Monte Pindo: A Legendary Celtic Olympus from Ancient Galicia
Monte Pindo is a mountain located on the Atlantic coast near Carnota, Galicia, in Spain. Every year, thousands of people visit this beautiful place looking to immerse themselves in pure nature and, for some, to make a connection with Celtic gods.
The oldest evidence of human presence at the site comes from circa 4,000 years BC. It seems that the mountain has been a very important place for the people of this region since the beginning.
Uses of Monte Pindo
Ancient Galicia is a mixture of pre-Roman and Roman influences. According to many researchers, we can call pre-Roman tribes Celts, but not everybody agrees with this term. Nevertheless, in most literature the name Celts is acceptable to describe people who lived in Galicia before the Roman invasion. The mountain is located on the Atlantic coast on the Costa da Morte. The giant granite peak stands out against the hilly horizon.
In the 10th century AD, the bishop of Iria Flavia decided to build a castle on the top of the mountain. He wanted to live in a place safe from the attacks coming from the ocean. At the same time, he sought to control the area which was still very pagan and uninterested in Christianity. At a later period, the castle was occupied by the noble families of Galicia. The building was destroyed in 1467. There was also a fort called Peñafiel located on the mountain, which was in use until the Spanish Civil War. The Republicans who escaped, hid up in the caves for decades, years after the end of the war.
Ruins of the Castle of St. George. (CC BY 2.0)
The mountain is full of peaks and caves and it seems to be the perfect place for creating myths and legends. The Galician weather, full of misty and rainy days, also supports the mysterious mood.
Legends of the Galician Mountain
Monte Pindo is connected with many legends. The most important one talks about this place as a Celtic Olympus. The traditional name of the mountain is also similar to the Pindos Mountains in Greece.
Legend says that the mountain was a sacred place for the people who lived in the area before the Roman Empire's invasion. This place was considered as a land full of nocturnal medicinal herbs. It is said that Monte Pindo is also a secret area where witches climb up into the caves to practice their sorcery.
Lirio de monte, Iris boissieri, no monte Pindo. (CC BY-SA 4.0)
The motif of witches is very popular in Galicia, where they are called ''meigas'' and many Galicians still believe in their power. Some caves are also believed to belong to mouros, the supernatural beings which live underground.
The gods and goddesses which were supposed to appear on the mountain belonged to the local pantheon of Pan-Celtic gods like: Lugus, Bromanicus, Matres, Sulis, Bandua, Nabia and Reue. It is unknown for how long after the rise of Christianity in Galicia that people still believed in the ancient gods.
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Finally, the mountain is a traditional place where people go seeking fertility help. There is a fertility rock at the top of one of the peaks where lovers visit to be sure of a successful pregnancy. It was once such a popular place that legends say one Catholic bishop announced that he would excommunicate every person who went to practice pagan love-making on Monte Pindo. There is a place where people who visit Monte Pindo still can read the inscription: ''Kings, bishops, priests, all according to powers received from God, have excommunicated this castle."
‘The Warrior’ at Monte Pindo. (CC BY 2.0)
A Mysterious Petroglyph
In 2013, Monte Pindo suffered because of a huge fire which damaged the area. It burned more than 1,600 hectares of forest. Due to the fire, a surprising discovery was made – a symbol which may be the oldest evidence of peoples' appearance in this place. The sign is eroded, but researchers hope to gain more information about the origins of the mountain.
There are many petroglyphs in Galicia so researchers can compare the one from Monte Pindo and try to understand the message. The most important fact connected with this discovery is that nobody has ever found any significant signs of people who lived on Monte Pindo thousands of years ago. This kind of symbol also proves that it was a cult site.
Granite changed after the fire. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
The cross-shaped petroglyph reminds one of symbols discovered in different locations like Laxe da Moa or Cova da Xoa. It suggests that people who made these symbols had a formed religion and the signs had a very important meaning in the rituals.
The fire caused unrecoverable damage of some areas, but researchers hope to get something positive from this situation. The site which contains not only natural value, but is also a very interesting archaeological site was barely examined in the past.
Apart from the petroglyph, there are some previously unknown, mysterious formations which are thought to increase the archaeological heritage of the area. The researchers took advantage of the situation to study the remains of old walls, roads and other places that have been forgotten in history - because for many years Galician’s wanted to protect the nature of Monte Pindo and it was nearly impossible to receive a permit for excavations.
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Monte Pindo. (Flicker/CC BY-SA 2.0)
After the fire, the area became a part of program named Natura2000, which is trying to conserve and support the rare animals which live there: otters, many bats, black-throated loons, and peregrine falcons.
However, Monte Pindo still hides many secrets underground. Looking at the mysterious rocks which appear much like monsters or faces, it is hard to believe that they were naturally made. There is also a peak called The Pyramid, which was perhaps one of the most important places for pagan ceremonies in the past. The Celtic Olympus still hides many secrets.
Featured image: Giant rock structure in Monte Pindo. Source: CC BY 2.0
Coutinhas, José Manuel, Aproximação à identidade etno-cultural dos Callaici Bracari, 2006.
Olivares Pedreño, Juan Carlos, Los dioses de la Hispania celtica. 2002.