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Debby Correia Flood

Essay by   •  June 24, 2015  •  Article Review  •  865 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,196 Views

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Floods and other natural catastrophes are common elements to folklore most likely because they occur globally and throughout history have likely impacted almost every culture. Many early societies saw nature as either an active actor or a medium through which gods communicated. This has often meant that floods, earthquakes, or volcano eruptions are interpreted as purposeful events. Because these events can be so devastating and traumatic, I think it is important to reference psychology and to see the universality in the human mind trying to make sense of such horrible things. In making sense of catastrophes, identifying a cause or trigger, such as immoral behavior, can give people a peace of mind because preventing the event from reoccurring is as simple as altering behavior. Specifically, floods are closely related to another common symbol. Water and the ocean are almost universally connected to deeper meanings. Water is powerful enough to cause destruction but also gentle enough and necessary to sustain life. In the bible baptism arose out of the idea that water is cleansing and purifying. The symbol of a flood not only serves as a punishment but also purifies the immortality and sin from the area. Furthermore, water is an essential component for growth so that when the flood recedes, life resumes again. This symbolism of water being both traumatic and destructive but also purifying and healing is a universality of our natural lives and automatically makes it a strong and cross cultural component in folklore. Maya. People likely knew from the earliest days that water was necessary to life, and yet could take life. That must have led to some powerful roles for water in lots of early tales.

Flood by my estimation could have it's roots in biblical writings and other forms of literature from that time period. People often associated "bad things" that happened without warning upon the wrath of their deity or God for lack of any other viable explanation. They were clearly unaware of meteorological science at the time and were placed under great stress by the flood itself. A seemingly natural deduction would be that the Gods were upset with some form of known or unknown disobedience within the society impacted. It seems to me that wrath of the Gods or God that they worshiped. We are probably most familiar with the example of the flood in the Christian Bible where Noah was selected to save the creatures of Earth and he and his family were spared the wrath of God in the form of a world destroying flood. This entire account was one of a society of people being disobedient and then punished by God. It only follows in my mind that this story and others like it were passed on to warn those that heard it that upsetting the Gods could have not only personal but also societal ramifications. I look at it as a form of folklore that was intended to preserve society as people knew it.

The flood cuts across so many cultures and fills so many stories it might be the ultimate universal in folklore, especially, as Kluckhohn notes, when related catastrophes are considered. It follows a pretty familiar pattern: A deity tells the mortals don't do X, they do lots of X, so the deity punishes the mortals with a calamity that kills all or at least most of them.

The motif flows through so many folk tales for two big reasons. One, most cultures at some point experienced a catastrophic flood (or fire, blizzard, swarm of locusts) that comes without warning, leaving behind a few people to pick up the pieces and wonder, "Why the hell did that happen to us?" Here's an explanation: That X that we're not supposed to do is likely a behavior that we really like to do. But we think we're not supposed to do it. And maybe we aren't. Which leads to its significance and function.

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