In Ernest Hemingway’s famous story, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the main character Harry laments on the stories he didn’t write. When Harry succumbs to gangrene he watches as his spirit is taken to the top of a snow covered mountain. Although that summit was the end for Harry, many people every year ascend and descend the same mountain. Some successfully and others not. All of them with their spirit a little more heightened from the spiritual snows of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Mount Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano located in Tanzania. It is the largest mountain in the African continent. At 19,341 feet above sea level, it rises alone and strikingly above the surrounding savannah. The mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is part of the Kilimanjaro National Park. Every year more than 15,000 people from around the world hike this sacred mountain. Those who don’t reach the top usually don’t make it due to altitude sickness.
The local people are called the Chaga. These indigenous Africans live along the southern and eastern slopes of the mountain. Their main source of income is through agriculture where they have used similar organic practices for thousands of years.
Mythology in the Spiritual Snows of Mount Kilimanjaro
The Chaga people believe that Kilimanjaro possesses the doors that connect them with the spirit world. One of the doors leads to heaven and is signified by a blazing ring of fire. The other door leads to the underworld through a cave. The Chaga also feel that events here on earth can influence the spirit world. An example is their belief that the spirits became ill when colonialism intruded into Africa.
It’s easy to see that the Chaga people would feel an influence with the spirit world. The mountain rises monumentally against the surrounding landscape. Every day they see how it impacts their crops and lives. While every year they see the small but important changes that their farming makes below the spiritual snows of Mount Kilimanjaro.
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