Asbestos has been a valuable tool for over 3,000 years due to its fire-resistant properties. This value did not diminish soon, despite the fact that its adverse effects were evident almost immediately after its discovery. Recently, at the beginning of the twentieth century, there was no agreement as to what fibrous rock material really was. While today we consider asbestos as the source of life for a group of expert lawyers, in the past mystics, naturalists, slaves and kings were the main point of speculation. Eventually it took hundreds of years to figure out what asbestos really was, but at the same time we were determined to figure it out. That is why folklore.
Salamanders do not seem to be a place to start, but they are actually a major component of asbestos folklore. Some quick research shows that the word “salamander” is derived from Persian meaning “inner fire”. This may not seem like a big deal until you realize that salamanders are the “main elements of fire,” meaning they only need fire to feed. Although this is not the end of the story, salamanders may in fact have been one of the most terrifying creatures of antiquity. They were considered miraculous and dangerous creatures, born of fire and capable of destroying the entire army with their poison. When it was discovered that a fabric made of asbestos that could not be destroyed by fire could be found, the fibers of that fur were salamander. Of course, even if salamanders have fur, one can bet that no one knows what it looks like. The legend was so popular that Marco Polo ended up visiting the Chinese asbestos mine and concluding that it was in fact a rock that was dug out of the ground.
Grifters and Pranksters
Many myths about asbestos are not so much about asbestos itself, but about how people use it. In ancient times, when using a non-flammable fabric, there was a lot of shaking room. One of the most famous prank groups, aptly called “human seniors”, was especially famous for using fireproof asbestos clothing to do crazy things like frying hand steaks while standing in the open flame. . Others had worse intentions, selling fireproof robes that are said to belong to Christ, especially in the dark ages. Asbestos, its origins, mythology, and potential applications are eventually recognized in many different ways in many cultures, which were soon interpreted as several different materials with names such as salamander, mountain leather, and rock yarn.
Unfortunately, this last bit of folklore was completely accurate. It was considered a myth, but in ancient Greece it was said that slaves working in asbestos mines were not worth buying because of their short lifespan and tendency to develop lung diseases. Initially, asbestos was worn almost exclusively by slaves before it became known for its unique properties. However, it was soon used specifically for royalties. Asbestos was woven into napkins and tablecloths and used to make wicks for candles. The effect on slaves and workers who had no choice but to weave cloth was widely observed. What was most likely to be mesothelioma was called “slave disease.” It can be said that the priority was given to exposure to asbestos, which was a poor problem in early ancient Rome.
It seems that after the revelation of the salamander fur myth, there was not much left to explain about asbestos. Finally, its defining features were prominent from the beginning. It can not burn in the fire and will kill you. Hindsight is twenty years old, but asbestos still looks like hell. But this is the main role of folklore, and always has been, to change and reduce the things that frighten us. Maybe one day as a society we can avoid these things altogether and leave the salamander fur in the land to which it belongs.