|This story comes from Ruth E St Leger-Gordon's "Witchcraft and Folklore of Dartmoor" (1973); she heard it from an elderly man from Chagford.
"Long ago faithless wives and fickle maidens were forced to expiate their misdeeds" in the following way. First they had to go and wash at Cranmere Pool. This was, and still is, a very remote spot - so it would have been some penance to get there in the first place. (Cranmere Pool has other legends connected with it - for example, that a no-good ex mayor of Okehampton, 'Binjy', had to empty it with a sieve.. having craftily done this he now sits on the bottom to spin the sand into ropes.. but that's another story).
They then had to cross the moor to Scorhill stone circle, and run round it three times (supposing they had any energy left).
Next they were driven down to the banks of the River Teign, where they dropped through the hole in a water-worn rock known as the Tolmen. Rumour has it this is a good cure for arthritis - but probably only if you've been good.
Next they went soggily up to the Grey Wethers stone circle. Each woman would fall to her knees in front of one of the stones. They would pray for forgiveness (to whom or what the story doesn't mention).
If nothing happened they could then assume they had been forgiven and purged of their transgressions could get up and stagger home. However, if a particular woman's sins were just Too Bad, the stone in front of her would topple forward crushing her to death.
"And that," added R.E.St L-G's informant, with a twinkle in his eye, "is why so many of the stones was lying flat before they was set up again."
No mention is made of what fickle and unfaithful husbands had to do. One suspects nothing probably.
Posted by Rhiannon
12th October 2004ce
Edited 12th October 2004ce