Monday, 12 August 2013

Odin Stones and the Odin Stone

Yesterday by chance I found and purchased from a shop in Whitby what may be called a Holey Stone, Witch Stone, Hag Stone, Wishing Stone, Seeing Stone or Odin Stone. This particular stone is a Pholas Dactylus. These stones have a naturally occurring hole or holes that are so smooth that they appear to have been bored through. 

Such stones, became known as Holey Stones for this reason and according to surviving folklore if you peer through the hole you can gain a glimpse of the Otherworld, hence the term Seeing Stone. By writing a wish down on paper and pushing it through the hole and being left overnight the wish become granted, hence the name Wishing Stone. Alternatively one may rub the stone round the hole in a clockwise direction[not widdershins]and the wish is said to come true. Hanging the stone from your bedpost overnight will protect you from nightmares. My readers may be aware that our ancestors commonly believed that the Nightmare was not just a bad dream but  an evil entity which sits on people`s chests and is said to ride the victim, hence the term mare.

The roots of the word may be traced back to Proto-Germanic *maron down to Old English maere and its cognates are to be found in other Germanic languages. The mare is also called a Hag, identical in type to the maere; hence the term Hag Stone or Witch Stone.

The Holey Stone also contains properties that protect one from thunder.

"Among the peasantry, there were other amulets or images referencing the thunder god and his divine rhunderbolt/thunderweapon. These include fossils, certain stones, manufactured amulets, plants, and ceraunia. Ammonites, belemnites, and sea urchins were especially prized as thunderbolts or thunderstones. Belemnites were also called wernaegel[`warding nails`], and were used in folk medicine to cure humans and cattle. Fossilised sharks` teeth, as well as flint arrowheads, were believed to be fairy arrows.
 "Flint, as both raw nodules and worked ceraunia, was a primary thunderstone in Anglo-Saxon Britain. Naturally holed flints[`hag stones`] were hung on nails in barns and on cattle pens in order to protect both the animals and the dairy."[The Divine Thunderbolt. Missile of the Gods, J.T. Sibley, 2009]

In connection with this general concept of Holey Stones there was of course the Odin Stone which stood near the Stanness Standing Stones on Orkney until it was destroyed by an incoming stranger called Capt. W. Maackay[may his name be accursed!] in 1814.Our ancestors in post-conversion times often showed little respect for these sacred stones and either destroyed them in a calculated act of sacrilege or used them for building materials. In at least one respect we live in more enlightened times where our physical[but not biological] heritage is valued and protected.

It is said that the Odin`s Stone was used to bless marriages in not just heathen but in xtian times as well.

"The parties agreed stole from the rest of their companions, and went to the Temple of the Moon, where the woman, in presence of the man, fell down on her knees and prayed the god Wodden (for such was the name of the god they addressed upon this occasion) that he would enable her to perform all the promises and obligations she had and was to make to the young man present, after which they both went to the Temple of the Sun, where the man prayed in like manner before the woman, then they repaired from this to the stone [known as Wodden's or Odin's Stone], and the man being on one side and the woman on the other, they took hold of each other's right hand through the hole, and there swore to be constant and faithful to each other. This ceremony was held so very sacred in those times that the person who dared to break the engagement made here was counted infamous, and excluded all society ."[Rev. George Low, 1774].

The use of the Odin Stone to perform marital promises reminds me of the sacred Oath Ring to be found in Woden`s and Thunor`s temples. Our ancestors also used holes in ash trees for the purpose of healing sick children:

"These trees, when young and flexible, were severed and held open by wedges, while ruptured children, stripped naked, were pushed through the apertures, under a persuasion that by such a process the poor babies would be cured of their infirmity.
 "This custom, and that of passing children and cattle through perforated earth or rocks, or through natural or artificial openings in trees, especially the ash and the oak, is common to most European countries."[Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk-lore, Walter Keating Kelly, 1863]
Mr Kelly goes on to conclude that this practice is symbolises healing through a new birth and is probably traceable back to Proto-Indo-European times:

"It appears indeed to be a close copy of a Hindu religious useage, and probably had its origin, like the latter, in times previous to the dispersion of the Aryans."

The association of Woden or Odin with the Odin Stone may be a remembrance of the Eddic myth of Odin having a hole bored through the mountain in order that he may gain access to the sacred mead.

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