I’m trained as a stonecarver. Though I carve wood, horn, antler, wax, and I model clay in addition to stonecarving, stone is my favourite material. I love the look, the feel, the weight, the strength and the slowness of stone. I love the natural forms of stone, worked by the elements, as well as those sensitively and skillfully influenced by the hands of humans.
I am enthralled by the relationship my distant ancestors had with stone; the preCeltic, prePictish, neolithic peoples who considered stones worthy of veneration, and committed a disproportionately large amount of their scarce time and population resources to their relationships with these living bones of earth.
The purposes and meanings associated with many of the megaliths have been lost, though physical and astronomical alignments can still be discerned. Folk traditions around the various types of stone monuments attest to magico-symbolic use into the modern era; if those uses have anything to do with the purposes of the original makers, we cannot know.
Those megaliths with ancient man-carved or natural holes through them have possessed a particular sanctity throughout history, and have been venerated throughout western Europe for their powers to bless, to protect and to heal. They are found throughout the British Isles, particularly in Cornwall; the north of Scotland, especially the Isles and in Ireland. Examples include the, “Men-an-Tol, Tolvan holed stone and the Merry Maidens holed stone in Cornwall, used for fertility rites and healing and the Kenidjack Common holed stones – unusual in being a group of holed stones in the same location”
(The Megalithic Portal online)
On the Orkney Islands of Scotland and the Isle of Mann, where Scandinavian influence was significant, holed stones were associated with Odin, who in the Eddas passed through a hole in a stone in the form of a worm in order to gain the mead of inspiration. These stones took his name, as in Orkney,
“When visiting the stone, it was customary to leave offerings of food, or ale, and it was common for young people to stick their heads through the hole to acquire immunity from certain diseases. Along the same lines, new-born infants were passed through the hole, in the belief that this would ensure them a healthy future. Crippled limbs were also passed through in the hope of some supernatural cure.”
(Orkneyjar, the heritage of the Orkney Islands website)
Sadly, the Odin stone in Orkney was destroyed by the landowner in the 1940s.
Possibly related to their connection with the god, oaths were sworn at holed stones, with the two parties grasping hands through the hole in the stone. Such an oath was said to have been witnessed by Odin and could not be broken without incurring the wrath of the god. The last vestiges of this practice may have been the small holed stones given by the Deemsters on the Isle of Mann to summon people to court up until the mid 1700s. (The Uses of Rocks in the Past, Manx Mines Rocks and Minerals)
The connection between the two uses suggests that small, portable holed stones may have derived their traditional uses from those of the larger megalithic versions, but on a personal level, rather than functioning for an entire community as the larger versions did. These charmed stones were said to protect those who possessed them from ill luck, disease and bad dreams, and were hung in the home, stable or carried on ones person.
We who follow the old ways may grasp the occult powers of these stones when we realize them as the ontological locus of the Neither-Neither; as lacunae empty of ‘normal experience’; neither in the world, nor in the womb, but in-between. Used properly, they have the power to facilitate a passing through, a leaving behind, a meeting between or an entering into.
As an object of theacentric devotion, holed stones encompass the symbols of both the eternal and bounteous womb of the Earth Mother, and the lithic and fruitless cunt of the Hag. They are holy in both barrenness and in becoming.
These inamoratas of the goddess, when mated with the phallic pole formed the first spindles allowing the metamorphosis of fibre into thread and evoking the eldest of the goddesses; The Three who spin force into form, allot it, and ultimately, deliver it unto Thanatos.
As an aperture to the in-between, gazing through the hole in a stone allows the beholder to see the unseen or otherworldly. Hagstones allow access to the true Dreaming, when used with Art, and protect from being ridden by the night mare while traveling the oneiric realm.
By tradition and experience, each holy stone has its own particular affinity and use, and it falls to the finder to discover the unique talent of the stone. The first holy stone I found was a seeing-stone, and it proved to me the first Samhain after I found it, the efficacy of its powers and my evocations!
I am currently working with two holy stones, both from Ellan Vannin. One I found there, the other is a stone that has been passed down through the tradition with a documented history of use in witchcraft dating back to the end of the 1800s.
Time and Art will tell what use they may make of me…