Geomythogenesis

by S. P. Hofrichter




Mythogenesis is the study of how myths are created. Geomythology is the theory, originally proposed by DB Vitaliano and later expanded upon by Barber and Barber, that many myths begin as misunderstood or misattributed geological events that grew to become widespread, well-known myths. I call the process of creating myths based on geological events geomythogenesis.


Ragnarǫk, the Old Norse tale of the 'end of the world,' is told in full detail in the poem Vǫluspá (Prophecy of the Seeress), as well as Snorra Edda (the Edda of Snorri). It is described in lesser detail in Baldrs Draumar (the Dreams of Baldr), Hydluljóð (the Song of Hyndla), and Vafþrúðnismál (the Sayings of Vafþrúðnir). Although the descriptions vary depending on the narrator and the poet, every description has several factors in common: Baldr’s murder by Loki; the invasion of the enemies of the gods into Ásgarðr; the fiery destruction of the world, culminating in the deaths of the entire race of giants, the majority of the gods, and every human except two; and the rebirth of a brand-new, better world from the ashes of the old.


Although trying to find the origin story for popular or famous myths is typically a fruitless endeavour, many experts across many different fields – from philology to geophysics to astronomy – have noted that a significant climate event of unknown aetiology occurred around 536 CE, which had wide-ranging effects on the societies of the time. From summer snows in Byzantine to the Scandinavian Migration Period, the mid-sixth century was a time of upheaval.


The story of ragnarǫk, with its chronology of events, specific and recurring themes, and unusual characteristics of the narrative, correlates to several possible geological events. The concept of ragnarǫk as a fiery end to the world may have been conceived during the 536 CE climate catastrophe which devastated much of mainland Europe, but several characteristics, analysed below, suggest the addition of a localised, Icelandic flavour to the tale by the time of transcription.  



RAGNARǪK: METAPHOR VS REALITY


How much of the tale of ragnarǫk should be taken literally, and how much of it should be considered metaphor?  The largest argument against reading  ragnarǫk in a literal sense is the impossibility of many of the events that occur: a giant snake, so large that it encompasses the earth, breaks free and floods the world; a giant wolf holds the world in his jaws; that same wolf fathers two children on a giantess, and those two children swallow the Sun and the Moon; the dead return to life and go to war; a giant who wields a fiery sword that shines ‘brighter than the Sun’ burns the world to ashes; a brand new world arises, filled with crops and life without having planted anything.[1]


However, not all events surrounding ragnarǫk are metaphorical, either.  As Barber and Barber explain, the Principle of Metaphoric Reality states that with time, the distinction between a representation of an event and the event itself become blurred, to the point where the former is the latter.[2]  Furthermore, the language in Vǫluspá can be stylised in one stanza and almost scientific in another.  For example, both the Codex Regius and the Hauksbók versions of Vǫluspá contain this stanza, which can be read literally and accurately:


Sól tér sortna, sígr fold í mar,

Hverfa af himni heiðar stjǫrnur;

Geisar eimi við aldrnara,

Leikr hár hiti við himin sjálfan.

(The Sun turns black, land sinks into the sea

The bright stars vanish from the sky;

Steam rises up and the conflagration,

Hot flame plays high against heaven itself).[3]


The Sun becoming black, the sudden onrush of water onto land, the disappearance of the stars, the appearance of steam from a high, burning fire…none of these occurrences are given an explanation.  The absence of an explanation implies that one is not needed – Barber and Barber’s Silence Principle.[4] We are being presented with factual observations – the final observations before the last iteration of the repeated stanza, describing Garm barking and Fenrir breaking loose, and the vǫlva’s tantalising promise that she knows more than she has said so far, followed by the rebirth of the new world from the ashes of the old.


These observations, given without assigning cause or blame, can - and I argue, should - be read literally.  A similarly observational stanza within the Codex Regius version of the poem reads:


…Svǫrt verða sólskin of sumur eptir,

Veðr ǫll válynd. Vituð ér enn - eða hvat?

(Sunshine becomes black the summers after,

Weather all dangerous. Would you know more, or what?)[5]


The footnote to this stanza in the Íslenzk Fornrit compilation reads, ‘Sumir telja lýsingu þessarar vísu benda til að skáldið hafi þekkt eldgos og öskufall.’(Translation: ‘Some consider the description of this verse to suggest that the poet had known volcanic eruptions and volcanic ash’.) With an estimated composition date of late 10th century for Vǫluspá, and Iceland being the only actively volcanic area in Scandinavia, it is not unreasonable to interpret this stanza, as well as stanza 55 (49 in the Hauksbók version), quite literally.  If the assumption in the footnote is accurate, and the poet was personally familiar with volcanic eruptions and ash, then that would imply an interpolation of local Icelandic volcanism into the ragnarǫk tale.


That being said, Icelandic eruptions, while certainly destructive and violent, do not have the capacity to cause a global cooling period of fifteen years, such as was seen during the 536CE event[6] mentioned above. Furthermore, the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Project, which attempts to collect data from as many volcanic eruptions as possible over the last 10,000 years, has no data of any sizeable Icelandic eruptions occurring in the sixth century.[7] So, if the poet was familiar with Icelandic volcanism, and as both ragnarǫk and the 536 CE event had global repercussions, this interpolation of Icelandic volcanism is possibly meant to add veracity to the tale, with the poet or scribe adding details he or she personally witnessed. As a result, the modern audience is privy to witnessing the Principle of Temporal Flattening firsthand.


Of course, the amount of ragnarǫk that can be interpreted literally is very limited; the poem is almost exclusively metaphorical in its description of the end of the world.



ICELANDIC METAPHORS


Icelandic literature maintains metaphors specific to its unique location, climate, and geology.  According to Simek, Surtr, the fire giant from the south, ‘was obviously thought of as being a mighty giant who ruled the powers of (volcanic) fire of the Underworld.’  He adds, though, that ‘the concept of Surtr as the enemy of the gods probably did not, originate in Iceland.’  He finishes by noting several local Icelandic place-names, such as Surtsey (’Surtr’s Island’) and Surtshellir (‘Surtr’s Caves’).[8]


I believe that other recurring characters also serve a similar purpose in the description of ragnarǫk: Miðgarðsormr, the jǫtnar (giants) and dvergar (dwarves), and Þórr (Thor) all play the roles of local, Icelandic metaphors.



SURTR


Simek’s assertion that Surtr is a metaphor for Icelandic volcanism can be validated in both Vǫluspá and Gylfaginning, when the fire giant appears.  Vǫluspá 51 asserts that ‘Surtr ferr sunnan með sviga lævi/ skínn af sverði sól valtíva/ …en himinn klofnar’  (‘Surt comes from the south with branches-ruin/ the slaughter-gods’ sun glances from his sword/…and the sky splits apart’).[9]  Gylfaginning 4 says:

Þá mælir Þriði: ‘Fyrst var þó sá heimr í suðrhálfu er Muspell heitir. Hann er ljóss ok heitr. Sú átt er logandi ok brennandi, er hann ok ófœrr þeim er þar eru útlendir ok eigi eigu þar óðul. Sá er Surtr nefndr er þar sitr á lands enda til landvarnar. Hann hefir loganda sverð, ok í enda veraldar mun hann fara ok herja ok sigra ǫll goðin ok brenna allan heim með eldi.  (Translation: ‘Then spoke Third: ‘But first there was the world in the southern region called Muspell. It is bright and hot. That area is flaming and burning and it is impassable for those that are foreigners there and are not native to it. There is one called Surt that is stationed there at the frontier to defend the land. He has a flaming sword and at the end of the world he will go and wage war and defeat all the gods and burn the whole world with fire’.)


Finally, Gylfaginning 51 recapitulates Vǫluspá’s image of Surtr’s arrival from the South:


Í þessum gný klofnar himinninn ok ríða þaðan Muspells synir. Surtr ríðr fyrst ok fyrir honum ok eptir bæði eldr brennandi. Sverð hans er gott mjǫk. Af því skínn bjartara en af sólu. (Translation: ‘Amid this turmoil the sky will open and from it will ride the sons of Muspell. Surt will ride in front, and both before and behind him there will be burning fire. His sword will be very fine. Light will shine from it more brightly than from the Sun’.)


In each of these cases, Surtr comes from the south, a region repeatedly referenced with respect to flame, heat, and light; he comes bearing fire (‘branches-ruin’ is a common kenning format for flame); he possesses a good sword that shines more brightly than the Sun; and he will burn the world to ash.


According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Project, Iceland experienced twenty-six confirmed volcanic eruptions between 875 CE and 1150 CE[10], the time period ranging from Iceland's settlement period to well after the collation of the written ragnarǫk myths. Of these eruptions, sixteen occurred in the south or southwestern part of the island; nine occurred in the northeastern part; and one occurred in the western part.  Eleven eruptions were assigned to the Volcanic Explosivity Index: ten of them occurred in the south or southwestern part of the island; one of them occurred in the western part.  Of those that were assigned VEI numbers, two of these eruptions were given a 4 (similar in scope to the 2010 Eylafjallajökull eruption), and one was given a 5 (similar in scope to the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption or the 79 CE Vesuvius eruption).  The VEI 4 eruptions belonged to Katla, a sub-glacial volcano to the south; the VEI 5 eruption was the infamous 1104 eruption of Hekla, which earned it the title amongst contemporary European monks ‘The Gateway to Hell’.[11]


With the volcanoes erupting in this time period frequently, violently, and from the south, it is not surprising to find that Surtr – the only giant to not live in the East, as Simek notes – is a local metaphor for volcanism.



MIÐGARÐSORMR


References to the Midgard Serpent (ON Miðgarðsormr) include three recurring themes: his size, his residence at the bottom of the ocean, and his venomous breath.  He is briefly mentioned in Gylfaginning as the son of Loki by the giantess Angrbóða,[12] and he becomes the focus of Þórr’s (Thor’s) rage after the god’s humiliating defeats at the giant-games in Útgarðr,[13] where the Midgard Serpent played a role in embarrassing Þórr and his companions.  His main role in the mythology, however, is that during ragnarǫk, he floods the world and poisons Þórr before succumbing to his own injuries.


The description in Vǫluspá of Þórr’s death puts a curious emphasis on how men of nearby homesteads react:


Þá kǫmr inn mæri mǫgr Hlǫðynjar,

gengr Óðins sonr við orm vega

Drepr hann af móði Miðgarðs véurr

- Munu halir allir heimstǫð ryðja -

Gengr fet níu Fjǫrgynjar burr

Neppr frá naðri níðs ókvíðnum. (Translation: ‘Then comes Hlodyn’s glorious boy:

Odin’s son advances to fight the serpent/ he strikes in wrath Midgard’s-protector/ - all men must abandon their homesteads -/ nine steps Fiorgyn’s child takes, exhausted/ from the serpent which fears no shame’.)


Because the fourth line insists that men must flee their ‘homesteads’ - their farms - it appears that the Midgard Serpent’s poison does not affect Þórr alone.  The next stanza further describes the destruction wrought by the Serpent: sígr fold í mar’[14] (‘land sinks into the sea’), while Snorri adds that the Serpent will poison both the sea and the sky.[15]


As we have already seen, the volcanic eruptions that occurred between Iceland’s settlement and the possible transcription of both Vǫluspá and Gylfaginning took place primarily in the southern part of the island - giving rise to the myth of Surtr the Fire Giant.  However, historically, volcanic eruptions from this part of the country consist of more than fire and ash.


In 1783, the Laki fissure volcanoes in south-central Iceland erupted over the course of ten months.  Although this eruption was mostly lava-flow – in other words, it was not an explosive eruption – it released higher-than-normal amounts of fluorine, which ultimately killed 50-80% of the livestock in Iceland.[16] While the Laki eruptions are considered catastrophic, especially since they affected global climatology in the years to follow, recent Icelandic volcanism shows large amounts of fluorine, as well.[17]


Fluorine is a reactive, pale yellow gas, with a ‘characteristic pungent odour’ that is present in very small amounts. Because it is a reactive element, it will combine with almost every other element. When it combines with water, it forms a compound known as HF, or hydrofluoric acid. Hydrofluoric acid is unusual in that direct skin contact is painless, but even small amounts of skin contact (25 square inches) can be fatal. HF is corrosive, but also very easily absorbed; as a result, HF poisoning can occur through skin or eye contact, inhalation, or ingestion. If it is absorbed through the skin, it will interfere with the skeletal system by essentially stripping the bones of their calcium; this can lead to cardiac arrest and death.[18] This is known as skeletal fluorosis.


Considering Iceland has never been home to snakes, and given the hydrofluoric nature of subglacial volcanoes, it is not implausible that a local eruption became conflated with the myth of the World Serpent and the approach of the giant Surtr - what Barber and Barber call ‘Compression.’[19]



ÞÓRR


Simek explains that Þórr was a god of the farmer/warrior class, a god of fertility and protection.  He is also a god of thunder, although he likely did not serve this purpose in Iceland.[20]  Although Adam of Bremen reportedly associated him with all manner of weather, in Iceland it seems probable that his purpose was to protect farmers and farmland.[21]


Þórr’s primary enemies are the giants and the Midgard Serpent, although Simek points out that he and Loki also have a love/hate relationship: Loki offers to help Þórr retrieve his hammer when it has been stolen (Þrymskviða), but when Loki oversteps his bounds amongst the other Æsir, Þórr is the one called to rein him in (Lokasenna).


Although it is feasible that Surtr, as an embodiment of volcanic fire, would have also been a primary enemy of Þórr’s, Þórr appears to focus his energies on destroying the Midgard Serpent and the giants.



THE JǪTNAR AND DVERGAR


The giants and dwarves (ON jǫtnar and dvergar) are frequently referenced in connection to the foundations of the earth, although dwarves appear to be specifically mountain-dwellers.  Lotte Motz explains that the terms ‘dwarf’ and ‘giant’ are often used interchangeably, even whilst describing the same character. Additionally, giants are often indistinguishable from the gods, until they get angry.[22]


According to Snorri, Midgard, where mankind dwells, is made from the corpse of the very first giant, Ymir, thereby cementing the connection between giant and earth.[23]  When Surtr comes from the south in stanza 51 of Vǫluspá, we are told that the cliffs are crashing and trolls are being thrown down, while heaven splits.[24]  In the stanza just before, we are warned of dwarves, the wise ones of the mountains, ‘groan[ing] before their rocky doors’.


I therefore argue that the giants and dwarves here are metaphors for earthquakes.  However, it would be foolish to try to determine if they are earthquakes that precede volcanic eruptions or not; this description may, in fact, be one of the older geological references in the poem.  The Norwegian Seismic Array (NORSAR) notes that Norway experiences moderate earthquakes (between 5 and 6 on the Richter Scale) regularly, despite being in the middle of a plate. A magnitude 5 or 6 is roughly equivalent to a VI on the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, meaning that it would be felt by everyone, would do significant damage to poorly built structures (by modern standards), and would be able to move heavy items in a household. This could also explain why the giants live to the east, despite most of the volcanic activity in Iceland occurring to the south and the seismic activity in Norway occurring in the west: western Norway is still east of Iceland.



TRANSCRIPTION, TRANSMISSION, AND TALL TALES


Gräslund and Price state that the Old Norse poems which deal with mythology ‘were finally put into order around the turn of the first millennium AD, before being committed to vellum some 150-200 years later.  That said, it is equally clear that they are merely the end result of centuries of addition and reworking, and that they contain numerous elements that go back to at least the fifth century.’[25]

Gísli Sigurðsson agrees, adding that, ‘even though the exact words [of the oral texts] would have been comparatively flexible, the overall framework and mindset that lay behind them may have been much more stable.’[26]  In other words, the way the stories were told may have changed, but the foundations would have remained intact.  This means that, depending on where the stories of ragnarǫk originated, we might see evidence of the 536 event, or local Icelandic volcanism, or both, or neither.[27]


Gräslund and Price argue that ‘the core of the Norse stories can be confidently dated to the later Iron Age (c. AD 550-1000)’ and that the tales of ragnarǫk are unusually specific in their descriptions of climatological catastrophe.  They further cite the abrupt change in iconography on the Gotland picture stones: prior to the sixth century, the stones features solar discs; after the mid-sixth century, the imagery changed to more conventional pictures and symbols of the Norse deities as they are seen in the Viking Age.[28]

However, it seems a bit improbable that the poetic and prosaic descriptions of ragnarǫk as we have them today are a perfect description of events as they occurred in 536.  Indeed, Gísli argues that, despite an oral text’s loyalty to the original story and structure, it was subject to subtle changes with each retelling, according to the political, moral, and social conditions at the time of the retelling.  Furthermore, the text would have undergone additional stress during the transcription process - turning an oral story into a written one - as the scribe sought to put to writing a tale that had previously enjoyed the extra dimensions of tone-of-voice and body movement.[29]


Cashman and Cronin note, when analysing interviews with modern catastrophe survivors, that hyperbolic metaphors serve ‘to place unfamiliar events into a familiar framework’, which may eventually ‘supply local populations with defiant heroes and supernatural explanations of the events.’[30]  The surviving society’s primary goal after a major catastrophe is to make the catastrophe understandable to the layperson; only by understanding, can the culture work through the trauma and move forward.[31]


Barber and Barber likewise insist that hyperbole is standard, but for a different reason: hyperbolic scenarios are memorable, and preliterate societies, who relied on oral transmission, would have needed to condense the most pertinent information to ensure reliable transmission.  They insist that many myths contain real, quantifiable data, but that modern literate societies have lost the ability to decode this data, because we can use writing in lieu of human memory. ‘Without writing, people had to both winnow out the key information, presumably according to perceived importance, and to compress it by any means possible until it fit into the available channel: human memory.’[32]


As a result, descriptions that would have been accurate at the time of mythogenesis become understood by later (literate) audiences as exaggeration and fancy - completely unreliable.  This is what Barber and Barber refer to as the ‘Baby With the Bathwater Reflex.’[33]

For example, Surtr’s sword is described in both Vǫluspá and Gylfaginning as shining more brightly than the Sun.  From an astronomical perspective, the Sun’s apparent magnitude (V) is -26.74, making it the brightest object in the sky.[34]  However, we know from contemporary sources that during the 536 CE event, the Sun ‘gave forth its light without brightness, like the Moon…and it seemed exceedingly like the Sun in eclipse.’[35]  A full moon has V= -12.74, while a half moon has V= -10.15 and a new moon has V= -4.09.  These measurements make sense - the more the Moon wanes over the course of a month, the dimmer the light it sheds appears.[36]

If the Sun has lost its radiance and is shining like the Moon, we can assume that its apparent magnitude has dropped significantly.  In fact, the second description of the Sun’s dimness, as though it stood ‘in eclipse’, can be verified by calculations done by British Astronomer David W. Hughes during the total solar eclipse in Cornwall in 1999: he estimates that, at totality (when the Sun is completely eclipsed), the apparent magnitude was -9.6, less than that of a half moon.[37]


Meanwhile, a large forest fire has the same brightness to a local observer as a lava flow.[38]  By using the calculations suggested by JB Calvert of the University of Denver to convert Illumination (measured in lux, which is a lumen/m^2) into apparent magnitude, we find that a sizeable fire on the scale of the 2014 Västmanland fire in Sweden would have produced light equivalent to an apparent magnitude of -24.1,[39] from a distance (radius) of one mile.  In other words, not brighter than the Sun at full strength on a cloudless day, but certainly brighter than a Sun that has been occluded by stratospheric volcanic ash and sulphuric acid deposits.


What this means is that the poetic descriptions of Surtr’s sword shining more brightly than the Sun were likely faithful to the actual brightness of the flames and/or lava flows compared to a dimmed Sun.  Additionally, despite the fact that Surtr is an Icelandic metaphor for volcanism, the interpretation holds up against both the 536 CE event and a local eruption.[40]



CONCLUSION


Many references to this climate change can be found throughout the tales of ragnarǫk: two deadly winters, lasting three years each; kith and kin turning on each other; the stars, moon, and sun vanishing; and so forth. But many more details regarding ragnarǫk can be attributed to survivors of active, local, Icelandic volcanism: poisonous fumes, earthquakes, flooding, red flames in the sky, dead men traveling north...the list continues.


Ultimately, the roots of a myth matter less to modern audiences than its entertainment value; however, nothing is created in a vacuum, and geomythogenesis is one suggested root for the widespread mountain range that is Norse mythology.




[1] Gylf; Vsp.

[2] Barber, E. J. W., and Paul Barber. When They Severed Earth From Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), 2004. 96.

[3] CR 55; H 49.

[4] Barber and Barber, When They Severed, 17.

[5] Vsp 40:3-4 (CR). Translation my own.

[6] Gräslund, Bo, and Neil Price. ‘Twilight of the Gods? The ‘Dust Veil Event’ of AD 536 in Critical Perspective.’ Antiquity 86, (2012).

[7] ‘Sizeable’ here referring to a 6 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, or higher.

[8] Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology, s.v. ‘Surtr’.

[9] Vsp 51:1-2.

[10] ‘Smithsonian Institution - Global Volcanism Program: Worldwide Holocene Volcano and Eruption Information’. http://volcano.si.edu/.

[11] Sigurður Þórarinsson. Hekla: A Notorious Volcano. Reykjavík: Almenna Bókafelagid, 1970.

[12] Gylf 34.

[13] Gylf 44-48.

[14] Vsp 55.

[15] Gylf 51.

[16] Thordarson, T., and S. Self. ‘The Laki (Skaftár Fires) and Grímsvötn Eruptions in 1783-1785.’ Bulletin of Volcanology 55, no. 4 (1993).

[17] The 2010 eruption of Eylafjallajökull also recorded a high fluorine content. ‘Eyjafjallajökull Eruption 20th March to June 2010’. Tephrabase: Eyjafjallajökull Eruption 2010. http://www.tephrabase.org/ey2010.html.

[18] Honeywell Hydrofluoric Acid: Recommended Medical Treatment for Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure. Morristown, NJ, 2009.  Web archive: http://www51.honeywell.com/sm/hfacid/common/documents/HF_medical_book.pdf.

[19] Barber and Barber, When they Severed, 117.

[20] For the mechanics of thunderstorm creation, please see the primer for severe weather offered by the United States National Severe Storms Laboratory: http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/thunderstorms/

[21] Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology, s.v. ‘Thor’.

[22] Motz, Lotte. ‘Giants in Folklore and Mythology: A New Approach’. Folklore 93.1 (1982): 70-84.

[23] Gylf 8.

[24] Larrington translates part of this stanza as ‘the troll-women are abroad’, but Íslensk Fornrit advises a synonym of ‘steypast’ which would be akin to ‘are thrown down’. The whole stanza appears to describe a forceful volcanic eruption, particularly if the splitting heavens are a description of volcanic lightning.

[25] Gräslund and Price, Twilight, 437.

[26] Gísli Sigurðsson. ‘Vǫluspá As the Product of an Oral Tradition: What Does That Entail?’ In The Nordic Apocalypse: Approaches to Vǫluspá and Nordic Days of Judgement, ed. Terry Gunnell and Annette Lassen, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), 48.

[27] Of course, a wide degree of interpretation can play into what the reader sees in ragnarǫk as well.

[28] Gräslund and Price, Twilight, 437-8.

[29] Gísli, Vǫluspá, 49.

[30] Cashman, Katharine V., and Shane J. Cronin. ‘Welcoming a Monster to the World: Myths, Oral Tradition, and Modern Societal Response to Volcanic Disasters.’ Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 176, (2008): 413.

[31] Cashman and Cronin, Monster, 415.

[32] Barber and Barber, When They Severed, 3.

[33] Barber and Barber, When They Severed, 27.

[34] Stellar magnitude is measured in inverse relation to the observer: brighter objects have smaller numbers, while dimmer objects have larger numbers.

[35] Stothers, Richard B., and Michael R. Rampino. ‘Volcanic Eruptions in the Mediterranean before A.D. 630 from Written and Archaeological Sources.’ Journal of Geophysical Research 88, (1983): 6362.

[36] For current apparent magnitudes of most of the planets and satellites in our Solar System, see the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s HORIZON Interface: ‘HORIZONS’. HORIZONS Web-Interface. http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/horizons.cgi.

[37] Hughes, David W. ‘Brightness During A Solar Eclipse’. Journal of the British Astronomical Association 110, (2000): 203-05.

[38] Flynn, Luke P., and Peter J. Mouginis-Mark. ‘A Comparison of the Thermal Characteristics of Active Lava Flows and Forest Fires’. Geophys. Res. Lett. Geophysical Research Letters 22, no. 19 (1995): 2577-580. doi:10.1029/95gl02427.

[39] Calvert, J. ‘Stellar Magnitudes’. University of Denver. http://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/astro/magnitud.htm.

The values used for my calculations are: the light from a candle flame is 13 lumens, and is 1 square inch, on average. The Västmanland fire destroyed at least 37,000 acres of forest.  37,000 acres = 2.321*10^11 sq. in.

[40] In the case of the 536 event, the flames would have had other origins than volcanic, as previously discussed.  Funeral pyres, perhaps.






WORKS CITED

Barber, E. J. W., and Paul Barber. When They Severed Earth From Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press), 2004. 96.

Calvert, J. ‘Stellar Magnitudes’. University of Denver. http://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/astro/magnitud.htm.


Cashman, Katharine V., and Shane J. Cronin. ‘Welcoming a Monster to the World: Myths, Oral Tradition, and Modern Societal Response to Volcanic Disasters.’ Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 176, (2008): 413.


Flynn, Luke P., and Peter J. Mouginis-Mark. ‘A Comparison of the Thermal Characteristics of Active Lava Flows and Forest Fires’. Geophys. Res. Lett.

Geophysical Research Letters 22, no. 19 (1995): 2577-580. doi:10.1029/95gl02427.


Gísli Sigurðsson. ‘Vǫluspá As the Product of an Oral Tradition: What Does That Entail?’ In The Nordic Apocalypse: Approaches to Vǫluspá and Nordic Days of Judgement, ed. Terry Gunnell and Annette Lassen, (Turnhout: Brepols, 2012), 48.


Gräslund, Bo, and Neil Price. ‘Twilight of the Gods? The ‘Dust Veil Event’ of AD 536 in Critical Perspective.’ Antiquity 86, (2012).


Guðni Jónsson, comp. Islenzk Fornrit. Vol. 1. Reykjavík: Islenzka Fornritafélag, 1933.


Hofrichter, SP. “Vanished Suns, Venomous Snakes, and Völuspá: A Geomythological Analysis of the Old Norse Apocalypse” (master’s thesis, University of Aberdeen, 2016.)


Honeywell Hydrofluoric Acid: Recommended Medical Treatment for Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure. Morristown, NJ, 2009.  Web archive: http://www51.honeywell.com/sm/hfacid/common/documents/HF_medical_book.pdf.


Hughes, David W. ‘Brightness During A Solar Eclipse’. Journal of the British Astronomical Association 110, (2000): 203-05.


Larrington, Carolyne, trans. The Poetic Edda. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Motz, Lotte. ‘Giants in Folklore and Mythology: A New Approach’. Folklore 93.1 (1982): 70-84.


Sigurður Þórarinsson. Hekla: A Notorious Volcano. Reykjavík: Almenna Bókafelagid, 1970.


Simek, Rudolf. Dictionary of Northern Mythology. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1993.


‘Smithsonian Institution - Global Volcanism Program: Worldwide Holocene Volcano and Eruption Information’. http://volcano.si.edu/.


Snorri Sturluson. Edda. Translated by Anthony Faulkes. London: Dent, 1995


Stothers, Richard B., and Michael R. Rampino. ‘Volcanic Eruptions in the Mediterranean before A.D. 630 from Written and Archaeological Sources.’ Journal of Geophysical Research 88, (1983): 6362.


Thordarson, T., and S. Self. ‘The Laki (Skaftár Fires) and Grímsvötn Eruptions in 1783-1785.’ Bulletin of Volcanology 55, no. 4 (1993).




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