In this essay, I will discuss both the historic and modern relevance of sacred mountains within religions around the world. The broader prospective of this essay is to connect the sacredness of mountains to the socio-religious impact to mountain culture. The first part of the essay will discuss the history of sacred mountains within different religions and cultures across the globe. The second part will discuss the practices within and its significance in cultures that is connected to mountains. In the third part, I will provide reasons to why sacred mountains are being threatened by modern commercial tourism and mountaineering and its recent efforts to conserve its sacred significance.
Currently, mountains has increasingly over decades been a place to awaken a sense of awe or wonder in individuals that sets them apart as a place endowed with provocative beauty and meaning. For example, many tourists, hikers, and climbers visit Sierra Nevada in California and the Alps in Europe. Besides mountains being known for their provocative beauty, they are also known to be distinguished as sacred places of worship or sanctities. There is no universal definition for sacredness, it is rather more context-specific, meaning that it can have various meanings. Mountains are considered sacred if it contains sacred sites or objects such as temples, monasteries, hermitages, stones, springs, and groves that are directly associated with the activities of holy persons (Bernbaum 305). Mountains can be singled out by a specific culture or tradition as places of sanctity (Bernbaum 304). According to the Japanese religion, a mountain is considered sacred for a given group of people if it is majestically high, in an unusual shape, or if it was the site of an important holy event (Langdon, 463). Some associations can be based on its physical aesthetics, religious meaning, or spiritual awakening (Bernbaum 304).
Sacred mountains are not to be mistaken as a “modern practice” they have well-known established myths, beliefs, and religious practices such as pilgrimage, meditation, and sacrifice (Bernbaum 305). But how far can we trace back in history to provide us evidence as to why a mountain is considered sacred. In biblical and related texts there are references of sacredness that gives us evidence as to how sacred mountains are still important.
During early medieval Western Europe, culturally created landscapes that included abodes (a dwelling place) of dedicated Christian holy men, were increasingly growing in the towns and countryside (Helms 436). Also coenobitic monks, part of a convent or another community opted out of ordinary nonspiritual life to live in communal habitations. To ordinary persons living outside these monasteries, the bounded and hidden communal was filled with spiritually esoteric souls that were forbidden to all but those initiated (Helms 436). In addition, a monastery was often rested on a space that was already...