16 March 2012

Legend Has It

So, it’s St.Patrick’s day tomorrow, Guinness all round and the world painted green. The legend of the patron saint of Ireland crowns him with the glory of banishing all the snakes from the island by chasing them into the sea. It’s got us thinking about the everlasting quality of myths and legends and the places they envelope. In bygone eras, before science became the basis for our understanding of the world around us, natural anomalies gave rise to incredible myths and legends. Magnificent stories and whimsical folklore were created by ancient civilisations as a means of understanding some of these breathtaking natural phenomenons. Although we now have the scientific intelligence to bolster many myths and legends, there is something enchanting about these places that keeps us telling their stories, generation after generation.


The beguiling landscape of the Plain of Jars certainly stirs the imagination, hundreds of ancient cylinders scatter the ground in the countryside of northern Laos, their origin and purpose still a mystery. They are believed to have been created by Indian tribes some 2000 years ago. Local legend claims they were made of congealed water-buffalo skin in order to store rice and lao-lao (Laos’s rice whisky) for a giant who lived nearby. Upon visiting the mythical jars in the 1930’s, French archaeologist Madeleine Colani banished the legend, establishing that the jars were probably used for ancient funeral ceremonies.


Giant's Causeway, northern irelandOne of Ireland’s many stunning natural wonders, the Giant’s Causeway creeps into the Irish Sea on the northeast coast just a few miles from the town of Bushmills, in County Antrim. The legend of the Giants Causeway purports that the volcanic columns were built by an Irish giant named Finn McCool as a way to walk to Scotland in order to fight his Scottish nemesis, Bernandonner. The legend made sense to people for many years, as there are similar formations across the water on the Scottish side.


Mount Kailash in Tibet is one of the world’s most holy places, sacred to four different religions. Despite this, the holy mountain is seldom visited, seen by no more than a few thousand pilgrims a year. Soaring to over 22,000 feet, the mountain’s remote location in far western Tibet is the soul reason behind this curious juxtaposition. No planes, trains or buses journey anywhere near the region. Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism all worship this holy mountain. The  myths of each of these religions speak of Kailash as the mythical Mt. Meru, the Axis Mundi, the center and birth place of the entire world.


Easter IslandEaster Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called Moai, created by the early Rapanui people. Easter Island is claimed to be the most remote inhabited island in the world. The large stone statues, or Moai, for which Easter Island is world-famous, were carved from 1100–1680 CE and are considered a remarkable creative and physical feat. Mystery surrounds the purpose of the Ahu platforms and Moai statues. The Moai have long held a popular appeal that has extended far beyond the peripheries of the island where they stand, drawing people from all over the world to the fantasies of this detached and distant civilisation.


This eerie landscape derives its name from the ghostly skeletons of the numerous ships that met their mortiferous end here throughout the centuries. This area is one of remarkable juxtapositions, where desert and ocean meet and merge as the edge of the Namib Desert pushes a sea of hot sand into the frigid waters of the South Atlantic. The landscape of the Skeleton Coast ranges from huge sand dunes to deep canyons and mountain ranges, whose slopes are covered by a variety of plants which have adapted to the environment, such as the peculiar elephant foot plant.


According to local legend, when Vietnam had just started to develop into a country, its people had to fight against invaders. To assist the Vietnamese in defending their country, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay, linking together to form a great wall against the invaders. Magically, numerous rocky mountains abruptly appeared on the sea, ahead of invaders’ ships; causing them to strike the rocks leaving the Vietnamese victorious. After winning the battle, the legend goes that the dragons then decided to stay and live in the bay forever.


If you fancy a trip to any of these mythical lands, visit Black Tomato for information and booking.


Take another Pinch...