Mount Shasta, a 14,179-foot (4,322 m) stratovolcano, is the second-highest peak in the Cascade Range and the fifth highest peak in California. It is a member in the Cascade Volcanic Arc and is located in Siskiyou County, and has an estimated volume of 108 cubic miles (450 km), making it the most voluminous stratovolcano of the Cascades. Physically unconnected to any nearby mountain, and rising abruptly from miles of level ground which encircle it, Mount Shasta stands some 10,000 feet (3,000 m) above the surrounding area.
Native American lore of the area held that Shasta is inhabited by the spirit chief Skell, who descended from heaven to the mountain's summit. The indigenous peoples also have variations of a great flood myth, with Mount Shasta being the Pacific Northwest version of Mt. Ararat and the old trickster persona Coyote filling in for Noah…
Shasta Great Flood Myth
Coyote encountered an evil water spirit who caused water to rise until it covered Coyote. After the water receded, Coyote shot the water spirit with a bow and ran away, but the water followed him. He ran to the top of Mount Shasta; the water followed but didn't quite reach the top. Coyote made a fire, and all the other animal people swam to it and found refuge there. After the water receded, they came down and found new homes.
In recent times, many other faiths, particularly New Age groups, have been attracted to Shasta -- more than any other Cascade volcano. Mt. Shasta, California, a small town near Shasta's western base, is a focal point for many of these religions.
According to the Forest Service as reported in documentaries such as In The Light of Reverence, local Indian tribes, particularly but not limited to the Wintu, still practice healing rituals at the springs that flow from the mountain, and there is constant low-level conflict between the Indians and the New Age groups which have laid claim to the area as their personal sacred site.
The history of New Age fascination with Mount Shasta can be traced to the publication of Frederick Spencer Oliver's fantasy novel A Dweller On Two Planets. An indifferent, unmotivated student who was often ill, Oliver composed the novel at the age of seventeen. According to the foreword, his parents were awestruck that he could have engaged in such a sustained endeavor, and believed the novel to have been divinely inspired. They promoted it as a work of channeled wisdom, and it is still in print today. The novel is about the Lemurian race, who traveled to Mount Shasta when their continent sank beneath the ocean (Atlantis?) and are now said to live inside the mountain in a series of tunnels.
In the years subsequent to the publication of Oliver's book, many seeking people claimed to have encountered Lemurians at Shasta. These “close encounters” have successfully transitioned the ancient myths into modern ones. Spirit chief becomes Lemurian. It is not surprising that odd cloud formations atop Mt. Shasta have been connected with the UFO phenomena.