Thursday, August 5, 2010

Menhirs, Dolmen, and Circles of Stone
The Folklore and Magic of Sacred Stone

Why are some rocks simply tossed out of the way while others, regardless of their size, are held as sacred, mysterious and imbued with power? Humans since the dawn of civilization have used stone to represent the holy, both by fashioning sacred symbols for themselves and by granting recognition to certain sites occurring naturally. Varner shares his love of nature lore, oral traditions, folklore and ancient religious structures that are still so abundant in the world, and offers insights on the history and the technology of these artifacts, while touching on the importance of preserving a sense of reverence in today’s world. This study examines the universal appeal of sites from the Dome of the Rock and Stonehenge to sites sacred to the Inuit and the Cherokees, from the Middle East to the American Midwest and the English Midlands.

Philosopher-historian Mircea Eliade wrote, "a rock reveals itself to be sacred because its very existence is a hierophany: incompressible, invulnerable, it is that which man is not. It resists time; its reality is coupled with perenniality." The properties of stone were recognized as unique early in humankind's rise to civilization. Even when cultures were transitioning their technologies from stone to metal, it was stone that was used for ritual and other important acts. Early 20th-century Egyptologist Wallis Budge wrote, "in a tomb of the VIth Dynasty at Sakkârah, when the Egyptians had a good knowledge of working in metals, we see in a painting on the wall the act of circumcision being performed on a youth by an operator who uses a flint knife." Little do the keepers of worry stones today realize that they are practicing one of the ancient traditions of transferring their problems to an inanimate object. This volume looks at customs and traditions from around the world, from the curious to the profound, related to stones large and small, from prehistory to today.

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