geographical context of the sanctuary (the mythical and magical landscape of the Colorado Plateau)
and its symbolic function in a Hopi and Navajo traditional contexts

"Wilderness is the original biotype of the soul" 1



A shamanic landscape, a mythic geography: when the surrounding landscape is imbued with meaning, when the land is a sacred book. When every detail has been sanctified and recognized as a vehicle of the radiant mystery. 10

On this animate Earth is now discovered a new Place of Emergence.

In the context of Hopi (People of the Corn) cosmology and culture, the Mandãla becomes totem of the Sacred Corn ― its central pillar the architectural manifestation of the Tzolkin sign BEN (Corn). In the midst of an unforgiving arid land, surging forth, the enduring image of the very Power of Regeneration!

In the context of Navajo cosmology and tradition, the new omphalos and axis mundi is situated within the boundary area marked by their Four Sacred Mountains:

  • EAST Mount Blanca (Tsisnaasjini' - White Shell Mountain) / Sangre de Christo mountain range

  • NORTH Mount Hesperus (Dibé Nitsaa - Obsidian Mountain) / La Plata Mountains, San Juan mountain range

  • WEST San Francisco Peaks (Doko'oosliid - Abalone Shell Mountain)

  • SOUTH Mount Taylor (Tsoodzil - Turquoise Mountain) / San Mateo mountain range


Wilderness: the word suggest the past and the unknown, the womb of earth from which we all emerged. It means something lost and something still present, something remote and at the same time intimate, something buried in our blood and nerves, something beyond us and without limit. 2

Out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world that surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. 3

The desert is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found. 4

The only true wisdom lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness… 5

The desert is time, exposed time, geologic time. One needs time in the desert to see. 6

The landscape here is one of idealized, archetyal forms: an intricate natural mosaic of surprise, expectation, anticipation, and excitement. 7

Myriad miracles in time and place occur; there is no end to the grandeurs and intimacies, no end to the revival of the spirit which they offer to all. 8

Here, in ever-decreasing but still existing pockets, sheltered from the mad homonization of our planet, is the land sought by explorers of the strange and marvelous. 9



10 Joseph Campbell, Transformations Of Myth Through Time
2, 3 Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
4, 6 Terry Tempest Williams
5 Igjugarjuk (Caribou Eskimo shaman)
7 Ward J. Royland
8 Ansel Adams
9 adapted from Henry L. A. Culmer


1 C. A. Meier, A Testament to The Wilderness

at the mythic heart of the North American continent
in a primordial desert wilderness
a harsh wonderland of resonating dreamtime

round sanctity
buried in ice and heat