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



The folklore of the axes is another subject beyond the scope of this work, but it may not be amiss to record here some opinions concerning these implements that were expressed in the hearing of Captain Francis du Bois Lukis on the occasion of a visit to Alderney in 1853.

In general these remarks support, of course, the common belief that the axes were thunderbolts, a belief that was on another occasion charmingly confirmed by a Guernseyman who had discovered that when the broken pieces of these bolts were rubbed together their origin was thereby demonstrated, in as much as one could 'smell lightning'; he referred, of course, to the curious chemical phenomenon of an empyreumatic or ozone-like odour, accompanied by luminosity, that is often a result of the rubbing together of pieces of quartz, flint, and chert.

Only two people did not share this popular belief; one was a labourer who recognized the axes as implements because he had seen them taken out of the 'Druids' Vaults' in Herm, and the second was a man who knew that axes were used by the 'old people' to throw at one another when fighting.

The following are examples of the orthodox belief: A labourer found a thunderbolt near L'Etac, and said that he thought these thunderbolts must hit the ground very hard as they were so often broken. Another man knew what a thunderbolt was, but he had never found one himself, although he had often seen the holes that they made in the ground. Another islander stated that he had found a thunderbolt that had actually knocked down his wall*; he had had the prudence, however, to cover it up at once with big stones to prevent it doing further mischief. This is a departure from the usual custom of preserving the axe in or close to the house as a certain protector against lightning.

In the same notes Francis Lukis also records a remark of an Alderney man about 'cromlechs', or megalithic monuments; this informant had told him that they were erected by the Catholics as sites for the performance of human sacrifice; but this was a long time ago, since his family, the oldest in the island, had no recollection of it.**

Another and different belief about stone axes was to the effect that they had been thrown to the earth by fairies and hobgoblins, and for this reason it was sometimes the custome, when an islander found an axe on his land, that he should immediately smash it to pieces upon a larger stone. This information is contained in some remarks by Dr. Frederick Lukis that were quoted by Lieutenant Oliver.
Collated in 'The archaeology of the Channel Islands' by TD Kendrick and J Hawkins (1928), v2, p59.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
24th January 2011ce
Edited 24th January 2011ce

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