Vulcan, the god of our Age

At the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a modern statue of the Roman god Vulcan. Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s giant bronze was cast in 1999, and shows the ancient deity of metal-working, industry and fire as half man, half machine. According to legend, his mother, Juno, was so ashamed of his looks that she cast him off Mount Olympus. Yet such was his skill as a craftsman, that he could make the most magnificent jewellery and furniture that even Juno longed to possess. His name is the root of the word volcano, a dangerous mountain full of energy and power. 

Vulcan may have few shrines or temples still in use, but is not every factory and politician’s quest for greater economic output a nod in the old god’s direction? We manufacture goods to be consumed and replaced. We shop-till-we-drop, we buy, acquire, procure and obtain. To fulfill this lust for stuff, the forges and workshops of Vulcan have never been busier.

Wang Yuanfeng writes in the Global Times (September 02, 2011) “The major problem in Western culture is hedonism and consumerism. Fordism, represented by the mass production, created a mass consumption society in the early 1920s and mankind underwent a ‘consumer revolution.’ 

He contrasts this with the traditional ‘Christian’ legacy of thrift and restraint:

“Except for totally impoverished people, all people began increasing consumption. Meanwhile, the traditional Puritan ethics in Western society before the 20th century that embraced frugality, conservation and self-control and restrained impulse were rapidly ruined."

Interestingly, Vulcan, the idol of consumerism and mass production, married Venus, Roman goddess of erotic love. Although he is said to have stoked the fires of Mount Etna each time she was unfaithful, this marriage of sexual hedonism and insatiable materialism nicely pictures the degenerate greed of the godless West. By rejecting the worldview, morality and theology of the Bible, we have merely fallen into the open arms of Vulcan and his faithless wife.