Clach na Foinne, Glen Lochay, Perthshire

Legendary Stone:  OS Grid Reference – NN 50 38

Also Known as:

  1. Clach an Dlogh
  2. Wart Stone

Archaeology & History

Wart Stone, looking south

There is no written history of this site; only the quiet murmurings of a few locals whose families go back to when the english came and destroyed the people and their lives in the 18th and 19th century in the ethnic cleansing we known as The Clearances.  As with the Darach nan Sith (the Oak of the Fairies) a few miles away, the local traditions were lost, and ancient monuments destroyed.  Thankfully, due to the remote location of this site, its status remains….

It is found 2000 feet up, near an old derelict village (english academic romancers term it as ‘sheilings’).  An ancient track and stone bridge runs over the burn nearby, place-names evidence tells of a prehistoric tomb a few hundred yards west, and there’s a dispersal of forgotten human evidences scattering the south-side of the mountain all along here.  The clach (stone) sits on the very top of a large earthfast rock; is an elongated loaf-sized smooth red-coloured stone, about 14 inches long and 8 inches wide, and of a different type and much heavier than the local rock hereby.  It is said to have been a healing stone, used in earlier times to cure warts and other ailments.

Folklore

The Wart Stone itself

My first venture here was, like many in this area, amidst a dreaming.  Those who amble the hills properly, know what I mean.  I cut across the mountain slopes diagonally, zigzagging as usual, always off-path, resting by mossy stones and drinking the waters here and there.  My nose took me to the mass of giant rocks hedging into the higher regions of Allt Ghaordaidh: a pass betwixt the rounded giants of Meall Ghoaordie and Meall Cnap Laraich, where only eagles and Taoist romancers might roam.

The great rock comes upon you pretty easily.  Approaching it for the first time I wondered whether there might be petroglyphs on or around it, but the rich depth of lichens and its curious crowning elongated stone stopped any further thought on the matter.  The setting, the eagles, the colour of day and the fast waters close by, stole all such thoughts away.  In truth I must have walked back and forth and near-slept below the place for an hour or two before I gave way to rational focus!  And then my  curiosity got even more curious.

“This must be the place,” I mused, several times.

As you can see in the photo, a large natural earthfast boulder, six feet high or more, like a giant Badger Stone covered in centuries of primal lichens, has a large deep red-coloured stone on its very crown.  The stone is unlike any of the local rock and is very heavy.  I found this out when trying to prize it from its rocky mount, dislodging it slightly from the seeming aeons of vegetation that held it there.  But the moment I moved it, just an inch or so above its parent boulder, a quiet voice inside me rose sharply into focus.

“You shouldn’t have done that!”

The Wart Stone. looking east

Quickly I set it back into place, shaking my head at what I’d done.  One of those curious feelings you get at these places sometimes wouldn’t leave me, however much I tried to shake it off.  …Silly though it may sound, the echoes inside kept saying over and over to me, “you’re gonna get warts now you’ve done that!” Logically, of course, that made no sense whatsoever.  I’d only ever had one wart in my life, a couple of decades ago.  And yet, a few days later, one of the little blighters emerged on my finger!  So there was only one thing for it!  If this was a Wart Stone, I should revisit it again and place my afflicted finger back onto the wart and ask it to be taken back into the stone.

A week or so later, I clambered all the way up the mountainside again and asked the place to forgive my stupidity and take back the wart.  Apologising to the spirit of the stone, I rubbed my finger on the curious coloured rock and, I have to be honest, didn’t know what to expect.

I spent the next few hours meandering here and there over the hills and cast the thought of the Wart Stone back into my unconscious.  But a few days later it had started shrinking – and within a week, had completely gone!  This faint relic of an older culture, this Clach na Foinne had performed its old ways again, as in animistic ages past…

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian 

 

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  56.510084, -4.439106 Clach na Foinne

Witches’ Stone, Ratho, Midlothian

Cup-Marked Stone (destroyed):  OS Grid Reference – NT 1273 6973

Witches Stone on 1817 map

Also Known as:

  1. Canmore ID 50366
  2. Witch’s Stone

Archaeology & History

This fascinating looking carving (in my personal Top 10 of all-time favourites cup-and-rings in the UK!) was unfortunately destroyed sometime between 1918 and 1920.  A huge pity, as the design on the rock is almost unique in its ‘linear’ system of cups running a considerable length across the surface of the stone (like the similar design found at Old Bewick in Northumberland).

Wilson’s 1851 drawing of the Witches’ Stone
Simpson’s 1866 drawing of the Witches Stone

Shown first of all on Kirkwood’s Environs of Edinburgh map in 1817 (above), this legendary rock was found amidst a cluster of other cup-and-ring stones at Tormain (some are still there) and was initially said by Daniel Wilson (1851) to have been the giant capstone of a cromlech that once stood here, but whose structure had fallen away.  This idea is implied in the earliest drawing we have of the stone in Wilson’s magnum opus (above); Sir J.Y. Simpson (1867) gave us a similar impression with his drawing a few years later.  But upon visiting the Witches Stone just as his book was going to the press, Mr Wilson visited the site and proclaimed that he “altogether doubted if they are the remains of a cromlech”, and what rested here were more probably just fascinating geological remains, with even more fascinating carvings on top!

In the years that followed Wilson’s initial description, the Witches Stone was visited and described by a number of eager antiquarians.  Simpson (1867) gave us a quite revealing account, telling:

“On the farm of Bonnington, about a mile beyond the village of Ratho…are the remains of ‘this partially ruined cromlech’…with the capstones partially displaced, as if it had slid backwards upon the oblique plane of the huge stones or stone which still supports it.  Two or three large blocks lie in front of the present props.  Its site occupies a most commanding view of the valley of the Almond, and of the country and hills beyond.  The large capstone is a block of secondary basalt or whinstone, about twelve feet long, ten in breadth and two in thickness.  Its upper surface has sculptured along its median line a long row of some twenty-two cup-cuttings; and two more cup-cuttings are placed laterally: one, half a foot to the left of the central row and at its base; the other, two feet to the right of the tenth central cup and near the edge of the block. The largest of the cups are about three inches in diameter and half an inch in depth; but most of them are smaller and shallower than this…”

A few years later another early petroglyph authority, J. Romilly Allen (1882), visited the Witches Stone and found “an Ordnance bench mark (had been) cut on the stone itself”!  He then continued with his own description of this once-important megalithic site:

“The Witch’s Stone is a natural boulder of whinstone, rounded and smoothed by glacial action, whoso upper surface slopes at an angle of about 35° with the horizon. The length of the sloping face is 8 feet and at the top is a flat place 2 feet wide. The breadth of the stone is 11 feet 3 inches at the upper end, and 4 feet at the lower end. The thickness varies from 2 to 3 feet. The highest part of the stone is 6 feet 6 inches above the ground, and the lowest 1 foot 6 inches. It rests on what has originally been a portion of the same boulder, but is now a mass of whinstone broken up into several fragments, which serve as supports to prop up the stone above.  Viewed from the north side the whole presents the appearance of a cromlech, the upper stone forming the cap, and the disintegrated portion below the supports. This notion, however, will be clearly seen to be erroneous on looking at it from the opposite side, as shown on the accompanying sketch…where the crack separating the two portions of the boulder is very apparent… The sculpturings consist of twenty-four cups varying in diameter from 1½ to 3 inches. Twenty-two of these cups are arranged in an approximately straight line along the sloping face of the stone, and divide it into two almost equal parts. The two remaining cups lie, one 7½ inches to the left of the lowest cup of the central row, and the other 2 feet 3 inches to the right of the ninth cup up the stone… The field in which the Witch’s Stone is situated is called “Knock-about.” The sloping face of the stone has been much polished by the practice of people climbing on to the top and sliding down. Some of the cups are almost obliterated in consequence. The stone forms a very prominent feature in the view, and must always have attracted attention from its peculiar shape.”

Some twenty years after Allen, the megalithomaniac Fred Coles (1903) came and checked the Witches Stone out for himself and, as happens, had a few additional things to say about the place:

“Although this huge boulder and its cup-marks have been more than once figured and described, I found, on a close examination of the broad surface of the Stone, that none of the illustrations showed the cup-marks in their exact relation to each other, nor in their true relation to the contour of the Stone. The drawing shown above…was made after a careful measurement by triangulation of the Stone; and it is claimed to be the first that shows that the cups, two and twenty in number, are not disposed in one continuous line, but that thirteen follow each other from the high south edge of the stone for a distance of exactly 6 feet, and nine others lie a few inches to the west, occupying a space 3 feet long of the overcurving edge of the north end.  It is further shown that, at a point 2 feet 3 inches west of the ninth cup-mark, there is another one quite as large as the largest in the rows near the middle of the Stone. The south edge (A B) has slipped a little down from its original height, the boulder being frost-split horizontally; its height there above ground is 8 feet. The northern and narrower end is about 2 feet above ground, and does not touch the ground, as it rests upon its lower portion, beyond which it projects a few inches. The cup-marks run due north.”

Fred Coles 1903 drawing

If the Witches Stone was in fact a natural outcrop stone and not a cromlech, this very last point telling that “the cup-marks run due north” probably had much greater importance than a mere compass-bearing to the people who etched this carving.  For in pre-christian religious structures across the northern hemisphere, north is commonly representative of death and the land of the gods.  In magickal rites “it is the place of greatest symbolic darkness,” as neither sun nor moon ever rise or set there.  Additionally, north is the place where, in shamanic traditions, the heavens are tied to the Earth: the cosmic axis itself that links heaven, Earth and underworld revolve around the northern axis in the skies.  In early neolithic traditions this mythic structure was endemic. Whether its magickal relevance was intended here, at this stone, we will probably never know…

Folklore

Folklore tells that the Witches Stone was one of the sites used in magickal rites by the Scottish occultist, Michael Scot.  J.R. Allen’s (1882) description of “the sloping face of the stone has been much polished by the practice of people climbing on to the top and sliding down,” may relate to folk memory of fertility rites once practised here, as found at similarly carved rocks in the UK and across the world.

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Allen, J. Romilly, “Notes on some Undescribed Stones with Cup Markings in Scotland,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 16, 1882.
  2. Coles, Fred R., “Notes on Some Hitherto Undescribed Cup-and-Ring Marked Stones,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 37, 1903.
  3. McLean, Adam, The Standing Stones of the Lothians, Megalithic Research Publications: Edinburgh no date (c.1978).
  4. Morris, Ronald W.B., The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland, BAR: Oxford 1981.
  5. Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historical Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Midlothian and West Lothian, HMSO: Edinburgh 1929.
  6. Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
  7. Smith, John Alexander, “Notes of Rock Sculpturings of Cups and Concentric Rings, and ‘The Witch’s Stone’ on Tormain Hill; also of some Early Remains on the Kaimes Hill, near Ratho, Edinburghshire,” in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, volume 10, 1874.
  8. Wilson, Daniel, The Archaeology and Prehistoric Annals of Scotland, Sutherland & Knox: Edinburgh 1851.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  55.912750, -3.397566 Witches Stone

Eller Edge (431), Pock Stones Moor, Thruscross, North Yorkshire

Cup-Marked Stone:  OS Grid Reference – SE 09059 61506

Getting Here

From Appletreewick take the road east through Skyreholme and up Skyreholme Bank, bearing right at the fork in the tracks along the ancient Forest Road.  Keep going till you cross the Larnshaw Beck and keep walking along the track until it runs wallside.  Look over the wall and you’ll see this sloping-chair-shaped rock .  You’re here!

Cup-Marked stone 431

Archaeology & History

Worth looking at if you’re visiting the Spiral Stone of Eller Edge field and its large associate, but otherwise this cup-marked stone is probably only for the purist rock-art mad-folk amongst us!  There are what seem to be three decent cup-marks upon the sloping face of the rock here, with a possible pecked line to the side of two of them — though we have to consider the possibility that a geological condition is responsible for the easternmost cup.  Described in the Boughey & Vickerman (2003) survey simply as:

“Large triangular rock of smooth gritstone, quarried at SE and sloping into ground at W and N.  Three cups on top sloping face.”

Thirty yards up the slope along the wall-side you’ll find carving 432 with its single cup-marking.

 

References:

  1. Boughey, Keith & Vickerman, E.A., Prehistoric Rock Art of the West Riding, WYAS: Wakefield 2003.

Links:

  1. Eller Edge Rock Art – more notes & images

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  54.049440, -1.863131 Eller Edge CR-431

Kelpie’s Stane, Corgarff, Aberdeenshire

Legendary Rock:  OS Grid Reference – NJ 264 087

Also known as:

  1. Kelpie Stone

Folklore

The old Scottish folklorist, A.A. MacGregor, described this legendary rock, “by the Bridge of Luib, on the River Don,” in his classic Peat Fire Flame. (1937)  One of the numerous ‘holed stones,’ it was one of countless rocks in our isles imbued with animistic spirit essence, akin to similar rocks found in all of the other cultures in the world.  MacGregor told how,

“It happened that a man summoned to the death-bed of a relative came to this crossing-place just after torrential floods had carried away the bridge. When he was on the point of abandoning all hope of reaching the opposite bank, a tall man appeared from nowhere and volunteered to carry him across. The distracted homecomer accepted the assistance proffered. But, when he and his carrier reached mid-river, the latter reverted to the form of the river kelpie and endeavoured to drag him down to the river’s bed. The victim managed to escape. As he scrambled to the bank, the infuriated kelpie hurled after him the huge boulder that to this day goes by the name of the Kelpie’s Stane.”

But the stone was also known to possess healing and magickal properties, as evidenced from MacPherson’s (1929) chronicle, which told:

“Somewhere near Dinnet was the Kelpie Stone. Childless women passed through its 18 inch (46cm) hole to concieve. A noble lady performed the task to no avail; only when she repeated it in the same direction as the river flow did the charm work.”

Close by are several other intriguing place-names which may at some time have had some archaeo-mythic relevance to this legendary rock. On the hill above is the old Carn Lian; the water course nearby is the Allt na Ciste; but most intriguingly we find the Bog of the Old Woman, or the Moine Cailleach a half-mile to the east.

References:

  1. MacGregor, Alisdair Alpin, The Peat-Fire Flame, Ettrick Press: Edinburgh 1937.
  2. McPherson, Joseph M., Primitive Beliefs in the North-East of Scotland, Longmans, Green & Co: London 1929.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

 

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  57.163980, -3.217472 Kelpie\'s Stane