When I embarked on this mission to write a book about gems, crystals and rocks, I had no idea how many stories would come out of the woodwork about just one of these – the 'homely' stone. Here is just a small selection of some 'believe it or not' stories and legends from around the world – from a fiery spirit who lives in a Hawaiian volcano, to a spooky stretch of road in New Jersey.
Pele, goddess of the volcano Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii, is said to have a hell-hath-no-fury type wrath when it comes to visitors taking lava rocks out of the area. It is said that Pele will unleash horrible luck to anyone who dares to disrespect her in this way. Many transgressors have returned home only to feel they are being cursed by bad luck, and have gone out of their way to mail the rocks back to Hawaii. Folks in the know don't mess with the lava rock there, and in fact, have been known to bring offerings to Pele – such as rocks wrapped in palm leaves and conch shells.
Here's another fun fact – this one about the Blarney Stone of Ireland. Every year, thousands of visitors trek up a frightfully narrow stone staircase to the top of Blarney Castle, near Cork, to lean backwards over a parapet to kiss this famous stone. They do this despite having to brave germs from the kissing lips of others, claustrophobia, and ruptured disks -- not to mention the fear of heights! Why do they do this? As one writer put it, the origins of the stone are as 'cloudy as one's head after several pints of Guinness beer'. One version of the story says it had a connection to Moses; another that it had once been Jacob's pillow. And according to the current castle proprietor – it is a power stone, the true attributes of which were revealed to the family who rebuilt the castle 600 years ago – by a witch saved from drowning!
Just next door, in Scotland, there's another stone tradition – also associated with spittle (well, when you go around kissing stones, some is bound to escape...). It is said that spitting on the heart of Midlothian, a heart-shaped formation of colored granite stones in the Royal Mile of Edinburgh, will ensure your return to this fine city. This mosaic once marked the site of the 15th-century 'Old Tolbooth' (hmm, sounds like 'Toll Booth'). But in this case 'Old Tolbooth' was the town's administrative center and prison, and also an execution site. Given this, it wasn't a particularly popular place among the townspeople of the time, who (you guessed it) expressed their disgust by spitting on it. Today, locals still spit on it to express their disgust of government when such feelings
strike them. (I wonder if it wouldn't be therapeutic for Americans to also have such a resource in their own towns,
given the hot debates between political sides...but I won't go there...) In any case, there's also still the nice tradition of spitting, when visitors want to guarantee a trip back to Edinburgh.
And now we're off to Paris, site of the famed stone Notre Dame Cathedral (made even more famous by Victor Hugo's 1831 novel 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' and subsequent movies on the same). Interestingly, information just recently discovered in Britain's Tate Archive suggests that Hugo's tragic hero – a deaf, disabled bell ringer named Quasimodo – may have true historical origins. The memoirs of a sculptor working at the cathedral around the time the book was written include mention of a hunchbacked stonemason who was employed
there. And there's one more tidbit about the cathedral: It is said that those who stand on the stone star of the 'Point Zero' symbol of the plaza, which represents the starting point from which all distances in France are measured, are destined to return to Paris.
Finally, back to our own humble New Jersey. Split Rock Road in Hibernia, NJ, is said to be haunted or cursed or something equally unpleasant. There are many legends, including these: 1) If you drive down this road late at night, people (who these people are depend on who you're talking to locally) – who may be Satanists, Gangs, or plain old bad people, will block each end of the one-lane bridge and trap you in the middle as you drive across it. There have been murders and suicides on this road, and unexplained lights in the sky. Bevare! as Bela Lugosi used to say...
So in honor of 'the STONE', today's image is one of a delightful string of pebble beads by Oceangifts on Etsy.com: http://tinyurl.com/cv96fug
BTW, don't spit on them -- they're just to wear and be pretty.