humanity since the good might eventually outweigh the bad. While commenting on the recent disaster of tsunami that shook the whole world, he said that it was only a part of the collective karma of the universe, and could be a catalyst for peace, harmony and generosity.
7) Mythologies of Natural Disasters in Hindu Scriptures
In Vedas of Hinduism and Hindu Scriptures we can come across countless references of natural disasters attributed to gods. Varuna who is the God for rains punishes people with floods and droughts whenever he gets angry.
Agni, the god of fire, punishes people for their evil doings by causing wildfires and destructions.
Vayu, the god of winds, has the power to invoke cyclones and hurricanes when evil doings surpass in excess beyond any control.
The mythologies of ‘Kali Yuga’ which are still popular can be compared with the Aztec myths with regard to the destruction of the world by natural disasters.
8) Christian Myth of Noah’s ark
The most famous flood and Noah’s ark, which is found in the texts of Christians and Jews is attributed to a mythological legend. According to this tale, God, who gets angry over the disobedience of humans, punishes them with a flood.
Mythologies have been Warning Legends to Check Humanity
All myths are sacred stories from the past, which are concerned with the supernatural powers that control the human world and the relationship between those powers and human beings. Of course, they have a kernel of truth in them. Modern science has been warning humanity about the dangers of global warming leading the world today toward more and more disasters. It is high time for us to realize the truth behind these mythological legends and protect humanity from unimaginable disasters.