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Earthquake Origin Myths (Part 2)

Earthquake Origin Myth in Japan.

According to Japanese belief, the giant catfish Namazu (in Japanese, Namazu 鯰 or Ōnamazu 大鯰) causes earthquakes when it wiggles its tail beneath the Japanese mainland. The shaking causes an earthquake in the human upper world. Even though Namazu depictions have been known since the fifteenth century in Japan, it was only in the late eighteenth century that the catfish became associated with natural disasters, especially earthquakes1.

Earthquake origin myth in Japan

Scandinavian Earthquake Origin Story.

Scandinavia’s earthquake origin myth attributed earthquakes to the god Loki. The story says that Loki murdered his brother Baldur. Because of this act, he was punished and tied to a rock in an underground cave with a poisonous serpent above his head that dripped venom. In order to save Loki, his wife Sigyn stood next to him with a bowl to catch the poison. However, when she left him to empty the full bowl, the poison dripped on his face. In order to avoid the venom, he twisted and writhed, causing the earth to shake2.

Earthquake Origin myth

Earthquake Origin Myth in Fiji.

According to Fiji mythology, the god of earthquakes is Degei, who is also associated with one of the most known Fijian myths of creation. In the beginning, there was only water and obscurity; only the island of gods floated around the edge of the world. When the Degei was asleep, nighttime came over the land; and if he was traversing the globe, earthquakes shook the earth and storms broke loose. When he woke up, daytime would come. The popular belief is that the god Degei is still alive and dwells in a cave in the Nakauvadra mountain range in Viti Levu3.

Earthquake origin myth

Siberian Kamchatka and God Tuli.

According to the legend from Siberian Kamchatka, a god named Tuli caused earthquakes. He had a giant sled driven by dogs, which carried the earth. When the dogs would scratch at their fleas, the shaking would then cause earth-shaking4.

earthquake origin myth

Earthquake Origin Myths in Africa.

Last but not least, in different parts of Africa, several earthquake legends have arisen. In West Africa, one of the most widely spread earthquake origin myth is about the earth as a flat disk, which is held up by an enormous mountain in the west. And in the east, it is held by a giant, while the giant’s wife holds up the sky. When the giant stops to hug his wife, the earth trembles and causes earthquakes5.

Another West African earthquake origin myth talks about a giant who carries the earth on his head. All the plants that grow on the Earth are his hair, and people and animals are the insects that crawl through his hair. He usually sits and faces the east, but once in a while, he turns to the west and then back to the east, with a jolt that is felt as an earthquake5.

Earthquake Origin Myth in Africa

East Africans believe that the cow is responsible for earthquakes. The cow stands on a huge flat stone; and the stone, in turn, is resting on the back of a giant fish. The cow balances the earth on the tip of one of its long horns, but the weight of this sometimes causes her neck to ache. When the aching gets too severe, it tosses the globe onto the other horn. It is this movement that causes the earth to shake5.

1) Bressan, David. 2019. Giant Oarfish ‘Warning’ Of Coming Earthquake And Tsunami Is More Myth Than Science. Accessed on 27-Dec-2022. Available at:
2) USGS. Earthquake Legends. Accessed on 27-Dec-2022. Available at:
3) Amura World. Narratives About the Origins. Accessed on 27-Dec-2022. Available at:
4) Cram. Myths In Ancient Greek Earthquakes. Accessed on 27-Dec-2022. Available at:
5) Kött, Anne. 2016. Earthquake Myths From Around the World. Accessed on 27-Dec-2022. Available at: