Sunday, December 12, 2004

Dueling volcanoes, continued

The battle between deities of the volcanoes Mt. Pinatubo and Mt. Arayat, I submit, tells of a real simultaneous or near-simultaneous eruption of two adjacent volcanoes.

The eruptive event triggers major migrations and causes changes in the existing Nusantao trade network. There are indications that two major clans come to unite in order to deal with newly-arising situations. In the legend these clans are represented by Munag Sumalâ, the red dawn serpent and Manalastas, the rooster. Their son is Tala, the Morning Star (Venus).

The eruptions may have taken place during a Venus transit alluded to in the descent of Tala to earth. As to whether people in ancient times knew of Venus transits, I know of only one example where King Montezuma appears to have seen the transit of 1518. There are, though, other examples of Austronesian peoples able to spot astronomical bodies that are very difficult to perceive with the naked eye. For example, there is documentation that Polynesians knew of the moons of Jupiter. In comparison, a Venus transit is much more visible although it does require some means to view the Sun without damaging the eyes. Could the smoke of a volcano have provided this eye protection?

The timing of the clan union would be well before 3,000 BC as there are a few historical and legendary sources that help arrive at this timing. One of these is the Chinese legendary history of Fu Hsi and Nu Gua. The marriage of these two members of the Dong Yi peoples also represented the union of Fu Hsi's bird clan and Nu Gua's dragon/serpent clan. The same totems represented by Manalastas and Munag Sumalâ respectively.

The best dating in my opinion -- the one that matches other evidence that will be discussed later -- is James Legge's 3,322 BC. The eruptions themselves, based on archaeological data that I feel is connected, may have taken place during a Venus transit sometime before 3,500 BC.

The union of the dragon/serpent and bird clans was an important event in the "escalation" that had been taking place for centuries in the Nusantao trade network. How do these clans relate to the two spiritual camps I mentioned earlier?

Well, in reality there may not be simply a Yin and Yang camp, but two Yin camps and two Yang camps. Each camp, composed of different clans and peoples, had its Yin and Yang components. They differed in that one was more "traditional," which in this case meant more inclusive and non-materialistic, and the other was more exclusive and materialistic.

What I mean by "inclusive" and "exclusive" here relates directly to the materialistic viewpoint. The more materialistic camp uses exclusion as a means of increasing wealth among the ruling group. The elite are an exclusive group entry into which requires a process of severe assimilation. The traditional camp is more inclusive but in this process a very powerful and wealthy elite is largely absent.

In a trade network it might seem like the materialistic side would have all the advantages. However, the exclusive nature might also foster divisiveness especially if no group is able to establish outright superiority among the allied clans.

I will suggest that the traditional camp was able to secure strong leadership earlier by the union of the dragon and bird clans. These two clans already powerful in their own right, were able after uniting to lead the coalition of traditional clans and groups.

The process of materialization among the Nusantao is most visible in the archaeological record. Among the Dawenkou, as we have noted earlier, the grave sites show increasing signs of social stratification with the passage of time. By the Lungshan period, large forts herald the problems inherent with clan warfare.

A good portion of Oppenheimer's Eden in the East is focused on comparing myths and folklore that the author believes were dispersed following Sundaland migrations. Many of these myths appear directly linked to historical events. I would suggest that this volcanic incident was also captured in the widely-diffused myths. One of these reached India.

You will find this on the subcontinent in the legend of the Churning of the Milky Ocean. I will post a part of this story as told in the Mahabhrata and then discuss it more in the next posting.

" Vasuki was forcefully pulled up and down by the Gods, puffs of fire and smoke belched forth from his mouth. The clouds of smoke became massive clouds with lightning flashes and rained down on the troops of Gods, who were weakening with the heat and fatigue...All kinds of creatures that inhabit the deep were crushed asunder by the big mountain ...and the mountain drove sea animals of all sorts, such as dwell in the submarine abysses, to their destruction...The friction of the trees started fire after fire, covering the mountain with flames like a black monsoon cloud with lightening streaks...many juices of herbs and manifold resins of the trees flowed into the water of the ocean. And with the milk of these juices that had the power of the Elixir, and with the exudation of the molten gold, the God attained immortality. The water of the ocean now turned into milk, and from this milk butter floated up, mingled with the finest of essences."

(Mahabharata, translated by J.A.B. Van Buitenen, vol. I, pp. 73-74)

Paul Kekai Manansala