Salamandra, Mountain Leather and Rock Floss – The Folklore of Asbestos

Asbestos has been deemed a precious utility for its fireplace resistant homes for around 3,000 many years. This value was not quickly diminished, in spite of the fact that the adverse outcomes were being evident virtually right away following its discovery. It was only as just lately as the dawn of 20th century that there is been any form of consensus on what the fibrous stone product basically is. Though we know asbestos today to be the lifeblood of a slew of specialised lawyers, it employed to be a important point of speculation among the mystics, naturalists, slaves and kings alike. It would eventually acquire hundreds of a long time to learn what asbestos really was, but in interim we ended up established to understand it. This is what folklore is for.


Salamanders are a seemingly unlikely put to begin, but they’re actually integral to the folklore of asbestos. Some speedy investigate reveals that the word “Salamander” is derived from persian meaning “hearth in”. This may well not appear to have significantly relevance until finally you understand that salamanders have been thought to be “hearth elementals,” meaning that they need only fire for sustenance. It will not stop there while, salamanders actually may possibly have been one particular of antiquity’s most wildly misunderstood creatures. They were regarded as miraculous, perilous creatures who had been born from blistering bonfires and who could lay entire armies to squander with their poison. When it was discovered that 1 could weave a fabric from asbestos that could not be destroyed by a sizzling hearth, the fibers were being believed to be the fur of a salamander. Of class, even if salamanders did have fur, it’d be risk-free to bet that no a single realized what it appeared like. This myth remained particularly well-liked right up until Marco Polo put an end to it immediately after obtaining visited a chinese asbestos mine and deducing that it was basically a stone that was dug out of the earth.

Grifters and Pranksters

Many myths surrounding asbestos usually are not so significantly about asbestos itself, but relatively the way people today used it. There was a great deal of wiggle area again in historic periods when it came to employing a cloth that wouldn’t burn off in a hearth. A single renowned team of pranksters, aptly identified as “The Human Salamanders”, was especially famed for using hearth-proof asbestos primarily based outfits to do mad factors this sort of as roast handheld steaks even though standing inside of of an open flame. Others had additional nefarious intentions, advertising fireproof robes allegedly acquiring belonged to christ was especially frequent in the dim ages. Asbestos, it’s origins, mythology and likely employs ultimately came to be regarded in so quite a few methods, throughout so numerous cultures that it was before long interpreted as quite a few distinct substances completely with names this sort of as Salamandra, Mountain Leather and Rock Floss.

The Condition of Slaves

This very last little bit of folklore, however, turned out to be entirely accurate in hindsight. It was viewed as a fantasy, but word in historical greece was that the slaves that experienced worked in the asbestos mines were not really worth shopping for because of to their limited everyday living expectancy and their inclination to build pulmonary primarily based ailments. To begin with, right before it was recognised for it’s special qualities, asbestos was worn just about completely by slaves. On the other hand, it was quickly utilized particularly for royalty. Asbestos came to be weaved into napkins, tablecloths and utilised to make wicks for candles. The effect on the slaves and staff who had no alternative but weave the cloth was widely noticed. What was in all chance Mesothelioma was then named “the illness of slaves”. It could be explained that a priority was set for asbestos publicity getting regarded as a weak man’s challenge as early as ancient Rome.

Turns out there wasn’t a great deal left to be clarified about asbestos after the salamander fur fantasy was debunked. In the end it’s defining characteristics stood out ideal from the commencing. It can’t be burnt in a fireplace and it will kill you. Hindsight is twenty-twenty and yet, asbestos however would seem otherworldly hellish. But this is and usually has been the key part of folklore, to transform and diminish the points that terrify us. It’s possible a single day as a modern society we can finally prevent these items completely and depart the salamander fur in the ground wherever it belongs.