Spirits of Ice and Fire

About 7,000 years ago, Mount Mazama (a volcano in the Cascade Range) erupted, and much of its mass collapsed into its center to form a caldera. The resulting 1,900-foot deep pit filled with water from snowfall (there are no underground streams feeding this lake), and Crater Lake–the deepest lake in the United States–was formed. It is an ice-cold, perfectly clear, pristine and pure lake of the most intense blue, ringed with jagged, glassy cliffs, the water broken by only two islands, the wooded Wizard (formed by a cinder cone) and the eerie, barren Phantom Ship. It is a place inhabited not only by water wights but also by snow wights–a melding of water and sky. And yet, the fire etins are still very much present here as well, for the volcano is not extinct, only sleeping.

The Klamath Native Americans believed Mount Mazama to be the home of their god of the underworld, Llao, and saw the eruption as a battle between Llao and the sky god Skell. After the creation of the lake, it became known as a place of great power, a site for vision quests, particularly by those who hoped to become shamans. Dangerous creatures were believed to dwell in its depths, who sometimes emerged to steal people away, especially those who ventured into its waters after dark.

For me, this place has associations with the Well of Wyrd, with Hvergelmir–the “bubbling, boiling spring” at the base of the Well, in which fire and ice combine in a continual alchemy–and with Odhroerir, the cauldron in which the Mead was brewed (the act of brewing being in itself a curious alchemy of fire, water, and earth). It is a holy place, and like most holy places, not a safe place. It is a place that stands, to a very great extent, between the worlds.

I am discovering an affinity I seem to have with volcanoes, and I certainly live in the right part of the world to be able to seek them out (here on the edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire, they abound both in live and extinct form) and make contact with the spirits there. Getting to visit with the spirits of Crater Lake was a rare and wonderful treat.


12 thoughts on “Spirits of Ice and Fire”

  1. Volcanos are very powerful and beautiful if terrifying aspects and occurances in nature. I have only had one oppertunity to see a volcano which was when I was six years old and on vacation in Hawaii with the family. During our time there we ventured into a dead volcano with the innter bowl of it was transformed into a lush forrested area. I remember it as one of the most vivid things I ever seen back when I had better vision and it will remain forever in my eye’s mind even after the last sliver of vision fades later in life.


  2. This was a magnificent sight, it truly was. Who would have thought? A LAKE. On top of a volcano. Like, the whole mouth of the volcano is a LAKE. And not just any lake, but THAT lake. Amazing.

  3. I’ve had a heavy interest in vulcanology since I was young. One of my favourite things, that I can never actually look at in the present time quite properly, is the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, because the majority of the fumaroles are no longer active. (‘Fumarole’ is one of my favourite words, also.) One of the reasons I’ve always been interested in going to Iceland is the volcanic activity there, and the astounding geography carved between it and glacier activity over its lifetime. Plus aurorae. And the waterfalls.

    We were delighted by the chipmunk picture — we both love them, and have seen them in the park nearest here, and in V’s old yard.

    The cliff with the two people standing on top of it is an especially powerful-looking place. I would love to (extraordinarily politely) meet those who lived there. They are fairly obviously no one to trifle with.

    I can definitely appreciate your associations with the place, and I’m glad that you were able to visit somewhere attuned to your unfolding path, and that your general area of the country is so well-suited to your needs and purposes. Mine is not very, but it has what I need for my mundane, extremely secular and human existence, and I am grateful for that, as well as my ability to shuck my human skin so easily, otherwise I think I’d be in a bit of trouble!

    1. Oh yes Iceland…sigh…I want to go as much for the terrain as for the historical significance.

      Those chipmunks were tame! They would come right up to you; clearly people feed them!

  4. That is… wow! There is an extinct volcano in my hometown here too apparently, but as far as I know it’s not all that accessible by foot.

    1. Crater Lake has only one accessible (and legal) trail that leads down to the water’s edge, and we took it. It actually winds down rather gracefully and gradually on its path a little more than a mile or so (if I am remembering correctly) down to the water, and is not arduous at all, but the climb back up WAS. I had to stop and rest many times along the way and was exhausted for a week afterwards but it was definitely worth it, to be able to sit at the water with my feet in it.

      1. Sounds close to perfect. And seeing the comment above, if you ever get to the point of planning a trip to Iceland please let me know. I want to go back so much!

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