The Different Folklore Surrounding Volcanoes

Categories: GeologyVolcanoes
About this essay

Volcanoes tremble, rumble, explode, and rip themselves apart destroying acres of land, millions of homes and killing thousands of people. For centuries people around the world were powerless to understand the earth’s convulsions and ability to cause such horrific destruction. Looking for explanations, stories were conjured up of superhuman forces, folklore and myths as a conclusion to why this natural phenomenon occurs. Many different cultures around the world have come up with their own folklore’s about volcanoes depending on what part of the continent its from.

One of the worst volcanic disasters occurred along the Bay of Naples in Italy. At the foot of a large mountain known as “Mt. Somma” or “Mt. Vesuvius” lay two prosperous cities “Pompeii” and “Herculaneum”. The people who lived in these cities lived a peaceful and productive life unbeknown to them that misfortune would come upon them. On August 24, 79AD, Mt. Vesuvius came back to life with a vengeance, it released a blast of gas and ash upon the two cities.

Get quality help now
Doctor Jennifer
Doctor Jennifer
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Geology

star star star star 5 (893)

“ Thank you so much for accepting my assignment the night before it was due. I look forward to working with you moving forward ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

By nightfall the volcano had gas-rich magma that flowed down and rolled through the city of Herculaneum destroying everything in its path. Repeated flows surged through the city and buried the town of Herculaneum with burning volcanic debris.

The city of Pompeii was next in line, at first the cities massive walls diverted the rivers of flowing magma but eventually the magma overcame the walls and unleashed its ruthless destruction on the city of Pompeii and its people. When Mt. Vesuvius finally relented and the thick smoke slowly thinned away it was said by the few who survived that Pompeii was buried in six feet of ash and burning debris of the few building that were left standing.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

And as for where the city of Herculaneum once lay all that was left was a sixty feet deep deposit of volcanic substance. The entire city was engulfed. The 79 AD eruption of Mt Vesuvius completely destroyed the two cities and it is said the approximately 25,000 people were killed (Prager 130-132). Mt. Vesuvius has erupted more that fifty times since this eruption; its last eruption was in 1944 (Decker 291).

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius led to many folklores and myths as to why the mountain released such destruction. Christians believed that St. Januarius looked after the Naples, and so he would perform miracles that would stop Mt. Vesuvius from erupting. Maurice Krafft explains this myth about St. Januarius,

Naples, late 19th century: Peasants invoke St. Januarius as their protector. Armed with studded whips, some penitents flagellated themselves until they bled; others wept and tore their hair; women carried crosses; the monks covered their heads with ashes and recited the psalms. All of this human river converged on the cathedral. There, from his balcony, the archbishop showered down blessings and absolutions and exposed the relics of the saint to make Vesuvius stop (Kraftt 27).

The Kilauea Volcano on the island Hawaii is the most thoroughly studied volcano in the world. Almost all of Kilauea’s eruptions are relatively quiet as compared to the explosive volcanic eruptions that occur everywhere else around the world. The Hawaiian people have their own folklore about Kilauea, according to Hawaiian legend, the goddess of Pele` was born in Tahiti, but was chased away by her sister Namakaokahai after a quarrel. Her long flight ended in Hawaii at Halemaumau, the crater of Kilauea, which is where she now lives. Pele` unleashes all the islands eruptions.

Very quick- tempered, she opens up the crater with a simple kick of her heel and hurls lava upon her victims. Before each eruption she appears in the disguise of a wrinkled old woman or, more rarely, a very beautiful girl. There are numerous legends about Pele` that were linked to real eruptions, for example, it is said that one day she fell in love with two young chiefs from eastern Hawaii who were champions of houa, (a sled used on grassy slopes). She appeared in a form of a beautiful princess and joined the sledding. But the two men recognized her and fled. Furious, she stamped her foot on the ground, which trembled, heated up, and vomited rivers of lava over the whole region. The chiefs ran towards the sea, the flow engulfed them and they died. Along the coast are, two flattened cones, called Na Puu a Pele (the hills of Pele`), these are said to represent the petrified corpses of the unlucky (Kraftt 29-30). In Hawaii the worship of Pele` continues by the Hawaiians in a variety of way. They take gatherings of crystals, bottles of gin as she was supposed to have a liking for this alcohol and fruit to the edge of Halemaumau as offerings to the goddess.

Myths and folklore were created in many parts of the world as some sort of reasoning to why volcanoes occurred and caused such mass destruction. The Hawaiians believed the Pele` a goddess caused the eruptions that occur on Kilauea where as the Italians came up with a biblical tale about St. Januarius and his power to stop Vesuvius from erupting. With thanks to all those scientists,volcanologists and geologists that have spent years studying these huge mountains to find logical reasons as to why they cause such destruction, we are now able to understand the myths behind volcanoes.

Cite this page

The Different Folklore Surrounding Volcanoes. (2022, Dec 18). Retrieved from

Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment