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Thread: Earthquakes

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    Earthquakes

    Just throwing out a question in case someone has some knowledge or experience. I've always considered earthquakes to be associated with Poseidon. However, on very inland quakes, I'm wondering if anyone has heard of connections to Hades. It seems intuitive to me as a connection to the Underworld, but also maybe to modern of a construct. Any thoughts?

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    Bronze Member Bartmanhomer's Avatar
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    Re: Earthquakes

    I think that Gaia is more connected to earthquakes. After all, she is mother earth.

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    Member Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Re: Earthquakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Bartmanhomer View Post
    I think that Gaia is more connected to earthquakes. After all, she is mother earth.
    Gaia, yes.

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    Kick Ass Little Crow Corvus's Avatar
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    Re: Earthquakes

    This depends largely on your source material and to what degree you believe in mythological absolutism. The best known title for Poseidon is enosichthon, the earth shaker, and it seems to have been a core part of his power set going back at least until Mycenaean Greece. This isn't to say that Poseidon was the source of all seismic activity, to the contrary actually, but it was a vital part of the wrath he could visit on mortals when offended or displeased. For the Greeks and many other ancient people, earthquakes were sometimes a sign of the gods' anger, but were also often attributed to monsters. It's very common among cultures descended from the Proto-Indo-Europeans for volcanoes and earthquakes to come from the writhing of imprisoned monsters. For example, Ovid attests that the Hecatoncheires cause earthquakes while they move under the earth.

    There are various local legends recalling this or that monster being imprisoned beneath volcanoes or other seismically active locations. Most famously is the myth of Typhon, a terrifying fire-breathing dragon like creature which challenged the gods, who is variously said to be bound beneath the island of Ischia or Mount Etna, both regions of seismic and volcanic activity. The earthborn gigantes were also popular targets for explaining seismic activity. The gigantes were a race of beings born from Gaia after the fall of the Titans to destroy the Olympians in a conflict known as the Gigantomachy. We see similar trends in other related cultures and it's a reasonable explanation. Earthquakes and volcanoes are wild chaotic earthly forces normally associated with ancient and dangerous creatures. It's an example of chaos vs the order imposed by the gods, a theme in all mythology. During ancient times, there would be rituals to appease the beings, appeal to the gods to silence them, or otherwise keep them imprisoned.

    So there's a few things to address here before we examine the role of earthquakes in the context of the divine, that is when not attributed to monsters. The first is that primordial entities such as Gaia were virtually never worshiped historically. The "earth mother" role was subsumed over time to other goddesses such as Demeter, or foreign imports like Cybele. This conception of her as mother earth is almost an entirely modern construct. For the Greeks, the primordials were nearly incomprehensible. They were an explanation not for a phenomena, but for the physical substance of the world and it's mechanics. Gaia is not the goddess of the earth, she is physically the earth, which is a subtle but, important distinction. This isn't to say that she wasn't ascribed agency since she was the one who enabled Cronus to assault Ouranous, nor that she was never present in the mythology, it is attested that having her children imprisoned within her caused her great suffering which caused earthquakes, but to make clear that she was a minor part of the pantheon when even included and alternative attributions were much more common. Reconstruction of this figure from precursor cultures is also rather dubious since the traits we associate with "earth goddesses" were much more often shuffled among more popular deities. I blame the Theogony. Modern interpretations have very little historic basis, but there's nothing wrong with representing Gaia as this modern western conception of mother earth, just recognize that the Greeks would find this idea (and really the concept in general) somewhat foreign.

    The meat of this topic is the nature of Poseidon and this is where I get pretty cross disciplinary and historic, which is something that rubs some pagans the wrong way and almost certainly beyond the scope of the question but, I rather like talking about it so I will. Conceptually does it not seem a little odd that Poseidon has such seemingly random elements in his portfolio? For example, what is the thread that connects the ocean, earthquakes, and horses? For the purposes of this argument we are going to assume that mythology is not absolute but, is an evolving cultural product of the peoples that produced them. This may seem obvious, but it bears clarifying that gods change over time depending on the people who worship them, and the context of that worship. It seems reasonable then that there must be a figure which gave rise to the Greek Poseidon, an older god that evolved and changed. Luckily, people way smarter than me have done that research.

    The Greeks are part of a very large culture group called the Indo-Europeans, descended from the Proto-Indo-Europeans, a neolithic group that migrated over a stupid big area from somewhere around the north of Anatolia. The Norse, Celts, Greeks, and Indo-Aryan cultures are descended from this group and similar patterns show up in their mythologies. Basically the things you probably think about as common mythological themes are common because of the frankly stupid large area this group covered. For example, the derivative cultures mostly have a thunder god associated with the sky or light (Thor, Zeus, Perun, Tarhunt), divine twins (too many to list honestly), pastoral god associated with goats (Pan and Pūshān), triple goddesses of fate, and just endless similarities in their myths. This descent has been linguistically reconstructed as these cultures all have related languages. Through reconstruction we can attempt to figure out when they diverged and where. As a result, we can assume based on these similarities that these original PIE gods may have been an amalgam of different traits that were adapted to different contexts as the people migrated.

    Well where does Poseidon fit into this? See that's the funny thing, the PIE were a land focused culture. We don't believe that they were strongly sea faring so there's no archetypal ocean divinity. There is however a place for a god of freshwater, that is rivers and springs. This distinction is very important as freshwater was needed for drinking, obviously salt water isn't good for that, and for the raising of animals. You can probably see where I'm going with this, but there was an animal that was very important to the PIE. It's horses. The PIE were responsible for a domestication event of horses, which is part of the reason they were able to cover some stupid big areas. As a result we can get this hazy idea of a god of springs who favored horses, since wild horses would be found gathered near sources of water. Horses also had various underworld associations and it seems reasonable to make a connection between water which flows from beneath the earth, and the underworld. As a result, it seems likely going into this we have a god who is much more a chthonic figure than Greek Poseidon and seems to go a long way in potentially explaining some of the inconsistency.

    Unfortunately, a direct line of descent is incomplete and there's a gap between this ancient god and the Greek Poseidon. It's hypothesized that the name Poseidon etymologically evolved from the word "lord/husband" (greek posis, PIE reconstructed as potis) and a secondary element -da/-don, which remains ambiguous but, may mean earth or water, and suggests a pre-hellenic origin for the name. We do know though that Poseidon was a hugely popular god with the Mycenaeans. Like, possible head of the pantheon importance based on the sheer amount and importance of linear-b writings about him, linear-b being the mycenean script. This seems to support another theory, that there may have existed a split in the evolution of the PIE storm god between an airy and light thunder god, and a darker watery and chthonic counterpart. This counterpart dynamic may suggest Poseidon descended from the sky and storm god, the same origin as Zeus, and became fused with a class based horse god, or else may suggest an aspect based nature (think the oak and holly king being the same person but, also rivals in opposition). There's a bunch of other little things that require a lot more context to explain, such as the evolution of Demeter (remember the evolution of Poseidon's name implies an earth goddess consort?) in her role as an earth goddess in relation to the evolution of the sky god, but it's not really worth the length it adds to this already long response. In any case, it seems probable that as the PIE group that would become the Greeks moved over the coast, a watery god gained more importance and with that importance was able to usurp dominance of the pantheon.

    This is a long way of explaining that Poseidon is the Greek form of what would've been an inland god for an inland culture. As the PIE entered Greece, this inland water god had gained further associations with the earth, likely the source of the earthshaker title, through emphasis of his underworld aspect and possibly reinforced by his implied marriage to an earth and fertility goddess. It's possible at this point, this proto-Poseidon also gained some traits associated with the sky god. Upon reaching the coast and becoming a sea faring culture, the proto-proto-Mycenaean's watery-horsey-underworld god rose to prominence becoming an extremely popular and powerful god by the time the Mycenaeans were making written records in the early bronze age. It would be later that Zeus would reclaim the spot as head god and reduce the importance of this maritime deity.

    The ocean aspect comes later to the god that would become Poseidon so it makes perfect sense that earthquakes, even inland, are his domain. However, your assumption that inland earthquakes would be associated with an underworld god is also correct. Side note: Hades cannot be reconstructed from PIE and seems to be a Greek invention, which explains a lot of the weird things that crop up with him, like why possibly why despite being one of the Kronid brothers he's not technically an Olympian. The PIE seemed to mostly prefer underworld goddesses. This proposed reconstruction hits upon all your points and clarifies why they would be associated with Poseidon.
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    Member Pythagoras's Avatar
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    Re: Earthquakes

    I can only speak for my views on the subject but I've always viewed the underworld as separate from the earth where Hades can't represent earthquakes.

    While Gaia was a titan that weren't necessarily worshipped so was Prometheseus also a titan who actually was worshipped in ancient Athens. Demeter was most certainly worshipped through the Eleuysian mysteries but also being the daughter of Gaia.

    While Gaia may have not been worshipped in large numbers images have been found on a variety of motifs throughout ancient Greece of her which means she was revered to some level.

    I do like your knowledge on this kind of stuff Corvus, it seems you really do understand history very well.

    - - - Updated - - -

    I just noticed I mispelled eleusinian, my mistake.

    [Didn't realize there were time limits regarding editing posts and my internet sucks currently where I am in the process of switching service providers.] Wanted to compliment you Corvus on that intriguing information regarding Poseidon that was unknown to me until now.
    Last edited by Pythagoras; 04 Jun 2019 at 23:14.
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    Kick Ass Little Crow Corvus's Avatar
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    Re: Earthquakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Pythagoras View Post
    I do like your knowledge on this kind of stuff Corvus, it seems you really do understand history very well.
    Thanks. I try to be as knowledgeable as possible. The reconstruction of PIE culture and it's connection with descent cultures is a special interest of mine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pythagoras View Post
    I can only speak for my views on the subject but I've always viewed the underworld as separate from the earth where Hades can't represent earthquakes.
    The ancient Greeks viewed the underworld as physically being beneath the earth. This is well attested in the mythology as heroes and gods gain access to the otherworld nearly exclusively through caves. If the underworld is a metaphysical other dimension as people often believe now and going beneath the world is just how to access the "portal" or whatever is irrelevant. The cosmology of the ancient Greek myths is a series of layers. The Theogony states that Tartarus lies within the recesses of Gaia which confirms that the land of the dead lies within the earth.

    This can be further supported with titles given the god Hades. He was known as "the wealthy" and "giver of wealth" because of the inherent fertile power of the soil to produce goods, as well as mineral wealth found underground. The latter was a key element to the Roman god Pluto, who was a composite god of several other figures, and may represent a cultural exchange between Rome and Greece. The notion that the afterlife, underworld, or death itself was connected with the fecundity of the land is a prominent theme in Greece and the ancient near east who they would've had contact with. It figures in the abduction of Persephone, obviously, but also in the mystery rites of Orphism, Demeter, Attis, and others. We must recognize that ancient Greece was a pre-monetary society measuring wealth in the form of goods, the most readily available, valuable, and recurring of which was agricultural. Hades's role as a distributor of wealth is connected with the fertility of the soil, with the underworld being perceived as a place beneath the soil.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pythagoras
    While Gaia was a titan that weren't necessarily worshipped so was Prometheseus also a titan who actually was worshipped in ancient Athens. Demeter was most certainly worshipped through the Eleuysian mysteries but also being the daughter of Gaia.
    Gaia was not a titan, she is a primordial deity. Just as the Olympians are not titans, the titans are not primordial, and Gaia is not a titan. Gaia was worshiped, beyond just her due as a powerful god, but rarely was this done outside of the cult of a different earth goddess who had greater prominence. In this way it is this other goddess who is the main object of worship and Gaia is being included due to relatedness. Demeter, Rhea, and Cybele subsume Gaia and largely take her role, or are even seen sometimes as being the same being as Gaia. These goddesses are synchronized to varying degrees in different regions, for example Rhea-Cybele is a commonly occurring name where she was considered a mountain and tutelary goddess. The idea that Demeter may have been a child of Gaia is not one I've heard before, but likely comes from synchronism with Rhea who is a titan goddess.

    Titans are a kind of divine being. They were worshiped like any other god when it was appropriate. The primordial deities were rarely worshiped because they were largely not anthropomorphic. They are substance as much as divinity and even more beyond the ken of human scope than things like death or storms. The titans are just an older kind of god, distinguished from, but not extremely different to, the Olympian generation. There were numerous titan gods with cults which were not seen as especially more unusual than any cult to a non-titan god.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pythagoras
    While Gaia may have not been worshipped in large numbers images have been found on a variety of motifs throughout ancient Greece of her which means she was revered to some level.
    She certainly gets more notice than other primordial beings like Nyx or Tartarus.
    世の中に潜み落下した「アレ」はねえか? 誰が書き換える 世界の汚れは?
    Do you have 'that' which lies dormant within society? Who can overwrite it, the filth in the world?


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