About the Legends and Superstitions of Precious Gem Stones

about the historic legends and superstitions surrounding rocks and magic stones and jewels and mineral gems all the world over.

This tempting promise, interpreted as a sign that some buried treasure was hidden in the ground beneath the stone, finally induced some one to devote much toil and time to the difficult task of turning the stone over. What, however, was his chagrin and disgust when the under side presented the words: "Tourner je voulais, Car lassee j'etais" (I longed to turn, because I was so tired). Whether the practical joker who originated the inscription was present to enjoy the success of his joke is not revealed.

To a mass of quartz at Jerbourg, Guernsey Island, local fancy has attached a wild legend, which finds expression in the strange designation of the stone as "The Devil's Claw." The old Chronique de Normandie, which, although written much earlier, was first printed in 1576 at Rouen, recounts under date of 797 A.D. that Duke Richard, when on his way from one of his strongholds to a manor where dwelt a damsel of surpassing beauty, was assailed by the Evil One; but, like a second St. Michael, Duke Richard overcame his dangerous antagonist. Seeing that he could not prevail by force, the Devil had recourse to one of his most perilous wiles, and changed himself into a beautiful, richly-attired maiden. In this disguise he lured Duke Richard to the seashore and induced him to enter a boat and put out to sea. He thus spirited the duke away to the lonely isle of Guernsey, and at the landing spot, where the Devil finally seized his too-confiding prey, stands this mass of quartz, a deep black splash running right across, indicating in popular fancy the mark left by the devil's claws.

A solitary boulder standing on a heath in North Germany is the subject of a curious legend illustrating the superstitious reverence inspired by the thunder. Once upon a time a bridal procession was traversing the heath when a violent thunder-storm broke out. Taking no heed of this, the musicians who accompanied the procession continued to play their gay and festive music, and as a punishment for this lack of respect the God of Thunder changed the whole party into an immense rock.

An erratic boulder lying in midstream in the River Ferse, in West Prussia, at a bend it makes between Peplin and Eichwald, is known in legend as the Teuffelsstein (Devil's Stone). It can only be reached by swimming to it, the part above the surface of the water measuring 26 1/4 feet in circumference, the height from the bed of the stream being 8 1/4 feet. A thick growth of alders on the banks of the Ferse at this point casts strange and sharp shadows over the gleaming surface of the block which is a biotitic gneiss. Legend tells that the Devil once tried to wreck the tower of the church at Peplin by hurling this mass of rock at it, but just as he had it poised in the air and was about to cast it forth the church bells began to ring the call for early mass, and he was forced to let the boulder drop. Another version is that he really threw it, but that it fell short of its mark.

Near Hasselager in Denmark there is an immense boulder about 150 feet in circumference and 32 feet in height. Of this stone legend tells that a witch became so enraged at the fact that the steeple of the church at Svinninge was used by sailors as a landmark, that she picked up the stone and hurled it at the church, but missed her aim. As the boulder is estimated to weigh 1000 tons, this "witch" must have been regarded as a superhuman personality. The legend seems to indicate that she profited by the shipwrecks which were only too frequent on this rocky coast, and grudged the poor sailors the good service rendered them by the prominent steeple.

A rock in Ardmore Bay, Ireland, is known as the St. Declan Stone, after the first bishop of Ardmore, who came to Ireland even before the arrival of the great St. Patrick. This rock is believed by the peasants to be endowed with great and occult powers, and the legend tells that it was carried through the air from Rome to its present resting place in the bay, at the time St. Declan was erecting his church at Ardmore. The fact that the stone rests upon a number of smaller ones renders it possible for people to squeeze their way under it at low tide, and those who pass beneath it three times are believed to have earned the special favor of St. Declan.

A mass of calcareous stone in a village called Piada de Roland, situated in the commune of Toufailles (dept. Tarn-et-Garonne), France, shares with some other similar stones in this region the curious name of Roland's Foot (Piada de Roland). The one preserved in Toufailles measures 70 cm. X 47 cm. X 50 cm., and bears a natural imprint having the form of a foot. Legend accounts for this by the tale that the hero Roland once jumped from this stone to another at Sept Albres and in taking this tremendous leap thrust his foot down so strongly upon its support as to leave an imprint on the solid rock. For a time the "Piada de Roland" was kept in a cow-house--not a remarkably honorable place of deposit--but after the death of one of the cows a sorcerer advised the stone should be broken and removed, as a precautionary measure; this is said to have happened but thirty years ago, showing how deeply rooted such superstitious ideas are among the peasantry in out-of-the-way parts of France.

Another rock-imprint, this time simulating that made by the hoof of a horse, is to be seen toward the edge of the abyss of Padirac (dept. Lot). Here again a local legend has been evolved to explain the imprint. We are told that the attention of both Satan and St. Martin had been powerfully attracted to the region, each strenuously seeking to gain possession of the souls of those who died, Satan of course wishing to bear them off with him to the depths of the infernal regions, while St. Martin cherished the fond hope of bringing them to Heaven. Unhappily the sins of the inhabitants of the region so much outweighed their merits that the Devil was almost invariably successful. Once upon a time, when he was riding off to his lurid realm, bearing with him a sackful of lost souls, he met St. Martin, who was full of grief at the fact that he himself had not a single soul to carry heavenward. Knowing, however, that Satan was passionately fond of gaming, he proposed that they should play a game the stake of which should be the sackful of souls. Satan consented, trusting to his powers of trickery, but all his deceptions proved vain, and the precious souls became the property of the saint. Enraged at losing the stakes, the Devil stamped on the ground, and an immense abyss opened up, threatening to engulf St. Martin; however, the latter put up a prayer to God, and spurred on his steed to a supreme and successful effort at escape, but one of the hoofs struck the rock with such force that it made an indentation therein figuring the clear outlines of a horse's hoof.

The Kiowa have a sacred stone whose form suggests the head and bust of a man. This image, called taime, has long been considered a kind of palladium of the tribe. It is preserved in a box made of stiff dressed rawhide (parfleche) and was only shown once a year, at the annual Sun Dance. As this sacred dance has not been performed since 1887, the taime of the Kiowa has not been viewed by mortal eye since that time, not even the custodian of the treasure having the privilege of opening the box, except on the occasion of the ceremonial dance above mentioned. Whether this stone has been rudely fashioned into its present shape, or whether its natural form suggested its use as a simulacrum of some deity, has not been determined; it is evidently not of meteoric origin as were many of the curiously shaped stones venerated as images of the gods in ancient times, in both Europe and Asia.

In the rock of St. Gowan's chapel in Wales was a natural cavity upon which the name of the Expanding Stone was bestowed by popular tradition, because the strange fancy prevailed that this stone automatically adapted itself to the size of anyone who entered the cavity. The legend ran that once, during the Pagan persecutions, when a fugitive Christian, hotly pursued, reached this rock it opened up of its own accord so that he could slip into it, and then closed about him so as to hide him effectually from his enemies. This Expanding Stone was believed to manifest its magic power by bringing to pass the wish expressed by anyone who entered it, provided he did not change his wish while he turned around within it.

The natives of the French colony of New Caledonia in the southern Pacific, attach special importance to the fortuitous shape of stones in using them for talismans or amulets. According to their form such stones are considered to procure favorable effects against famine, madness, or death; to induce sunshine or rain, or else to bring good luck in fishing or in sailing, each special use being suggested by some different form, the color also being in some cases a determining factor. For the purpose of securing a better yield from fruit-trees a stone having the approximate shape of the fruit or with markings similar to those on fruit or tree is the one indicated by nature as the appropriate talisman, as in the case of the cocoa-nut palm, where a stone marked with black lines is the one chosen. Sometimes two different talismanic stones are used in this practice, a smaller one figuring the unripe fruit; when the tree begins to bear, the small stone is buried at its foot, and as soon as the fruit begins to mature, the small stone is removed and the larger one, representing the ripe fruit, is buried in its place.

The Scotch of a century or more ago are said to have considered that an isolated stone or boulder, firmly fixed in the earth, possessed powers of a peculiar sort, and some such stones were used to cure bruises and strains and reduce swellings. As it was also thought that a blow from a stone of this type was especially hurtful, this would be another case of homoeopathic treatment of which so many and various examples are afforded by the superstitious use of stones and gems, as well as of other objects to which certain advantageous qualities were attributed.

Small stone boulders have been made use of by ejected peasants in Fermanagh, Ireland, in a magical incantation designed to draw down a curse upon a merciless landlord. For this purpose the peasant would collect a number of such stones, pile them up on his hearth as he would have piled turf sods, and then put up a petition that all manner of bad luck and misfortune might befall the landlord and his descendants to remote generations. Hereupon he would gather up the stones again, and, carrying them off, would scatter them about in bog-holes, pools or streams, so that they should never be brought together again. This was evidently done in the belief that the curse could only be raised if a counter-invocation were pronounced over the same collection of stones. An allusion to a custom of turning stones about while reciting a formula of malediction is contained in the following lines by Dr. Samuel Ferguson:

They hurled their curse against the King,

They cursed him in his flesh and bones,

And even in the mystic ring,

They turn'd the malediction stones.

Of all "magic stones" none seem better to deserve this designation than those mysterious and fascinating mineral specimens, veritable lusus Naturoe, bearing imprinted upon them by nature's hand some likeness of the human face or form. The grandeur and the overwhelming power of the material world are probably as much or even more felt in our prosaic age than they were in the earliest times, but this sentiment is sometimes coupled with a sense of distrust--happily neither general nor permanent--as to the presence in this tremendous and inspiring aggregate of forces of any distinct and definite evidence of the working of an intelligence closely similar to our own. It seems not unlikely that to this half-distrust is in great part due the fascination exercised by these naturally designed stones. We know, indeed, that when examined critically by the mineralogist, their strange markings become explicable as the results of fortuitous stratifications and juxtapositions, but to our instinctive appreciation they offer so close and startling an analogy to the artistic reproductions consciously made by the hand of man, guided by his experience and intelligence, that we are almost invariably impressed with a keener sense of our kinship with nature.

Some very characteristic and interesting specimens of these natural designs were at one time in the possession of Queen Victoria, many of them having been formerly among the treasures in the valuable and extensive collection of pearls and precious stones carefully gathered together by the famous banker and connoisseur, Henry Philip Hope. Quite recently (April 20, 21, 1914) these objects, which had passed into the J. E. Hodgkin Collection, were sold at Christie's in London. Perhaps the most remarkable is thus described by B. Hertz in the Hope Catalogue:

No. 62. A very beautiful lusus, in white and brown agate, representing a miniature face and neck, with light brown hair and white chaplet, surrounded by a dark brown ground colour.

So singularly natural and artistic is this strange gem, that it is difficult to banish the conviction that we are not gazing upon a fine example of a miniature done by an impressionist. Another interesting, though somewhat less notable example, was a polished flint, of a brownish-gray hue, bearing a half-front miniature of an aged head and face marked in a light brownish-white; still another offered the representation of a human head, the face half turned away; this was also a flint, the groundwork of a light horn-color, the design being of a still lighter shade of the same color.

While nearly all these natural designs are in the flat, occasional examples of relief or intaglio are recorded. As an instance may be noted a remarkable double gem or medallion said to have been revealed on splitting open a clump of copper ore from the Bottendorf copper mines. On each of the two halves was marked the image of a male human head, dressed with a peruke, but while on one side the representation was in relief, on the opposite half it was in intaglio.

A remarkable find of three of these naturally marked stones is stated to have been made in the river Theiss, near the town of Winterhut, in 1556, "on a Monday after the festival of St. Gall." On one of these flint pebbles was depicted a cross, a sword and a rod; the two others bore respectively a cross and the Burgundian arms, all being as clearly defined as though the work of the human hand.

These smaller natural pictures were, however, greatly surpassed in effectiveness by some most extraordinary representations on slabs of stone, frequently on marble slabs, the strange arrangement of the veinings constituting veritable pictures of considerable extent and marvellously deceptive quality. Thus in the church of San Lorenzo in Florence was to be seen a natural marble on which were depicted two men bearing a bunch of grapes on a rod. Another marble slab, preserved in the Danish Collection in Copenhagen and originally owned by James I of England, presented in most beautiful colors an image of a crucifix.

To the natural image found in a specimen of copper ore may be added a much more remarkable picture discovered in a piece of iron-ore. This was found on October 8, 1669, by a miner of the Innesberg mines. The clump of ore weighed about two pounds and when the miner split it open with a blow of his hammer, he was startled to see on the upper half a strange and marvellous designs. Calling up a companion, he exclaimed: "Look here! Here is the Blessed Virgin on this stone!" On examining the other half, the same design appeared there also. This remarkable find is said to have been recorded in the book of the mine, the stone itself having been delivered to the German imperial inspectors.

It is well to bear in mind that the number of these lusus naturoe seemed very much larger in the eyes of writers of a few centuries ago than to us to-day, for the numerous petrifactions, showing a great variety of animal and vegetable forms, were for a long period included in the same category with the stones bearing curiously deceptive markings or veinings. Much ingenuity was expended by early observers in the attempt to explain the cause of these phenomena. The learned Jesuit, Athanasius Kircher, for example, after having proved experimentally that designs treated with certain chemical agents could be made to impress figures upon stones, took refuge in the strange hypothesis that pictures made on wood or some soft material by primitive miners had been left in the mine and with the lapse of time had slipped down into crevices in the rock, and, becoming tightly wedged in, had impressed the design on the contact-rock; or else he suggested that the original material on which the design had been made might in process of time have, by some unknown means, been converted into marble. As a striking example of a picture of this class, Kircher notes and figures an image naturally designed on a stone slab in St. Peter's in Rome and bearing a remarkable likeness to the Blessed Virgin of Loreto.


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