Vulcan in ancient myth
In earliest Roman mythology, Vulcan is the god of destructive fire, especially volcano fire.
His temple was usually at the outskirts of a city, officiated by a priest (flamen). And his festival, Volcanalia, was celebrated on August 23.
When the Volcanalia also paid homage to the Nymphs and other deities, live fish were thrown into a fire as a sacrificial offering to Vulcan.
In the classical Greece Vulcan became Hephaestus, the master blacksmith. In his giant forge at Mount Olympus he fashioned the armor and shield of Achilles, as well as Cupid‘s arrows and Jupiter‘s thunderbolts.
He was depicted lame and his offspring were often ugly.
Vulcan in modern myth
In the American TV and film Star Trek franchise, Vulcan is the alien race and home planet to which the ever-popular character, Mr. Spock belongs. Other notable Vulcans include Sarek (Spock’s father), T’Pol (Star Trek: Enterprise) and Tuvok (Star Trek: Voyager).
Originally a savage and barbaric race, Vulcans almost destroyed themselves in their ancient past. They overcame global disaster by repressing all emotion in favor of highly developed logic.
Star Trek Vulcans possess supra-human strength and intellect but are less adept at creative, intuitive problem solving.
In keeping with the Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung, mythic symbols are said to evoke the numinous, spiritual aspects of the unconscious mind. So it seems that Star Trek’s creators chose the mythic name of Vulcan, hoping it would resonate with the archetypal images that Western viewers are familiar with.
In this greater sense, then, Mr. Spock and his people may be taken as a continuation of the original Roman myth.
More recently, “Vulcan” was a popular favorite for the name of one of two new moons discovered around Pluto.¹ Astronomical officials, however, decided on the names Kerberos and Styx.