I’m a hopeless case when it comes to stone collecting. I can spend hours walking on a beach with my head down, scanning the shore in search of tiny treasures. I don’t have any certain preference, though of course amber and fossils are the most desired. Wherever I went I’ve always brought at least one tiny pebble home. I treat them as souvenirs; but now as I’m trying to scale down my habits, I see it as a small act of vandalism. Therefore I try not to interfere anymore and leave the site in a better shape than it was before. I decided to collect photos instead. Still I’ve managed to gather quite a collection in my Swedish home on the course of the last three years. It turns out some of my findings have actually many interesting properties and lore behind them. They taught me a lot so to speak.
Hag Stones (aka Witches’ Stones, Odin’s Stones, Seeing Stones, Chicken Gods) are stones with natural occurring holes. Usually they can be found near the water. They are perceived as powerful amulets of healing and protection. If you look through the hole you can glimpse into the Otherworld. For the stone to work, you have to find it by yourself or receive it out of love. Bought or given in a careless way, they became powerless.
In Scandinavian lore they were associated with Odin. Either with the myth when Odin turned into a snake and drilled through the mountain to reach the Holy Mead; or when he traded his eye for wisdom. Odin’s Stones were often used to bless marriages and to perform marital vows. In another old ritual beer poured through the hole and given to women in childbirth relieved their suffering and facilitated a happy birth.
In Slavic lore Hag Stones, in Polish known as wiedźmi kamień, had the power to protect both humans and animals from evil powers and witches. They were often hung around the neck (then referred to as nawęzy) or attached to keys, or even nailed to the doors of houses and stables to prevent cattle from harassment. Many different diseases could be treated with holed stones. They were placed under the bed to get rid of rheumatism and cramps or put on the stomach to ease stomach pain. The stones were also hung above the bed for protection against nightmares and attack of the suffocating demon (Nocnica) during the sleep paralysis (as we like to explain this phenomena today).
In central and northern Russia any stone with a hole was considered a home of the spirit called Kurinyi Bog (Chicken God) that fell from the sky. Stones were placed into farmyards and coops to counteract the possible harmful effects of various demons (usually Kikimoras) or diseases.
Perun’s Arrow (Perunowa Strzałka), or a Lightning Stone, was associated with a Slavic god of lightning Perun. Common folk believed those were coming down from heaven, cast by Perun. Stones of such unusual origin must had also remarkable properties. Therefore they were considered a symbol of fertility, luck, prosperity and widely used in folk medicine for various ailments. One who found such artifact experienced happiness and wealth for the rest of their lives.
Perun’s Arrows accompanied people in rituals, magical practice, or simply in everyday life. They were laid at the threshold of a newly built dwelling, hanged under roofs, placed in cradles and kept in pockets during bread making. When a storm approached, such stone was taken, turned three times as the appropriate spells were whispered, and thrown at the door. Most importantly it protected against evil forces.
Of course depending on the region people approached them differently. Sometimes they were called “God’s Arrows” and “Fingers of Jesus”, but also referred to as “Devil’s Nails”.
Lightning Stone has also been attributed to many healing properties. It was rubbed against a diseased place, or grounded and given to the sick to drink with water, vodka or milk. Women during childbirth placed them under their knees to ease pain. It supposedly treated following ailments: headache, stomachache, eye diseases (both in humans and animals), wounds and ulcers, fever, bone fractures, bleeding, warts, toothache, and, of course, curses and milk loss within dairy cows.
There was also, and still is, a common misconception that Perun’s Arrow is formed from sand and gravel, melted as a result of a lightning strike. In fact it is a fossil, a belemnite.
As for the other stones visible in the header photo – they’re not any less interesting. The green ones are serpentinite stones I brought from Radunia Mountain, The Lunar Sanctuary, in Southern Poland. There is also a flint shard that resembles a neolithic arrow and weird flat stone with cup marks.