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Article ID: 4498
Age Group: Adult
Posted: January 22nd. 2001
Passing Along The Lore
Feeling a bit like an amateur archaeologist, Wren rummaged about in one of her old magickal chests. It was not buried treasure that she sought this day, but it was a link to the past that she was looking for. AH! There it is! An old coin- a copper liberty penny-spun on its cord as she slammed shut the chest lid in triumph. Today's search had commenced via a phone call from her daughter, Skye. Skye had wondered if her mother had some personal little talisman of her grandfather's (Wren's dad) that she could have. The penny had almost immediately come to Wren's mind as the 'perfect gift' for the situation.
The penny was old and worn-so worn in fact that the date was rubbed off and the entire surface was smooth to the touch. It looked as though it had been through a war. And, in fact, it had been. This otherwise quite ordinary coin was Grandfather Bill's 'lucky piece" and he had carried it across the world in World War II.
Bill served as a gunner on a munitions ship in the Navy and one of the missions that he volunteered for was the very dangerous 'Murmansk Run". The U.S. Navy sent along a contingent of various vessels to escort the Merchant Marine convoys transporting goods to Russia across the icy and U-boat protected North Atlantic. Some reports state that only one out of every three ships made it to the port of Murmansk. "Between July 4 and July 14, 1942, Nazi torpedo-bombers and U-Boats launched repeated, devastating attacks on the lightly armed ships. Only 11 of the 34 merchant ships reached port. Twenty-four were sunk, along with 153 mariners and Armed Guard, 250, 000 tons of war materiel, including 3, 500 trucks, 200 aircraft and 435 tanks.- (from Tribute to the Merchant Marines of WWII)). It was here that Bill learned about the magick of holed coins. (Whether he believed that there was real 'magick' in the coin or not, he would never come right out and say. But Bill did obviously returned from the hazardous missions safely enough to tell his daughter the story which she now shares with you.)
Photo credit: The image to your upper right was sent in by Gryph of The Coven of Mercury, Forever Retrograde (Email: email@example.com) "These are pictures of my home altar, after the altar-top fire which necessitated removal of a lot of unnecessary stuff (smiles) You can't see it, but behind the center candle is a tiny bottle of salt, for Earth".(Photo taken by coven member Aquil Argentum) -- Thank You Gryphontamer for loaning us this stunning image.
Holey Stones, Bent Coins and The Sight...
Bill told Wren that many British sailors and soldiers had such lucky coins in their pockets. Most were like his-a regular coin bored with a hole- but some were simply bent or warped in some manner. Apparently this practice of holed coins being carried as talismans against harm was also common during World War I (at least as told by the Brits) and indeed even in modern times, English shopkeeps- rather than curse the findings of such coins in their tills- keep them in a jar for 'good luck and protection from theft". While Wren is not the sort of Witch who is prone to attempt to link every modern folk belief to an ancient source, it does not seem to be too much of a stretch to perhaps make a connection regarding the similar role that certain "holed stones" played in various areas of the British Isles. Sites such as Men-An-Tol in Cornwall are associated with healing properties, prophetic divinations and various local rituals concerning the activation of these 'blessings'. Healing Stones are part of a very old belief in the power of certain natural formations (later mirrored by human hands in various art forms) such as wells, springs and stones to work 'magic' if certain rituals were performed or relics from these sites were carried or worn upon the person. (Wren has several bottles of such magickal spring water sent to her by kind friends returned from trips to Ireland and England.)
Whether it was by threading people and objects through, joining hands on either side or by gazing out at a vista framed by the openings (natural or man-made) in stones, branches or other objects, various forms of divination are also often associated with these 'holey' matters:
The craft of the seer "is only one of a number of divinatory practises. Generally speaking, the seer uses few 'aids' (unlike the augur who will use the shoulder bone of a sheep to foresee events). He may possess a 'hagstone', a holed stone through which he will gaze to access the Sight. Such stones are sacred to the Goddess in her hag aspect as the bringer of wisdom.
Another tool associated with seership is the scrying mirror. Many examples of such mirrors have been found, worked in bronze with intricate spiral designs. The majority of seers of today will also practise pyromancy, the art of fire gazing, for they say that visions can be seen more clearly, in finer detail, through the flames of a fire."
Learning Natural Magick In A Natural Setting...
Just as we must curb the tendency to link all modern folk beliefs to ancient religious practices, it would probably be a mistake to likewise view these beliefs as merely local superstitions . There is a link, however tenuous, between the use of holed stones in ancient times and the use of certain talisman and magickal items today. "Stone circles, " writes Liam Rogers in Circles and Cycles - Stone Circles in Landscape and Mindscape , were the zenith of a long history of prehistoric ritual monuments. In the early Neolithic, long barrows were probably much more than simply communal graves, often being in use for many hundreds of years and containing animal as well as human bones. Their large forecourts could have held large congregations that may have had more to do with the mysteries of the annual cycle than funerals. The orientation of long barrows often seems to reflect an interest in cyclical time, and even suggests a knowledge of concepts of death and regeneration.".."The large concerted efforts of groups of people to create and perpetuate these monumental cosmic and social symbols within the landscape may have held communities together and perhaps have created land or other rights for those taking part."
As Sigurd Towrie explains in Dian Stanes and Thunderstones: "These days, behind the word "luck" lies the shadows of forgotten religions and social systems which have long since been abandoned and this becomes clearly apparent with when we consider that over time these powerful charmed stones became regarded as nothing more than lucky talismans. Over the centuries their potency decreased until the time of my childhood when they were referred to simply as "lucky stones" or "luck stones". To carry such a pebble was thought to bring the bearer good luck - but only after spitting on them and polishing the surface, of course.
Inextricably tied up with the lore of the thunderstones are the ancient customs involving a possibly separate class of protective stone - those that were holed or perforated. In a paper describing old Orkney farming customs, the writer Ernest Marwick had no doubts that the dian-stane was round, flat and holed."
Today, modern Pagans are setting up similar structures and groves and enjoying the entire 'getting back to nature' experience. Oya indeed writes, "My husband and I are in the process of starting up a metaphysical retreat company, called Magickal Retreats. Our idea is to teach the Magickal arts in a wilderness setting; I have taught for many years and have found an outdoor environment assists the student to unite with the energies involved. Our first retreats will be starting this spring; we will cover many different aspects of Magick and Metaphysics, including "spiritual alchemy", "earth magick", as well as "your shadow self". We are currently seeking volunteers throughout North America to assist with flyer distribution and/or with the retreats themselves. For more information visit our webpage, Magickal Retreats, or you can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org."
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