The Legends Of Mount Shasta Explained

California's mountains fill visitors with energy, both active and mystic. And no other California peak exudes more mystery and mysticism than Mount Shasta. Located in Northern California's Cascade Range, Mount Shasta stands tall as the fifth highest peak in the state. It's inspired many legends. Some of these stories have a grain of truth.

Like many mountains, Mount Shasta featured prominently in Native American legends. NPR reports that local tribes saw the mountain as the center of the universe and integral to their creation myths. Mount Shasta sits on territories held by the Shasta, Wintu, Achumawi, Atsugewi, and Modoc tribes. The Wintu tribe worships Mount Shasta, tracing their origins to a spring in the peak. One legend recounts a feud between two volcanoes, Mounts Shasta and Mazama, and the gods Skell and Lao-Yaina, who inhabited them. It is said the two gods hurled rocks at each other, creating a crater lake. According to Ancient Origins, only medicine men and women were allowed to climb the mountain in ancient times to harness its powerful energies and prevent harmful spirits from attacking people.

But Mount Shasta is not just home of native legends. Some of the legends have very little to do with creation myths.

Hidden Cities

Mount Shasta is said to be home to at least two hidden civilizations. KQED writes that some people believe Mount Shasta is home to the people of the lost continent of Lemuria. Legend has it that Lemuria — named after lemurs, because apparently lemurs live there — fought with Atlantis, causing both cities to sink into the ocean. The Lemurians then fled to Mount Shasta and hid their city Telos in the mountain. Telos is supposedly filled with buildings that look like crystals, with advanced technology. Scientific American explains that people think Lemurians had alien connections, or might be a lost cradle of humankind. NPR reports townspeople around Mount Shasta claim Lemurians came into their shops paying with gold. Lemurians, the urban legends say, are seven feet tall and wear long white robes and sandals.

But Lemuria is not the only hidden city said to be in Mount Shasta. According to Active Norcal, a man named J.C. Brown was hired by a mining company to survey the mountain. He reportedly stumbled upon a hidden underground city. He told others, and a group of about 80 men gathered, but Brown never showed up. Some link Brown's hidden city to Lemuria, but we may never know for sure, since Brown was never heard from again.

It inspired a pseudo-religion

Probably one of the strangest legends of Mount Shasta is the story of Guy Ballard, a businessman who went on to found a religious movement called I AM Activity. NPR explains Ballard hiked up Mount Shasta in the 1930s and encountered a mysterious figure who called himself Count St. Germain. St. Germain claimed that he'd become an ascendant master who had mastered the physical plane and no longer had to go through the birth-death cycle.

Ballard devoted himself to this idea. I AM Activity, writes NPR, is a mix of Christianity, theosophy, and nationalism. Ballard believed he was George Washington incarnate. I AM Activity gained around a million followers, but following Ballard's death in 1939, his wife and son were charged with fraud, and the group fell out of favor. There are still I AM Activity sites operating on Mount Shasta to this day, including an amphitheater.

Hikers and those who believe in New Age healing come to Mount Shasta for both the views and to soak in its energy. The jury's out, though, if any of them come across seven-foot-tall ancient beings.