MOUNT SHASTA, CALIFORNIA
Homelands Of: Karuk, Modoc, Pit River, Shasta, Wintu
The term “vortex” wasn’t used to describe geographic energy centers until the 1980s, when the metaphysical movement captured the West’s attention. In this sense, a vortex is a cyclonic flow of energy. Think of the sea, how it churns; now remove the water element, with only the force remaining. That’s an energy vortex, and they’ve been documented all over the world. Though there are myriad theories to explain and chart them, in many cases the explanation can be traced back to physics—electromagnetic fields, to be precise.
Thanks to the molten lead at its core, Earth is a giant spinning magnet. In physics, a moving magnetic field produces electricity, and a moving electric charge produces an electromagnetic field—the same type found surrounding humans, due to the nature of DNA, says biophysicist and certified energy medicine practitioner Christina L. Ross, PhD, a research fellow at the Wake Forest School of Medicine’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “Energy medicine researchers call the human energy field a biofield, while geophysicists call the earth’s energy field a protection from cosmic debris,” she says. “But it’s obviously more than that.”
Ross explores those implications in a paper published in the February 2019 issue of peerreviewed journal Global Advances in Health and Medicine. “Quantum physics teaches us that there is no difference between energy and matter,” she writes. “If Western medicine applied the principles of modern physics, it would understand human beings are composed of information (energy) interacting with other energy (environment) to profoundly impact our physical and emotional health.” Though we might call human-based energy vortices chakras and land-based ones spiritual sites, they’re virtually indistinguishable.
Of course, long before New Age disciples named the phenomenon, Indigenous cultures, both ancient and contemporary, recognized the geological power. Just look at Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Machu Picchu, Monument Valley and HaleakalÄ Crater—noted energy centers held sacred first by their respective traditional custodians. It’s with that in mind that a land acknowledgment accompanies the vortex destinations that follow: These places were stolen and renamed, the Indigenous nations pinched into veritable corrals, and in some cases, the culture co-opted. Consider it a reminder to be mindful of your impact as you move through this journey; after all, it’s hard to raise your frequency if it’s at the expense of suppressing others’.
Should you visit these vortices, whether by road trip or armchair travel, go at your own pace. Think of the experience as a sequence your yoga flow might follow: After grounding and moving through some warmups, find your footing and cultivate inner heat, ultimately sitting with discomfort before integrating what you learned in Savasana (Corpse Pose). That flow, and this journey, can be intense at times, in the same way that attending a party may invite both elation and exhaustion. Whenever you need, take Balasana (Child’s Pose, that is, a detour or pause), especially if your itinerary intersects with a full moon, when energies are particularly charged. Dubbed the earth’s root chakra and the base of our planet’s energy system, Mount Shasta is an active but dormant volcano standing nearly 14,200 feet high in Northern California. Hidden behind disc-like lenticular clouds and year-round snowpack, the mountain—favored by adventurous hikers who don crampons to summit its peak before skiing down—is steeped in Indigenous folklore, New Age hope, and even alien conspiracy.
While the energy center here is venerated by multiple groups with varying beliefs, there’s no denying the land emits power and vibrancy—seemingly from the mountain itself, like a massive battery that recharges residents and passersby. Even folks who arrive without knowing the vortical history report heightened alertness, energy, and creativity when in the area, and it’s not uncommon to hear of residents who came to visit and just never left.
Mount Shasta is considered by the native Modoc people to be a place of light, created by the spirit of the sky (who, as legend has it, settled at the summit) as a way to reach the afterlife. A certain sect of locals share the tribe’s belief in mythical cavernous passageways within and throughout the volcano but assert that those tunnels lead to Telos, a fabled magical city inhabited by seven-foot-tall mystical beings called Lemurians.
In the pint-size town (it’s less than four square miles), the focus is not on doing but on simply being—seek out healers (there are many) if that calls to you, but otherwise turn your attention to the earth, rooting yourself in her energy.
Mount Shasta’s peak, often hidden by smooth, thick clouds, looms over the eponymous town at its base. The eclectic indie storefronts rotate with some regularity, but multiple shops devoted to spirituality, crystals, and self-empowerment remain a constant. Among them, metaphysical supply shop Soul Connections is most well known and widely curated, lined floor to ceiling with amulets, jewelry, flags, and delicate curiosities. The length of the town can be traversed on foot in about 20 minutes, beginning at either end of the main drag, Mount Shasta Boulevard. Grab a hot drink at Yaks on the north end or Seven Suns to the south, and sip as you trod the icy sidewalk (carefully!)—for even in winter, when snow can pile feet high overnight, Mount Shasta is not a place to stay indoors.
Castle Lake—formed 10,000 years ago by glaciers and surrounded by craggy granite walls and pine— attracts summer swimmers who bask in the pure crystalline water, said to have healing powers. When the snow comes and the lake freezes over, the sacred site is transformed into a serene snowshoeing destination. Head out on your own with snowshoe rentals from the Fifth Season or let certified outdoorswoman Robin Kohn of Mount Shasta Tour Guide chaperone your excursion, regaling your group with tales of vortices (ask about the portal to another dimension on the far end of the lake) and the area’s flora and fauna.
While winter renders most of the mountain more treacherous, a gentle drive to Bunny Flat passes Ascension Rock, where swells of energy unfurl from a jumble of large stones. Closer to ground level, the Gateway Peace Garden is open daily for meditation from sunrise to sunset (and free to enter)—unless a heavy winter storm buries its paths.
The renovated 30-room Inn at Mount Shasta offers ultimate walkability, while Mount Shasta Resort has rooms that open to snow-dusted woods and nearby trails.
BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA
Homelands Of: Esselen, Rumsen, Salinan
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