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Devil's Stone

Natural Rock Feature


Turning the Devil's Boulder. Primitive Rite in Village of Shebbear, North Devon.

The Times
of November 4, 1952, in announcing a "traditional survival" in "an isolated upland village" said "The pride of the village is the brown monolith - an arenaceous conglomerate stone - that reposes beneath an oak-tree outside the Norman church. On the evening of November 5 the bell-ringers unfailingly assemble in the belfry with a designedly clamorous and discordant peal, which is looked upon as a challenge to evil spirits. Accompanied by the Vicar the ringers then leave the church, arm themselves with crowbars, and surround the boulder. Shouting excitedly, as though to encourage one another, they then turn over the boulder.

The oldest inhabitant, a blacksmith 87 years of age, has given his boyhood memories of the custom. He told me that in his time the custom took place later in the evening and torches and lanterns were used.

The turning of the boulder is regarded in a most serious light by the older villagers. Any neglect of this parochial function would, they say, lead to evil consequences for the crops.

Folk Life and Traditions
E. F. Coote Lake
Folklore, Vol. 64, No. 1. (Mar., 1953), pp. 301-302.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
7th October 2006ce
Edited 7th October 2006ce

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