FYI: The following is the abstract for my oral paper presentation at the upcoming North Carolina Academy of Science meeting to be held in Wilmington, NC March 22-23, 2019.
Science education, meteorology and myth: The lightning and wind gods of Japan.
This project derives from educational modules developed for teaching atmospheric science concepts to non-science, general education college students. Folklore and mythology are not proper history or science fact, however there may be persistent, underlying truths to the narrative themes inherent in folklore. Japan’s Shinto religion holds Raijin as a god of lightning and thunderstorms, and Fujin as the god of windstorms and tornadoes. There are rational, scientific reasons why the activities of these metaphysical sky deities persist into modern, secular Japanese culture. Although Raijin and Fujin were revered as “kami” or gods, they were depicted as demonic, destructive forces of nature in traditional Japanese art and architecture. This educational project will explain the science analogies which can be used to explain the Shinto allegory in Japanese culture. Meteorological lessons were made to describe, or at least reinforce the mythology as depicted in Japan’s art, architecture and land use. Myths such as Raijin’s penchant for eating the navels of children, or why Fujin’s skin is green, can be used as discussion points to illustrate meteorological principles in an interesting way for non-science majors. For example, all Japanese painters of the Edo Period depicted lightning flashes as red in color, even though lightning clearly is not red. It might have been artistic license, or perhaps there are meteorological reasons as to why lightning was always colored that way. This teaching module explains weather phenomenon such as gust fronts, nitrogen fixation by lightning, the destructive east winds of cyclones, and others. Through the use of atmospheric science concepts in the context of art and mythology, it is hoped that arts and humanities students will come to better appreciate meteorology. Geoscience majors in turn, could have basic meteorological concepts reinforced, and also gain a better appreciation for art, history and culture.
Feel free to contact me for a copy of the full presentation or collaborative ideas.
Update! Here is a slide show gallery of my presentation.