Those Hag Stones and Their History

Sir Wallis Budge, in his authoritative book Amulets and Superstitions (Oxford University Press, 1930), states that the first man who ever found a stone with a hole in it and thought to thread it on a string and hang it round his neck, had the credit of introducing the wearing of amulets into the world. This is what happened back in the beginnings of history.

Today, holiday-makers on a seaside beach amuse themselves by looking for holed stones; and if they find an attractive one, they may well keep it ‘for luck’. The first holy stone very probably was actually a ‘holey’ stone; that is, a stone with a hole in it.

stone with hole photoThe reason for its magical powers is the same as that for another very ancient amulet, the cowrie shell; namely, that it is a female emblem, representing the portal of birth. Hence it is a life symbol and a luck bringer. Holed stones are also known as hag stones, because they are a protection against the spells of witches.

An old antiquarian, Grose, tells us that “a Stone with a Hole in it, hung at the Bed’s head, will prevent the Night Mare; it is therefore called a Hag Stone, from that disorder which is occasioned by a Hag or witch sitting on the Stomach of the party afflicted. It also prevents Witches riding Horses: for which purpose it is often tied to a Stable Key.” (Quoted in Observations on Popular Antiquities, John Brand and Sir Henry Ellis, Chatto and Windus, London, 1877).

If a holed stone repelled black witchcraft, on the other hand white witchcraft valued it as a lucky find. Some people believed that by looking through a holed stone one could see the fairies; that is, if the time and place and other conditions were right.

176 Hopkins, Matthew In Aradia, the witches’ gospel of Italy, we are told that “to find a stone with a hole in it is a special sign of the favor of Diana”. The finder should pick it up, and thank the spirit that led him to encounter it. This belief, like that in the protection and luck of the horseshoe, is another instance of things that are sacred to the witches’ goddess being amulets against the darker uses of witchcraft. It will be noted how the affliction of nightmares and evil dreams was anciently ascribed to witches. It was, of course, the spirit of the hag or witch that came and oppressed people by night; or, as present-day occultists would say, the projection of their astral ·body.

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1 Comment

  1. Familiar Territory

    […] Naturally, there were charms used by farmers and carters, to prevent their horses from being molested by witches. One of the most popular was to hang up a holed stone in the stables; and such stones came to be called hag stones, for this reason. Sometimes, such a stone was tied to the key of the stables also. (See HOLED STONES.) […]

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