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The Myth and Mystery of Mount Hermon

Mount Hermon
I clearly remember the surprise and delight I felt one crisp winter morning in Irbid, Jordan's second city, when I first saw the beautiful snowy peaks of Mount Hermon contrasted against the pure blue sky. It looked quite unreal, as if someone had painted white strokes onto a blue canvas. Haze from the heat and pollution usually block out this beautiful backdrop from the Irbid skyline, but on a clear day after heavy precipitation Mount Hermon is appears utterly splendid in contrast to the grimy mess of breeze blocks that is Irbid. I didn't know what this mountain was called, let alone its historical and cultural significance. It was only after a bit of online research that I realised this was one of the most iconic and legendary mountains in Asia, something akin to Mount Elbrus or Ama Dablam.

Mount Hermon is an extremely beautiful mountain, and far too few people are aware of its legendary status. Let us take a look at 10 facts about this mysterious and mythical mountain, and see why it plays such an important role in the history and mythology of the region.

1) A Mountain by Any Other Name

Mount Hermon is also called Jabal al-Shaykh ("Mountain of the Sheikh"). Mount Hermon's name is believed to be derived from the Semitic root HRM, meaning "taboo" or "consecrated". Furthermore, it is believed by etymologists to be related to the Arabic term al-haram, meaning "sacred enclosure".

2) Colourful Neighbourhood

Mount Hermon is in fact a mountain cluster constituting the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon mountain range. Mount Hermon's summit straddles the Lebanese / Syrian border.

3) The Tall Shaykh

At 2,814 metres above sea level, Mount Hermon is the highest point in Syria.

4) Hot Property

The southern slopes of Mount Hermon extend to the Israeli-occupied portion of the Golan Heights. It is here, in the Israeli occupied area of Mount Hermon, that the Mount Hermon ski resort is located.

5) Mythical Mountain

According to the Epic of Gilgamesh (an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia that is often regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature), Mount Hermon SPLIT OPEN after Gilgamesh (a major hero in ancient Mesopotamian mythology) killed Humbaba, the Guardian of the Cedar Forest! One translation of the epic poem says "the ground split open with the heels of their feet, as they whirled around in circles Mount Hermon and Lebanon split."

6) Biblical Boulder

Many Biblical Scholars believe Mount Hermon to be mentioned in the Bible. According to the Book of Enoch in the Old Testament for example, Mount Hermon is the place where fallen angels descended to Earth. The Book of Chronicles mentions Mount Hermon as a place where Epher, Ishi, Eliel, Azriel, Jeremiah, Hodaviah, and Jahdiel were the heads of their families. In Psalm 42, the Psalmist is reported as remembering God from the land of Jordan and the Hermonites. Psalm 133, one of the Songs of Ascents, makes specific reference to the abundant dew formation upon Mount Hermon.

7) Pagan Petra

Mount Hermon is home to numerous sites of Pagan worship. There are around 30 Pagan temples on Mount Hermon. Roman shrines and temples are dispersed around the slopes of Mount Hermon in Lebanon, Israeli occupied territory and Syria. A few temples are built on top of much older sites from the Phoenician & Hellenistic era, but nearly all pagan sites on Mount Hermon are considered to be of Roman construction and were largely abandoned during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire. Many pagan deities were invoked in the Mount Hermon area. The god Pan is often connected with the headwaters of the Jordan river in the area. Inscriptions on stones used in the church of Heleliye near Sidon have referred to Threption, son of Neikon offering stone lions to Zeus. Other deities noted to have been worshipped in the area were called Theandrios and Leucothea, which were likely Greek names for native Caananite gods. Leucothea was the Greek goddess of the sea and she was known to have been worshipped from 60 CE at the temple devoted to her at Rakleh.

8) Source of a Sacred River

Mount Hermon has seasonal winter and spring snow falls, which cover all three of its peaks for most of the year. Melt water from the snow-covered mountain's western and southern bases seeps into the rock channels and pores, feeding springs at the base of the mountain, which form streams and rivers. These merge to become the Jordan River.

9) No Escaping Politics!

On the top of Mount Hermon, in the United Nations buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli-occupied territories, is the highest permanently manned UN position in the world, known as "Hermon Hotel". It is located at 2814 metres altitude.

10) Home to Precious Animals

The common birds in the Mount Hermon area include white-throated robin, western rock nuthatch, sombre tit and northern wheatear. There are many species of butterflies, of which 23 are unique to the Hermon nature reserve and don't exist elewhere in the region. Common reptiles in the reserve include the Vipera bornmuelleri and the four-lined snake.

Bonus: Mountain Wall Art

Mount Hermon is one of the most alluring and enigmatic locations in the world. Stunningly beautiful and rich in myth and legend, it is truly a marvel to behold. Why not bring something of the wonder of the world's great mountains into your home or office with our mountain posters and artwork!
Mountain Pic

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