Gunung Agung, Indonesia
Balinese life is steeped in mythology, guided by a sense of the divine and remainingin deep respect of the forces of nature. People regularly make offerings to theinvisible inhabitants of the island and build houses in such a way that evilspirits have a hard time getting in. No wonder the vicious stratovolcano is believedto be the seat of gods, who demonstrated their power in March, 1963 when a series of eruptions devastatednumerous villages and killed approximately 2000 people. Miraculously, the streamsof lava missed the Mother Temple of Besakih by a hair’s breadth, which was obviouslyread as a sign of supernatural intervention.
Glastonbury Tor, England
Rising sharply from the plains of Sommerset,the Glastonbury Tor may be just 158 m(518 ft) high, but it is known as one of the most spiritual sites in thecountry, with its paganbeliefs still very much celebrated. The hill is believed by some Britons to bethe legendary island of Avalon and is intimately associated with thefigure of Gwyn ap Nudd – Lord of the Underworld and King of the Fairiesin the Arthurian legend.
Łysa Góra, Poland
On top of Łysa Góra (BaldMountain) you’ll find the Benedictine monastery of Holy Cross and a TV tower, but bounce the name off anyPole and they will tell you the mountain used to be the most prominent venuefor witches’ gatherings. The legend most probably goes back to thepre-Christian period when Łysa Góra was a site of a pagan-cult temple,whose remains can actually be seen next to the monastery.
For many years Nepaleseauthorities refused to grant permission for expeditions to Manaslu as it was believed that its peak was the seat of gods, so the exploration of “Mountain ofthe Spirit” startedrelatively late compared to other Himalayan eight-thousanders. The local population was not happy with the initialexpeditions and blamed climbers for a deadly avalanche which was thoughtto be a revenge of the displeased gods. AJapanese team approaching an ascent in 1954 were faced with hostility fromvillagers at Samagaon camp and forced to make a retreat.
Cerro Rico, Bolivia
Throughout most of the second millennium, CerroRico was the site of a “silver rush”, which turned Potosi into a city ofhistoric importance and at the same time made an infamous mark on its history. Forcenturies, slaves mined the mountain’s silver ores in brutal conditions which regularlytook a deadly toll estimated at several millions of lives… and counting (the mines are still in operation). Nowonder the miners have always sought supernatural protection and still leaveofferings of tobacco and liquor for El Tio, a devilish lord of the underground,whose representations in the shape of agoat can be found in the depths of the mines.
Shrouded inthick clouds and covered in mist most of the day, Mount Kilimanjaro is aperfect canvas for bountiful mythology. Locals tell countless stories of evilspirits, secret treasures, pigmies living in the mountain’s ravines, shape-shifting leopards and mountain gorillas. The dwindling snow is believed to be a punishmentfrom God, displeased with frequent attempts by humans to enter his divine lodgings.
Hekla is the tallest and most active volcano inIceland, so it is not really a surprise that people associate it with demonicforces. During the Middle Ages, Europeans called it the “Gateway to Hell”and legend has it that all condemned souls travelled through its crateron their way to the underworld. Fragmentsof lava spitted out by Hekla were seen as spirits and the hissing sound theymade interpreted as desperate screams of those burning in the eternal flames.
Kaf Ajnoun, Libya
Kaf Ajnoun,also known as the Fortress of Ghosts or the Cave of the Jinn, is located about25 km north of Ghat. According to Tuareg lore, it is where genies meet todiscuss their affairs and its bizarre rock formations have given it a devilishreputation, reinforced by a dramatic recount of Heinrich Barth’s lonely expedition.The famous explorer got lost on his way down from the summit and havingconsumed all his water supplies, decided to cut his vein open and drink his ownblood. Whether the incident was procured by evil spirits or resulted fromBarth’s recklessness remains an open question.
Brocken is the highest peak of the Harzmountain range and one that has always played a central role in German folkloreas the venue of Sabbaths and the seat of devils. The magical atmosphere ofBrocken most probably results from the phenomenon called the Brocken specter,an optical illusion created when the low sun shinesfrom behind the observer who is looking down from a ridge into fog or mist. There’s asuperstition among climbers that whoever sees a Brocken specter will die in themountains the very next day, unless they manage to catch a glimpse of it threetimes and the evil spell is broken.
Aboriginesbelieve that Uluru is home to their deceased ancestors and strongly advisevisitors against climbing the rock, claimingthat it disturbs the spirits’ eternal wanderings. It is believed that those whotake small rocks from the formation bring curse upon themselves and will be foreverhaunted with bad luck. There have actually been many instances where people triedto mail the “souvenirs” back to various agencies all over Australia in anattempt to remove the spell, which they apparently associated with theirmisfortunes.