There have always been stories about the origin of the land and the life that calls it home. Before there was science, those stories came from imagination and spirituality. In this series, I have created contemporary nature photography to illustrate those early Legends of the Land. Read more about the series here.
The spirits of the Earth and Sky used to be closer to us than they are today. While they lived deep below ground or way beyond the clouds, they would visit us from time to time. We could see them, walk with them, talk to them.
They are powerful gods, but we usually had no reason to fear them. They were friendly and often used their power to help us. But they were still sometimes controlled by their emotions. One of those emotions — jealousy — led to a particularly dark time.
Llao, lord of the underworld, was one of the most powerful of all. He lived deep within the Earth and created a giant mountain when he forced his way to the surface.
One day when Llao was walking through the village, he saw the chief’s daughter, Loha, and was absolutely awestruck by her beautiful appearance. He decided right then that he would marry her.
Loha, however, was absolutely repulsed by Llao’s appearance. Remember, Llao lived deep underground. His body was covered with black soot and his face was scarred from the searing heat.
He promised her eternal life in a mountain home, but she said she would not live in a mountain and would not marry someone as ugly as he.
Llao’s anger shook the ground as he leapt to the top of the mountain and began throwing fire at the village. Fire came down like rain, burning homes and trees and threatening the lives of the people.
Skell, the equally powerful spirit of the Sky answered the cries for help and descended to the summit of another snow-capped mountain to the South, a mountain we now call Shasta. The ground shook even more violently now that the two spirits began battling each other.
This great battle went on for days even though you couldn’t tell day from night. The sky was black except for the streaks of the fireballs being hurtled between the two mountaintops.
Eventually the ground stopped shaking, but we couldn’t see what happened. The air was still too thick with smoke. Finally, a few of us decided to climb the mountain where Llao lived. After climbing for several hours, we could see a tiny patch of sunlight trying to break through the darkness. And then we noticed the top of Llao’s mountain was missing.
As we reached the new top, we knew what had happened. Skell collapsed the mountain to trap Llao below. All that was visible of him was the back of his head, surrounded by the bluest water any of us had ever seen.
— Adapted from a Klamath Indian legend
(Learn more about Kevin Ebi's newest book, Living Wilderness, the first comprehensive portfolio of his fine-art images and download a free preview. Follow his photography on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.)