Hagstones / Holy Stones

Hagstones are stones that have a hole running all the way through them, and are usually found in streams or rivers, and at the seashore, where running water has created the hole in the stone.

This may be one of the reasons why they are considered so powerful, as it is a common belief that magic cannot work on running water, and these stones have been holed by running water and so retain that influence of protecting from magic. A Hagstone Hagstones are also known as Holy Stones, Holey Stones, Epilates Stones, Wish Stones, Nightmare Stones and Witch Riding Stones.

They were ascribed with the power of protecting people and animals from the powers of evil spirits and witches, and were often worn around the neck, or hung on the key or door to the cattle stalls or stables. Hagstones were also thought to have the property of preventing milk curdling during a thunderstorm, when evil spirits were most active. This practice continues today in parts of Britain and Europe. In some parts of Europe farmers milked their cows so that the milk passed through a Hagstone.

A range of disorders were thought to be cured by Hagstones, placing them under the bed was thought to relieve cramp and rheumatism, and they could prevent stomach disorders caused by Hags sitting on the stomach during the night.

In Brand’s Antiquities, we find the following quote: “A stone with a hole in it hung at the bed’s head will prevent the nightmare. It is therefore called a Hag Stone from that disorder which is occasioned by a Hag or Witch sitting on the stomach of the party afflicted. It also prevents witches riding horses, for which purpose it is often tied to a stable key.”
In parts of Scandinavia large quantities of ale poured through a hag stone was given to an expectant mother to ease birth pains.

An Arabic custom was to tie a Hagstone around the neck of young camels to protect them from evil spirits and the evil eye. In some parts of Britain Hagstones were fastened to the bows of boats to keep them safe when at sea.

An interesting custom was the use of Hagstones as pledge stones, being held to ensure a person was telling the truth. Perhaps the most interesting properties a Hagstone was thought to possess were the ability to enable the bearer to see the faerie folk, and be warded from their enchantments. Hagstones found at mounds or other such sites were considered especially powerful. For a Hagstone to keep its full power it was supposed to be found by the bearer or given in love.

Larger Hagstones were used for weather magic, having a cord threaded through the hole and tied, and then being swirled vigorously around the head at arms length for dispelling winds and rain clouds.

As wish stones, they were held in the palm of the left hand, and rubbed with the thumb in a deosil (clockwise) manner whilst concentrating on the intent of the wish (this technique was also used with pieces of amber). We can see this as a technique of creative visualization, using the repetitive rubbing to focus the mind and then concentrating on the desired result (the “wish”).

It is interesting to note that although the left hand is used to hold, this was probably not for its “sinister” aspect, but rather so that the rubbing could be done with the dominant (for most people), more “positively aspected” right hand. This is reinforced by the fact that the rubbing is done deosil, i.e. sunwise, in an invoking manner to invoke the desired result.
Holed stones with multiple holes in were used as spell casting stones by medieval witches. The holes would be made in a stone, equidistant and in multiples of three. A cord or pebble would be passed through the holes in patterns of three, whilst the intent of the spell was repeated, usually in multiples of three. This type of spell emphasises a belief in the power of repetition to achieve a desired result.