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Sacred Space Studies: Crater Lake Essay

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Updated: May 22nd, 2020

Sacred spaces are common in societies since time in memorial. Human beings have always wanted to explain nature, but in cases where some things seem to be beyond their understanding, they tend to associate such things with supernormal powers. As such, sacred spaces have been of help whenever an individual decides to have some form of reflections with these supernormal spirits. Traditionally, sacred spaces were considered special places of worship. This has remained the case even in the modern society. However, some sacred spaces may not necessarily be a place of worship. Some of them are just places where people go to deliberate and reflect on their lives. According to Hale, not all sacred spaces are meant for worshipping the supernatural (67). Some spaces are considered sacred because they evoke emotions whenever an individual visits them, either due to a historical incident or any other incident that evokes memories. Crater Lake is one such place that is considered very sacred.

Crater Lake is found in Mount Mazama in Oregon. Scientists estimate that it must have been created in 4680 BC. This lake has been very special to the locals, especially the Klamath tribe of Native Americans who consider the place sacred (Omamo 89). Not only the locals, but also other people who have visited this place consider this Lake and the immediate surroundings sacred. The place is very serene and always brings the feeling that some supernormal spirit is present. The serenity of the place comes from the lake itself and the vegetation surrounding it. According to the views of Swan, Crater Lake is one of the bluest lakes (115). Although the lake is very small, it always gives the impression that it is the largest ocean when one sits on the shore. The locals associate the blue color of the lake with the royalty of the place. According to Sears, “Crater Lake has long been honored as a sacred place by the Klamath tribe of Native Americans, whose myths embody the catastrophic event they witnessed thousands of years ago (37).”

According to Sears, locals believe there was a wicked chief of the underworld referred to as Llao, who lived in this place before it turned into a lake. He was so wicked to an extent that all societal members hated him. One day, Skell, a chief of the world above, engaged him in war and subsequently defeated him. The home of this wicked chief was destroyed and in its place emerged this lake. From that moment, people around this place consider this lake and its surroundings sacred, as one way of commemorating the defeat of the wicked chief. Although scientists identify discrepancies in this belief held by the locals, it has largely been accepted that the nature of this place makes it sacred. It is sacred because locals hold the belief that something bad can happen to an individual who does not respect it. However, locals do not have specific reason to fear the place since nothing has ever happened to an individual who does not respect the place. Even though the respect given to the forest is cultural, it plays a critical role in preserving nature.

When one visits the place, the blue color of the lake strikes as strange. It is common for a large mass of water body to assume blue color when it is miles away. For this lake, the color of its waters appears pale blue even when one looks at it from a close range. When scoped, the water is of normal color, but very cold. The lower temperatures of the water in this lake remain another factor that makes people consider the lake sacred. Even during summer, water in the lake is always very cold despite the higher environmental temperatures. It is also strange to note that unlike other lakes found in the mountaintops, whose water always turn into ice during cold winters, the water of this lake has never turned into ice. This is based on the views of the locals and the reports given by scientists.

The vegetation around this lake also makes it be considered sacred. There is a small, but thick bush surrounding the lake, with some indigenous trees. According to Omamo, the place has retained these indigenous trees for years (78). These trees form a thick bush which, when looked from an aerial view, gives an impression of some kind of fortress around the lake, which ensures no intruders can find their way into the lake. In this small forest are various animals, which have been protected over years because their habitat has remained uninterrupted for centuries. According to the report by Olsen, locals have been very protective of this place (90). It is rare to witness cases of tree cutting in this forest. Locals hold a belief that taking any tree from this small bush would bring some form of a curse because it would be destroying their very foundation. For this reason, the forest is protected from human activities. The trees offer a very good shade, especially when temperatures are high. The place attracts many tourists who believe that the place offers them an environment to relax without interferences from the hustles and bustles in cities.

When temperatures are high, people prefer visiting this place because of the trees and the lake. Besides the spectacular look of the lake, it has a cool breeze flowing from to the mainland during afternoon hours. When temperatures are high, a cool soothing breeze from the lake would hit the visitor. Alternatively, one can choose to get the breeze while under a tree, away from direct sunlight. This way, the breeze would come whistling across the vegetations in the forest. To the locals, the sound signifies a lot. When the movement of the wind is slow, the vegetation would produce a soft hissing sound. To the locals, this is implies the spirits living in the forest are at peace and happy. It is during such times that people are allowed to visit the place. However, there are times when the wind is very strong and the sound that comes out is a cracking one.

Locals consider such occurrences a sign conflict with the spirits meaning they are annoyed and are seeking revenge. It is always strongly advised that one should stay away from the place in order to avoid the possible wrath of the spirits. It is true that when the forest is hit by strong wind currents, it can be very dangerous. However, the danger can be due to the possible fall of trees when the pressure from the wind becomes unbearable and not due to some magic caused by spirits. Although not scientifically valid, this belief has made locals develop a trend where they move out of the place as a safety measure when the sound from the trees is louder and more threatening.

The current human activities have also helped emphasize the fact that this place is sacred. The government declared the place a public park. The lake can now be visited frequently since it is considered a public place where people would go and rest at will, especially for purposes of leisure. However, most people visiting the place admire it so much. Most guests visiting the lake come for prayers or such other related activities. This has created an atmosphere where the locals, as well as outsiders generally consider the place sacred. When one visits the place during summer, it would be common to see a group of individuals making prayers. The place is not a preserve for any religious grouping or denomination. Although the majority of worshipers visiting the place are Christians, it is common to see Muslims, Hindus, and other religious groups gathering at the lake.

Crater Lake remains a sacred place even after the government took control. Although locals fought for a long time to control and protect the forest, they finally bowed down to government pressure and accepted the government’s plea. However, they ensured that the respect they have for this forest is transferred to other visitors who visit the forest. This effort has been fruitful because Crater Lake remains one of the most sacred spaces in the world. It is respected not only by the locals, but also by other people around the world.

Works Cited

Hale, Susan. Sacred Space, Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Places. Wheaton: Quest Books, 2007. Print.

Olsen, Brad. Sacred Places of North America: 108 Destinations. Santa Cruz: CCC Publications, 2002. Print.

Omamo, David. Sacred Places, North America: 108 Destinations. Santa Cruz: Consortium of Collective Consciousness, 2008. Print.

Sears, John. Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 1998. Print.

Swan, James. Sacred Places: How the Living Earth Seeks Our Friendship. Santa Fe: Bear, 1990. Print.

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