Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Madstones, Hagstones, and Standing Stones

A recent post by Dave Tabler at Appalachian History reminded me of something I'd heard of a long while back: madstones. Used to draw the poison from a rabies bite and other infections, these were a cherished possession once upon a time, and those who owned one found themselves in high demand by their neighbors. Read more about madstones on Dave's blog.

That got me to thinking about other stones believed to have magical powers. When we were in Cornwall in 2016 and visited the British Museum of Witchcraft and Magic I learned about hagstones. We'd found one on the beach at Aberaeron on our way down the Cornwall coast and picked it up as a curiosity. It was pretty cool to discover it was considered a useful way to keep witches and evil out of the house.

My hagstone

Curie's Curiosities gives the following list of other traits attributed to the hagstone:
"*Hag stones can be used to chase away the Night Hag, a wicked witch that brings nightmares to children
*When worn as an amulet, hung in a window, or a doorway hag stones protect the wearer from witchcraft and evil spirits. They also protect your home from storms when hung in a tree close to your house.
*Farmers and sailors have been known to keep hag stones as protection from witches and witchcraft.
*Close one eye, peak through the hole and fairies can be seen, witches in disguise, and traps set by the fae.
*Wearing a hag stone around your neck will protect you from the evil eye and bring you good luck.
hag stones can be used as a weather stone- thread a cord thorough the hole and swirl it at arm’s length around your head (carefully) to dispel wind and storms.
*A hag stone can be used as a dream catcher over your bed or under your pillow to warn off nightmares.
*Never ever buy a hag stone, they should be found or can be given as a gift. Finding a hag stone when you’re not intentionally looking will bring the strongest of luck."

Another stone believed to be powerful came from the stomach or the craw of a rooster. Called a cockstone, this stone was supposed to be clear with veins like blood vessels; some had red or white spots in them. These were valued in ancient times as an aid to love--the stone, held in a man's mouth, was supposed to make him strongly desire his wife. And early form of Viagra? It was also believed to be able to prevent thirst. The methods for harvesting this stone were pretty complicated, according to this article.

Then there is the thunderstone. Keep on by your door to prevent lightning and storms from damaging your home, according to the Journal of American Folklore (Jan-Mar 1917). The stone would become restless during a storm, trembling and sweating. These stones were believed to fall from the sky and would take on the color of the cloud from which they fell, with the darkest stones being the most powerful. The stone's power was tested by tying a string around it and placing the stone in a fire. If the string does not burn, it is a powerful stone; if the string burns up, it is not a thunderstone.

A unique way of placing a curse in County Cavan, Ireland involved a process called "turning the stones." A large stone with a hollow like a bowl in it, or several hollows or holes is called a bullaun. In Cavan, there is a bullaun with thirteen holes. All have small stones in them except one. To place the curse, one would move one stone at a time from one hole to the empty hole, all the while cursing his enemy. He had to be careful not to drop or let one stone slip in his hands, or the curse he was making would be on himself. This website offers much information on bullauns.

I took this photo of holes in a large standing stone at Avebury, England:

Kevin's Chapel at Glendalough, when we were there in 2013

The Deer Stone at Glendalough in Ireland was said to magically fill with milk every morning for St, Kevin, the hermit monk who resided there around the 5th century. Some believe that a cure can be had by washing in or drinking the water that collects in the Deer Stone. You can see photos of the stone at this site.

Kevin's cave was in the cliff above this lake.

All over the world there are standing stones, each with its own story and folklore, and many with superstitions attached to them, such as the Stone of Odin in the Orkney Islands.

This post could go on and one; there are so many superstitions attached to stones! But then if you think about it, stones are as old as the earth itself. Is it any wonder that people would believe them to have so many powers?

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Mac n' Janet said...

I don't think I've ever heard of hagstones before, so really interesting.

Brig said...

How very interesting, thanks for the post and all the links and info.
I have always been a lover of stones.
You where indeed blessed to find a hagstone.

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