The Western Portal

Mount Shasta photo by Martin Gray

Located in the Cascade Range of northern California, Mt. Shasta is a double peaked extinct volcano rising to 14,162 feet (4317 meters). The largest volcanic peak in the continental United States, Mt. Shasta has five glaciers and numerous steam vents that feed three separate rivers. Long venerated as a sacred place by numerous Indian tribes, including the Wintu, Karuk, Okwanuchu and Modoc, the mountain takes its name from the local Sastise (Shastan) Indians. These tribes have used specific sites on Shasta for the training of medicine men and women, for spiritual vision quests, and for healing and guidance.

On the mountain’s lower, forested slopes, plants and other natural materials are still gathered for food, medicinal and ceremonial use. Shasta’s wildlife includes eagles, black bears and wolves but the bighorn sheep, grizzlies and antelopes commonly sighted in the 19th century have disappeared. Europeans first saw the mountain in 1827 and the first recorded ascent was in 1854. Trails to the summit now allow the climb to be made up and down in one day.

Numerous mysterious legends and psychic messages speak of the significance of Mt. Shasta as a place of powerful earth energies. Some of the oldest legends tell of a tribe of dwarf-like people who are believed to live within the center of the mountain and be descendants of the pre-Atlantean culture of Lemuria. Hunters and campers exploring the high altitude forests of Mt. Shasta occasionally report seeing these small beings running through the woods. Contemporary psychics speak of the mountain as the center of a powerful energy vortex that radiates a vitalizing and healing energy throughout the northwestern US. More than any other mountain in North America, Mt. Shasta is a focal point for contemporary spirituality, attracting individual seekers as well as a variety of religious groups.

Mt. Shasta is also said to be linked energetically with Mt. Katahdin, a sacred mountain in the state of Maine. Logging interests and resort developers are constantly threatening the great forests and wonderful peacefulness of Mt. Shasta. Prayers and the focused attention of contemporary pilgrims will assist in the protection of this magnificent sacred place.

Martin Gray

At the age of twenty-eight I left monastic life behind, returned to the US, and started two travel companies. Within three years these companies were bringing thousands of tourists to the Caribbean and Mexico and I was becoming a very successful businessman. Yet there was an emptiness in my heart and soul for I yearned to do something more aligned with my spiritual practices. My prayers were soon answered. On a journey to South America, visiting the archaeological sites of Easter Island and Machu Picchu, I experienced a powerful reawakening of my interest in ancient sacred places. So strong was this interest that I decided to pursue my earlier ambition of photographing the world's great sacred architecture.