Mountains are timeless, and they’re always considered as a formidable power that has been there since the beginning of time. The daunting cliffs and intriguing shapes were inspirations to so many stories and legends throughout the ages. Ancient civilizations believed that some mountains were the dwellings of their gods and the manifestations of their powers, while others held stories of dreams and glory. Whatever the titles and wherever the stories come from, mountains will always be seen as divine beacons standing in all their glory, with many stories and so much history.
TABLE MOUNTAIN, SOUTH AFRICAvia Getty Images
A flat-topped mountain and one of the most important landmarks of Cape Town, Table Mountain overlooks the city and makes for a stunning view. Tourists either use the cableway to get to the top or they could hike there for a panoramic view of the colourful city of Cape Town. It’s the most prominent feature in Cape Town, and its strategic location right at the tip of the continent made it a stop to everyone hitting the sea, opening up the sea route -- earning the name of Cape of Good Hope. The landmark receives hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, so it’s no surprise that locals and visitors alike have come up with a few interesting stories about the mountain’s towering presence over the years.
Legends about the mountain were brought by those traveling the Atlantic Ocean around the rocky headland. The unforgiving wild waters in this area wrecked many ships and have led to legends about the mountain that overlooks this area of the sea. Inspired by a poem by Luís de Camões, one of the legends says that the mountains were made by a Greek God named Adamstor, an angry giant that wouldn’t allow anyone to pass through the rough sea. According to the legend, after years of anger, the beast was defeated and the proof is the successful trips around the tip of Africa, as sailors made their way around the continent and sailed to India. For now, all that remains of the angry giant beast is a motionless mountain.
Another legend tells the story of Table Mountain as the physical manifestation of the double-headed Roman god Janus. This creature was supposed to be a gatekeeper who facilitated new beginnings and could see the past and the future. So Janus, in the form of Table Mountain, was there to protect the African tip and control passage from west to east – who transitioned from the old world to the new.
One of the most well-known legends is the Xhosa folktale about the story of Qamata, a god who was believed to be responsible for creating the world. Legend says that while he was creating the land, a sea dragon interfered and battled him. During the fight, Qamata’s mother - the Earth - helped and created four giants to protect the corners of the world. Once Qamata created enough land, the giants died and were turned into stone to watch over the earth forever. The southernmost giant – the biggest and strongest of them – is known today as Table Mountain.
Devil’s Peak is one of the most famous mountain spires, and looks very intriguing every time fog rolls in from the ocean and covers it along with Table Mountain. According to the legends, it is said that a pirate named Jan van Hunks who used to smoke a pipe settled in the Cape and left his pirate life behind. He got married and found a home at the foot of the mountain, but his wife hated his smoking, so, he had to smoke outside. Van Hunks had to leave the house and find a good spot in order to smoke in peace. But one day, Van Hunks found a strange man sitting in his usual spot, dressed in all black and wearing a large hat. They started a conversation and the strange man asked van Hunks for some tobacco to smoke, boasting about who could handle more tobacco; this led to a challenge of who could smoke the longest without getting sick. Massive clouds of smoke surrounded the two men and much of the mountain. The strange man couldn’t go on and his hat fell from his head, revealing that he actually was the devil himself. The devil got angry that he was defeated by a mortal, and snatched himself and van Hunks away in a lightning flash to an unknown destination. Now, every time fog rolls over the mountain, it’s said that van Hunks and the devil have come to reclaim their spot on the mountain and are getting ready for another smoking competition.
MOUNT ETNA, ITALYvia Tripsavvy
Located on the eastern coast of Sicily, Mount Etna is one of the highest and most active volcanoes in Europe. It has erupted at least 200 times – at times covering and destroying 12 villages and surrounding areas. Up until today, there are many myths and legends associated with the volcano. Greek legends say that eruptions are caused by none other than a 100-headed monster whose heads resemble that of a dragon, spewing massive fires when angered. According to the legend, the monster is known as Typhon, the son of Gaia, the goddess of Earth. Typhon was a rebellious kid and was banned by Zeus to live forever under Mount Etna. And so, when his anger comes over every now and then, boiling hot lava shoots into the sky.
Another version of the Mount Etna legend says that a one-eyed monster named Cyclops lives under the mountain. Odysseus was sent to fight the monster, defeating him by lancing in his one eye and sending him into the depths of the mountains. This story also says that Mount Etna’s crates are actually the damaged eye of Cyclops, and the lava is the flowing blood of the monster.
These legends come along with strange customs held by those who live in the nearby villages. Some still believe that Mount Etna is a living being who they can appease when angry. So, if an eruption gets too close to a town, people leave a bottle of good wine in their kitchens before they escape, since they believe Etna will appreciate their gift and spare their house.
MOUNT FUJI, JAPANvia Getty Images
Mount Fuji is a huge volcano in Japan, and the Japanese loved making up stories about it so much that it’s become intertwined with the Japanese culture, inspiring songs, movies, legends, and myths. Tourists visiting the country choose to climb it at night to experience the sunrise from its summit – after all, Japan is nicknamed the Land of the Rising Sun, and the sun rising from Fuji is given a special name: Goraiko. Only recently, Mount Fuji became a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its spiritual history. Aside from Kaguya’s legend, there are countless stories that have inspired thousands to visit the mountain in pursuit of spiritual power.
The oldest legend is about a bamboo cutter who stumbled upon something unusual -- a tiny baby no bigger than his thumb, gazing up at him inside the bamboo that he was cutting. He took the baby home to his wife to raise as their own. The baby brought good luck to the bamboo cutter, and he started finding gold nuggets inside every piece of bamboo he cut. After a while, they became very rich and the little baby grew up to be a stunning woman. Apparently, the girl - named Kaguya-hime - was sent from the moon to protect her from her home’s raging war. The girl started receiving marriage proposals, even from the emperor, but she declined them all in her quest to get back home to the moon. As a parting gift, Kaguya-hime, the moon princess, sent the emperor a special letter and an immortality elixir that he refused to drink. In return, he wrote her a letter and requested his men to take it to Japan’s highest peak and burn it along with the elixir in hopes of it reaching the moon. But when the men burned everything, the fire couldn’t be extinguished and this is how Mount Fuji became a volcano.
MOUNT EVEREST, NEPALvia BBC
Mount Everest is every mountaineer’s ultimate goal. Located in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas in Nepal, its unforgiving nature makes it a challenge of a lifetime. Ever since the first successful climb in 1953, adventurers around the world have made it their life's goal to climb the beast. Last year’s climbing season saw traffic jams at the summit, with hundreds of people queued up in what's known as the ”death zone” that unfortunately claims the lives of many. One of the most well-known stories about Everest’s fallen climbers is Green Boots, the name given to an unidentified corpse of a climber that has become a landmark on the route to the top of Mount Everest. Although the mystery climber remains unidentified, there have been many speculations as to who he could’ve been. The term Green Boots originated from the green mountaineering boots on his feet that’ve been there since 1996. Expeditions summiting from the north side of the mountain encounter the body curled in a cave at 8,500 m, lying on his left side, facing toward the summit. The body is believed to have been there since a massive blizzard that hit back in 1996, known as the Mount Everest Disaster.
There are so many dark sides to the snow-covered faces of Everest, and it holds so many stories of lost dreams and lost lives. The Rainbow Valley may sound cheerful, but its story is definitely far from; it’s a place full of dead bodies of climbers who attempted to reach the peak and passed away in the process. The term comes from the colourful reds, blues, and greens of jackets of the fallen climbers -- a colourful graveyard in the clouds. The Valley is located around the Northeast Ridge Route, where mountaineers are greeted by a site of over 200 frozen bodies.
HALF DOME, YOSEMITE, UNITED STATESvia Wikipedia
When it comes to hiking, Half Dome in Yosemite is a major challenge for hikers and rock-climbers alike. Due to the repetitive thawing and freezing of the rock, a large chunk of it fell away, giving it the look it has today. The 87-year-old dome has inspired a legend that’s still being told up to this day – the legend of Tis-sa-ack. The legend seeks to explain the strange silhouette of a face that’s seen on the side of Half Dome and tells the story of an old Native couple who went off on a journey to a valley called Ahwahnee. The woman carried a heavy basket while the husband just swung his walking stick around. The wife, whose name was Tis-sa-ack, got very thirsty when she reached the lake at the mountain and rushed to the water and started drinking. Apparently, she drank so much that the lake had dried up by the time the husband got there. Due to the lack of water, a drought took over the area and everything green disappeared, which angered the husband so much that he picked up his stick and tried to strike his wife. Tis-sa-ack broke out in tears and started running away and threw her basket at him, angering the Creator who turned them both into stone. The basket she threw became Basket Dome, their baby cradle became the Royal Arches, the husband became the North Dome or Washington Column, and the wife became what we see today as Half Dome. Tis-sa-ack -- which means crying girl -- regretted the quarrel so much that she started crying, forming Mirror Lake.
MOUNT OLYMPUS, GREECEvia Crawford Creations
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and is one of its most picturesque sites. In Greek mythology, this is the mythical home of the gods, inspiring countless stories. Apparently, the mountain was created after an epic battle between the young gods, the Olympians, and the old gods, the Titans. The Olympians were victorious, and the result was this majestic home: Mount Olympus. Standing in all its majesty, it was only natural for the Greeks to believe that it is home to their gods, presiding over the world. It’s the place where the gods feasted on ambrosia, drank nectar, and enjoyed the tunes of Apollo’s lyre. From time to time, they quarreled between themselves, but between this and that, Mount Olympus stopped referring to the actual mountain and became more of a mythical concept signifying the heaven located above the peaks. The heart of Mount Olympus was Zeus’ palace, with a giant courtyard for all the gods to gather, offering a panoramic view of the whole world where the gods sat to watch the Earth
MOUNT SHASTA, UNITED STATESvia Ancient Origins
Mount Shasta has been the focus of many myths and religious legends; it’s often said that it hides a secret city beneath its peaks. An indigenous tribe called the Klamath believed that Mount Shasta is inhabited by the spirit chief Skell, who descended from heaven and fought the spirit of the Below-World represented by Mount Mazama, a nearby mountain. Their fighting was represented through the volcanic eruptions of both mountains. Their battles caused earthquakes and explosions, and men had to sacrifice themselves, inspiring Skell to double his efforts and defeat the spirit of the Below-World forever.
Mount Shasta was also the focus of many other legends. In 1899, author Frederick Spencer Oliver published his novel, A Dweller on Two Planets, which claims that there are people living in Mount Shasta, coming from a lost sunken continent called Lemuria. The novel says that Lemurians live in a complex of tunnels beneath the mountain and were occasionally seen walking the surface dressed in white robes
MOUNT KAILASH, CHINAvia Focus News
Mount Kailash is sacred in many religions, and is deemed sacred such that setting foot on it would be considered profanity. In Hinduism, Mount Kailash is home to the god Shiva and the goddess Parvati. The legend says that Parvati was so beautiful that she made Shiva give up his asceticism and marry her. On their wedding night, Pavarti wanted to take Shiva to heaven on Earth, so she took him to Mount Kailash where they’re believed to be in an eternal embrace on the mountain.
In Tibetan Buddhism, the high lama Milarepa won a competition for spiritual power on Mount Kailash. So, circling the mountain one time will atone for all the sins committed in one’s lifetime, while circling 10 times will prevent eternal damnation, and circling 100 times makes a person become one with Buddha.
Due to its religious significance, Mount Kailash has never been climbed. Although, in 2001, news sources reported that China had given some mountaineers permission to climb it, believing that this would crush the Tibetan spirit. The Dalai Lama warned the climbers against treating the mountain as a sport while, in their lives, it was the focus of many religions