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


Stone Circle


In an earlier posting about Scorhill I put forward the idea that a nearby natural holed stone (Tolman ) in the river Teign could have had some influence on the siting of the circle in this place. After some reading (I must get out more) I found a bit of folklore that connects Scorhill stone circle not only with the tolman but also with the nearby double circle of Grey Wethers. Here it is.

"Faithless wives and wantons had first to wash in Cranmere Pool then return and run round Scorhill Three times. They next went down to the river Teign and passed through the Tolman ( a holed stone reputedly good for rheumatism as well as virtue ), then up to Grey Wethers where each woman knelt and asked forgiveness. If the stones remained standing all was well, but if they fell, and some did as can be seen, the woman would be crushed to death."

Haunted Britain
Anthony Hippisley Coxe
1975 Pan Books.

Second guessing my way through Bibliographies I think the author picked this tale up from "The Witchcraft and Folklore of Dartmoor". by Ruth E Gordon St Leger Published London 1965.

Stories about faithless wives and wantons meeting a grizzly death at stone circles sounds a bit like the usual attempts by Christians to demonise these places. That said the story may be a twisted, half lost version of some older ceremony which connected the circles and the Tolman.

My directions to the holed stone were a bit rubbish last time so I include another little extract which is so sweetly written it deserves to see the light of day again.

"The wooded gorge of the Teign below Batworthy is very grand and picturesque. Passing around the Batworthy enclosure, I gain the river, in which is one of the most remarkable natural phenomenon on the Moor, the Tolmen. It is a solid block of granite about 10 feet in diameter and 2 feet to 4 feet thick, through which the action of the water has worked a hole a yard in diameter, and two other holes appear to have begun by the same agency.
Although the Drudists do not, I think, claim this phenomenon, as they do the rock basins, to be the work of their favourite priesthood, they yet, I believe, assign it a place in their rites, as an ordeal or miraculous cure.
I fancy I have heard too that a superstition still lingers that anyone passing through the hole will be proof against rheumatism. He must take care not to drop into the river below I should imagine".

An Exploration of Dartmoor Antiquities 1892 by John Chudleigh.
Pegg Publishing.

You can of course avoid dropping into the river below by going down under the stone and hauling yourself through. Which, given the powerful symbolism of re birth connected with these things would seem the obvious way to use them. On my last visit I even managed it. I wanted to walk on to Grey Wethers but the other half didn't want to. I think the old wanton was worried about being crushed.
Posted by KPH
23rd October 2000ce
Edited 19th December 2012ce

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