Myth 101: The Animal-Rumblings of Earthquake

In many cultures, it is not only the gods and goddesses to cause earthquakes.  Animals too, with restlessness, anger, fatigue, or just plain curiosity, cavort and roll about, instigating the great ruckus of earthquakes felt by we who live above.  For instance:


  • In Japan, the monstrous catfish Namazu grows fidgety when deserted by the god appointed to his restraint. His thrashing about causes the destruction above ground.


  • A great mole, burrowing through the soils of India, creates its myriad of subterranean highways, shaking and reshaping the surface features of the landscape.


  • Triggering upheaval by an earthquake, the noble Tortoise of Algonquin myth, grown weary with supporting the planet, moves about in order to find a more comfortable position.



  • Finally, though perhaps not animal at all, various Asian stories are told of a different race living beneath the Earth’s surface, and with nothing less than curiosity, rattle the ground simply to discover whether anyone lives up above. (Andrews, T. (1998). A Dictionary of Nature Myths, pp. 62-63.)

Thus both the animal and animal figure is found to live richly beneath the organic surface of our planet and deep within the crevasses of our collective psyche. When the earth moves beneath us — on the surface or in our dreams — we might pause to wonder:  What — or who — within our imagination is also moving, stretching, asking for attention?

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