Mount Shasta, located near the Oregon border in northern California, holds the distinction of being one of the world’s preeminent sacred mountains. It is recognized as an eligible Native American cultural and cosmological property on the National Register of Historic Places. Artifacts found in the surrounding area conservatively suggest at least 11,000 years of human habitation, designating this region as one of the longest-occupied areas of North America.
On a clear day, Mount Shasta can be seen from over 100 miles away (160 km). The mountain, part of the thousand-mile-long Cascade Range stretching from northern California to British Columbia, is one of the largest stratovolcanoes in the world, rising to an altitude of 14,179 feet (4321 meters); it is also part of a chain of volcanoes that encompasses the Pacific Basin’s notorious “Ring of Fire,” along which the majority of the planet’s earthquakes and eruptions occur.
Geologists consider Mount Shasta to be a very dangerous, high threat volcano; some day it will wake up and erupt again, possibly during this century.
A volcanic eruption from Mount Shasta could match or exceed the scale of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. The effects of an eruption on the surrounding towns close to the base of the mountain are predicted to be catastrophic, and because volcanoes stay active for years after an eruption, the region may have to be closed off to the public for a very long time.
Vesuvius from Portici – Joseph Wright of Derby
Mount Shasta’s fuse is already burning, and experts all agree, it’s not a matter of if Mount Shasta will erupt again—but when…
Throughout history mankind has always been drawn to mountains as a sacred feature of the landscape. It’s likely that mountains are among the oldest places of worship on the planet; the first temples. They figure prominently in the earliest religious myths of mankind, and our connection to them is so powerful that many of the world’s oldest monuments, such as the Egyptian and Mayan pyramids, were obviously built in their semblance.
Northwestern California Native American tribes traditionally view Mount Shasta as being structurally and energetically connected to a wide range of important volcanic landscapes and mountains, which extend northwards and southwards of their tribal territories. A primordial spiritual connection is believed to link all these energetically powerful sites together, including Mount Shasta, Lassen Peak, Lava Beds, Medicine Lake Highlands, Crater Lake, as well as many other lesser landmarks found throughout the region.
‘Glass Mountain’ from Medicine Lake caldera rim, northern California. (USGS/ Public Domain )
Pulses of human occupation surrounding Mount Shasta have been traced back to around the end of the last Ice Age, some 11,000 years ago, marking this area of northern California as one of the oldest, continually occupied regions in North America. More recent discoveries suggest there may have been substantial human occupation along the northern California-Nevada border going as far back as 14,000 years ago.
Mythic Significance of the Monument
Mount Shasta’s vast antiquity and mythic relevance places its significance on par, historically and categorically, with other sacred sites found among the world’s oldest known civilizations, including the temples and pyramids of Egypt, Stonehenge, the Mayan pyramids, and Machu Picchu.
From a philosophical and spiritual standpoint, Mount Shasta is far more powerful and impressive than anything ever built by man. It is a Creator-made temple and monument, half a billion years old. In an abstract geological sense, Mount Shasta is still alive and under construction–and it will continuously erupt, regenerate, and change forms far into the future.
Native Americans have observed Mount Shasta as a sacred mountain from time immemorial; they viewed the mountain and its surroundings as holy ground; it is thought to be one of the first earthly places created by the Great Spirit. In the past, no one but medicine men or women climbed up the mountain beyond the tree line. It was thought to be too powerful for ordinary people to visit, and inhabited by hosts of potentially dangerous spirits and guardians who could harm a person who traveled up the mountain unprepared.
Sunrise on Mount Shasta. ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )
Mount Shasta’s significance as a “power spot” for non-indigenous people did not begin until the nineteenth century. The naturalist John Muir described the mountain’s peak as a religious icon, and helped to spread its legendary fame. Since its discovery it quickly became one of California’s must-see tourist destinations.