List o’ 10 Intriguing Mythical Places

mythical placeFaith, mythology, tribal legends have all handed down stories through the generations. Stories of places long forgotten in time and physical presence, but places that we still believe in. This list presents some of those Mythological Places.

10. Hawaiki

Hawaiki

Hawaiki is perhaps the single most important land in the Maori culture and is is deeply associated with the cycle of birth, life and death in the Maori traditions as the place where all people were born and where all go after death on earth. Hawaiki is the home of the Maori gods and major figures of tribal mythology and traditions, including Maui, Tawhaki, Tiki and Rata. In some traditions Hawaiki is said to be a physical place, an island, from which the Maori people originated before arriving in New Zealand. Similar legends regard it as an actual island located east of new Zealand somewhere in Polynesia, while others believe that Hawaiki is actually in New Zealand itself. However different the beliefs in its physical location may be, the common shared belief is that Hawaiki is source and origin of life and a special place of mystical power. The legends and traditions associated with the Maori people are passed down the generations with Hawaiki as a focal point, which earns this place a true status in mythology. More detail can be found here.

9. Asgard and Valhalla

Valhalla

Asgard is famous as the home of the Norse gods and home to Odin, father of Thor the God of Thunder and the King of the Gods in Norse mythology. This is the place where warriors who die meritoriously in battle and people of particular standing and valor go after death. The newly arrived enter at Valhalla, the Hall of the Heavens for warriors and nobility, which is located in Asgard. Although the Norse legends have been in place for over 1,000 years, since before the time of the Vikings, it is only relatively recently that these mythological places have become well known to other cultures, as the primary sources regarding Asgard come from the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Icelandic author Snorri Sturluson, and the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from a basis of much older Skaldic poetry. Asasgard of legend met its fate during Ragnarok, during which time a battle took place, Asgard was destroyed and sunk into the ocean.

8. Annwn

Welsh mythology

In Welsh mythology Annwn is the Otherworld: the realm of the dead, the home of the deities, the stronghold of other spirits and beings. Tales and folklore describe it as existing over the western sea, or at other times underground (such as in the S�dhe mounds) or right alongside the world of the living, but invisible to most humans. This is the Celtic legend of the pre-Christian Britons, handed down through generations and folklore, as well as a written history in medieval Welsh manuscripts such as the Red Book of Hergest, the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin and the Book of Taliesin. As to the exact location, some claim that the door to Annwn was at the mouth of the Severn near Lundy Island or on Glastonbury Tor. Glastonbury has been interpreted by some as a sacred “Isle of the Dead”, and is also revered as a place where saints and kings are buried. Supposedly, on a certain day of the year, this door would open, and the inhabitants would welcome humans in for feasting and celebration, upon the condition that they took nothing back with them to the human realm. This went on until one reveller kept a flower in his pocket. From that day on, the door has remained closed.

7. Fountain of Youth

Fountain of Youth

The Fountain of Youth is a legendary spring that reputedly restores the youth of anyone who drinks of its waters. Tales of such a fountain have been recounted across the world for thousands of years, appearing in Herodotus, the Alexander romance, and the stories of Prester John. Stories of similar waters were also evidently prominent among the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean during the Age of Exploration, who spoke of the restorative powers of the water in the mythical land of Bimini. The legend became particularly prominent in the 16th century, when it became attached to the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Le�n, first Governor of Puerto Rico. According to an apocryphal story that features a combination of New World and Eurasian elements, Ponce de Le�n was searching for the Fountain of Youth when he traveled to what is now Florida in 1513. Since then stories of the fountain have become closely tied with the state, which ironically, is a very popular place for seniors to go on holiday.

6. Atlantis

Atlantis

Atlantis is a legendary island in the Atlantic, west of Gibraltar, that sunk beneath the sea during a violent eruption of earthquakes and floods some 9,000 years before Plato wrote about it in Timaeus and Critias. The fact that nobody in Greece for 9,000 years had mentioned a battle between Athens and Atlantis should serve as a clue that Plato was not talking about a real place or battle. Nevertheless, Plato is often cited as the primary source for the reality of a place on earth called Atlantis. Different seekers have located the mythical place in the mid-Atlantic, Cuba, the Andes, and dozens of other places. Some have equated ancient Thera, a volcanic Greek island in the Aegean Sea that was devastated by a volcanic eruption in 1625 BC, with Atlantis. To many, however, Atlantis is not just a lost continent, it is a lost world. Some theories believe that the Atlanteans were extraterrestrials who destroyed themselves with nuclear bombs or some other extraordinarily powerful device, that Atlantis was a place of advanced civilization and technology and spread this knowledge around the planet. These “alternative” archaeologists have credited the Atlanteans with teaching the Egyptians and the Mesoamericans how to build pyramids and how to write. And so today, 2,500 years after the first written record of the legendary place by Plato, the mythology lives on. Indeed, Plato did certainly stimulate conversation, which was the main objective after all.

5. Shambhala

Shambhala

In Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Shambhala is a mythical kingdom hidden somewhere in Inner Asia. It is mentioned in various ancient texts, including the Kalachakra Tantra and the ancient texts of the Zhang Zhung culture which predated Tibetan Buddhism in western Tibet. The written record of Shambhala in fact goes back to 1500 BC with the Zhang Zhung culture, which predated Tibetan Buddhism in western Tibet. Whatever its historical basis, Shambhala gradually came to be seen as a Buddhist Pure Land, a fabulous kingdom whose reality is visionary or spiritual as much as physical or geographic. It was in this form that the Shambhala myth reached the West, where it influenced non-Buddhist as well as Buddhist spiritual seekers and, to some extent, popular culture in general. The first information that reached western civilization about Shambhala came from the Portuguese Catholic missionary Estevao Cacella, who had heard about Shambala (which they transcribed as “Xembala”), and thought it was another name for Cathay or China, while more redcent appearances of the mythological place include Hilton’s Tibetan Utopia “Shangri-La” (Paradise Lost), where it is believed that the legend of Shambhala provided the basis for the Utopian community.

4. Lyonesse

Lyonesse

It�s said that fertile land once connected the Scilly Islands with Western Cornwall. The Silures people inhabited this land that was called Lyonesse. They were known for their industriousness and devoutness, with more than one hundred and forty churches were in the region. The Saxon Chronicle states the Lyonesse was destroyed on November 11, 1099 by great flooding, and the town was swallowed by the ocean. In support of the mythology, the remains of many ancient stone buildings, including megalithic structures, can be seen below the waters. There are approximately fifty islands within the Scilly group, although only four are inhabited. They�ve also been identified as the Tin Islands that were known to the Greeks. Geologically they are made from granite that is similar to that of Cornwall. Legend today say that church bells ring when the sea gets stormy and some residents have reported seeing domes, spires, towers, and fortifications beneath the sea. The place was also home of Tristan in the epic story of Tristan and Iseult.

3. Camelot

Camelot

In British legend, Camelot was the capital of the kingdom of King Arthur. Cadbury Castle in Somerset, an isolated Iron Age hill fort, is the site most often identified with Camelot. Archaeological evidence confirms that during the 6th century the fort was occupied by a powerful British warrior chieftain. However, local folklore advances alternative sites at Camelford in Cornwall and Winchester in Hampshire as the original Camelot. No matter how the legend is presented – as it has been many times through movies and books – the name always conjures up visions of chivalry and magic, romance and adventure. Indeed King Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Lancelot, Camelot and Excalibur are names rooted in British tradition and culture. King Arthur is one of the greatest figures in English folklore. According to legend he lived in the late 5th and early 6th centuries at a time when Britain was the scene of the final bloody struggles for domination between the Romano-British Celts and the Saxon invaders. He is considered to have been the leader in the defence of the south-western homelands.

2. El Dorado

Muisca-the Legendary raft of El Dorado-Gold Offerings

El Dorado is the mythical city of gold that lies somewhere in South America. Within fifty years of Columbus� first discovery and report of gold in the New World, the Aztecs of Mexico and the Incas of Peru had succumbed to the Spanish Conquistadores and the tombs of the Sinu Indians in the high Andes had been raided. The city of Bogota was founded in 1539 in the Muisca territory by European gold-seekers. It was among the Muisca that the legend of El Dorado was first heard by the Spaniards. They were told of a ritual ceremony that took place at Lake Guatavita, some distance to the North of Bogota. The legend tells of the bottom of the lake with unimaginable treasures dumped there by the ancient Muisca as part of a ritual of acknowledgment for a new king. This account of the ceremony of El Dorado, which sat on the shore of Lake Guatavita, gave way to the persisting legend of the unimaginable wealth lying on the bottom Lake Guatavita. Attempts to drain the lake started almost immediately after the first rumour was passed on. Today the surrounding hills bare a curious notch carved by Antonio de Sepulveda, a Bogotan merchant, who, in the 1580s, attempted to drain the lake to uncover the mythical wealth. The effort was abandoned when the hillsides caved in and covered and killed many of the workers. It was not too long after these expeditions that the story of El Dorado was embellished with accounts of his golden city, the mythical Manoa where even the cooking utensils were made of gold. Explorers and adventurers took off on the hunch that the city was located somewhere in the unexplored forests of the Amazon valley, and vanished into the jungle, scores never returning. Sir Walter Raleigh, who is perhaps the best known of these dreamers, also lost his life in quest of the legendary Manoa.

1. Heaven/Hell

heaven and hell doors

A mythological place is one of legend, that has survived in folkloric or other stores passed down through generations. Heaven and hell in various incarnations and names are perhaps the best known mythological places in most civilizations, and are a fundamental pillar of religious belief systems and for behavioral control among people. The idea of a place for ultimate good or evil certainly predates Christianity, as evident in ancient Egyptian tradition, the Greek philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, the Norse legends of Valhalla and is also integral to the Buddhist and Hindu traditions of karma and samsara. In Islam, the idea of heaven is expressed as Firdaus or Paradise. And if heaven is the holiest place, reserved for the good and accessible by people according to various standards of divinity, goodness, piety or faith, then so too does an opposite place exist that houses the bad. This mythological opposite has been called many things, from the devourer of the underworld in Egypt, to Tartarus in ancient Greece to the mythological Mayan location of Xibalba, an underworld of nine levels ruled by demons. Among the legends, this is one mythological place that we all will validate one day, but unfortunately will have no one to tell.

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October 25, 2010 at 12:32

6 Responses to "List o’ 10 Intriguing Mythical Places":

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  6. info tech October 1, 2010 at 20:41

    nice post. thanks. I have always thought of heaven and Hell as mythical places too, and it is cool that you have that also in this post. If you cant see it and touch it – if you cant go there – then it is mythical. Pure and simple!

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