We have previously discussed the mountain in France where true believers in the Maya apocalypse are gathering in advance of December 21. They believe that an alien spaceship within the mountain will carry them to safety. Well, as it happens, this isn’t the only alien mountain where the deluded are gathering. According to articles in the Daily Mail and other British newspapers, another set of true believers have gathered at Mount Rtanj (also called Šiljak after its highest peak) in Serbia, believing that an extraterrestrial-built pyramid is concealed within the mountain and will save them from disaster.
Generally, I’d just put this down to another bit of random weirdness, but as it happens there seems to actually be a reason behind the eruption of 2012 fervor around Mount Rtanj.
The suggestion that the mountain is hollow may derive from the fact that for many years a large coal mine operated on the mountain, at an elevation of 800 meters. (It might still, for all I know.) But the mountain has always been important in its region since it is the only tall peak in its area and has a seemingly (but not really) unnaturally regular pyramidal shape. Traditionally, it was considered the “navel of the world,” around which the axis of the world spins. (Note: Despite news reports, Arthur C. Clarke did not originate the claim; it’s been published in the literature for more than a century.) In the aftermath of World War I, Romanian nationalists traveled the region in gaudy robes preaching that the mountain was sacred, claiming it was the focus of divine portents, and offering prophecies of doom if it did not become part of Romania.
But an older layer of legend also claimed that the peak once held the tower of a powerful wizard, as tall as the mountain itself, within which a fabulous treasure lay concealed. Due in part to the peak’s propensity for being struck by lightning, legend also says it is surrounded by spirit lights. These, in turn, gave rise to the modern myth that it was a base for UFOs, thus yielding the alien pyramid story when all these tales merged into a newer, sillier one.
The idea that a mountain is the right location for a hidden treasure is an old one in Indo-European lore, going back to the idea of the Sleeping King beneath the mountain as well as the myth of the dragon, the serpentine monster that supposedly guards such treasures. Consider, for example, the stories of Beowulf or Sigurd, or, more to the point, the fact that the Serbian hero Prince Marko is one of the Sleeping Kings. This Marko was a historical figure, but his folklore counterpart incorporated older myths and legends from pre-Christian times. Thus, the Marko of folklore was a giant who did not die but either was sealed up in a cave atop a mountain or lived in a vast house concealed in a pit under the earth. It isn’t hard to see the alien pyramid within Mt. Rtanj as a variant of a supernatural underground palace like that of Marko (not to mention that of neighboring deity Zalmoxis), which allows those within to live on past the point of natural death.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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