Back in the 16th century, the natives of Arequipa in the Andean mountains of Peru led a simple, uncluttered existence, pounding stuff on rocks, doing folk dances and sacrificing bits of clothing, animals and virgins to the neighborhood volcano, Huaynaputina. The sacrifices kept Supay, the god of death, happy. It’s always best — though not necessarily easy — to keep the god of death happy. But then along came the buttinsky Spanish to colonize South America, and right away they outlawed the practice of sacrifice. Well, we we can be certain Supay was not amused. In fact, Father Alonso Ruiz of Arequipa in 1599 predicted an imminent “hit from heaven.”
Sure enough, Huaynaputina began to noisily pass gas. The local natives scrambled to appease the volcano, preparing virgins, pets, and flowers for sacrifice. Huaynaputina just kept chugging and rumbling and carrying on as though it were about to blow its top, and on February 19, 1600, it did. With a huge fiery explosion, it spewed volcanic ash into the Peruvian sky. Rivers of lava flowed down the mountain. Supay was throwing one mean tantrum. Within 24 hours, Arequipa was covered with a foot of ash, and most everyone around was dead.
Not only did Huaynaputina do a number on Peru, it also affected a good part of the world. In the northern hemisphere, 1601 was the coldest year in six centuries. There was a famine in Russia. In China, the peach trees didn’t bloom. In France, the wine harvest was late.
All for the want of a virgin or two.
The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. ~ Terry Pratchett