5 Chapter 5. The Provider Gods

Introduction

Aeschylus spoke objectively of Egypt as a land fed by mountain snows. It is hard to minimize the importance of water and the connection of water and mountains. Water flows down mountains. It is less stable than the mountain. {It is chaotic and formless and difficult to manage, and, partly because of this objective property, it became the villain of the Chaoskampf myths in which the gods of the mountain fight the water gods below.}

Image 1. The old Jewish Mikve[h] in Besalú [Spain]. Credit: Courtesy of Arie Darzi to memorialize the Jewish communities in Spain. עברית: מקווה הטהרה העתיק בבסלו שבספרד עברית: נוסח הקרדיט :באדיבות אריה דרזי לזכר קהילות ספרד שחרבו. Photo by אריה דרזי, Arie Darzi.
Image 1. The old Jewish Mikve[h] in Besalú [Spain]. Credit: Courtesy of Arie Darzi to memorialize the Jewish communities in Spain.
עברית: מקווה הטהרה העתיק בבסלו שבספרד
עברית: נוסח הקרדיט :באדיבות אריה דרזי לזכר קהילות ספרד שחרבו.
Photo by אריה דרזי, Arie Darzi.

And yet without water there would be no life; water is fluid, it moves allowing communication between different solid and static parts, it is, in a way, the essence of life (life = movement). Much of this life-giving water comes from the mountains. It is hard to forget a drink from a pure mountain stream. It seems to taste and smell of the sage and other plants and minerals it has touched on its way down. It tastes different than water from a city tap that has been sitting in a rusted pipe for a couple of hours or a couple of days.[1] The ancient Jewish ritual bath Mikveh, required that the water be “living.” An example would be water from a flowing stream as opposed to standing or “dead” water. The experience of a drink of “living” mountain water when one is thirsty explains, from the inside, and without words, much about human motivation and satisfaction.

As a psychological image there is a great difference between the still water of a lake,[2] a turbulent ocean, a flood, the water in a pond after a stone has been plunked into it, and the “glistening of rain water on the top of a luxurious, green, rounded mountain” (a dream image). The waves or vibrations of the water mean something quite different than its stillness. Psychologically, still water signifies peace; turbulence means nervousness. It is abundantly clear that too much nervousness is not good for the health. An important Jewish prayer says, “Grant me peace Thy most precious gift, Oh Thou eternal source of peace” implying that all true cures for nervousness or anxiety come from the Lord and not man.

Image 2. View of Topanga State Park and Topanga Canyon — from one of the hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area [Los Angeles, California, USA]. Photo by Rneches.
Image 2. View of Topanga State Park and Topanga Canyon — from one of the hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area [Los Angeles, California, USA]. Photo by Rneches.

Mountain water, from one angle, is more complex than a stable, flat pond or a lake or a sea. As I said, water rushes down the mountains creating tremendous energy. The living tension between the high place and the low place creates energy, and this physical process is a stimulus for the psyche. Here is a dream fragment containing the image of rushing water:

I’m going into a National Park at the foot of Topanga Canyon [in Los Angeles County, California, USA]. There is a waterfall that goes down a big rock. We climb half down. It is for sale. Four or five of us contemplate buying it. We will build a house halfway down or build an electric power plant that will let the water hit the rock and create power and energy both half way down and at the bottom. (May 23, 1986)

Here is an attempt to harness libido or inner energy for conscious purposes.

The source of mountain water

It must have been fascinating for the ancients and for native peoples, as it still is for us, to wonder about the source of mountain springs.

Image 3. Gezicht op Hotel Prigen en de Gunung Penanggungan [View of Hotel Prigen and Mount Penanggungan, East Java province, Java island, Indonesia]. Photographer unknown.
Image 3. Gezicht op Hotel Prigen en de Gunung Penanggungan [View of Hotel Prigen and Mount Penanggungan, East Java Province, Java island, Indonesia]. Photographer unknown.

A spring on East Java was treated with great respect and was forced to flow through a stone carving.

At Jalatunda a spring gushes from the mountain side [Mount Penanggungan] and it was doubtless this that made it a particularly sacred spot. A tank, measuring 55 feet by 44 feet, was built to receive its waters. … A carved stone, representing the top of Mount Meru, … appears to have been set on the terrace before the mountain face. It formed the crown of the spring which welled up through it and flowed into the tank through appropriately cut channels. (Wales, 1953, pp. 127-128)

The eventual course of a spring like this was described, somewhat ecstatically, by Hart (1888, p. 254) on his visit to Mount Emei after seeing a fountain coming from a rock “with force enough to form a sprightly brook.” He imagined this stream joining another and going down into the Ya, then into the Tung and Min, then into the Golden Sand, and eventually into the ocean.

Image 4. Tara Hill, County Wexford, Ireland. Photo by Sarah777 at English Wikipedia.
Image 4. Tara Hill, County Wexford, Ireland. Photo by Sarah777 at English Wikipedia.

Wells have the same sort of mystery surrounding them as springs. On the Hill of Tara, in Ireland, a thousand year old guide-book tells us that

Nemnach is a well that is at the fairy-mound in the northeast of the Prospect-hill. A brook comes from Nemnach, called Nith.

Macalister comments on this passage.

Nemnach, there can be little doubt, was a sacred well, hallowed along with the sacred mound that rose beside it. It is indeed probable that the springs of water which surround the ridge had a large share in endowing [Tara] with sanctity.[3]

Image 5. The Flow Form and Pool ... in the Chalice Well garden at Glastonbury [Somerset, England]. Photo by Michael Murray. (title edited by author)
Image 5. The Flow Form and Pool … in the Chalice Well garden at Glastonbury [Somerset, England]. Photo by Michael Murray. (title edited by author)

In England, too, there is a spring-well that is both sacred and sanctified with an elaborate structure if we are to believe the following, possibly exaggerated, account:

At the foot of Chalice Hill lies the chalebeate spring named by the Christians as Chalice Well, the elaborate cover of which is carved with the major religious symbol of the Vesica Piscis [Vessel of the Fish]. … Chalice Well is more than a healing spring, however. … The bold megalithic construction of these stones was said by the archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie to be of ancient Egyptian influence, while most modern researchers date it to at least the Bronze Age (2000 BC). Behind the central shaft, the stones form a perfectly polygonal chamber, and it is thought that ritual and [human] sacrifice were carried out here at the correct seasonal times. (Roberts, 1978, p. 20. “The tor is a 522-foot-high mound that dominates the town of Glastonbury, which is built upon and around its lower slopes” (p. 18).)

To explain the extraordinary fact of water coming out of the side of the mountain, the Aztecs theorized that mountains are filled with water. Bernardino de Sahagún wrote that the Aztecs thought that mountains were

big vessels or mansions filled with water; and it might happen that they break. … Then the water which they enclosed, would pour out and would inundate the earth. (Broda, 1987, p. 93)

Inside the mountains was the paradise of the rain god Tlaloc, called Tlalocan, and out of this paradise came the springs which formed the rivers, the lakes, and the sea.

Image 6. Zona arqueológica Templo Mayor en el Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México. [Archaeological area of the Templo Mayor in the Historical Center of Mexico City, Mexico]. Photo by BekaHari.
Image 6. Zona arqueológica Templo Mayor en el Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México. [Archaeological area of the Templo Mayor in the Historical Center of Mexico City, Mexico]. Photo by BekaHari.

The Templo Mayor, the Great Pyramid of the Aztecs, which was itself an artificial mountain, seemed to have been conceptualized similarly as standing over the waters.

The Cronica Mexicayotl relates that Tenochtitlan [current Mexico City] was founded over two rocks that arose above two caves filled with water. The one looking toward the east contained the tleatl (water of fire) and atlatlayan (water of conflagration); the one facing north contained the matlalatl (blue water) and toxpalatl (yellow water?). … In those waters resided, according to Sahagún, “the father and mother of the gods,” namely, Huehueteotl, the ancient god of fire and lord of time who occupied the center of the earth. … The temple itself was a sacred mountain covering the subterranean waters like a cave. Within Sahagún’s list of the seventy-eight “buildings” or places belonging to the precinct of the Templo Mayor, four sacred springs or wells are mentioned: Tlilapan, “place of black water,” Tezcaapan, “place of the water of the mirror,” Coaapan, “place of the serpent water,” and tozpalatl, “yellow waters.” … The tradition of building the main temple and axis mundi on top of a sacred cave from which a spring issued seems also to have older antecedents and might date back at least to Classic period Teotihuacan. (Broda, 1987, pp. 92-94)

The idea that water is found inside mountains appears also in the Pahlavi texts of Zoroastrian scripture in a remarkable chapter on the genealogy of the mountains.

First, Mount Albûrz arose; afterwards, the other ranges of mountains … of the middle of the earth; for as Albûrz grew forth all the mountains remained in motion, for they have all grown forth from the root of Albûrz. At that time they came up from the earth, like a tree which has grown up to the clouds and its root to the bottom; and their root passed on that way from one to the other, and they are arranged in mutual connection. Afterwards, about that wonderful shaking out from the earth, they say that a great mountain is the knot of lands; and the passage for the waters within the mountains is the root which is below the mountains; they forsake the upper parts so that they may flow into it, just as the roots of trees pass into the earth; a counterpart … of the blood in the arteries of men, which gives strength to the whole body.[4] (my bold to emphasize the idea of a gradient)

This image of the mountain as a kind of living tree, compared also to a human body with its arteries and blood, is apt. Looked at from one angle, a tree is a sort of advanced mountain, a mound of minerals filled with water, like an ordinary mountain, but more differentiated and growing upward towards the sun. And an animal is a more advanced plant, a water filled mound of minerals growing upward, but moving from place to place. That humans too respond to the sun seems to me clear from the phenomenon of Christmas “blues.” The Christmas season comes at the time of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It is common knowledge that as the days get shorter and shorter, most plants “hibernate” and stop growing. On the very first day after the solstice, plants begin to grow again. In primitive cultures the solstice was marked very carefully and often celebrated at the top of a mountain. The people would spend the night following the solstice on the sighting mountain, and, at the moment of the appearance of the new sun, they would do a dance to the sun, grateful for its reappearance.[5] To an outside observer, the movements of the people in this dance, might be seen as of the same type as the new movements of the plants. The “hibernation” of the plants corresponds to the Christmas “blues,” which, I would guess, is biological, related to hormonal changes due to the lessening light.  How much of mountain ritual is just the “tree in us” responding naturally is hard to know.

Image 7. Lar plain and its beautiful lake [there is no reason to think this is the probably mythical lake called Arêdvîvsûr mentioned below, but it is suggestive of it — Mount Damavand, the highest mountain of the Alborz (Albûrz) Range is in the background] lie in a distance of 70 km from the eastern Tehran. The plain is in fact the biggest valley of Iran, and therefore called a plain. The most beautiful landscapes in Iran can be viewed from Lar plain. Numerous springs in the plain have brought it the name “Land of A Thousand Springs” and it is also called Lar-e-Divaneh (Crazy Lar) because of its unstable climate. ... Photo by Mahdi Kalhor.
Image 7. Lar plain and its beautiful lake [there is no reason to think this is the probably mythical lake called Arêdvîvsûr mentioned below, but it is suggestive of it — Mount Damavand, the highest mountain of the Alborz (AlbûrzRange is in the background] lie in a distance of 70 km from the eastern Tehran. The plain is in fact the biggest valley of Iran, and therefore called a plain. The most beautiful landscapes in Iran can be viewed from Lar plain. Numerous springs in the plain have brought it the name “Land of A Thousand Springs” and it is also called Lar-e-Divaneh (Crazy Lar) because of its unstable climate. … Photo by Mahdi Kalhor.

Moving on we can say that generally, to the native mind and to the ancient mind, the mountain is the source of water. This is expressed beautifully in the Pahlavi texts. It is said that on the south border of Albûrz is a lake called Arêdvîvsûr which is the source lake for a sea that holds the water from one thousand lakes.

At the south of Mount Albûrz a hundred thousand golden channels are there formed, and that water goes with warmth and clearness, through the channels, on to Hûgar the lofty; on the summit of that mountain is a lake; into that lake it flows, becomes quite purified, and comes back through a different golden channel. At the height of a thousand men an open golden branch from that channel is connected with Mount Aûsîndäm amid the wide-formed ocean; from there one portion flows forth to the ocean for the purification of the sea, and one portion drizzles in moisture upon the whole of this earth, and all the creations of Aûharmazd acquire health from it, and it dispels the dryness of the atmosphere. (West, 1880, pp. 42-43)

There is a similar description in Ezekiel 47:1-12, where the temple mount is the source of the waters that flow into the “sea of foul waters” and make it wholesome; and, in Ugaritic mythology, the god El is

at the sources of the Two Rivers,
In the midst of the pools of the double-Deep.

The reader may also recall that Ea, the god of Wisdom, killed Apsu, the fresh waters and built his home on top of it, and Marduk killed Tiamat, heaping a mountain on her head and releasing “through her eyes the Euphrates and Tigris.” (Clifford, 1972, p. 48; Ea and Marduk: p. 18)

Examples of this sort where the mountain is the source or organizer or arranger of the waters could be multiplied.

The gods of water

Many of the mountain gods are specifically associated with the mountain water: the rivers, springs, lakes, and, mostly, with the rain.

Image 7. View from the ancient Messene up to the village Mavromati, to the mountain Eua, in front of the mountain Ithome (Voulknou, Βουλκάνου) in the background [Volcano, Messenia, Greece]. Photo by Stefan Artinger.
Image 8. View from the ancient Messene up to the village Mavromati, to the mountain Eua, in front of the mountain Ithome (Voulknou, Βουλκάνου) in the background [Volcano, Messenia, Greece]. Photo by Stefan Artinger.

Pausanius tells of a spring called Clepsydra on the summit of Ithome, the Messinian acropolis. He says that, like other people, the Messinians claim that Zeus was brought up with them by two nymphs, Ithome (the name of the mountain) and Neda (the name of the river).

These nymphs are said to have bathed Zeus here [in the mountain river], … Water is carried every day from the spring to the Sanctuary of Zeus of Ithome. (Pausanias, ca. 150 CE/1932, pp. 351-352, Book IV, “Messinia,” xxxiii 1-2)

Image 8. Doi Suthep National Park, Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand. Photo by Hdamm.
Image 9. Doi Suthep National Park, Chiang Mai Province, northern Thailand. Photo by Hdamm.

Hallett says that the megalithic Lawas of Northern Siam (Thailand) believed, until recently, that a god named Poo-Sa controlled the water flow from the mountain, Doi Suthep. They believe that Poo-Sa

expects human sacrifices to be made if he is to allow water to course down the mountain and irrigate the rice fields. Even as late as the last quarter of the nineteenth century it is recorded that the Lawas petitioned the Lao ruler of Chiengmai to hasten the execution of some criminals which might induce Poo-Sa to allow more water to reach the fields which were suffering from drought. (Wales, pp. 96-97 quoting from Hold S. Hallett, A Thousand Miles on an Elephant in the Sham States. London, 1890, p. 57.)

In the Aztec Codex Borbonicus, there is a picture of a mountain with a “mist house temple” on top, decorated with blue stripes. In it is the rain god Tlaloc with his “wife” Chalchiuhtlicue “the goddess of the water of springs, rivers, and especially the lake of Mexico.” (Couch, 1985, p. 57 quoting Johanna Broda’s, “Las Fiestas axtecas de los dioses de la lluvia,” in Revista Española de Antropología Americana, 6:245-327, Madrid, p. 260.)

We must also remember that, as mentioned above, according to Sahagûn, in the waters under the Templo Mayor, lived “‘the father and mother of the gods,'” “namely, Huehueteotl, the ancient god of fire and lord of time who occupied the center of the earth” (Broda, 1987, pg. 93-94). The existence of a fire god down here conflicts with our analysis unless we remember that the fire god lived in a volcano.

But behind the great rivers of the world are the rain and snow clouds on the mountain peaks. No source of water is more important than this. The psyche respectfully projects much onto the many varieties of storms and clouds. Baal, enthroned on Zaphon, is called

Seven lightnings . . ./
Eight storehouses of thunder,/
The staff lightnings . . ./
His head is wonderful./
Dew is between his eyes . . .[6]

If Baal is associated with thunder storms, Anat, who visits Baal on “the heights of Zaphon” is more the lovely light rain.

For the love of Aliyan Baal,/
The love of Misty One, Daughter of Bright Cloud,/
The love of Dewy One, Daughter of Showers,/
The love of Earthie, Daughter of Y`bdr. (Clifford, pp. 66-67)

Image 9. San Francisco Peaks — Fall 2007 [north central Arizona, USA]. Photo by Milonica at English Wikipedia.
Image 10. San Francisco Peaks — Fall 2007 [north central Arizona, USA]. Photo by Milonica at English Wikipedia.

A female is also associated with rain in a Hopi Indian story. Here a hard-working, beautiful Hopi girl becomes engaged to a kachina who lives on top of the mountain, Nuvatukya’ovi [that is, San Francisco Peaks from the point of view of the Hopi Reservation] in an ice cavern. She is helped by a spider woman to get through an initiation by the grandmother of the kachina. Under severe conditions of wind and cold, she is required to grind ice into water. She completes her initiation, the marriage is performed, and the water she made from the ice is to be used to make four years of rain for her village. They all fly back to her village. The kachinas come as clouds. The rest of the story is not relevant at this point, but I will tell more of it below. (Malotki & Lomatuway’ma, 1987) The Navajo, as I said above, speak of Blue Cloud Boy and Blue Cloud Girl. There is also Black Cloud who is “Male Moisture” and Black Cloud Girl; both live on the mountain. Alternatively it was thought that, “Rain clouds originated from the sacred Spring atop [the] mountain.” (Luckert, pp. 114-115 — Ernest Nelson; p. 41, Long Salt; p. 119, Ernest Nelson; p. 5)

Because of its beauty, simplicity, and relevance I will repeat the beginning of a prayer from Long Salt made to Head of Earth, regarding one type of heavy rain.

Black Cloud, Male Moisture. [Contrast with Anat, the Dewy One, the Daughter of Showers from the Canaanite text above. We make a leap: Black Cloud, Male Moisture of the Navajo is! Baal, Anat’s husband, who the Canaanites saw behind or in Thunder Storms.]/
The One who sits blanketed with darkness./
The One who sits with the Small Rain Moisture./
The One who sits with the Black Cloud One

And I include two lines from one of his songs:

Head of Earth, sitting with Black Cloud./
The One who is enveloped by bouncing raindrops and mist (Luckert, pp. 41-42)

Image 10. A peak at Tai'shan—Mount Tai, Shandong Province, eastern China. Photo by David Turner.
Image 11. A peak at Tai’shanMount Tai, Shandong Province, eastern China. Photo by David Turner.

There were also mountain rain-gods worshipped on Sung-shan, in China, at least as far back as 118 CE (Mullikin & Hotchkiss, 1973, p. 33), and the mountain Tài Shān (one of the five sacred Taoist Guardian mountains mentioned earlier — the eastern guardian) is ruled by the Green Dragon, Ch’ing Lung, Lord of [the] Springs and Streams

that are fed by the clouds gathered on its summit. [The Green Dragon] thus stands supreme in the veneration of the Chinese agricultural society. … To this effect from the dawn of history the Emperors came to make offerings to the genii of the mountains, to invoke their blessings, and appeal to them when the rains were late coming or flooding the land. (p. 3, cf. Luckert, 1976, pp. 49ff)

The gods of plants and animals

Water is from the mountains; water is necessary for life; on the mountains are the gods of plant and animal life.

In the Zâd-sparam we are told that

by [the 2244 mountains] the earth was bound together and arranged, and on them was the sprouting and growth of plants, wherefrom was the nourishment of cattle, and therefrom was the great advantage of assistance to men. (West, 1880, p. 174)

In the Ugaritic poem regarding Anat and Baal that I quoted above, Baal asked the goddess Anat whose home is also on a mountain to, “Make love increase (?) in the depths of the fields” (Clifford, p. 68). Hindu Shiva (whose epithet Giriśa means Mountain Lord) is also associated with a goddess who makes the plants grow in the fields. This is his wife who

was worshipped as Umā Haimavatī, daughter of the Himalayas, and [as] Pāravatī, she of the mountains. … At the same time, as indicating her essential relation to the soil and fertility, she was worshipped as Dēvī or Gauri, the rice spirit. (Wales, p. 88)

And the reader will remember that the Japanese mountain spirits (yama no kami) descend in the spring and become the rice-field spirits (ta no kami). After they make the rice grow, they return to the mountains.

In a story from the Midrash a mythological female figure is also associated with the growth of plants. The story is about the shamir that was used by Solomon. It was a stone that split rocks, iron not being allowed in the construction of sacred objects. The tale says that the shamir was given by God

to the Angel of the Sea, and that Angel entrusted none with the shamir except the moor-hen, which had taken an oath to watch the shamir carefully. The moor-hen takes the shamir with her to mountains which are not inhabited by men, splits them by means of the shamir, and injects seeds, which grow and cover the naked rocks, and then they can be inhabited. (Ginzberg, 1967?/1969, Vol. 4, pp. 165-169)

Image 11. 浑源悬空寺 [Hunyuan Monastery on or near Heng-Shan, Shanxi, China]. Photo by Zhangzhugang.
Image 12. 浑源悬空寺 [Hunyuan Monastery on or near Heng-Shan, Shanxi, China]. Photo by Zhangzhugang.
A Chinese god of agriculture was celebrated by a huge tablet over the entrance of the main temple of North Peak (in the Heng-shan range). On this tablet the Emperor Kuang-hsü (1875-1907) inscribed calligraphy that read: “to render thanks to the god of agriculture, Shennung, for bounteous harvests” (Mullikan & Hotchkis, pp. 19-20).
Image 12. Mount Dikte, Crete. Photo by Lathiot at English Wikipedia. (title by author)
Image 13. Mount Dikte, Crete. Photo by Lathiot at English Wikipedia. (title by author)

On Crete too, in ancient time, the vegetation (fertility) deities Hermes and Aphrodite were worshipped in a mountain sanctuary. “It is well known that the very essence of Hermes is that of a god of vegetation.” These male and female deities were also associated as “gods of health.” (Levi, 1981, p. 41)

Image 13. Five Tlaloquê depicted in the Codex Borgia, Page 27. Photographer not given.
Image 14. Five Tlaloquê depicted in the Codex Borgia, Page 27. Photographer not given.

A florescent myth from The Historia de los Reynos de Culhuacan y México gives us the same basic idea of how our food plants came to us from the mountains. This is a story of how a man got all the food staples from the Tlaloque, the rain gods on the mountains.

Nanahuatl stole the white, purple, yellow, and red maize from the Tlaloque (the blue, white, yellow, and red Tlaloque), together beans, amaranth, and sage, that is all the important food staples. By means of the lightning, Nanahuatl split up the Tonacatepetl [the Mountain of Sustenance], where all crops were locked up, and he stole them.[7] Just as the mountains are the source of plants, so too, they are the source of animals. Filling in some details from the African story about Mount Kilimanjaro that I began in Part 1, the young Taita men asked,

“What kind of a god is he to live in such a nice house [Mount Kilimanjaro]?” “A good God,” the old man replied, “and a God of mercy: He gives people flocks and herds. He it was who gave to our ancestor, Kidongai, forty brown cows, one black bull, twenty donkeys, forty sheep and one dog. He told our father not to kill the cows unless they were sick, but to keep them for increase. The donkeys he gave us to carry loads for our women and the dog kept watch in our camps by night. These all came down by a rope from heaven. And the house of this God is what you see over yonder.” (Stuart-Watt, n.d., pp. 17-18)

Here is another dream.

I’m lecturing people about the importance of a place in the river for the spawning of fish. This is a central breeding place. It is in the mountains. (my dream, October 5, 1983)

This “place in the river” that is “in the mountains” is obviously a symbol of a very important place in the psyche, an inner spawning place, perhaps the source of all creativity at the beginning of time.

The creation

Since the work of Eliade, it is common knowledge that Creation (both of humans and the world) often is seen as taking place on a mountain. My own research, which I undertook without any knowledge of Eliade’s ideas, independently confirms this fact. I will add a list of examples to those he and others influenced by him have already given.[8]

... Gobernador Knob, Ch'ool'í'í, ... the tassel at the head of a large corn plant ... [New Mexico, USA]. Source: BLM.
Image 15. … Gobernador Knob, Ch’ool’í’í, … the tassel at the head of a large corn plant [New Mexico, USA]. Source: BLM.
As I said above, in a Navajo story, Gobernador Knob (Navajo: Ch’ool’í’í) is the mountain “where mankind came into being through First Man and First Woman” (Luckert, p. 51 — Floyd Laughter). Clifford (p. 100) noticed that “Ezekiel 28 assumes the garden in Eden (v. 13) is the holy mountain (vv. 14,16).” According to Wales (p. 76 — citing T. C. Hodson), some of the Naga tribes of India “point to a mountain or hill as [the] place of origin [of their ancestors].” Frank Waters (quoted by Evans-Wentz, pp. 7-8) writes of the Zuñi Indian Mountain of Generation whose base was the waist level of “Earth Mother, the goddess-mother of creation, through whose successive womb-worlds they emerged to this one,” and the Diegueño Indians, of San Diego County, California, USA, spoke of “The Mountain of Creation,” which may have been Cuchama (Evans-Wentz, pp. 7-8).
Image 15. Back Allegheny Mountain, West Virginia [USA] (Photo taken from Whittaker Station on Cass Scenic Railroad). Photo by Valerius Tygart.
Image 16. Back Allegheny Mountain, West Virginia [USA] (Photo taken from Whittaker Station on Cass Scenic Railroad). Photo by Valerius Tygart.

A combination of the Heaven, the creation, and the water motifs appear in a recent popular song.

Almost Heaven,/
West Virginia/
Blue Ridge Mountains,/
Shenandoah River./
Life is old there, older than the trees,/
younger than the mountains, growin’ like a breeze. (Denver, Danoff, & Nivert, 1971)

These examples are evidence that not only is the mountain an axis mundi, a center of the earth, but also the center and beginning of time, an axis temporalis, as it were, the place where the gods reside (including the Aztec Lord of Time mentioned above who resided in a water filled cave under a rock, in the center of the world, in Tenochtitlan [current Mexico City] and from which they created the universe. The mountain is a place where one returns to the beginning, to the time before and during and just after creation. On a mountain people enter the Garden of Eden.

The gods of the good life: Health, fertility, and peace

The mountain gods give life and all things associated with a good life including health, fertility, and peace. “Let the mountains produce well-being for the people,” says Psalm 72:3. Mount Ushi-darena is said to receive its waters “so that all created things thereby derive health from [it]” (Evans-Wentz, p. 65).

Hermes and Aphrodite, along with Pan and the Nymphs, or Eros, as we said above, were worshipped on the Cretan mountains for health, and the “great Cretan goddess of nature” was worshipped on the mountain peaks” in a dual aspect, a celestial one as Mistress of the Sky and a chthonian (that is, earthy) one as goddess of earth, harvest, health and fertility.” (Levi, pp. 39, 41)

Image 16. This photograph shows Mt. Fuji at sunrise from across Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. ... Photo by Kawaguchiko.
Image 17. This photograph shows Mt. Fuji at sunrise from across Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. ... Photo by Kawaguchiko.

A Japanese myth about the goddess Konohana-sakuya-hime-no-mikoto (blooming-tree-princess), one of the deities of Fujiyama, describes her doing many things to ward off the unfounded jealousy of her husband who found her pregnant in a remarkably short time after their marriage. In essence she is the “great Cretan goddess of nature” in her chthonian (that is, earthy) aspect.

Because she made rice-foods from the rice of Nunata, she is the goddess of farmers; because she brewed a heavenly sakí from the rice of Sanada, she is worshipped by brewers; and because of her feat in the parturition she is generally and fervently worshipped as the goddess of easy-birth. (Starr, 1924, pp. 123-125)

The Navajo god Monster Slayer helped the Navajo get their mountain by being up on top and catching projectiles the enemy threw from the top of San Francisco Peaks. In this story, not only did he create plants, but he also turned them into a medicine.

Upon catching these projectiles he transformed them miraculously and planted them on Navajo Mountain. … And in a miraculous way he turned these things into medicine. And today, when there is a nine-night ceremonial, some of these are made into an emetic called iikóóh.[9]

The Nahuatl testified in their language to the absolute dependence of human society on mountains. For them the village or community

was regarded as altepetl, which means mountain of water or mountain filled with water, and the corresponding glyph was, in fact, a mountain with its fauces or a cave on its lower part. (Broda, p. 92)

Finally, the mountain goddess Anat, the “Misty One,” the “Dewy One,” “Daughter of Bright Cloud,” “Daughter of showers,” who is able to “make love increase in the depths of the fields,” is also able to

Remove (?) war from the earth,/
Set love in the dust. (?)/
Pour out peace in the depths of the earth. (Clifford, p. 68)

The gods of wealth, abundance, money, prosperity

Image 17. Mount Rainier [= Tacoma] as viewed in the summer from Silver Queen Peak, near Crystal Mountain resort at an elevation of around 7000 ft looking west by southwest. The main summit, Columbia Crest (14410 feet) is at the center. The White River is visible in the lower left [Tacoma, Washington, USA]. Photo by Dllu.
Image 18. Mount Rainier [= Tacoma] as viewed in the summer from Silver Queen Peak, near Crystal Mountain resort at an elevation of around 7000 ft looking west by southwest. The main summit, Columbia Crest (14410 feet) is at the center. The White River is visible in the lower left [Tacoma, Washington, USA]. Photo by Dllu.

The water from the mountains flows down and fertilizes the fields and lies behind all human power and prosperity. In a Siwash Indian myth (Williams, 1910, p. 33), a man searches for and finds a great deal of “hiaqua, or shell money” under a rock on the top of Tacoma that made him the richest of men. The Aztec Tlaloc is associated with, among other things, “food, riches, and abundance” (Broda, pp. 71-72), and in the Bundahis, the 2244 mountains “cause the tillage and prosperity [in the various districts and countries]” (West (pp. 39-40). Here is a relevant dream from the woman with a long history of mountain dreams.

I was sitting by a bunch of rocks by a river of clean water. I was just kind of thinking all by myself. Behind me was a mountain, not a huge one but a medium size one. There is a bunch of rocks, and I started playing, throwing them into the river, and I picked one up, and all kinds of coins come up from the dirt underneath. They are gold coins, here from the middle of nowhere, and they keep coming. They are different sizes, like the size of nickels, dimes, and quarters. They must have been real old, but they are shiny. Somehow I thought it was good luck and that I will take them with me wherever I go. This is going to be for good luck. They were beautiful too. They had some kind of weird design, but they were beautiful. I never saw one of those before.

This so-called “weird design” is an indication that this woman has received a message from the unconscious, but this message is not yet understood and is experienced as weird or alien (as if from another country, in a foreign language). The dreamer is right that the finding of a cache of shiny gold coins (the light motif) is good luck. Combined with the river of “clean water” and the “bunch of rocks,” this dream indicates great good health and wealth from the mountain source for the psyche, and, hopefully, for the physical body as well. I might add that the dreamer had been very sick for many years, but, in the time just before this dream, medical treatment had begun to help her. This dream does not take place on a mountain but in the presence of one, but it is not a great leap to think of the river, with its treasures, as coming from the mountain. It is a dream about mountain power.

The Glory

Summing up, I quote from Darmesteter’s beautiful translation of the Zamyâd Yast.

At Lake Kāsava … there … stands Mount Ushidhau [the seat of the Hvarenû or Glory] surrounded by waters, that run from the mountain.

It [the water of the rivers in which the Glory lies, and in the midst of which the Kavi {kings} have been nourished] runs unto him [the king], it flows and swells unto him, bringing good pastures and fine horses, bringing plenty, full of glory; with beauty and weal; powerful and friendly, rich of pastures, prolific and golden. It runs unto him, it flows and swells unto him, bright and glorious, making the white … [sic] grow, smiting away all plagues. … And then (through it) living creatures may keep away [doubtful] hunger and death, living creatures (may keep away) cold and heat.

This mountain was made to help the faithful with “the strength and vigour of Mount Ushi-darena, made by Mazda.” (Darmesteter, 1883, pp. 302 {with notes}, 309)

Paradise is on the mountain

{Walking in the mountains and experiencing the mountain streams and rocks and grasses and trees, visitors may very well begin to feel they are seeing something they don’t usually see. It may very well seem that this is where the water starts that flows down to the land below. It may feel like the source of everything good in life, and, for a moment, it may feel as if we are in a kind of earthly paradise. In the Judaeo-Christian tradition the words that may come to mind are the Garden of Eden. There may be a feeling of incredible and profound well-being, a feeling that one has returned to the source, maybe to the beginning of time, to the center of the world or the universe, a place in space and time from which everything started (and continues to start) and from which all things flow. From more of a psychological angle, it may be felt that one has become refreshed. Put more dramatically, there can be feelings of having been reborn or re-created. A person can feel healthy and wealthy, more wealthy than the richest person in the world. One can feel filled with power, the power of the original self, of the original man (or woman), more powerful than any head of state. Coming down the mountain, these feelings may persist, but, after “coming down,” they will dissipate, sooner or later. Then a longing will come for a return to paradise. It is important to remember this aspect of the mountain god, the mountain experience, when we approach mountain dreams and mountain visions (visions of and on mountains).}


  1. I was told that all the mountain streams of the California Sierras are now polluted, and it is dangerous to drink from them.
  2. A dream fragment from one of my dreams:
    ... [there is] a beautiful, amazing lake in the middle of high snow-capped mountain peaks. Someone says it is the most beautiful and perfect spot in Northern California [though it is not like anything I saw in my trips up there]. ... (October 2, 1986)
  3. Macalister 1931, pp. 7-8). The Hill of Tara, in the County of Meath, is Temuir in Irish which may mean a place which commands a prospect (from the glossator Cormac mac Cuillenáin, died 903 CE). Tara is 512 feet, but it commands the country. All this information is from Dindshenchas, or History of Strongholds. This book is about a thousand years old. It is not a formal history but folklore that may have functioned as a guide-book. It was probably written by a "learned man of the court of Tara."
  4. West (1880, pp. 29-30). For the idea of mountains having roots see also Job 28:9 where man "overturns mountains by the roots" and for the idea in modern science see Gamow:
    Only comparatively recently was it recognized that the bulk of any mountain is situated under the surface of the Earth [like an ice-berg]. ... Similarly, to each mountain rising above the surface of the Earth there corresponds, so to speak, a "negative mountain" formed by the granite masses protruding into the underlying plastic layer of basalt. To remove the mountain completely from the surface of the Earth it is necessary, not only to take away its visible protruding part, but also to remove its "roots," which penetrate deep into the crust. ... (The mountain is too heavy to lie on the earth's crust) (Spectorsky, 1955, pp. 315-318 quoting Gamow)
  5. Hedges, 1981, p. 152). Hedges quotes from "Indian Legends of the Cuyamaca Mountains," Mary Elizabeth Johnson, San Diego: Privately printed, 1914.
  6. Clifford, p. 77. Remember the Navajo, Ernest Nelsons, account:
    [Flint Hogan] is also the home of Thunder. Thunder himself is of the thunder people who live and move about with the Clouds. Lightnings are their missiles. But Lightning itself comes from Black [sic] or Above Sky. ... And it is said that in that place, bundles of Lightning are hung. And these are Arrow beings (Luckert, 1977, p. 119).
  7. Broda, pg. 98. See also 120n:
    A similar myth was recorded by Schultze-Jena among the Pipiles (Nahuas) of El Salvador. According to this myth, the tepehua, "the rain boys" or "owners of the mountains," also stole the maize from inside a mountain. The smallest of them, Chijchin, split the mountain.
  8. Eliade (1958, pp. 378-379). And see, for example, Kristensen (1960):
    At Delphi the omphalos [navel] is the site of the oracle, where Apollo resides as god of the oracle. ... It is here that life arises — rising life is divine life. The Delphic oracle is also called the universal hearth, koinē hestia, the residence of Hestia or Vesta. The earth mother Vesta or Hestia is the virgin goddess out of whom life spontaneously arises. (p. 107)
    Also we find, in the same book, the Egyptian notion of the hill of Creation, where life arose in the beginning. The earth height which came up out of the primeval waters was the place where the earth began to live. There life arose and from there it spread. ... The light myth is also connected with this notion of the creation of the world; from the (sun) hill the sun arose in the beginning. The Egyptian texts call the day of Creation "the day of the elevation of the earth" (Book of the Dead 1:19). The height or hill as a sacred place is thus the place where the life of the earth reveals itself, the place of divine revelation in general (p. 106).
  9. Luckert, pp. 48-49. Navajo Floyd. Cf. a contemporary dreams:
    I am looking for a place to take a shower. After a few mistrials I get to a regular city house on a city street raised on a hill. I want to go up the front yard to take a shower [sic], but the woman who lives there comes out and tells me not to. She lives there alone. She tells me that she is growing some trees, possibly pine, from cuttings on her front yard. She has mixed two types of plants that have never been mixed before and they are sprouting. The yard is full of new life. I give up and start to slink away, like a bum, but she likes that I am humble and becomes friendly. I go into her house to take a shower. She comes out of her room, radiant, and then appears on a Victorian couch (my dream, December 31, 1987).
    This woman is the equivalent of the moor-hen planting on the rocks. She is also equivalent to Kubile, the Phrygian great goddess of nature, who, as we shall see, appeared in later years in the Greek agora as Cybele, lying on a couch. The dream-hill is in Los Angeles, and the shower is a citified form of a cleansing, life producing river.

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The Mountain Archetype Copyright © 1988 by Thomas R. Hersh. All Rights Reserved.

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