RELIGION

8 Stunning Natural Rock Formations And The Legends That Make Them Sacred

These are places where people have experienced the divine.

Majestic and unusual rock formations have long evoked strong feelings of awe and wonder. As a result, these strange and beautiful natural structures were often weaved into ancient communities' sacred stories.

According to professor Paul S.C. Taçon, an anthropologist and archaeologist at Australia's Griffith University, ancient people thought of these irregularities in the landscape as places where the sky, earth and underworld met. They were, and still are, seen as places of power, where people can experience a connection to the divine. 

Here are eight gorgeous rock formations, along with the myths and stories that make them sacred.

  • Uluru, Australia
    This ancient sandstone monolith is one of Australia's <a href="http://www.atn.com.au/nt/south/uluru.htm">most famous natural
    David Hastilow via Getty Images
    This ancient sandstone monolith is one of Australia's most famous natural landmarks. It rises more than 1,100 feet above a plain in the heart of Australia and has a circumference of about 5.8 miles. Uluru is sacred to the area's original inhabitants, the Anangu people. The Anangu believe that many Uluru's nooks and crevices were marks left by their ancestors during Dreamtime, a time beyond memory when the earth was created. 

    A European explorer, named William Gosse, first spotted the site in 1873 and named it Ayers' Rock after a government official. In 1985, the Australian government officially handed the site back to its traditional owners, and the Anangu leased it back to the government's park services. Many tourists still climb the rock, although the Anangu stand strongly against this practice because of Uluru's sacred nature.
  • Aphrodite's Rocks, Cyprus
    This striking rock formation off the&nbsp;southwest coast of Cyprus is said to be the <a href="http://www.visitcyprus.com/wps
    rzdeb via Getty Images
    This striking rock formation off the southwest coast of Cyprus is said to be the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite. The goddess is said to have risen from the waves and the sea foam on this beach.
  • Stone Forest, China
    This <a href="http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/shilin-stone-forest">270 million year old</a> "stone forest" is located in C
    Eye Ubiquitous via Getty Images
    This 270 million year old "stone forest" is located in China's Yunnan Province. The region was once covered in limestone, a soft rock that has eroded away over time due to the effects of rainwater. The process left behind a series of tall, tree-like structures.

    According to legend, one of the rocks is said to resemble a Ashima, a young girl who drowned in one of the area's rivers and is now seen as the guardian of the local Sani people. Her story is remembered every year during a festival. 
  • Shiprock, New Mexico
    Shiprock is sacred to the Navajo people. It is a<a href="http://www.britannica.com/science/volcanic-neck"> volcanic neck</a>,
    Wild Horizon via Getty Images
    Shiprock is sacred to the Navajo people. It is a volcanic neck, or a column formed by congealing lava, that rises 1,800 feet above the ground. The Navajo call this formation the Tsé Bit’a’í, or a "rock with wings." Some stories claim it was a flying rock that brought the Navajo to the region. In other legends, it is the home of two huge monster birds that can fly down and pluck away people living in the valley below.
  • Devils Tower, Wyoming
    The Devils Tower, or Bear Lodge, was formed from the <a href="http://www.britannica.com/place/Devils-Tower-National-Monument"
    MyLoupe via Getty Images
    The Devils Tower, or Bear Lodge, was formed from the remains of a volcano. It is a sacred site for over 20 Native American tribes, including the Cheyenne, the Lakota (Sioux) and the Eastern Shoshone. It has been a site of worship, fasting, healing and a place to bury important tribal leaders.
  • Table Mountain, South Africa
    Table Mountain overlooks Cape Town and is a popular tourist destination. It was the result of <a href="http://www.britannica.
    SAUL LOEB via Getty Images
    Table Mountain overlooks Cape Town and is a popular tourist destination. It was the result of years of wind and water erosion that chipped away at horizontal layers of sandstone. It was sacred to the region's Khoi and San people, who believed their god lived there.
  • Cyclopean Isles, Italy
    These are basalt rock formations near the town of&nbsp;Aci Trezza in Sicily. According to the story of the <i>Odyssey</i>, th
    DEA / F. BARBAGALLO via Getty Images
    These are basalt rock formations near the town of Aci Trezza in Sicily. According to the story of the Odyssey, they were also the rocks thrown at the traveler Odysseus by the Cyclops.
  • Giant's Causeway, Ireland
    The Giant's Causeway is a series of about <a href="http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/369">40,000 massive black basalt columns</a>
    Education Images via Getty Images
    The Giant's Causeway is a series of about 40,000 massive black basalt columns that jut out of the sea. It was formed as a result of volcanic activity, more than 50 million years ago. The rock formation has become associated with the myth of a giant named Fionn MacCumhaill, who got into an argument with another giant, Benandonner, who lived on the other side of the Irish sea. Since there was no boat strong enough to carry him, legend has it that Fionn built the Giant's Causeway as a way to get across the water to meet his foe. 

 

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