The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Folklore Posts by Ravenfeather

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Dry Tree Menhir (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Local legend has it that the menhir stands on the spot where five ancient parish boundaries met, and takes its name from a gallows tree which once stood next to the stone.

Les Jardin aux Moines (Cromlech (France and Brittany))

The legend behind this site is that a group of monks from the area would gather for feasts and debaucheries with local lords in the forest. Saint Meen passing through the area encountered them and tried to encourage them to be more pious in the pursuit of a monastic life. Driving away the saint with derision and laughter divine retribution was swift in arriving, as the feasting party of monks and lords was pertified at the site of their revels.

Menhir de Champ-Dolent (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The information board at the menhir related some of the folklore that surrounds the stone.

As well as the tale of the warring brothers, it is said that the Devil, from the high ground of nearby Mount Dol, saw Saint Samson building the cathedral at Dol. Enraged by this he launched a huge stone at the edifice, which knocked off the top of the north tower, which landing nearby became the Dolmen of Champ Dolent.

Also it is said that the stone imperceptably sinks, whenever someone dies, or in an alternate tale the moon nibbles a bit off the top of the stone each time it is full, causing it to shrink. In both tales when the stone is finally diminished to nothing it will signify the end of days.

Gawton's Well (Sacred Well)

The well has long been associated with curative properties, particularly relating to skin conditions.

As well as the supposedly curing the eponymous hermit who lived at Gawton's Stone the well waters were regularly used by local people, who used nearby stone to fashion a small rectangular bathing pool at the site.

Writing in 1686, Dr Robert Plot, in 'The Natural History of Stafford-Shire' states:

“There are many waters such as the water of the well at Gawton Stone…which has some reputation for the cure of the King’s evil..”
The 'King's evil' being the archaic name for the disease scrofula.

Gawton's Stone (Natural Rock Feature)

There is a local story of a hermit using Gawton’s Stone as a hermitage after he was cured from the plague by Gawton’s Well.

The story of the Hermit:

Gawton / Gorton was one of the servants of Knypersley Hall when he became ill with the plague. Due to everyone thinking they too would fall ill he was forced to leave. He left and went to live in a cave (Gawton’s Stone) near Knypersley pool.

Nearby was a spring which is known as Gawton’s Well which is where he bathed every day. He also used the spring for his drinking water. The spring was believed to have the power to heal skin diseases by the locals and apparently cured Gawton of the plague.
Even though he was now healed he continued to stay at the cave and lived there till his death.

(The Biddulph Parish Register shows that a Robert Gorton died in 1611. He was buried on the 06th December).

Local legends say that if you crawl underneath the stone that the ‘Devil will be knocked of your back’, in a similar fashion to the nearby Bawd Stone, less than 10 miles away to the east.

Many local people do believe the stone has strange magical powers and gives off healing properties and a kind of magnetic field when touched.

J. D. Sainter in his "Scientific Rambles round Macclesfield" 1878 states:

'About one mile south of Wickenstone, and near the reservoir, Knypersley Park, there may be noticed a fine spring of water flowing into two elongated stone cisterns, along with a smaller one that is circular ; and some years ago this spring was much resorted to by the sick and lame, on account of its reputed medicinal properties. A little up the valley to the right, there comes into view that huge,
singularly shaped and poised block of sandstone, named the " gawton," gorton, or gawstone ; from the German "gau," a spring in a hollow or furrow, and " stan," a stone,
i.e. the spring near to or not far from this celebrated stone. It will weigh about 60 tons, and forms the capstone of a large sepulchral cell or dolmen that has undergone rough and degrading usage. This form of burial is of an early Scandinavian type that had been adopted in this country.'

Information taken from the Biddulph museum website.

Mor Stein (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Local folklore relates that the stone landed at its current location after being thrown by a giant at his fleeing wife.

Staney Hill (Standing Stone / Menhir)

It is said that the party who transferred the bones of St. Magnus from Birsay to Kirkwall stopped here to await the Harray men who would share the task, these men were said to have scuttled out from their huts like crabs, which gave the inhabitants of Harray their parish nickname!

The Standing Stones of Stenness (Stone Circle)

The monuments at Stenness held an important part in Orcadian wedding customs over a long period as relayed by the Rev George Low in 1774.

“There was a custom among the lower class of people in this country which has entirely subsided within these twenty or thirty years. Upon the first day of every new year the common people, from all parts of the country, met at the Kirk of Stennis, each person having provision for four or five days; they continued there for that time dancing and feasting in the kirk. This meeting gave the young people an opportunity of seeing each other, which seldom failed in making four or five marriages every year; and to secure each other’s love they had resource to the following solemn engagements:- The parties agreed stole from the rest of their companions and went to the Temple of the Moon, where the woman, in the presence of the man, fell on her knees and prayed to the god Woden (for such was the name of the god they addressed on 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 preyed in a like manner before the woman, then they repaired back to the [Odin] 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 from all society.”

From ‘A Tour Through the Islands of Orkney & Shetland, containing Hints relative to their Ancient, Modern and Natural History’ by Rev. G. Low 1774

Gårdlösa (Skibssætning)

According to local legend the stone ship was erected over the grave of a warrior, King Alne, which is why the site of Gårdlösa is also known as Alnabjar.

On a terrace on the southern side of the hill a further four stones were said to have stood which marked the grave of Queen Gya, Alne's wife.

(Information taken from the signboard at the site)

Druidale (Cairn(s))

In folklore the area on which the cairns sit was haunted by a huge old boar known as the Purr Mooar, which was slain by a local legendary figure known as Jack the Giant Killer, who was himself somewhat feared by the locals. The story is related in a book of Manx folktales;

‘Now there was an old boar called the Purr Mooar, that had long been a terror to the district, so much so that it was not considered safe for any one to go alone over the Rheast and through Druidale. Even the shepherds with their dogs were unwilling to face him. This purr Jack determined to kill, so he armed himself with his thickest stick and set out in search of him. After travelling a considerable distance, he made his way down to a deep glen where he discovered the boar, it being a sultry day, luxuriating in the water. No sooner id he see Jack than he raised himself up, and, with a terrible roar, rushed out upon him. Jack, nothing daunted, received him with a severe blow upon the fore legs, which caused him to roll over. Getting up again he rushed once more at Jack, who belaboured him with many a heavy blow, but unfortunately the boar managed to inflict a deep wound in Jack’s thigh, which laid it open to the bone. Still the conflict went on till both were well-nigh exhausted and faint from los of blood, till at last Jack with one terrible blow shattered the boar’s head, and laid him dead at his feet. It was with great difficulty that he managed to crawl home, and it was long before his wounds, which were said to be of a poisonous nature, healed, and even then he was obliged to go about with a crutch for the rest of his life. Thus was the neighbourhood rid of two troubles – Jack and the Purr Mooar – for the one was now harmless and the other dead.’

From ‘Folklore of the Isle of Man’, by A.W.Moore, 1891
Megalithic wanderer and modern day pagan.

I've always loved anything historical, particularly megalithic sites (I've many a fond memory of visits to Stonehenge in the mid 1970's as we used to stop there every year on the way to the annual family holiday down in Bournemouth, which I think started it off), and the discovery of a certain book by Mr. Cope set off an obsession in the late 1990's to see as many of these wonderful places as I can.

Enjoys walking in the wildnerness and climbing mountains (currently on the worlds slowest round of Munroe bagging), travel, playing guitar, real ale and malt whisky, historical re-enactment, fencing and wargaming (although not all at the same time!) Also adores small furry critters (particularly cats)

Spends most of the year in the megalithic desert of the Midlands, although fortunate enough to live part of the time in Kirkwall in the megalithic oasis of Orkney, with my lovely (and very patient) wife Ellen, and the cute furball that is our cat Hecate.

Favourite sites would be Callanish and Ring of Brodgar (where I was handfasted) in Scotland, Les Pierres Platts in Brittany, Havangsdosen in Sweden, Glavendrup in Denmark, and Sunkenkirk in England.

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