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Spirits of Ice and Fire

A few weekends ago, my partner and I had the rare gift of being able to visit Crater Lake, thanks to a visiting friend who was willing to make the long drive.  As the car climbed into the ever-higher elevations approaching the lake, ponderosa pine forests gave way to lodgepole pines and finally gnarled, twisted whitebark pine, trees which can tolerate the more severe weather (nearly ten months of winter) immediately surrounding the lake.  The fallen trees made the woodlands we passed through resemble, at times, a blasted landscape studded with the skeletons of fallen giants.

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 then gradually 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 that rise to 7,000 feet above the water's edge, 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.

I have a full gallery of photos of the lake at my blog here.  These were all take by me personally; please do not use or copy them without my permission.  Thanks!

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I am a polytheist, Odinic nun, full-time pagan solopreneur, and urban hedge witch living in Eugene, Oregon. Dedicated to Odin since 2002, and recently working with the Morrigan as well. Would you know more, or what?


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