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The Witch Stone

Richard Bell’s Wild West Yorkshire nature diary,  Sunday,  22nd  March 2009

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THIS IS a story that my mum once came up with; the way to keep witches out of your house is to hang a stone that has a natural hole in at the threshold. When I then spotted a piece of limestone on the beach with a string-sized hole in it, I couldn’t resist picking it up - not that I’m superstitious!


I think the stories people tell can be illuminating about the culture they’ve been brought up in and the archaeological evidence shows that stones with holes in them have held a fascination for us since prehistoric times, but for me, as a naturalist, I find the fact that this stone was once limy mud at the bottom of a Jurassic sea where long-necked plesiosaurs hunted for ammonites and belemnites (squid-like creatures) far more enthralling.


Anyone in history can append any belief for any reason onto any object but it’s great to let that fall away and to see the object with completely innocent eyes for what it is.


Having said that, I’m not so rational that I would ever deliberately walk under a ladder!


Unfortunately as I grabbed my keys this morning I knocked the string off its hook and the stone cracked on the tiled floor but, so far, there’s no sign of ladies with pointed hats calling on us.

Witch stone - Jurassic limestone