Geomythology

 

At the moment, most members who attend our club meetings are aware that one of your newsletter co-editors (that would be me) is close to completing a master of arts in Oral Traditions. Only 5 months to go!
What you may not know is that I also work for Merriam-Webster, the dictionary company, at their headquarters on Federal Street, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
During the course of researching author quotations for our latest online release of Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, I came across Stanford professor and author Adrienne Mayor and her interest in “geomythology.”
Her books are geared toward the general user.
The term itself, as she writes in The First Fossil Hunters, was “coined in 1968 by Dorothy Vitaliano, a geologist interested in folklore, to describe etiological legends that explain—in poetic metaphor and mythological imagery—volcanoes, earthquakes, and landforms.
Her term would also apply to lore about conspicuous prehistoric fossils. As Vitaliano points out, geomyths can perpetuate popular misconceptions, but they can also contain insights about natural phenomena.” I find this quite an interesting concept.
We can all think of some favorite bit of lore from an ancient culture that explains the existence of a geological feature. Many old tales mention major disasters and natural occurrences.
It’s nice to see some recognition for the seeds of truth that exist in some of these old stories.
For geomyths for our region, check out the blog entries by the “Hudson Valley Geologist”
at: http://hudsonvalleygeologist.blogspot.com/2011/06/geomythology-part-i.html

—Maria Sansalone