holed stones


holed stones
   One of the most widespread magic devices to protect both man and beast was a pebble with a natural hole in it, also called 'hagstone', 'witch-stone', or (in the north-east) 'adder-stones'. They were believed to repel witchcraft, and consequently any disease caused by spells or the evil eye; in particular, they prevented hag-riding. The earliest allusion is in a 15th-century charm against nightmares (Opie and Tatem, 1989: 199, 378-9).
   Small ones could be carried in the pocket or hung up over the bed; larger ones were used in stables, as described by Aubrey: 'in the West of England (& I beleeve, almost everywhere in this nation), the Carters, & Groomes, & Hostlers doe hang a flint (that has a hole in it) over Horses that are hagge-ridden for a Preservative against it' (Aubrey, 1686/1880: 28). A variation, still known in the mid-20th century, was to hang the stone on the stable door; usually the doorkey or a bit of old chain would be attached to it, reinforcing its power with that of iron. The cowshed could be protected in the same way. A correspondent to N&Q in July 1894 said that in Whitby (Yorkshire) small stones were tied to front-door keys 'to ensure prosperity to the house and its inmates', and in August another said boatmen in Weymouth fastened them to the bows as charms to keep their boats safe. Small fossil sponges of the species Porosphaera are commonly found with natural holes in them; in Victorian times, necklaces of them were sold 'for luck' in Brighton (Sussex), and were much worn by women of fishing families.
   One megalithic monument, Men-an-Tol at Madron in Cornwall, consists of a disk-like holed stone about four feet in diameter, set up on edge between two standing stones, which has long been credited with healing powers. W. C. Borlase wrote:
   When I was last at this Monument, in the year 1749, a very intelligent farmer of the neighbourhood assur'd me, that he had known many persons who had crept through this holed Stone for pains in their back and limbs, and that fanciful parents, at certain times of the year, do customarily draw their young Children thro', in order to cure them of the Rickets. (Borlase, 1754: 178-9)
   Later Cornish writers add further details current in their own times, e.g. that the stone cured scrofula and a crick in the neck or back (and hence was called the Crick Stone), that those using it must pass through it three or nine times, that the children must be naked.
   Such beliefs were more often linked to natural features, there being no other megaliths with suitable holes in:
   In various parts of (Cornwall) there are, amongst the granitic masses, rocks which have fallen across each other, leaving small openings, or there are holes, low and narrow, extending under a pile of rocks. In nearly every case of this kind we find it popularly stated, that anyone suffering from rheumatism or lumbago would be cured if he crawled through the openings. (Hunt, 1865: 177)
   This phrasing opens the possibility that, at any rate in some cases and from some speakers, the statement was a poker-faced joke - for is it not plain that anybody who managed to crawl through such a hole could not possibly be suffering from lumbago?

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • holed-stones — North Country (Newcastle) Words ...a charm against diseases …   English dialects glossary

  • stones —    Large boulders and prehistoric standing stones often attracted folklore; there were also widespread beliefs about the protective powers of small holed stones, hagstones, snakestones, thunderstones, and geodes called eaglestones. From antiquity …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • Rock-cut basin — A rock cut basin, in this usage of the term, is a natural phenomenon. They are cylindrical depressions cut into stream or river beds, often filled with water. Such plucked bedrock pits are created by kolks; powerful vortices within the water… …   Wikipedia

  • Marriage stone — A marriage stone is usually a stone lintel carved with the initials, coat of arms, etc. of a newly married couple with the date of the marriage. They were very popular until Victorian times, but fell out of general use in the 20th century. Many… …   Wikipedia

  • charms, material —    The etymology of the word charm (from Latin carmen, a chant ) shows that in medieval times it meant verbal formulas (see next entry), but in modern languages it is far more widely applied. All the varied objects which are worn, carried, or… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • dobbs —    , dobby, dobie    These are regional nicknames for various supernatural beings, probably short for Robin . Dobbs was used for a * brownie in Sussex, dobby in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and dobie in Northumberland. The latter was proverbially… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • houses —    The most substantial body of folk practice and belief concerning houses focuses on protecting them from witchcraft, evil spirits, fire, thunder, and lightning; this involved placing protective objects, generally near a point of possible entry… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • horses —    In folk tradition, horses were regarded as very vulnerable to supernatural attack; in particular, their night sweats and exhaustion were interpreted as due to hag riding by witches or fairies, from whom they must be protected by holed stones.… …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • mascot —    The word mascot often implies a strong personal link between the luck bringing object (which may be quite insignificant in itself) and its owner. Edward Lovett noted mascots carried by soldiers in the First World War: left handed whelk shells; …   A Dictionary of English folklore

  • Mên-an-Tol — A view through the Mên an Tol ho …   Wikipedia