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Kasha Katuwe – also known as the “Tents Rocks National Monument” – is located roughly 37 miles south of Santa Fe, a thriving New Age hub in New Mexico in the American southwest. A truly awe-inspiring natural landform, this desert monument has long been sacred to the Cochiti Pueblo people, on whose land it sits.
The sacred site comprises a collection of spectacular canyons and magnificent cone-shaped tent rocks that have formed over millions of years, due to the erosion of softer layers from hard volcanic rock. The smallest tent rocks are only 3-1/2 feet high, while the tallest rise to 98 feet. Most of the tent rocks are adorned with conical boulder-caps, which protect the supporting structures (referred to as hoodoos) below. The hoodoos are covered by a layer of pumice and hard tuff (light porous rock) that give them a pink-and-beige appearance, apart from occasional bands of gray. Shards of volcanic glass are embedded in their surface, which creates a stunning effect close up.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Native Americans have lived near the site for at least 4,000 years. During the 14th century large pueblos, or villages, were established by the ancestors of the modern-day Pueblo de Cochiti. Less than 1,000 Cochiti tribes people live on the lands surrounding Kasha-Katuwe today. Despite numerous outside influences, they still observe the Native American form of governance, wear traditional clothes, practice sacred rites, and perform ancient religious ceremonies. The Cochiti people welcome visitors to Kasha-Katuwe, although they ask that guests observe a number of rules: for example, the rocks should be approached on foot, which means a roughly 1-1/4 mile trek from the entrance to the site. Dogs and mobile phones are forbidden, and visitors are asked to adopt a respectful attitude, especially if they come down tribes people engaged in sacred rites. The Cochiti perform a number of dances near the site to re-enact their sacred myths, and ask that these are not interrupted, although they may be watched. Applause is inappropriate.
Uluru – named Ayers Rock by European settlers in the region – is a colossal sandstone mound rising from flat land in the Northern Territory of central Australia. It has a circumference of more than 5-1/2 miles and rises over 1,115 feet from the ground, even though the bulk of the rock lies beneath the surface.
For tens of thousands of years Uluru has been sacred to the local Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara peoples, who to this day still decorate the surface with beautiful and evocative paintings. They follow the indigenous spiritual tradition of the Anangu – the indigenous Australians – known to outsiders as Dreamtime.
According to Anangu mythology, the world was completely formless until ancestral beings appeared and journeyed across the Earth, leaving their mark wherever they went. It is said that their travels began in central Australia, meaning that Uluru is one of the most important of their sacred sites, because its various cliffs, caves, ravines, and gullies are all evidence of their early activities. There is a Dreamtime story associated with every significant feature of the rock, and these are taught to adolescent Anangu during initiation ceremonies, but are usually kept secret from outsiders. The local Anangu tribes believe that they can make a direct connection with Dreamtime – the spiritual reality underlying physical reality – by performing sacred rites on the rock. They believe the land is still inhabited by the spirits of the ancestral creator beings, whom they refer to as Tjukuritja or Waparitja, and that it is their responsibility to pass this wisdom on to the young.
For modern-day visitors one of Uluru’s most impressive features is that it appears to change color according to the time of day and season of the year, at sunset the rock seems to shimmer a deep reddish-orange, and after rain it can appear to be a metallic gray-blue color streaked with black.
Many tourists make the dangerous climb up Uluru against the wishes of the local Anangu people, who want to preserve the spiritual significance of Dreamtime paths that traverse the rock. When a tourist dies or is hurt climbing Uluru, the Anangu regard it as a tragic.
Glastonbury Tor is a sacred hill that rises mysteriously from verdant green plains in Somerset, in south-west England. It is crowned by a roofless stone tower – all that remains of St. Michael’s Church, which was built in the early 14th century to replace an earlier church destroyed by an earthquake in 1275.
Modern-day archaeologists have found Neolithic tools on the Tor, suggesting that people have visited this sacred site throughout human history. Until roughly 2,000 years ago the surrounding land would have been submerged by water, so that the Tor would have appeared like an island to all who visited. Perhaps this explains why so many people believe the Tor is the ancient Isle of Avalon, the final resting place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere. According t Celtic mythology, Avalon is home to Gwyn ap Nudd, Lord of the Underworld and King of the Fairies. As a consequence, many modern-day Celtic pagans view Glastonbury Tor as an entrance to the fairy-world and come to the Tor to perform sacred rites and to interact with fairies.
Although the Tor is a natural formation, a number of terraces are clearly visible. According to Geoffrey Russell, they form a massive spiral labyrinth that may be walked in a sacred journey to the summit. In total, seven terraces encircle the Tor, creating a distinct pattern found at many Neolithic sites.
Archaeologists have also found evidence of a 5th century CE fort on the Tor, with two burials aligned north-south, indicating that the site was pagan before St. Michael’s Church was built. In 1539 the Tor was the site of a grizzly execution, when the last Abbot of Glastonbury, Richard Whiting, was hanged, drawn, and quartered here. Thereafter the church fell into disuse.
Today, the Tor is visited by followers of different spiritual traditions (and none), who enjoy the wonderful views, stretching for miles in all directions. At the foot of the Tor are the magical Chalice Well gardens, where a holy spring gushes red water, believed by many to be the blood of Christ. This is a very special sanctuary, where visitors can come to rest and refresh themselves with delicious cool water after a hike up the Tor. And, if they pay special attention, they might even see a fairy.