Folk-Lore/Volume 23/"Snakestones" and Stone Thunderbolts as Subjects for Systematic Investigation
"SNAKESTONES" AND STONE THUNDERBOLTS AS SUBJECTS FOR SYSTEMATIC INVESTIGATION.
BY WALTER W. SKEAT, M.A.
(Read at Meeting, June 28th, 1911.)
In a book published as lately as 1908 we read,—"When we hear of the good or bad luck which is assumed to go with St. Cuthbert's beads, (joints [or, as our geological friends insist we should call them, ossicles] of fossil encrinites), St. Peter's fingers and thunderbolts (belemnites), Devil's toe-nails (gryphaeas), and snakestones (ammonites), we might hastily conclude that the picturesque name has originated the belief. But fossils as charms or mascots form an ancient chapter in history and an unwritten chapter in pre-history."
The chapter in question is certainly unwritten, in the sense that, although an immense number of isolated details have been recorded about "fossil folklore" and celt superstitions, there has been no proper survey of the facts, and the object of this paper is simply to focus attention on this class of facts and on the system required for investigating them. We find, when we come to look into the matter, a far larger number of fossil forms which have given birth to folklore elements of various kinds than we could have believed possible. For example's sake, let us take the foregoing list. We may add to what the author has said that the small fossil plates from the Fame Islands, which are known as St. Boniface's pence (S.B.'s pfennige) in Germany, were called St. Cuthbert's beads at least as far back as the date of Plot's Natural History of Oxfordshire (1677), and no doubt much earlier. Again, gryphites or "Devil's toe-nails," (called clach crubain in the tongue of old Gaul), are used in Scotland for pains in the joints, and, (perhaps in this case because they have a faint suggestiveness of the cloven hoof about them), are powdered, mixed with whey, and given as a drench to cattle. Another Liassic bivalve (hippopodium) is known as horses' or asses' feet to country people. The pterygotus anglicus, a kind of gigantic eurypterid or king-crab, leaves moulds or impressions covered with delicately-waved lines which in Scotland have been taken, according to Hugh Miller, for the markings on the wings of cherubs or "seraphim." The remains of giant saurians, such as plesiosaurus and ichthyosaurus, have long been identified in the Whitby neighbourhood as the bones of angels, and a giant saurian found near Lake Constance in 1725 was, as is well known, identified by Scheuchzer as Homo Diluvii Testis. The teeth or bones of fossil elephants, mammoths, or mastodons are identified as giants' teeth or giants' bones,—e.g. in Yorkshire and at the famous Field of Giants at Sta Fé de Bogota. Ammonites and nautili again are regarded as snakestones or "ophiomorphites," "horns of Ammon," and so forth. But over and above all this is the large class of thunderbolts and thunderstones, which include the globular concretions of iron pyrites or marcasite, (also believed to be, according to Robinson, celestial cannon balls), echini, belemnites, as well as other objects, some of which are in no sense organic remains (such as stone axeheads, and arrowheads, etc.), but which are so closely interwoven in folklore with the former kinds that they cannot well be left out of account in discussing the general questions involved. In the present paper I propose more particularly to consider such folklore of our forefathers under two main headings,—(1) with regard to "snakestones" as a typical fossil belief, and (2) with regard to "thunderbolts" of various kinds, from fossils to artificially shaped stones, e.g. celts. A simple and unambitious programme as this may sound, the subject is of such vast dimensions that I can only deal with typical examples of each. We shall see that, though selected for different reasons, both classes of objects are alike used ceremonially.
We will begin with snakestones, of which I may first mention the precious stone or "jewel" which is believed either to come forth, like the toadstone, out of the head, or else to be carried in the mouth of a serpent, a most ancient belief not only in England but in the East. Secondly, I may mention the well-known "snake's egg"' of the Druids of Gaul, described by Pliny, which Conybeare regards as probably being a Greensand fossil covered with Ostrea sigillina, and compares with the "gem" known as "adders's glass," thick green rings of which have been found in British barrows. I may add that other authorities also believe it to have been a fossil, probably some kind of echinoderm. There are also other kinds of stone which for various reasons have been called after snakes, generally because they suggest certain parts of a snake's body. Chief amongst these is perhaps a kind of marble called ophites from its having mottled markings like those on the skin of a snake, and there is also the well-known serpentine, which has long waved markings thought to suggest the curves of a snake's body.
In The Past at our Doors it is recorded that Henry III. had a great spit of gold, (such as was used in place of a fork at that date), in which an alleged "viper's tongue," (in the original Latin lingua serpentina or serpent's tongue), was set; this is a remarkably early example of a custom surviving to this day in the island of Malta, where certain small stones, coloured like the eyes, tongue, heart, or liver of serpents, found in the clay of the traditional cave of St. Paul, are still either set in rings and worn as a prophylactic against poison, or, more frequently, steeped in wine and drunk by the natives as an antidote for the same reason. In the case of Henry III., it seems but reasonable to suppose that the golden spit thus furnished was employed as a safeguard against the poisoning of his food,—a peril which, as history shows by many examples, was in those days never far removed from the uneasy wearers of our hard-kept Crown. It is only necessary to add that stones of the supposed serpent's tongue shape have been identified as fossil shark's teeth, and that their name of "snake's tongue" seems to go back to the Middle Ages.
The fact that such parts or supposed parts of a serpent were used as an antidote or safeguard against poison may be regarded as a striking instance of that sympathetic, or perhaps rather homœopathic, magic which is best known to us by the expression "a hair of the dog that bit you." On this principle the famous if revolting "viper-wine" or poison-antidote of ancient Venice, the ingredients of which included "vipers steeped alive in white wine, opium, spice, licorice, red roses, the juice of rough sloes, seeds of the treacle mustard," and many other abominations, the whole mixed with honey into a sort of drink, the origin of our modern "treacle," is perhaps the most extreme example conceivable.
The remarkable belief, vouched for by Pliny, upon which rests the idea of using snakes or parts of snakes as a remedy for poison, was undoubtedly due to the fact that venomous serpents that had bitten people were believed to be commonly seized by, and even to die from, pangs of remorse! This method of curing a snakebitten person by virtue of the snake that bit him may finally be traced to the East, where we shall meet with a magnificent parallel in the customs of the Sinhalese, who, to protect themselves from snakebite, wear a picture of the king of the cobras tattooed on the right arm, recite a charm which identifies them with the serpent king, or carry a jewel which is supposed to be a serpent stone. This example brings out, I think, more clearly than anything else could have done, what I believe to be the true explanation of all such practices, viz., that the person who is wounded, or fears to be wounded, either by making or claiming what I might call "blood brotherhood" with the object or animal feared, or otherwise, seeks to get sympathy from it. In this case, through kinship with the snake he virtually becomes a snake, or still better, as in the Ceylon charm just quoted, the king of snakes, and thus obtains the protection or relief that he is seeking.
A different kind of snakestone from either of the foregoing is the ammonite or cornu ammonis, of which an early mention, for Scotland, occurs under the name of Lapis Ceranius, or Cerana Anionis, under Strath and Trotterness, in M. Martin's A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland (p. 134) in 1703:—"These Stones are by the Natives [of Skye] called Crampstones, because as they say they cure the Cramp in Cows, by washing the part affected with Water in which this Stone has been steep'd for some Hours." I have as yet come across no earlier reference to the snakestone belief in Scotland or Ireland, and it can hardly occur as an indigenous belief except where the ammonite-bearing strata are found. These strata in England are the Jurassic and Cretaceous rocks, lying roughly to the east of a line drawn from, say, Sidmouth to the mouth of the Tees; in Ireland the ammonites are confined to the north-east part of Ulster; in Scotland they are found in a few of the Western Isles and a patch on the north-east coast. There are some goniatites, allied to and generally resembling the ammonites, in the Carboniferous rocks, which have a wide range in central and north-west England, south Scotland, and a large part of Ireland; but these do not have the snaky look of ammonites, being plumper-looking and less evident in the strata, and hence less likely to have been noticed by our ancestors.
Passing to England, we read in the Whitby glossary as follows:—
"Snakes, or Snakestones, the fossil Ammonites found with other petrifactions in the Whitby lias or alum rock. These snakestones, according to tradition, were living serpents abounding in the neighbourhood before the coming of St. Hilda [a Latinized form of the Saxon "Hild"], their destroyer, who, with the aid of Oswy, the Saxon king of Northumbria, founded our [i.e. the Whitby] monastery in the 7th century, the place in those days being called Streonshealh [more accurately "Streones-healh" i.e. "Streon's Nook" or "Corner"]. Previously to that time, according to Beda, Streonshealh was 'a desert spot.'"
Mr. Robinson also refers to Marmion, ii. 13, and compares the following lines by Surtees:—
"Then sole amid the serpent tribe
The holy Abbess stood.
With fervent faith and uplift hands
Grasping the holy rood.
The suppliant's prayer and powerful charm
Th' unnumber'd reptiles own;
Each falling from the clift", becomes
A headless coil of stone."
The passage in Marmion runs as follows:—
"... Of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When holy Hilda pray'd;
Themselves, within their holy bound,
Their stony folds had often found."
But with regard to this reference, the important factor is not the oft-quoted, I had almost said "over-quoted," text, as Mr. Robinson's article suggests, but Sir Walter Scott's own note (No. 26) upon it, to which he does not refer, but which is printed at the end of the volume, and runs as follows:—
"The relics of the snakes which infested the precincts of the convent and were, at the abbess's prayer, not only beheaded, but petrified, are still found about the rocks and are termed by Protestant fossilists, Ammonites."
The word "Protestant" is evidently meant to "conceal a jest" on the part of Sir Walter! This, however, is not the whole of the story, for, as Mr. G. C. Crick has pointed out in a recent paper, as far back as 1818 James Sowerby figured in The Mineral Conchology of Great Britain "an example of common Whitby ammonite that had been furnished with a head." Mr. Sowerby's remarks upon this point are as follows:—
"The Ammonites are called in common [parlance] Snakestones, and superstition has accounted for their having been found constantly without heads, saying, the curse of St. Cuthbert [the local saint] was the cause of it; but as some of the dealers felt it a possible inconvenience, they were determined to be less barbarous, and compassionately supplied some with heads. I was so curious as to desire to see what sort of heads might be substituted, and Lady Wilson kindly procured me a specimen when at Whitby. I have figured that specimen for the information of others; see fig. 2."
This fossil is now, Mr. Crick informs us, in the British Museum Collection; it is not so large as the figure in the March number of the Naturalist for 1910. The practice of supplying heads to the Whitby ammonites was also mentioned in the Geologist for 1858, and again as late as 1885 by J. E. Taylor, who, in Our Common British Fossils and Where to Find Them, remarks that
"they are found in blue nodules, which, when broken open, reveal the coiledup ringed shell, wonderfully resembling a snake in such species as Ammonites communis, and still more wonderfully resembling one when they put a "head" on, with eyes in—as they sometimes do."
Mr. Crick also mentions another example in the British Museum that has been provided with a head, the nose being much more pointed than in Sowerby's example, and much more closely resembling the specimen figured in the Naturalist: this was added to the national collection in 1859. I am told as an interesting fact that small specimens of ammonites, set in gold, (though, I believe, without the head), are worn as pendants by the lady students of St. Hilda's College, a boarding-house at Cheltenham, which I understand is on the same foundation with a similar institution at Oxford. A curious anecdote which should not be omitted here is that the well-known Sussex geologist Gideon Mantell (1790-1858) obtained the inspiration which launched him on his geological career from an ammonite or snakestone, which as a boy he happened to see lying in the clear waters of a shallow stream that ran into the Sussex Ouse; this fact is vouched for by Lower, the Sussex historian, and I may add that ammonites in this neighbourhood are still "snakestones" in popular Sussex parlance.
We have seen that the story of the (headless) snakestone was known in 1815, and was also used by Sir Walter Scott. We can, however, go further back still, for Alban Butler, in his Life of St. Hilda or Hild, Abbess of Whitby. remarks:—
"The common people formerly imagined that St. Hilda changed serpents into stones in this place, because on the face of the cliff were found abundance of stones which have the appearance of serpents or snakes rolled up, or in their coil, but without heads; which are natural stones called Ammonitæ; and are still plentiful there. . . . The Ammonitæ and many others are natural stones; but others seem clearly petrifactions of fish, serpents, shrubs, etc. as Woodward shows, which Mead was not able to disprove."
Now Woodward the geologist lived from 1665 to 1728, which shows us that the belief cannot have been altogether modern; and we are taken yet one step further back by a reference in the second part of Drayton's Polyolbion (1622, Song 28), in which he remarks with reference to Whitby:—
"And stones like Serpents there, yet may yee more behold
That in their natural Gyres are up together rold."
The other great centre in England round which the snakestone legend centres is Keynsham, in Somersetshire. The general form of the legend is very similar to that which is current at Whitby. The Rev. J. Mitford is quoted by J. E. Harting, the editor of White's The Natural History etc. of Selborne, for a "fabulous legend which says that St. Keyna, from whom [as he erroneously supposes] the place [Keynsham] takes its name, resided here in a solitary wood, [which we miss in the Whitby versions], full of venomous serpents, and her prayers converted them into stones, which still retain their shape." White himself, in his immortal work, (which appeared in 1789), calls them cornua ammonis or ammon's horns, and John Walcott (1779) says, of Keynsham, "formerly the credulous inhabitants of this Village believed these Snake-stones to have been real serpents, changed into stone by one Keina, a devout British virgin." Alban Butler's version of this belief is as follows:—
"St. Keyna, Virgin. ... St. Keyna, surnamed by the Welch, The Virgin, who lived a recluse in a wood in Somersetshire, . . . near the town of Cainsham, which seems so called from her, and stands on the Avon not far from Bristol. Spiral stones in the figure of serpents have been found in that country, which some of the people pretend to have been serpents turned into stones by her prayers. They seem either petrifactions or sports of nature in uncommon crystallizations in a mineral soil."
I may remark here that this version of the legend is more important than the Whitby one, for Butler gives as his authority for the turning of serpents into stone Camden's Britannia, which takes us back at once to the Elizabethan period. The passage in Camden's Britannia, when translated, runs as follows:—
"Here (at Whitby) are found certain stones, in the form of serpents rolled up into a spiral, the marvels of Nature in her sportive mood . . . You would believe them to have once been serpents that have been covered by a stony cuticle. But superstition attributes them to the prayers of Hilda."
This quotation shows that the belief was a matter of general report as far back as the year 1586, but a different passage from Camden bearing upon the same subject is quoted by Plot in The Natural History of Oxfordshire. This second passage adds the important information that Camden believed himself to have seen another kind of snakestone, the head of which projected at its circumference, while its tail was rolled up in the centre. To this Plot adds that Camden "and since him [a certain] Dr. Childrey plainly avouch that the Ophiomorphit's of Cainsham have some of them heads, and that in this they differ from those of York-shire" of the story concerning whose heads Plot was at this time apparently ignorant.
That there are special geological reasons why this particular belief may not only be ancient but of remotest antiquity, the following account of the life-history of the ammonite (from the time of its appearance in the Devonian formation) will show:—
"It is an interesting fact that the very earliest Ammonites were straight, and gradually became closely coiled. This form was maintained almost constant throughout the vast periods of the Mesozoic age, till towards the end [in the Cretaceous period], when the whole race was about to die out, they seemed to try to go back to their original form, which some almost reached (Fig. 105), while others, as Professor Judd remarks (in a letter), "before finally disappearing, twisted and untwisted themselves, and as it were wriggled themselves into extraordinary shapes, in the last throes of dissolution." These strange forms (Figs. 96-106) are reproduced from Nicholson's Palaeontology, and there are many others. . . . The two species figured . . . from the Trias (Figs. 99, 100) may be taken as typical; but the variations in surface pattern are almost infinite."
It is certain that any chance local discovery of any such uncoiled forms as those just described would materially help to reinforce the popular belief that ammonites were petrified serpents; and it also seems impossible that in the course of centuries such discoveries should not have happened. I should, however, add, in case of misapprehension, that the description of these ammonites as coiling or uncoiling themselves has reference only to growth of the shell, and not to any conscious effort in the lifetime of any individual specimen, although this distinction would hardly suggest itself to our remote ancestors. But I understand that one of the most recent theories has reference to what I may call the possession of a terminable life-history by a genus, which is regarded as normally following a course roughly analogous to the birth, life, and death of an individual. The question here naturally suggests itself: Is it conceivable that early man, considering the extent to which his faculties must have been absorbed in the struggle for existence, should have paid any attention whatever to such things as fossils? Whatever may or may not be conceivable, there is, I think, unmistakable evidence that he did. In the first place, General Pitt-Rivers, during his excavations at Rotherly (Wilts) and Woodcuts (Dorset) reported that he came upon an altogether unnatural number of the flint echinoderms or sea-urchins in the surface soil, as well as in the pit-dwellings themselves. His conclusion was that these fossils, being conspicuous, must have been noticed by the early inhabitants of the villages, who had evidently collected them with great industry, and his purely provisional suggestion was that these fossils were used as a species of currency. There are, however, better reasons for thinking that they were employed as almost any very odd-looking stones to this day would be used by less civilized races in all parts of the world, i.e. on account of some fancied magical virtue. One fact distinctly pointing in this direction is given by Sir B. C. A. Windle, in his Remains of the Prehistoric Age in England, where there is an illustration showing the plan of a double interment in a round barrow on Dunstable Downs, where a triple row of chalk echinoderms runs completely round the interment.
To return to modern times, James Sowerby (1818) gives us an amusing anecdote of the Rev. W. Buckland, who,
"having found a large specimen, was induced by his ardour to carry it himself, although of considerable weight, and being on horseback it was not the less inconvenient; but the inner whorls being gone so as to allow his head and shoulder to pass through, he placed it as a French horn is sometimes carried, above one shoulder and under the other, and thus rode with his friendly companions, who amused him by dubbing him an Ammon Knight."
It is interesting to be able to add that the specimen thus honoured was the original specimen of ammonites Bucklandi, and that it came from one of the many quarries in the Lower Lias limestone of Pennycuick, near Tiverton, Weston, Keynsham, and other places near Bath.
All these snakestones are much of the same kind, but another Elizabethan, Richard Carew, in The Survey of Cornwall (first. ed. 1602), gives us a snakestone of a different kind. His account runs (p. 21): —
"The countrey people retaine a conceite, that the Snakes by their breathing about a hazell wand, doe make a stone ring of blew colour, in which there appeareth the yellow figure of a Snake; and that beasts which are stung, being given to drink of the water wherein this stone has bene socked, will therethrough recover. There was such a one bestowed on me, and the giver avowed to have seene a part of the stick sticking in it: but Penes authorem [sic? auctorem] sit fides!"
But the bridge over which most unmistakably we travel back to immemorial antiquity is a passage of Pliny, which in Holland's translation (p. 627) is given as under:—
"The pretious stone called Hammons-horne, is reckoned among the most sacred gemms of Aethiopia: of a gold colour it is, and sheweth the forme of a rams home: the magicians promise, that by the vertue of this stone, there will appeare dreames in the night which represent things to come."
Upon this passage Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie comments to me, in a letter of June 24th, 1911, that the reference in Pliny "evidently refers to pyrites casts of ammonites which are found from Lias up to Chalk." Professor Petrie adds that he does not know of such late strata in Ethiopia, and that he has never found an ammonite in any Egyptian tomb or ruin. But he informs me that there is a coiled serpent amulet with head and tail, which is sometimes found in the prehistoric age in Egypt. This, he says "might be deduced from an ammonite, just as people in Wiltshire [and, as we have already seen, in other parts of England for centuries past] used to carve heads on the great ammonites and call them serpent stones."
It remains to add some particulars of a most remarkable parallel to Pliny in the snakestone belief of India. For it has been conclusively shown that the Salagrama, a celebrated mystic emblem of Brahman ritual in north-west India, which is considered to be the embodiment of Vishnu, is in reality a specimen of black ammonite. After describing how the tulasi or "Holy Basil," which is considered (inter alia) to be an embodiment of Krishna's wife Rukmini, is annually married in November to the god Krishna in every Hindu family, Mr. Frazer proceeds:—
"Again, as the wife of Vishnu, the holy basil is married to the Salagrama, a black fossil ammonite resembling a ram's horn, which is regarded as an embodiment of Vishnu. In North-Western India this marriage of the plant to the fossil has to be performed before it is lawful to taste of the fruit of a new orchard. ... [a man personating the fossil bridegroom and a woman the basil bride]. Further, no well is considered lucky until the holy fossil has been solemnly wedded to the holy basil, which stands for the garden that the well is intended to water. . . . The same marriage of the sacred fossil to the sacred plant is celebrated annually by the Rajah of Orchha at Ludhaura. A former Rajah used to spend a sum equal to about thirty thousand pounds ... on the ceremony. On one occasion over a hundred thousand people are said to have been present at the rite, and to have been feasted at the expense of the Rajah. The procession consisted of eight elephants, twelve hundred camels and four thousand horses, all mounted and elegantly caparisoned. The most sumptuously decorated of the elephants carried the fossil god to pay his bridal visit to the little shrub goddess. On such an occasion all the rites of a regular marriage are performed, and afterwards the newly-wedded pair are left to repose together in the temple till the next year."
A fuller account is given in the same author's Golden Bough. He adds that a draught of the water in which the shell has been washed is supposed to purge away all sin and secure temporal welfare. These fossils are found in Nepaul on the upper Gandaka, a tributary of the Ganges. Hence the district is called Salagrami, and is considered holy, and an object of pilgrimage. In a letter of May 26th, 191 1, Mr. W. Crooke wrote me:—
"The Salagrama, to which numerous references are given by Frazer in his new Golden Bough (Pt. i., ii., 26 f.) is undoubtedly a very ancient "fetish." It was specially adopted as a symbol of the god by the Vaishnava school, worshippers of Vishnu, a cult which seems to have been organized after the downfall of Buddhism. The earliest reference I can quote to it is from the Mahābhārata, which seems to have assumed something like its present form in or after the 5th century B.C. The words used (Mahabharata, trans. Kisari Mohan Ganjali, vol. iv., p. 128), are "the stony image of Vishnu, with gold within.""
It will be seen at once that the description here given of the ammonite of Vishnu is in one respect strikingly reminiscent of the description of Pliny, i.e. in regard to the observation made by him as to its "golden colour."
It only remains to consider whether there is any recognition from Indian sources of the coiled snake idea which has been familiar for so long a period in England and other parts of Western Europe. I think on the whole that we can say there is, for Mr. Crooke kindly writes to me: —
"The story told is that the fossil was Vishnu through which the Destroyer, as a worm, wound his way. It appears to me possible (1) that the word worm may be here used in its old English double sense of worm or serpent, and (2) that Siva, if anything, represents the worm and not Vishnu, who represents the stone."
Another of the widely-spread beliefs of our peasantry is the belief that the prehistoric stone implements found in all parts of the country, generally speaking, are "thunderbolts": indeed the best-known stone superstition is that the celt was a thunderbolt. Johnson rather uncritically remarks,—"That the various kinds of fossil belemnites, as well as the rounded concretions of iron pyrites from the Lower Chalk are also called thunderbolts, matters little. Gods, fairies, witches, and other like beings, have divers weapons for afflicting the ignorant peasant, bowed low in his fear." It really matters a good deal! But I shall first take the various kinds in succession.
First, as to the belemnite, the Scottish geologist Hugh Miller, in The Old Red Sandstone, remarks that he
"was told by one of the workmen . . . that there was a part of the shore . . . where curiously-shaped stones, somewhat like the heads of boarding-pikes, were occasionally picked up; and that in his father's days the country people called them thunder-bolts, and deemed them of sovereign efficacy in curing bewitched cattle." [On visiting the spot Miller] "found one of the supposed aërolites" [he] "had come in quest of, firmly imbedded in a mass of shale." [It proved to be a belemnite.]
Again, the earliest Scottish mention I have been able to find is in 1703, when Martin, in A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland speaking of Strath and Trotterness in Skye, remarks:—
"The Velumnites, (sic) grows likewise in these Banks of Clay, some of 'em are twelve Inches long, and tapering towards one end, the Natives call them Bat [i.e. "Bot"] Stones, because they believe them to cure the Horses of the Worms which occasion that Distemper, by giving them Water to drink in which this Stone has been Steept for some Hours."
There is of course no mention here of thunderbolts.
At Whitby, according to Robinson, the term thunderbolt applied to "the petrified remains of a kind of cuttle-fish, in the Whitby Lias, resembling tubes of various lengths and thicknesses tapering to a point." The comparison here made between the "thunderbolt" of this kind and a tube is not quite accurate, since a tube is generally considered to be hollow, whereas these fossils are, with the exception of a small and shallow cavity at the upper end, perfectly solid, and may be more suitably compared to a cigar than to a tube. I may add that the Greek Belemnon, whence they get their name, means dart or javelin, and is connected with the verb "ballein," to cast.
So, too, in J. Walcott (1779) we read that "the Belemnite receives its English name thunder-bolt from the vulgar, who suppose it to be indeed the darts of heaven." The earliest mention, however, that I have been able to find is in R. Plot, (1677), who says that from their form by all naturalists they are called belemnites, "from the Greek word βέλεμνον telum, which indeed some of them represent pretty well."
Again, J. H. Macalister writes: —
"Mr. A. C. G. Cameron has informed me that Belemnites from the Oxford clay, south of Bedford, are ground up and used for sore eyes, also that when pounded, they are considered by the villagers of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire an excellent cure for rheumatism."
Again, in Gloucestershire belemnites from the Lias were used to cure watery affections of the eyes of the horse; the fossil was pulverized and the dust blown into the animal's eyes.
Turning to the extreme south of England, Mr. Lovett states that at Lyme Regis the belemnites of the Lias are hardly ever called by any other name but thunderbolts, and adds that it is a curious fact that in localities where the belemnites are not found the people, if shown any such things, not only do not regard them as thunderbolts, but ignore them as being "nothing."
Beyond remarking that, according to Parkinson, they were also called "Devil's fingers," I shall not here follow up this question of the belemnite beliefs, but I may remark that they may be expected to correspond roughly, in regard to their distribution, with the geological distribution of the belemnite-bearing strata. These occur in the south of England, as far west as Dorset, in all the south-eastern counties, and in eastern counties as far north as the Tees; also in the north of Scotland (Cromarty Firth), and the north-east of Ireland, They do not occur in Wales.
Allusion has already been made to the fact that the echinis was noticed and employed for some apparently magical or quasi-religious purpose by prehistoric inhabitants of these islands. The only question that remains is what that purpose could be, and unfortunately this is not very clear. On the one hand we have the fact that the so-called "snake's egg" of the Druids has been considered to be an echinus. On the other, various species of the genus micraster, which are popularly called fairy loaves, are still treasured by the labourer of modern Essex, who believes his household will never want bread so long as he retains one. Again, Mr. G. W. Lamplugh informs me that he once had a fossil. echinoderm, said to be a lucky stone and to have been used for making butter come, brought him for identification in south-west Ireland, the nearest chalk being in Antrim.
Last, but not least, the echinis is recorded by Plot to have been called a thunderbolt by the country people, no doubt from the rough resemblance of some specimens in shape to the nodules of iron pyrites, which are also so called.
The belief in what I may call the keraunic origin of the stone axehead and arrowhead has often been described as if it were universal in these islands, but, although it would be a matter of considerable labour and time, it would, no doubt, be possible to show that the alleged universality of the belief has been over-stated.
In Scotland there was a long list of ailments which could be cured by the "arrowhead." The water in which it had been boiled was good for eye diseases and for the pangs of childbirth; it was also valued by the cattle-doctor, down to the present generations. Both are called thunderbolts, but the Rev. J. G. Campbell, who is quoted by Johnson in connection with stone arrowheads, described one of these objects as a smooth, slippery black stone, shaped like the sole of a shoe, and called it a "fairy spade." There seems, however, to have been some confusion here, for obviously this stone from the description' of its shape is our familiar stone axehead. A Scotch gentleman, writing in 1664, relates how a lady who was riding one day discovered one of these arrowheads or elf-bolts in the breast of her habit, and how a horseman found one which had been placed by a fairy in the top of his riding-boot. Robert Kirk (1691) in his Secret Commonwealth describes these "Armes (solid earthly Bodies)" as "cut by Airt and Tools it seems beyond humane," and as having "something of the Nature of Thunderbolt subtilty." "They are flung like a Dairt, with great Force, and mortally wound the vital Parts without breaking the Skin." Again, mounted in frames, small arrowheads were worn as amulets around the necks of Scottish ladies. A specially good example of this was the old-time witch-brooch, a little silver heart formerly pinned to the child's underclothing at its first dressing by the peasantry of Aberdeenshire. The shape is believed to have been derived from its being originally the mounting of an elf-shot or fairy dart, i.e. flint arrowhead. An old man in Kincardineshire thirty years ago had a "fairy dart" as a safeguard against witchcraft. Lastly, we may add one special use of the stone arrowhead in the witchcraft of Scotland. They were used in preference to metal to pierce or cut the wax or clay images which were once commonly used to represent the intended victims of the rites in question.
Turning to Ireland, we find that there, too, the medicinal use of the flint arrowhead has long been known, for two centuries ago (in 1709) we find mention of a "thunderbolt or head of a spear" from Kerry, and down to 1865 the Irish continued to put celts in the troughs at which they watered their cattle, and in county Antrim neolithic flint arrowheads are used as amulets. In the north of Ireland generally, where polished diorite celts are often turned out of the ground, Mr. Lovett states that there was a time when every cottage kept one on the rafter as a safeguard against lightning.
Of Whitby, Robinson has stated that the ancient British flint "arrow-points" were called "elf-shots," that cattle suddenly excited were formerly supposed to be shot at with these implements by the fairies, and that to cure an "elf-shotten" animal it must be touched with one of these arrows, and the water administered in which an arrow has been dipped. And Johnson quotes Dr. Hickes, in a letter to Pepys (1700), as describing these elf-bolts, clearly believing that they were driven straight to the hearts of cattle. Sir J. Evans states that in the north of England the celt is called a thunderbolt, and in the west country a thunderaxe. Again, in Cornwall, as elsewhere generally, the celt Avas boiled in water, which was used as a remedy against rheumatism. Of course, if there were any object in doing so, such facts could be indefinitely multiplied, but the important thing to note is that Mr. Lovett has stated that he knows places in England where such "thunderbolts" as tangible objects are quite unknown. The earliest English reference that I have been able to find is from the Oxfordshire naturalist, Plot, who in 1677 wrote that
"besides the Brontiæ [i.e. thunderbolts] of the Forreign Naturalists we have others, which here in England we call likewise Thunderbolts, in the form of arrows heads, and thought by the vulgar to be indeed the darts of Heaven."
This statement, (which seems to be the source of Walcott's remark), is the more remarkable since along with these arrowheads he identifies as Brontiæ the fossil echinoderms, to which reference has already been made. After speaking of selenites and other stones which he considered to be "some way related to the Celestial Bodies," Plot proceeds:—
"I descend next to such as (by the vulgar at least) are thought to be sent us from the inferior Heaven, to be generated in the clouds, and discharged thence in the time of thunder and violent showers: for which very reason, and no other that we know of, the ancient Naturalists coined them suitable names, and called such as they were pleased to think fell in the Thunder, Brontiæ; and those that fell in showers, by the name of Ombrice . . . [of which] we have several sorts in Oxford-shire."
I may also mention that Sir J. Evans gives the best account of their distribution I have been able to find. After describing their distribution in Great Britain and Ireland, he proceeds to give an account of their distribution on the Continent, giving examples from Brittany and other parts of France, Savoy, various parts of Scandinavia, (where celts inscribed with runes occur), Germany, Holland, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. In the last country they are called astropelekia, and Sir John states that, about 1081, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus sent to the Emperor Henry III. of Germany, ἀστροπέλεκυν δεδεμένον μετὰ χρυσαφίου i.e. probably a celt of meteoric origin mounted in gold. Sir J. Evans, I may add, traces back this keraunic belief about celts in Greece to about 2000 years before our time.
So far do our modern facts take us, but this in itself is only the beginning. A little research will show us that there is unquestionable evidence as to the immense antiquity of this "elf-shot" idea in English. In Cockayne's Leechdoms etc. we find a very remarkable Anglo-Saxon incantation "Against the Stitch," of which I shall here give a literal rendering. The spell begins, as is so very frequently the case, with a sort of rubric, which recited the objects to be used in the charm for which the incantation is to be sung, and describes the method of their application. This rubric, which I propose to take first, runs as follows:—
"Take fever-few and the red nettle which grows in the yard, and "way-bread," and boil them in butter."
"Fever-few" is an Anglo-Saxon name for the well-known plant pyrethrum partenium, and is borrowed from the Latin febrifugia, a febri-füge or "fever-chaser." The "red nettle" is familiar enough, and "way-bread" is the plantain, a strange Anglo-Saxon name that has survived right on down to modern English, but the real meaning of which is not, as might be supposed, "bread that grows by the way," but "way-broad," or more strictly speaking, "way-breadth," a fact that will be evident as soon as we recall its modern German equivalent Wege-breit, even were it not that the application of "broad" or "breadth" to the leaves of the plantain in itself has an application that is perfectly fitting. These three ingredients, then, feverfew, the red nettle, and the plantain, were to be boiled in butter, no doubt for external application to the real or supposed wound in the form of a poultice. It is at this point that the magician begins his incantation:—
"They [that is the enemy] were noisy, yea noisy,
When they rode over the burial-mound [or barrow].
They were of one mind when they rode over the land.
[Then to the patient] Shield thyself now, that thou mayest recover from this attack.
'Out, little spear!'—if it be herein."
Here this particular charm ends, and another begins, which is evidently given either as a reinforcement of the preceding one or, as would seem more probable from the wording, as a reply to be made either by the patient himself, or, as is usual, on behalf of the patient by the medicine-man himself:—
"I stood under the shield,Under the light shield,
Where the mighty wives [i.e. witches]
Made ready their strength [i.e. prepared for the contest].
And they, yelling, sent forth their spears [gar].
I will send back upon them Another flying arrow.
Right in front.'Out, little spear!' if it be herein."
Here again follows a new charm, which runs:—
"There sat a Smith, He wrought a little 'sax';
He hammered the iron head;
'Out, little spear!'—if it be herein."
Now comes what seems to me by far the most important and striking lines of the entire scene:—
"Six smiths sat, and they wrought spears of slaughter.
'Out, spear!' not 'In, spear!'
If there be herein a piece of iron which is the work of the hag, it shall melt.
[Turning to the patient] If thou wert shot in the skin.
Or if thou wert shot in the flesh.
Or wert shot in the blood,Or wert shot in a limb,
Never let thy life be injured. If it were a shot of the gods [Aesir],
Or if it were a shot of the elves,
Or if it were a shot of the hag.Now will I help thee.
This is thy remedy against the shot of the gods,
This is thy remedy against the shot of the elves,
This is thy remedy against the shot of the hag,
I will help thee!
[To the evil spirits] Flee to the mountain-head!
[To the patient] Whole be thou, The Lord help thee!”
This magnificent incantation concludes here with the rubric “Here take the knife (seax), and put it in water,”—no doubt for the purpose of immediate administration. The knife was dipped into water, and the water drunk by the patient, in the very same way that water in which a stone implement has been dipped is to this day medicinally drunk not only, as I myself am aware, by the Malays, but by very many other races in the earlier stages of culture. The word sax or seax is of especial interest. The Anglo-Saxon form was seax, the Mercian sax, and they are both not borrowed from but cognate with the Latin saxum, which even in Latin meant a weapon, (as in Vergil, Aeneid, Bk. I. jamque faces, et saxa volant). It may well be that originally to the Anglo-Saxons, as well as to the Romans, saxum was once a stone, but of this stage there is no trace in Anglo-Saxon, whereas “stone” is the quite regular and usual meaning of the word in Latin, the records of which go back to nearly 1000 years earlier than our existing Anglo-Saxon records, the date of these particular charms being perhaps about the tenth century.
So in the Icelandic legend of Gylfaginning, one of Thor’s three precious things is the hammer “that giants and ogres know well, when it comes flying through the air,” and this hammer is believed by Montelius to have been a development from the sun-god’s axe, a fact which brings these old Scandinavian beliefs very near to those contained in our own English charms. It only remains to consider why the stone celt or other weapon was used as a remedy for anyone who had been wounded by a similar weapon. I believe the true reason for this to be precisely identical with the reason for curing a snake-bitten man by the snake that bit him, i.e. that the patient by entering, so to speak, into ‘blood-brotherhood’ with the offending weapon, obtained relief. For we must remember that to them the weapon, like other inert objects, would yet be animate, as I shall hereafter show.
For classical times Mr. A. B. Cook may be relied upon, but Sir J. Evans quotes a remarkable passage referring to celts in Suetonius, who mentions, as an augury of Galba’s accession to the throne, that lightning fell into a lake in Cantabria and 12 axes were found, “a by no means ambiguous omen of empire,” (Galba, viii. c. 4).
With regard to the rest of Europe, those who wish may refer to Montelius, who traces the axe cult back to Perun, the god of thunder in Slavonia, and to Stone-Age examples in Ancient Gaul, Greece, and Scandinavia, where the thunder-god’s hammer was developed among natives who were familiar, or had been very recently familiar, with the use of stone implements. We should hardly have expected, therefore, to find it in either North or South America, though according to Evans it does occur in Brazil, which is a country that can hardly be considered free from European influence. The examples given by Tylor are not examples of flint implements being so regarded, but of natural stones (of flint etc.). He states, for instance, that
“the lightning entering that ground scatters in all directions thunder-bolt stones, which are flints, etc., their reason for this notion being the very natural one, that these siliceous stones actually produce a flash when struck.”
After giving several examples which have no direct bearing on thunder-bolts, Tylor proceeds to describe the Peruvian belief about a deity called Catequil the Thunder-god, child of the Heaven-god, who in thunder-clap and flash hurls from his sling the small, round, smooth thunder-stones, treasured in the villages as fire-fetishes and charms, to kindle the flame of love. It will be observed here that Catequil's thunderbolts are also but stones, and certainly not stone implements.
Information as to the keraunic axehead seems, for whatever reason, very slight for China. We must hope that fuller information will turn up. Sir J. Evans states that in China celts are called lightning stones, (which suggests the keraunic belief), but Professor Giles, in a letter of May 25th, 1911, wrote to me:—
“Although there is a large literature of stones, including meteorites, talismans, auspicious stones, etc., to be found in Chinese, I know of no instances of stone implements such as those you mention having been used in China. The earliest ploughshares, for instance, were made of wood. Stone has been employed for pestles and mortars, since early days, but apparently not for cutting implements.”
A similarly disappointing result is obtained from Egypt, with regard to which Professor Flinders Petrie wrote to me on May 21st:—
“There is an abundance of stone implements in Egypt, of all periods. But I do not know that any beliefs about them existed either with reference to powdering them or as to a thunderbolt origin. The only suggestion to the contrary, which has come from Professor Newberry, of Liverpool, is, I understand, to the effect that belemnites occurring in the Eocene limestone at Ekhmein in Upper Egypt may have been regarded as a thunder-bolt, and may have suggested the standard of the god Min. The question as to whether in this particular example we have a true thunderbolt belief, or merely one founded on European analogies, is a question upon which I myself am unable to enter." To this Professor Petrie added, "I have never met with pyrites nodules kept in graves or houses, except selected even balls for playing a game. Peculiar flints selected are often found, so the idea was familiar, but pyrites was unnoticed. One name for iron, however, was ba ne pat (iron of the sky), and this was applied both to haematite and native iron. The idea of meteoric iron was thus known, but the material was disregarded."
The only Egyptian example I have been able to find is described by Sir J. Evans, who says that a celt of nephrite engraved with gnostic inscriptions in Greek was found in Egypt many years ago, and appears to be unique.
In Africa the sole example of the keraunic belief given by Tylor is that of Djakuta or Jakuta, the Stone-Caster of the Yoruba, usually called Shango, the Thunder-god, who, as among so many other people who have forgotten their Stone Age, flings down from heaven the stone hatchets which are found in the ground and preserved as sacred objects. A fuller account of these Yoruba beliefs is given by Dwyer, who states that the ancient axeheads or celts found in the country and called adura are "messengers from," not the bolts of, Shonga the local Thunder-god, and that they have peculiar properties when "fresh." When a house is struck by lightning and fired, it is visited by the priests of Shonga, who are strongly "possessed" (by the spirit), and succeed in producing the thunder-stone from its ashes, a fee being charged by the priests for the performance. Mr. Dwyer could never ascertain where the stones came from, even the offer of heavy bribes failing to extract the information, the invariable reply being "they come from Shonga." Further, "if a person offends some of the Elders or commits some crime," his house will be burnt a few days afterwards,—the priests will see to this,—and then the priests arrive and find the stone, and exact the usual heavy penalty. Again, a form of ordeal consists in drinking from a bowl of water in which either a thunder-stone or the skull of a person who has been killed by lightning has been dipped.
It may be concluded from the numerous accounts which refer to the keraunic belief either in Nigeria or other parts of West Africa that it is chiefly localized in that part of the continent, and indeed there does seem to be some good ground for thinking so. Mr. Henry Balfour, for instance, remarks that:—
"Western Africa is no exception to this general rule (of the keraunic belief). Sir R. Burton, the Rev. T. T. Bowen, Major A. B. Ellis, and others, all refer to this belief in this region. Burton and Winwood Reade have told us that on the Gold Coast stone axes were called "thunderstones" (sráman-bo) and "god-axes," and were carefully preserved for their supposed universal virtues. A specimen was found by Mr. Kühne on an altar or shrine at Ashanti. In that region, too, they were called "god-axes.""
Ellis gives a similar account of flint arrowheads and axes on the Slave Coast, among the Ewe-speaking people, who believe them to be "thunderbolts" associated with their god of lightning. In Benin, according to Mr. Balfour,
"the superstitious reverence with which stone axes were regarded ... is abundantly manifest from the frequent representations of these objects upon the elaborate bronze castings, especially upon some of the larger human heads and the state maces. Upon the latter the surmounting human figure is frequently represented as holding a neolithic axe blade in the left hand. By analogy we may assume that in Benin the stone axes were "thunderbolts," and became objects of veneration as symbols of the thunder-god."
In addition, Mr. Balfour describes two small bronze models of celts from Benin which were found with a number of similar models, and were perforated for stringing; these are said to have formed a necklet, and in Mr. Balfour's opinion were probably symbolical of the god of lightning. But, if they were anything more than a necklace worn for mere ornament, may they not have been worn, more probably, for quasi-medical reasons?
Dr. J. G. Frazer, in connection with this subject, gives a number of references, all of which, if we take the African ones, are localized in the western portion of the continent, with a single exception, that of a keraunic belief similar to those we have been describing, which was recorded by the late Lieut. Boyd-Alexander from Central Africa (in the district named from the Welle, a tributary of the Congo). Of course this is not to say that occasional examples outside this area never occur; but we can at least safely say that the centre of distribution of such implements, as well as of the corresponding beliefs about them, so far as Africa is concerned, is the western part of the continent.
In respect to the distribution of the belief in India, where the Stone Age still survives side by side with the use of metal in various parts of the country, D'Alviella quotes several references. Montelius states that gods with the symbolic double axe occur in various parts of ancient Greece, Syria, Asia, etc. Tylor notes that the Vedas "are full of Indra's glories," and gives several passages in which his thunderbolt,—the "heavenly stone" the primeval smiths had sharpened for him, a kind of stone axe, according to Montelius,—is referred to, and Mr. Crooke informs me that the Hindus call the symbol of the thunderbolt vajra (a sort of forked trident), but adds, — "It cannot be said whether in early times they connected it with the celts." Frazer gives three examples of celts regarded as thunderbolts, but all these are from southern and central India. In the former region they are said to be the thunderbolts of Vishnu. Sir J. Evans says they are renovated and placed against the Mahadeos, or painted red and treated as Mahadeo. In northern India such things are practically unknown in the great plains, being found only on the hills fringing the valley of the Ganges. The people regard them as uncanny, and pile them up at village shrines. As to their being called thunderbolts, it is difficult to speak generally, but in the Nāga Hills at all events they are considered to have fallen from heaven, and in Burma the belief is as definite as anywhere else in the world, as we learn from Capt. C. J. F. S. Forbes:—
"Their oaths are generally taken by drinking the water out of a jar in which a musket, spear, sword, a tiger's and a crocodiles tooth, and a stone hatchet or 'celt' (which they deem a thunderbolt), have been immersed, calling on the spirit of each of these means of death to punish the committal of perjury."
There still remains one form of the keraunic belief which is diametrically opposed to everything we have yet met, — the belief that thunderbolts, or batu halintar, as the Malays call them, are not hurled from the sky, but rise out of the ground, and strike upwards, the lightning also originating, not from the clouds, but from the agitated movements of large wild animals. This belief was recorded by Mr. J. B. Scrivenor, but I have also myself heard suggestions of this kind from the Malays, and a definite account of the lightning part of it was included in the Expeditionary notes taken on the visit of the Cambridge exploring party to the Siamese-Malay States on the east coast of the Peninsula in 1900. I shall first, however, give Mr. Scrivenor's account, which was obtained in writing from an educated Perak Malay named Mahomed Mansur, the son of a minister of the ex-Sultan Abdullah of Perak. It is as follows:—
"There are certain things called batu lintar. Men say that a Jin makes them out of stiff clay and that they are always found in the ground. The Jin piles them one above the other, close together, while they are still soft. If they are left they become quite hard. When they are hard enough, if the Jin wishes to kill an enemy (another Jin), he takes out the stones, and the power of the Jin is such that they become red like fire and (are surrounded by fire so that) their shape is like a coconut. If any mortal comes within range of the emanations from these stones, though they may be thirty depas distant, he cannot help fainting away. If a tree is struck by one, it is as though that tree were struck by a bullet, but the mark runs zig-zag from the trunk to the branches. Men who are struck by the emanations from these stones become as though burnt and turn red; but no one is ever struck by the stone itself . . . Men say that the Jin who owns the stones does not purposely wound a man's body. When the Jin throws a stone at an enemy and the enemy in trying to escape runs close to a mortal, then the stone follows him and in passing causes him to faint away. When a man has fainted away one must not touch him. If he is touched he is sure to die. But if one searches near the man it will be found that the Jin has thrown down a tuft of grass tied in a knot. If this is dipped in water and the water sprinkled over the man who has fainted, he recovers. Again, men say that when one finds a batu lintar that has not yet burst into flames it will never burst into flames if a little bit is chipped off the stone. But if this is not done when there is a high wind that batu lintar will explode with the noise of a cannon. Therefore, whenever a man finds a batu lintar he chips it slightly." . . . "I have questioned Mansur as to the cause of lightning. He tells me it is explained by Malays in many different ways. One cause is a Jin throwing a batu lintar at his enemy. Another is a big animal, such as an elephant or a bison, shaking himself in the jungle."
Mr. Scrivener gives the main points of the belief as they were told to himself, and the essential facts are that batu lintar dive found in the ground and that they gradually get harder or riper. When they are hard or ripe they rise out of the ground and burst with a loud report, and when they strike a tree they first strike a trunk and then the branches. They are powerful magic till they are chipped, when they lose their power. "Lightning comes out of a herd of big game, such as a herd of elephants." Upon this I may remark that, though I cannot give any specific example as to the belief that the thunderbolt strikes upwards, rising up out of the ground and first reaching the stem and then the branches, the idea is certainly neither unfamiliar to me in the character of a Malay belief, nor is it in any way surprising, the only point of which I am in any doubt being as to whether these bolts do not rise after they have fallen as in the German belief that they rise nine days later, mentioned by Sir J. Evans. For the internal evidence of Mansur's own account shows that in some cases at least the Jins must cast them down, or they could not hit human beings. An exactly similar belief is held by the Malays with regard to other shaped things found in the earth,—with regard to treasure jars, for instance, of which I will presently give an example; and I may add that the Malay belief as to other such objects is certainly that they sink into and rise up out of the ground, and this idea, so far from being rare, is quite common,—I may in fact say, without the least exaggeration, that no wellconducted Malay "treasure-jar" or crock or anything of that kind ever does anything else. Moreover, the parallel is exact, as regards the chipping of the vessel's lip, which is done because the Malays believe that the semangat or soul which in their view pervades all things inert as well as animate, will not remain when its counterpart is marred; for we must think of the semangat as a diminutive model or counterpart of the object which it inhabits. Thus, when the substantive jar or urn is chipped or broken, it no longer agrees identically with its spiritual archetype, (which appears to be something quasi-material or more nearly approaching what we should call one of the Platonic ideas); hence the spirit or soul, which the Malays call semangat, consequently flies. It is for this reason that the clay models of bullocks and other animals, which are offered at shrines, as I have seen in the Malay Peninsula, are broken before being offered. For the least fracture expels or destroys their semangat.
I will conclude with an account of "lightning" which I myself took down in 1899 from the Malays in Ulu Pahang, which, taken together with Mr. Scrivenor's account of the thunderbolt, I think should be sufficient to show that Malay ideas on the subject of storm phenomena are quite different in character to our own. The gist of the whole matter is, (as I hope immediately to show), that the thunderbolt or jar or other inert object, so long as it is uninjured, possesses a vitality of some sort; on the other hand, the Malay ideas about lightning suggest electricity.
"Lightning ascends from creatures on earth. All living creatures possess this lightning (which is so powerful that), if we are merely startled, our own lightning can be perceived by our foes. Lightning is of several different kinds:—
1. The elephants'-herd flash or elephants'-crowd flash, which has a very broad appearance [i.e. sheet lightning]; this is the kind of flash that ascends from a herd of elephants.
2. Bison lightning, which is greenish.
3. Tiger lightning, which is yellow.
All the foregoing are silent and have no thunder.
4. Sky-crash lightning, or sky-stride Hghtning, i.e. lightning with thunder.
In Selangor treasure pots or jars of the kind called Bedena are alive until they are chipped (sumbing)., whereupon they die. They have been known to pursue people by rocking after them (tergolekgolek), in which case [i.e. if you are pursued by a treasure jar] it is safest to run away. If, however, you are a lucky sort of person, and avoid all exclamations of delight [at being chased by a treasure jar, presumably,—the Malay word is tekupor but quietly and determinedly take your jungle-knife and chip the jar's edge, you may secure its contents. Some people have been fortunate enough to catch them with a hook when fishing, but even then there is often much trouble in securing them, as at the smallest provocation or excuse they will retire again to the bottom of the river."
In this brief survey we have thrown the net broadcast, and I think we shall on the whole be justified, not only from the distribution of the beliefs, but of the objects themselves, in concluding that the keraunic belief as applied to stone implements though world-wide is so far from being in any way general or universal, as has too often been stated or implied; that it does not occur at all, or only quite locally and exceptionally, over the greater part of the world,—e.g. in China or in Egypt, or the greater part of North and South America, that it is but partial in India, and is very limited as to area in Africa and elsewhere; that it is not at all general anywhere, except possibly in the Indo-European regions, (though in both areas it is far from being universal); and that it also occurs in some countries which are or have been formerly under strong and direct European or Indian influence. We have seen above that both the snakestone and the stone thunderbolt are embedded deeply in the folklore strata of many parts of Britain and the Continent, and hence we may conclude that they both once formed part of the religion of these islands, but have been so overlaid by Christianity that they now represent not merely beliefs about fossils, but also what may perhaps be called some "fossil beliefs" of Britain as well. Above all we have found a possible link between the two classes of belief in the fact that both celts and ammonites are in India connected with the worship of Vishnu.
- W. Johnson, Folk-Memory, p. 148.
- The Old Red Sandstone (1841), p. 147.
- F. K. Robinson, A Glossary of . . . Whitby, Part ii. (1876), s.v. Thunnerbolts. Mr. E. Lovett, in the discussion which followed the paper, contended that stone axes etc. were regarded as thunderbolts because of their cutting edge and belemnites because of their sharp point. To this may be added that the nodules referred to above were, because of their round shape, also taken for cannon balls, and that there was in ancient times an additional reason for the latter idea, because early cannon balls were often enough made of stone.
- Book xxix., cap. 12.
- Quoted in Folk-Memory, p. 148, from Roman Britain, pp. 70-1.
- P. 48.
- Ibid., p. 47.
- Book xxix., cap. 22.
- Folk-Lore., vol. xxi., p. 161. Only I am inclined to doubt the explanation there given, as not explaining the facts sufficiently.
- Op. cit., part ii., s.v. Snakes, or Snakestones.
- Naturalist, April 1st, 1910.
- Vol. ii., part 19, p. 10; Plate 107, (Fig. 2).
- Ammonites comminis = dactylioceras commune.
- No. 43, 895a.
- P. 111, in a note by S. J. Mackie.
- Pp. 313-4.
- Lives of the Fathers etc., vol. i. (1838), p. 897.
- P. 9 (1876).
- Walcott, Descriptions and Figures of Petrifactions Found in the Quarries, Gravel-Pits, etc. Near Bath, p. 31.
- Op cit., vol. X., p. 607.
- "Lapides hic inueniuntur, serpentium in spiram reuolutorum effigie, naturæ ludentis miracula . . . serpentes oilm fuisse crederes, quos lapideus cortex intexissist. Hildæ autem precibus adscribit credulitas," (Camden, p. 419).
- This second passage from Camden, as quoted by Plot (p. 116), says:— "Vidimus enim lapidem hinc delatum serpentis in spiram revoluti effigie, cujus caput in circumferentia prominuit, extrema cauda centrum occupante."
- A. R. Wallace, The World of Life, pp. 267-9, Figs. 99-106.
- P. 145, Fig. 60.
- Op. cit., vol. ii., p. 69.
- I asked Mr. Woodward if he could explain this, and he tells me that these snakestones, which may have come either from Whitby or Lyme Regis, are in many cases found in nodules of blue Lias limestone, which when split would disclose the ammonite within, perhaps a yellow or ochreous specimen, with the ring of blue limestone round it.
- From The Survey of Cornwall, written by Richard Carew, of Antonie, Esq.: quoted by Parkinson, Organic Remains of a Former World, vol. iii., p. 134, who remarks "among the notions which have been entertained respecting these fossils, none is more curious."
- Pliny, Natural History, xxxvii., cap. 60. Mr. A. B. Cook writes to me that, according to Eratosthenes, quoted by Strabo (1. i, cap. 3, s. 4), the precinct of Zeus Ammon (the oasis of Siwah), which is a deep depression, is strewn with shells and a salt deposit. He infers that this oracle became famous while still a coast-town on the arm of a vanished sea. The shells, Mr. Cook thinks, are asterites.
- Frazer, Lectures on the Early History of the Kingship, pp. 157-8.
- Vol. ii., pp. 26-7 (3rd ed.). Cf. Carew, p. 57 ante. I may add that Mr. E. Lovett has informed me of two cases in which ammonites were carried by fishermen to bring kick in fishing,—one at Oban and the other at Folkestone, the ammonites themselves being called fish at the latter place.
- Folk-Memory, p. 125.
- Pp. 10-3 (1841 ed.).
- P. 134.
- A Glossary of . . . Whitby, part ii., s.v. Thunner-bolts.
- Descriptions and Figures of Petrifactions Found in the Qnarries, Gravel-Pits, etc. Near Bath, p. 39.
- Op. cit., p. 93.
- Geologist, vol. iv., p. 215.
- J. Woodward, An Attempt towards the Natural History of Fossils etc. (1729), vol. i. p. 109.
- Parkinson, op. cit., vol. iii., p. 122, where he also remarks that they are also called lapides lyncis, owing to their supposed origin from the urine of the lynx, and cites Ovid, Metamorphoses, lib. xv., v. 413.
- Folk-Memory, p. 149.
- Op. cit., p. 93.
- Cf. Sir J. Evans, The Ancient Stone Implements etc. of Great Britain, pp. 51 et seq.
- Folk-Memory, p. 122.
- P. 10.
- Folk-Memory, p. 124.
- Folk- Lore, vol. xx., pp. 231-2.
- Folk-Lore, vol. xxii., p. 53.
- Folk- Lore, vol. xxi., p. 7.
- A Glossary of. . . Whitby, part i., s.v. Awfshots.
- Folk-Memory, p. 124.
- Evans, op. cit., p. 51.
- Op. cit., p. 93.
- P. 90.
- Op. cit., pp. 51 et seq.
- Vol. iii., p. 5².
- Folk-Lore, vol. xxi., pp. 60-78.
- See “The Cretan Axe-cult outside Crete,” The Transactions of the Third International Congress for the History of Religions, vol. ii., pp. 184-94; cf. also Blinkenberg, The Thunder-weapon in Religion and Folklore.
- Folk-Lore, vol. xxi., pp. 60-78.
- Op. cit., p. 52.
- Primitive Culture, vol. ii., p. 238 (2nd ed.).
- Op. cit., p. 53; cf. Blinkenberg, op. cit., pp. 117-8.
- Folk-Lore, vol. xxi., p. 60.
- Op. cit., p. 53.
- Op. cit., p. 54.
- Man, 1903, p. 184.
- Man, 1903, p. 183.
- The Ewe-speaking Peoples etc. of the Slave Coast, pp. 37-8.
- Man, 1903, p. 183.
- It is perhaps worth considering whether the double-headed axe-models once employed as votive offerings at shrines in ancient Crete may not be fairly compared to the god-axes offered in Ashanti.
- The Golden Bough (3rd ed.). Part I., vol. ii., p. 374.
- The Migration of Symbols, pp. 99-100.
- Folk-Lore, vol. xxi., pp. 62-6.
- Primitive Culture, vol. ii., p. 240.
- Thurston, Ethnographic Notes in Southern India, p. 351.
- Op. cit., p. 53.
- Mr. W. Crooke.
- British Burma etc., p. 252.
- Man, 190S, pp. 105-6.
- Op cit., p. 52.
- So too Pliny tells us of a stone, "within the Isle Scyros," which floats when whole, and sinks when marred, (Holland's translation (1634), vol. ii., p. 5S7).
- The Golden Bough (3rd ed.), Part I., vol. ii., p. 374 n.
- Op. cit., p. 53.
- I have to express my very great indebtedness, in particular to the geological friends who have helped me with this paper, among whom I may specially mention Dr. F. L. Kitchin, Mr. G. W. Lamplugh, Mr. H. B. Woodward, Mr. H. Woods, and Professor T. M Kenny Hughes, as well as to Mr. W. Crooke, Professor Giles, Professor W. M. Flinders Petrie, Mr. E. Lovett, Mr. A. B. Cook, and last, but not least, my father Professor Skeat, to whose kind help is due most of what is valuable in the quotations from the earlier English records.