Mt. Shasta, part of the Cascade Range in northern California, has been compared to Mt. Fuji for its great beauty and sacred importance. The mountain has long been revered by the Native Americans of the area, who regard it as the center of creation. In recent decades it has also attracted New Age followers, who believe the mountain to be a source of mystical power.
Native American Significance
The north side of Mt. Shasta has been inhabited since at least 600 BC, possibly 2500 BC. Artifacts in the greater area suggest 9,000 years of Native American habitation. Mt. Shasta was a corner territorial boundary for four Native American peoples – the Shasta, Modoc, Ajumawi/Atsuwegi, and Wintu – and within the view of the Karuk Tribe on the mid-Klamath River and the Klamath Tribe of the upper Klamath River.
For all these native peoples, Mt. Shasta was the center of creation. The Shasta people believed that the Great Spirit first created the mountain, by pushing down ice and snow through a hole from heaven, then using the mountain to step onto the earth. He created trees and called upon the sun to melt snow to provide rivers and streams. He breathed on the leaves of the trees and created birds to nest in their branches. He broke up small twigs and cast them into streams, where they became fish; branches cast into the forest became animals.
The nearby Modoc people shared this creation account and taught that the Great Spirit lived on Mt. Shasta after creation. His daughter fell from the mountain and was raised by grizzly bears. She married one of their clan, and their children were the first humans. In punishment, the Great Spirit condemned the bear to walk on four legs and scattered their children all over the world.
Today, descendents of these Native American tribes still live in the area and carry out ancient rituals in honor of the mountain. Each year, the Wintu invoke the mountain’s spirit with ritual dances that ensure the continued flow of the sacred springs.
New Age Use
At the same time, Mt. Shasta has taken on a new religious meaning. Over 100 New Age sects and groups now regard the impressive mountain as a sacred source of harmony and peace. Mt. Shasta has been identified by various groups as a cosmic power point, a UFO landing spot, the entry point into the fifth dimension (which is characterized by “playful tenderness”), a source of magic crystals, and one of the Seven Sacred Mountains of the World.
In 1932, the Rosicrucians popularized the belief that Shasta is the dwelling place of the Lemurians, super-humans who are so spiritually advanced that they can change themselves from material to spiritual at will. They were described as tall, graceful and agile, with larger heads and much larger foreheads than average humans.
The Lemurians’ power is enhanced by crystals they brought to Mt. Shasta when they fled their original home of Lemuria, a lost continent off the Pacific coast destroyed by a volcanic eruption. (The name “Lemuria” was first coined in a scientific context in 1864, by zoologist Philip L. Sclaterby, as a hypothetical sunken continent which could account for the migration of lemurs between existing continents.)
In 1930, Guy Ballard, founder of the “I AM” movement, reported that he met the Ascended Master St. Germaine on the slopes of Mt. Shasta. Ascended Masters are spiritually advanced beings who manifest “the luminous essence of divine love” and assist human evolution. These teachings have been especially popularized by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, a prominent New Age teacher.
In 1971, a Buddhist monastery was founded on Mt. Shasta by Houn Jiyu-Kennett. Mt. Shasta was one of the sites of the 1987 Harmonic Convergence, a gathering at a number of power points in the hope that united spiritual energy might avert world catastrophe and usher in an age of harmony and peace.
The popularity of Mt. Shasta among New Age enthusiasts has caused some conflict, as their rituals (such as “charging” crystals in a stream) sometimes interfere with the ways Native Americans wish to treat the mountain and its specific sacred places.
What to See
Mt. Shasta is located about 60 miles south of the California-Oregon border and 77 miles north of Redding, California.
At 14,162 feet (4,322 m), the mountain is the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range. Geologically speaking, Mt. Shasta is is a stratovolcano, with four cones buried atop one another. Shastina 12,300 ft (3,749 m) is the most evident of these cones and forms a second peak.
A highway climbs up Mt. Shasta’s slopes to 8,000 feet (2,400 metres). The Mount Shasta Ski Park, opened in 1985, offers 1,400 vertical feet of descent serviced by three chair lifts. Mt. Shasta is popular with mountain climbers, about 50% of whom reach the summit.
Mount Shasta City, at 3,500 feet above sea level next to Mt. Shasta, is the headquarters of a number of New Age religious movements and home to several study centers where seekers can explore mystical teachings centering on the sacred mountain. There are also plenty of shops in which to buy crystals and other New Age essentials.
Current/Secondary: New Age
|Date:||600 BC or earlier (inhabitation)|
|Size:||Summit: 14,162 feet (4,322 m)|
|Coordinates:||41.418015° N, 122.200928° W (view on Google Maps)|
Note: This information was accurate when published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip. Last update: 07/22/2009.
Article written by Holly Hayes with reference to the following sources:
- Personal visit (views from nearby; April 26, 2009).
- Norbert Brockman, Encyclopedia of Sacred Places (Oxford UP, 1999), pp. 194-95.
- College of the Siskiyous Library – “Mt. Shasta Fact Sheet” (2005; PDF)
- Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service – “Mount Shasta” (2006)
- Sacred Sites International Foundation – “Mount Shasta, California”
- Center of the Sun – “The Sacred Center of Mt. Shasta” – New Age guide to Shasta’s energy points
- Wishar Spenle Cerve (pseudonym of Harvey Spencer Lewis), Lemuria, The Lost Continent of the Pacific: The Mystery People of Mount Shasta (1931) – source of the Lemurian beliefs
- Arthus Eichorn, The Mount Shasta Story, 2nd ed. (1971).
- Emilie A. Frank, Mt. Shasta: California’s Mystic Mountain (1997).
- William Hamilton, Mount Shasta, Home of the Ancients (1986).
- Robert Heinlein, Lost Legacy (1940) – novel centered on Mt. Shasta
- Rosemary Holsinger, Shasta Indian Tales (1982).
- Michael Zanger, Mt. Shasta: History, Legend
and Lore (1992).
Last updated on July 22, 2009.