When you think of how terrifying and awesome storms can be, it is not too surprising that in ancient religions the top god was often the storm god whether it was Zeus brandishing his thunderbolt, Thor with his magic hammer, or Indra riding his multi-tusked elephant.
My new book Storm: Nature and Culture features some of the fascinating stories surrounding them - such as of how a wicked giant stole Thor’s hammer and demanded the hand of a princess in marriage as the price of its return. Thor disguised himself as the bride, and managed to escape detection at the wedding ceremony in spite of eating an ox and eight salmon. Then he grabbed the hammer and killed the giant.
The Maoris told of how the sky god made love so endlessly to the earth goddess that their children could never get out of her womb. Eventually one of the young gods managed to prise them apart, but this upset the storm god Tawhirimatea who had been quite happy inside his mother, and now became an unruly presence on land and sea.
Some rulers tried to imitate their storm god – such as a pre-Roman king of Alba Longa in Italy who declared he was more powerful than Jupiter. When it thundered, he ordered his soldiers to bang their shields to drown out the noise. He is said to have been struck dead by lightning.
Storms also play an important role in the Bible. A fearful rainstorm generates Noah’s flood, the mother of all hailstorms is one of the plagues of Egypt, Jonah is swallowed by a great fish after a storm at sea, and Christ calms a tempest on the Sea of Galilee.
For more, see Storm: Nature and Culture published by Reaktion Books.