Mountains are big. The sort of big that defies description. Mountains seem impossibly huge, but there they are nonetheless. Mountains dominate the landscape in which they’re situated. If you’ve visited an area with a mountain peak or a mountain range, you’ll likely know what I mean. Phrases like “just there to the left of the mountain” or “I grew up in the shadow of the mountain” are pretty common.
If you don’t live in a mountainous area, imagine walking outside every morning and discovering an eleven thousand foot penguin in your front garden. As you drive to the grocery store and look in your rear view mirror, there’s the penguin.
Turn the corner and the impossibly huge penguin is there looming over you, casting a giant penguin shadow. Every high school is Penguin High. Street names are Penguin Drive and Penguin Street. Every bar and restaurant has a clever penguin related name.
That’s what it’s like to live with a mountain.
Mountains Are Magical
One popular definition of magic is “The ability to change consciousness at will”. Mountains directly impact the people, animals, and the very land simply by their omnipresence. Imagine if your magic had the same colossal influence.
And here’s why I think Mountains are so magical. First of all, as I mentioned before, they are huge. Their very size sort of messes with the human brain. It’s hard to wrap our heads around the sheer volume of space they occupy. Secondly, mountains are more or less permanent. The seasons and climate changes may dictate how much snow one sees at any given time, but generally speaking, mountains don’t change that much.
I’ve lived near Mount St Helena for the better part of twenty years. It’s been affected by fires in the past few years, but from my house, the view of the mountain is basically the same as it was twenty years ago.
The mountain’s very permanency is a constant in an otherwise very rapidly changing world. Technology, life events, and even language evolve seemingly at the speed of light. Mountains, by contrast, move on mountain time, which is to say, very slowly indeed.
Mountains & Connection
There’s another aspect to mountain magic I’ve observed. Mountains help us connect to something larger than ourselves. This feels like a tremendous example of sympathetic magic on our part. There, at all times, is a reminder of something existing that is bigger than us and far longer lived, that’s weathered all sorts of storms…literally.
In an odd way, mountains are able to shoulder all our concerns. Folks I know that live near mountains tell me how much time they spend walking and talking with their mountain. They share their burdens with the mountains. I know I certainly have. Take it for whatever it’s worth, but it’s easy to have a conversation with a mountain. The mountain will listen.
And all this walking and talking and slowing down and being present fosters connection. Connections with the mountain, with nature, with my fellow humans, and with myself. By the way, connection can happen whilst sitting in an apartment looking up at the mountain. One doesn’t have to scale a mountain at all to connect with it.
Mountain Myths Are Everywhere
Pick a spot on the map. If there’s a mountain or mountain range in that country, you can bet there’s a sacred story associated with it. Mountain myths fall into a couple of categories: “Where our gods live” and “Where our people came from”.
Every people, in virtually every culture, who come in contact with mountains tell stories about the mountains and the beings who live there. I bet you can name a few without having to really think about it.
Mount Olympus, Greece – An actual mountain and a metaphorical mountain. The Greek gods live there.
Mount Fuji, Japan – Dotted with Shinto shrines honouring the mountain Kami. Loosely, the Kami are the spirits of the mountain or even the spirit of the mountain itself.
Mount Taranaki, New Zealand – For centuries the Maori folk have revered this peak. Watch this video to hear the whole legend.
Mount Shasta, California – The Wintu peoples trace their beginnings to a sacred spring on Mount Shasta. Many other seekers have found a visit to Shasta deeply profound.
Kirimara or Mount Kenya, Kenya – Several different peoples revere Kirimara. Stories of the gods that live there and the connection between the mountain, the people, and the land are easy to find.
Spending Time With A Mountain
If all goes to plan, I’ll be spending time on Mount Snowdon, Wales in 2020. Just to ramble on the day trails is enough for me. The legendary resting place of King Arthur and the connections to the Welsh Mabinogi have enraptured my imagination for years.
What Mountains do you live by? Which mountains have you visited and what are your experiences with them?
Do share. I’d love to know.