Mountain of Fire

The Indonesian province of Central Java is charged with mysticism: animist spirits, Hindu gods, Sufi saints. One of the most sacred sites is a magnificent 3,000-m peak called Merapi, which literally means "fire mountain." For centuries villagers living on its slopes and base have pledged their fate to Merapi, not just because it's an active volcano but because it provides fertile soil for them to grow food and raise cattle, and sand and stone for them to build their homes. Every year they bring Merapi gifts of food, tobacco and clothing, both to appease it and to seek its protection. The...

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