Mythical sites have long held our fascination, from Atlantis to Thule – these legendary destinations embodying humankind’s hopes, fantasies and ambitions for an idealized golden age.
From Stonehenge in England to Peru’s Nazca Lines, sacred sites offer spiritual guidance. Some even claim supernatural properties – but what sets these unique locations apart?
Atlantis has fascinated people for centuries, inspiring tales that have been passed from generation to generation. The legendary sunken city has even appeared on movies, TV shows and documentaries and was even featured as part of USA TODAY cover story in 2010. Furthermore, Atlantis often becomes the center of pseudoscientific and occultist theories.
Plato, the ancient Greek philosopher, famously used Atlantis in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias to illustrate power corrupting good ethics. Atlantis was described as an advanced civilization encompassing an island larger than Libya and Asia combined, led by King Atlas who wielded supernatural powers.
Atlantis boasted an abundance of natural resources, from exotic animals and precious metals to palaces and temples of unparalleled magnificence. A highly advanced civilisation harnessed these riches and used them for building palaces and temples throughout their watery kingdom – bridges and canals connected them all seamlessly.
Though scholars have discounted much of Plato’s account of Atlantis as fiction, its location remains hotly debated for centuries. Scholars have often suggested Santorini, Sardinia or Cyprus may be its potential sites; other researchers point to an area on Spain’s Atlantic Coast near Cadiz that’s vulnerable to tsunamis and similar in layout to Atlantis; psychic Edgar Cayce supported this theory as did its author of Bimini Road books.
One of the more ludicrous fringe theories concerns an imagined lost continent that disappeared beneath the Indian Ocean. This idea began circulating as early as 1864 when zoologist Philip Lutley Sclater proposed that fossilized lemurs found on Madagascar and India are evidence for Lemuria or Kumari Kandam being hidden somewhere deep below.
Sclater theory became popularized among occultists and purveyors of pseudoscience during its prime in the 19th and early 20th centuries; later disproven by discoveries in plate tectonics and continental drift, but still popular as an occult meme today.
Elena Blavatsky popularized the fanciful notion of submerged Lemuria through her 1888 book, The Secret Doctrine. Blavatsky asserted that all humankind descended from seven ancient races with Lemuria being one of them; furthermore she described a race of 15-foot-tall four-armed, egg-laying hermaphrodites that shared an island with dinosaurs – this concept spread widely and eventually found its way into novels, movies and comic books all the way into comic books published after World War Two had ended; new-agey ideas about an ancient advanced civilization which submersed into an underwater utopia have lead to an entire body of fringe literature surrounding Lemuria/Mu.
The Island of Apples
Celtic folklore regards Avalon or Emain Ablach as an island where apples grew abundantly, believed to have been home for Morgan Le Fay, half sister to King Arthur and site where Excalibur was created. Additionally, its name can be linked with Manannan of Manannan on Manannan’s Isle.
As with Hesperides in Greece, Avalon is associated with feminine divinity and serves as a place for healing, fertility and immortality. Apple trees feature prominently amongst Celtic Ogham tree alphabet and Druidic magic practices; many people see them as ways of attaining wisdom or as gifts from goddesses.
Druids were an ancient group of magicians and shamans, performing rituals and spiritual journeys into the Otherworld. An apple represents this journey and the power of its leader: the Druid.
Modern times often equate the apple to change and new beginnings, and is widely associated with romance. According to Irish and Finnish folklore, when an apple peel is broken open into ribbons and thrown behind a woman’s shoulder it will land shaped like her future husband; this tradition still lives on today through apple bobbing during Halloween celebrations.
Stonehenge has long been one of the world’s most-visited sacred sites, but its purpose and history remain mysterious to scientists and historians alike. This prehistoric monument features an outer circle made up of standing stones connected by standing stone lintels that form two circles and an inverted horseshoe; at its center is what’s known as an “altar stone.”
Legend has it that Merlin brought these stones from Ireland to England as a memorial for 3,000 nobles slain by the Saxons in battle, but more modern tales suggest otherwise. According to these accounts, Carn Menyn was originally where these stones came from – its rocks can make bellowing sounds when struck and were believed to have curative powers among ancient cultures.
Archaeological evidence indicates that Stonehenge was constructed sometime between 3000 BCE and 2500 BCE, similar to other “henges” found across Britain and marked with banks and ditches. Around two millennia later, timber posts were added into its interior, which now features gaps and tracks.
Some archaeologists have speculated that Stonehenge may have served as an astronomical calendar, with different points marking solstices and equinoxes. Unfortunately, its builders lacked the technology necessary to accurately predict these dates, while its location away from other structures makes this theory unlikely.