Earth Mother & Natural Disasters
Ancient polytheistic cultures often turned to their spirituality to describe events or phenomenon in the universe that they did not understand, including natural disasters. They would share myths and lore that attributed these terrifying incidents to actions of powerful deities or spirits. Personally, I believe that this personification of the events gave them a way to not only explain the event that was occurring, but also gave them a way to try to prevent them from happening. Volcanic eruptions, diseases, and droughts could all be explained through different lore across many different cultures.
For example, in Linear B, Poseidon is given the epithet of Enosichthon, or Earth-Shaker. It is in this role that he was attributed with being the cause of earthquakes and floods. These events would occur when Poseidon was angered due to not being respected appropriately, such as in the Odyssey. Poseidon was angered by Odysseus, so he causes storms, earthquakes, and many other challenges throughout the myth (Homer, The Odyssey). In another myth, Vulcan was the Roman god of fire and the forge. The word “volcanoes” descends directly from his name. It was believed that Vulcan’s forge was hidden deep inside the mountains, and that the smoke and fire from the volcano were caused by his work. Each year the city of Rome would hold an annual festival called Vulcanalia to try to appease Vulcan and prevent eruptions (Wigington).
Effect of Prayer and Sacrifice on Natural Disasters
While I won’t go so far as to say that prayer and sacrifice are not beneficial, I do believe that there is only so much we can do as humans. Personally, I don’t believe that we can say prayers or make offerings to completely avert or prevent a natural disaster. I believe that our energies are more useful if we put those efforts into helping heal those effected, bringing comfort to those dealing with the trauma, and guiding those who are working to resolve the crisis itself. We can’t stop a volcano from erupting, or a tornado from destroying a village, but we can help bring peace and recovery to those in the midst of the chaos through our words and actions.
ADF’s Response to Natural Disasters
ADF is an international organization, so finding the appropriate response to disasters can be quite challenging. We don’t necessarily want to pick and choose which disasters are “worthy” of our attention, but we also don’t want to seem insensitive to our members who may be facing these issues. It’s important to allow our members to have the freedom to say prayers or make offerings for these types of situations, but I also understand that it’s difficult to do those things at an organizational level, purely because that alone could easily become a full-time job.
Wigington, Patti. What Was the Vulcanalia? 17 April 2019. 2019. <https://www.learnreligions.com/the-roman-vulcanalia-festival-2561471>.