Creation of Fire Myths

Fire, Flames, Bonfire, Sweden, Night

To students of mythology, particular characters in the myths, legends and folktales of the many cultures are often called the gods, sometimes as culture heroes, occasionally deities or higher spirits disguised in animal form. Mankind has learned exceedingly useful lessons and contains generally ascribed that new knowledge to these beings; some noted person or animal, typically a deity in some form or other, because society’s cultural mythology. These mythical benefactors that have brought these practical advantages to men are usually placed among the gods or at least at some level above the great unwashed. They have been the teachers and culture heroes to humanity.

In these cultural mythologies throughout the world it’s often the senior deities on high (sky gods) who bestowed gifts on mankind transforming human society from the nomadic hunter-gatherers to settlers and a more civilized culture. Gifts like agriculture, arts & crafts, the national sciences, trades, technology, etc.. Then there is fire.

In the historical record, all else being equal, probably the human discoverers of passion of the many cultures around the world would be among the best remembered of all those benefactors. This would naturally be the case, for no greater good has touched man’s physical life than passion. The usefulness of fire (heat and light) would have been obvious to Blind Freddy and it should not have been difficult to determine what was fuel (wood, leaves, dry grass, etc.) and what wasn’t fuel (rocks, sand, etc.); the hard bit would have been once coming across flame, or having fire come across you, to keep it under control and in continuous supply – not letting it go out. The next step would have been figuring out how to artificially create fire.

But that’s not what the mythologies relate. Mythologies do not tell us that people themselves discovered fire; discovered its applications; how to tame fire and how to make fire without direct benefit of Mother Nature. No, mythologies tell us that fire has been given to us directly, not from the senior gods, but by junior deities, in defiance of their seniors.

Mythologies often are suggestive that the senior gods didn’t for various reasons depending on the society/culture and the origin (who is telling the tale) wish to give humans the gift of fire. Oddity number two is what is the big deal about fire anyway? It’s nothing like giving a five-year-old a loaded gun! Were the senior gods worried we were then going to strike them with flaming arrows such as Indians attacking a covered wagon train?

However, lesser deities, middle management from the pantheon of gods, frequently trickster gods, sometimes cultural heroes, occasionally spirits disguised as animals often thought humans should have the present and benefit of passion. And that means you have many close universal tales of those beings steading fire from their superiors and giving it to us mortals. Theft or trickery, the use of deceit of some kind, is almost inseparably connected with humans acquiring fire as related from cultures all around the world. Oddity number three is why these lesser deities were of the contrary opinion that humans should have fire (keeping in mind we’d should have naturally had it anyhow ). Anomaly number four is being of the opinion why centre management deities would behave so defiantly against the directive of the betters. When you defy the top brass you know you’re not going to get off lightly. Some, like Prometheus suffered through repeated grievous bodily torture by authority of Zeus for giving us mortals fire, which makes his (and collectively their) mutiny all the odder. Prometheus’s theft of fire is remembered even today via the symbolism of the Olympic Flame or Torch.

However, the fundamental oddity is still the first one. Consider the case of Zeus and Prometheus again. The Greeks, way back before even Methuselah was in diapers, must have known about and employed the use of fire. Zeus had no say in the matter; Prometheus’s contrary opinion and activities were irrelevant.

If the story of the theft and gift of fire via Prometheus were the be-all-and-end-all of the’how humanity acquired fire’ tale, then it could probably be dismissed as pure fiction.

Prometheus is not the only case study of grabbing a hold of fire from senior management. Prometheus, the classical fire giver, is most widely known in literature. But while Prometheus is associated with the Mediterranean region, the deity Maui belonged to the length and breadth of the Pacific Ocean.

Of all of the helpful gods of Pacific mythology, Maui, the mischievous Polynesian, is beyond question the hero to the largest numbers of countries scattered over that wide expanse of land, including Hawaii. Maui is of course connected with the theft and present of fire.

But Hawaii is also a society which holds in awe the powerful and somewhat fickle goddess Pele. In Hawaiian mythology Pele controls Hawaii’s volcanoes and volcanic activity (in addition to fire, lightning, and wind) and as we all know, Hawaii is a volcanic hot zone; the islands were formed by volcanic eruptions, eruptions that still occur in the here and now. Hawaiians cannot be ignorant of fire. Molten lava sets fire to things! Does that make Maui immaterial?

It would naturally be supposed that the Hawaiians residing in a volcanic country with ever-flowing fountains of lava would connect their passion myths with some volcano when relating the story of the origin of fire. But like the rest of the Polynesians, Hawaiians discovered fire via Maui rather than naturally in rivers of molten rock.

Polynesians must have brought their passion legends and fire habits with them when they came to the Hawaiian islands of active volcanoes.

Then there’s the Maori narrative of fire’s origin, again starring Maui.

It was from her that Maui got the secret of creating fire. Maui, finding that fire has been lost on the earth, resolves to find Mahuika the Fire-goddess and learn the secret art of getting fire. His tricks of course make her furious and, although he obtains the secret of passion, he barely escapes with his life.

The cultural hero Bue of the Gilbert Islands is another in the long list of fiery pickpockets. Ditto that of Botoque of the central Brazilian tribe the Kayapo.

It is worth noting that in many myths not only was fire stolen, but birds indicated by black or red spots among their feathers were associated with the theft. In Brittany the golden or fire-crested wren steals fire and is red-marked while so doing.

Some swiftly-flying bird or fleet-footed coyote would take the stolen fire to the house of the tribe. We have Cherokee mythology say the Spider stole fire; tribes of the Pacific Northwest and First Nations peoples relate that fire was nicked from the Coyote, Beaver or Dog and contributed to humans; according to a Yukon First Nations individuals, Crow stole fire from a volcano; in accordance with the Creek Indians, Rabbit stole fire; ditto that in Algonquin mythology – firing was stolen by Rabbit; them rabbits or hares also stole fire and gave it to the Ojibwas in accordance with their own myths.

In Africa, the Mason-wasp was the go-between obtaining fire for the Ila people from their version of God. Tore of the Mbuti in Zaire is the local version of Prometheus. The different Bushmen of Africa such as the Pygmies of the Congo stole fire from their God. The Dogons of the Mali have Nummo spirits (heavenly blacksmiths) and one of their first ancestors nicked a bit of the sun in their smithy.

Oddity number five is that the individual authors of those mythological’theft and gift of fire’ tales – if myths they really be – would have realized, must have realized, that fire was a natural element of their human environment and therefore the’gift of fire’ was an unnecessary gift and therefore the theft from the lesser deities was equally unnecessary as was the restriction by the senior sky gods in the first location. If a modern day writer wrote such illogical claptrap they simply wouldn’t get published.

Anomaly number six is the reason why in mythologies from diverse parts of the world have the seniors deciding to withhold fire from mankind; their juniors or other lesser beings humanised animals defying them and stealing fire from them and giving it to us terrestrials. It’s an unlikely enough narrative that, fine, may appear once like in Zeus and Prometheus, but not independently over and over again. So, either we have an outstanding anomalous set of unlikely coincidences, or else the story is really real and thus not mythology in any respect.

Now perhaps the’gift of fire’ describes not so much to real fire as to instead the gift of earning fire, as in how to (i.e. – rubbing two sticks together or striking together two rocks to make sparks). While that concept is more philosophically akin to the senior gods giving those other gifts of civilization to mankind, that’s not exactly what the mythologies describe. What’s described is fire in its pure form that is given out, post theft by lesser gods, not how to make fire.

Analysis: The upshot of all of this is that the theft-of-fire mythology isn’t myth but really real. But, the restrictions of the seniors and the defiance of the juniors imply that fire wasn’t the real concern here. Somehow fire has been substituted for something different. That’s a something that is not a natural element of their human environment and that’s something which if given to people may be akin to this five-year-old holding a really real loaded pistol – or worse.

So if fire in the hands of us primitives isn’t really a big deal, and because the’gods’ couldn’t stop us from discovering and using fire under any set of circumstances, what might the true concern be? It has to be something along the nature of fire – bright and hot and hard to control; something that in the hands of humans might prove a threat to the gods. Nuclear power and weapons seem to be just a tad too improbable. We are in need of something between a wonderful campfire and Hiroshima/Nagasaki. What about normal explosives or thermal weapons because the real’fire’ which was stolen and given to humanity?

Explosives per say were probably not what was meant by fire. Explosives, gunpowder, etc. was a Chinese invention somewhere between the ninth and eleventh centuries AD, and from there spread to the Middle East and hence Europe. That’s a bit too late in historic terms for explosives to have been a gift from Prometheus and all those others.

However, the use of heat as a weapon, thermal weapons, can be dated back to at least the ninth century BC. That is historically more like the era we would like. And how can you quickly and easily generate heat? – With fire of course. The actual bit here is that it is not just pure fire which is used as in flaming arrows or burning a wooden fort, or burning crops and areas (scorched earth policy), but flame or heat augmented by chemicals and then moved to where it’s needed.

By way of example, a whole variety of heated chemicals, from water to sand to several petroleum-based compounds (oil, pitch, bitumen etc.) could be thrown on enemy personnel or hurled onto different constructions, fortifications, even ships at sea to be able to destroy or serious damage them.

When it comes to ancient naval warfare, locating and utilizing a chemical substance that burns while drifting on the water, well this would be heaven-sent as it had been. Such substances forms what today is commonly called’Greek fire’ though Greek fire proper, however, wasn’t invented until about 672 AD, again a bit too late for Prometheus.

Moreover, various sulphur-based substances and quicklime are useful as toxic/blinding agents. There are always smoke bombs which can be employed as well.

In short, it wasn’t fire that the senior gods wanted to keep from our grubby little paws, but the use of thermal weapons via the use of substances and various chemical properties useful in warfare, incendiary mixtures, the basic ingredient being heat first and foremost, heat usually provided by fire.

The unanswerable question is why the reluctance on the part of the senior gods to provide humanity fire, or way more likely something similar to fire but much more dangerous like thermal weaponry technology, and the counterpart unanswerable question why therefore the seemingly extreme opposition to that policy from other so-called lesser deities and cultural personalities? The one thing that makes sense is that the seniors were opposed because it was akin to giving a child a loaded pistol. The opposition on the other hand figured it was probably inevitable we would figure it all out for ourselves anyway, and giving the technology to us sooner rather than later after stealing it in the first place from higher authority gave the powers-that-be some type of control – the child with the loaded pistol was supervised.

Tornado Prep

Tornado Funnel Twister Funnel Cloud Damage

Tornadoes are terrifying and destructive events that may change your life in an instant. Discover 3 simple steps in”How to Survive a Tornado 1-2-3 Guide” that can improve your family’s odds of surviving the next big tornado.

1. Create a Family Plan

Talk ahead of time with family members about your designated location to wait out the tornado. If you don’t have one of these the next best place within your home would be on the lowest floor, closest to the center of your home, away from any glass or windows. A hallway or bathroom that is toward the center of your house is good. Ducking and covering your head in the bathtub will help to protect you from flying debris.

Periodic tornado drills are an excellent way to prepare your loved ones, especially children, ahead of time for a tornado.

If you are outdoors try to find a building to take refuge. Steer clear of windows, cars and any downed electrical lines.

Understand what the terms Tornado Watch and Warning mean so that you can act accordingly. A “Tornado Watch” is issued to inform the community that they should be on the lookout of a possible tornado and a “Tornado Warning” is issued when a tornado has been really picked up on radar. If there is a tornado warning issued in your area it is your sign to take cover immediately.

For active weather alerts and monitoring of any storm in advance please visit NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
2.

If you reside in a mobile home, it’s wise to discover a nearby shelter to take cover as mobile homes are much more vulnerable to damage from the high winds of a tornado.

Try to eliminate as much external storage as possible. Secure little structures, such as sheds, to their foundations.
3.

Keep emergency supplies on hand like a Tornado Survival Kit and sufficient food and water to last for a couple of weeks.

Keep an emergency mobile radio on hand, preferably one that doesn’t require batteries so that you can keep current on the path of this tornado.
Many times when we are preparing for a disaster we forget to plan for our little four-legged friends. They’re an important part of the family and their needs need to be cared for as well.

Make sure that your pet has a collar with its own identification on it. Better still, get your pet micro chipped.

Make sure your pets’ medicine is filled.

Put your pet in a hard carrier cage while you are riding out the tornado in your designated spot.

Make certain your pet is on a leash if you go outdoors after the tornado has passed. There’s very likely to be many downed electric wires and many dangerous objects from the flying debris of the storm.

Maintain a Pet First Aid Kit on hand in case your pet is injured during the tornado.

If you’re separated from your pet make sure you go in to the local shelter and leave your pets information. Someone may recognize your pet and be able to return him/her back to you.
Your chances will be greatly increased of living the next major tornado by making a family program, preparing your home and gathering all the essential lifesaving survival supplies before the disaster occurs. Your family will feel much more at ease having gone through these measures. Therefore, don’t delay. Get prepared!

Hispaniola and Hurricanes

Cold Front Warm Front Hurricane Felix 2007

Hurricanes are so important to the history of the Dominican Republic, the word itself has its origins there. The native Taino people called the fierce tropical storms passing through the Caribbean,”hurakans” which is thought to have been derived from the Inca word for their God of Evil. Thus, the native word hurakan, quickly became integrated into the Spanish language. The Taino had no written language so the Spaniards just sounded it out phonetically. The word”hurricane” is the anglicized spelling of the Spanish version of the word.

The peak of the season falls somewhere between late August and early September. However, you should keep in mind that some of the deadliest Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes have shown themselves earlier in the season. To put it differently, it is impossible to predict for certain when the largest hurricanes of this season will hit.

The Dominican Republic shares the big island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Normally, Hispaniola gets a direct hit with a significant hurricane about every 23 years. However, close calls are a lot more frequent. Hispaniola gets brushed by the outer bands of a significant hurricane about every 5 years. Moreover, it’s fairly normal for the Dominican Republic to be pounded with tropical storms during the hurricane season. This is the reason why so many people planning a visit to the Dominican Republic are concerned about the weather but I will return to this point later.

The intensity of hurricanes in the Caribbean region are grouped by the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale. The evaluations are based on the maximum sustained wind speeds in the wall of the hurricane. In other words, the average rate of all the winds averaging a minute or longer. Wind gusts associated with hurricanes that last just a few seconds can, and usually are, even faster in speed. The Saffir-Simpson intensity ratings are meant to serve as a rough guide to the potential wind damage and storm surge (the wall of ocean water the storm pushes inland) a hurricane can bring.

It is important to note that hurricane strength increases exponentially, not linearly, as you go up the scale by a Category 1 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane. In other words, a Category 4 hurricane isn’t just 4 times as intense as a Category 1 hurricane, it is about 255 times as intense!

Although it’s important to know about the different categories of hurricanes, it is also important to realize that it these categories can sometimes be misleading in regards to the quantity of damage they may impose. There are instances when a Category 1 hurricane can wreak as much havok for a Category 3 or 4. In these cases, you need to look at other factors besides wind speed. For instance, a slow moving Category 1 storm may dump far more water into an area than a fast moving Category 3 hurricane. All this extra water may cause rivers to flood, bridges to topple, dams to break, etc.. The size of the population of an area and how sound the infrastructure is also very important to how much damage a hurricane can cause. If there are a whole lot of people around which feeble buildings, a Category 1 or 2 hurricane can be totally devastating.

We should also talk about tropical storms. Tropical storms are described as well organized storms with an eye which has maximum sustained wind speeds ranging between 39-73 miles — in other words, basically a baby hurricane. The ability of these tropical storms should not be under-estimated just because they do not get called a”hurricane” in modern terminology. Odette is an example of a tropical storm that did considerable damage — in fact, as much as some hurricanes have caused. In 2003, Odette hit the Dominican Republic at 60 mph. As a result, 85% of the banana crop was destroyed as well as many other crops. More than 60,000 homes were lost across the area and 8 individuals were directly killed by the tropical storm. So, you can see that a tropical storm is nothing to sneeze at! Of course, when the Taino probably talked about”hurakans,” they didn’t make such a distinction between tropical storms and hurricanes because they are on the same continuum.

The first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1492 was created in the month of September, usually the most active month for hurricanes. But he and his crew enjoyed very pleasant weather on that first voyage and never encountered a hurricanes. Now that’s one for the other novelists to take into account! In Columbus’ second and third voyages that he and his crew did encounter hurricanes.In reality, early Spanish colonies on Hispaniola, such as Isabella named after the Queen of Spain, were totally destroyed by hurricanes. But it was the fourth voyage of Christopher Columbus that produced the largest hurricane recorded in those early years of Spanish conquest but the history books have been lacking in pointing out the importance of this hurricane (see below).

In July of 1502, on his 4th voyage to the New World, Columbus noticed a veil of cirrostratus clouds developing, an oily swell coming from the southeast, and several other indicators that he took for a storm coming. He sent a message to Ovando, the Spanish Governor of Hispaniola, to warn him not to send out the Spanish fleet of 30 gold ships that were due to leave for Spain. He also asked for permission to dock his ships at Santo Domingo. Ovando wasn’t a fan of Columbus and mocked his request and sent the fleet of 30 Spanish gold boats in their merry way. As they were traversing the Mona Passage between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, 29 of the 30 ships sank, killing everyone on board and dropping the massive fortune of gold. Columbus and his men rode out the storm on the south side of Hispaniola with the mountains to guard against the worst portion of the storm and survived it by the skin of their teeth. Historians think this hurricane was probably a powerful Category 3 or Category 4 hurricane. Some historians called it the”Columbus Hurricane” because he predicted it.

There have been many terrible hurricanes and fierce tropical storms in the Dominican Republic over the decades — far too numerous to list them all here. However, I’d like to mention a few of the more notable ones.

San Zenon was a Category 4 hurricane that hit the Dominican Republic in 1930. It’s widely considered one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes on record. It hit Puerto Rico first but the brunt of the damage was to the Dominican Republic. It was a Category 4 that was just under a Category 5 in relation to wind speed with150 mph winds. 2000 people died and it basically leveled Santo Domingo. San Zenon was a very broad hurricane and its aftermath spread out within a 20 mile radius. Everything in sight was devastated. This was before modern hurricane proof buildings so almost every structure in Santo Domingo fell.

Thinking about the path of destruction that San Zenon left behind reminds me when the Taino people referred to a”hurakan” they were not just referring to the real physical event but also the devastation it leaves in its wake. The lost lives, the accidents, the downed trees, the destroyed plants, the destroyed structures, the flooding… all of this would have been contained from the Taino definition of the word hurricane. So, to the Taino, a hurricane included the effects of a hurricane that you see after it passes over.

Another hurricane that won’t ever be forgotten in the Dominican Republic was named David. It is one of the biggest cyclones to be born off the coast of Africa. It was a Category 5 hurricane and it hit August 31, 1979. The wind speed of this devastating hurricane was clocked at a whopping 175 mph!! 70% of all the crops in the country were destroyed. 200,000 homes were lost. More than 2000 people were killed and every major river in the country was flooded. Entire communities were isolated and the consequences were felt across the entire country, although the southern region was hardest hit.

Another very memorable storm was George which struck September 22, 1998. This one dumped more rain than any other in modern history. Crops were destroyed, pastures for livestock were destroyed, and food had to be brought in from outside the country or the people would have starved.

Sometimes the smaller Category 1 hurricanes can cause a whole lot of harm and inconvenience if they hit in just the perfect location. This is certainly true for Jeanne that hit on September 17, 2004. This Category 1 hurricane affected the very popular tourist area of Punta Cana and other places on the east shore. Bridges were removed and travel became impossible for some time.

Most tourists to the Dominican Republic aren’t from areas that are hit by hurricanes in order that they may not have a great understanding of what to do if they hear that a hurricane is coming. So, here is some advice on what to do If you are visiting the Dominican Republic during hurricane season. First, you shouldn’t worry too much about hurricanes. Yes, they can be tremendous but the probability of a direct hit to your region is extremely low, even in the peak of hurricane season, AND the infrastructure is significantly better today. To put it differently, if you are staying at a modern hotel, it is build to withstand hurricanes. Second, do not forget that the hotel operators and tour operators have been through hurricanes before and they are well prepared. They know exactly what to do and they have contingency plans for dealing with every possibility. They also have back up satellite communication devices in case the principal communication goes down as well as plenty of emergency supplies. Therefore, you’ll be safe if you heed their instructions.

The fantastic news about hurricanes is that you get loads of warning when they are coming, unlike other natural disasters such as tornadoes that can hit with very little notice. The resort operators on the Punta Cana coast and south coast of the Dominican Republic are especially well prepared for big weather events. When they get word that a hurricane is coming, and this will happen more than 24 hours beforehand, they will execute their hurricane plans immediately. Furthermore, the buildings on the Punta Cana shore are the most modern and hurricane proof of any you will find anywhere in the entire Caribbean. They are built with concrete blocks and steel rods and designed to withstand high speed storm force winds.