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Thursday’s Park of the Day? Crater Lake. Bam!

1 Comment 26 April 2012

Explorer John Wesley Hillman first saw Crater Lake in 1853, but Indians had known of it long before recorded history. According to Hillman, the lake was sacred to the Indians, who refused to acknowledge its existence to outsiders. Gazing upon the waters was thought to be fatal. Klamath Indian legends touch on the supernatural origins of Crater Lake, and the experiences of early visitors. One story tells of an Indian who journeyed into the fearful depths of the crater when it was still dry. On the crater floor he found fissures, mounds, huge gnarled rocks, and a strange yellow substance that resembled gold.

Best known, perhaps, are the legends describing the war between Llao, chief spirit of Crater Lake, and Skell, a mighty spirit of the Klamath Marsh country to the south. These legendary characters are immoritalized at Llao Rock, the massive gray lava flow across the lake, and at Skell Head.

The War between Llao and Skell

Long, long ago two powerful spirits lived in the Crater Lake country. Llao (pronounced “LAH-oh”) and Skell. The spirit followers of Llao and Skell took the form of animals such as Deer, Fox, and Dove who often played together on the top of Llao Rock. But eventually, the groups began to quarrel, and war broke out.  The forces of Llao and Skell fought many battles. Skell was killed near the base of the mountain, and Llao’s followers carried his heart up to Llao Rock for a celebration. However, Skell’s clever followers stole the heart and restored it to the body, bringing Skell back to life.

During the last great battle, Llao was killed. Skell ordered that the body be cut up and thrown into the lake to be devoured by Crawfish and other monsters. The water creatures were loyal to Llao, but Skell tricked them by shouting, “Here are Skell’s arms,” as he tossed Llao’s arms into the water. Immediately the creatures gobbled them up. In the same manner Llao’s legs were devoured. But when Skell flung Llao’s head into the lake, the water creatures recognized their master’s face and would not touch it.

You can still see Llao’s head, known today as “Wizard Island”. And his sprit still lives within Llao Rock. Sometimes when all seems quiet, Llao’s restless spirit enters the lake and stirs up an angry gale.  Llao, chief spirit of Crater Lake, controlled many lower spirits who appeared in the shape of animals. One such monster was a giant crayfish who could pluck unwary visitors from the crater rim and drag them down to the dark, chilling depths.

So go visit Crater Lake, it’s not spooky.

Thanks very much for your ear (I mean eyes),

Duncan R. Pennyfeather

- who has written 510 posts on The Shade.


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1 comment

  1. Norman Orlando says:

    um…ok sure. But how do you pronounce Skell?! (sigh)


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