Adder Stones, Hag Stones, Witch Stones…Do You Know These?

Adder stones are usually glass stones with a naturally occurring stone in them. Archaeologists have found them in both Britain and Egypt. In Britain, they stones are also called hag stones, witch stones, serpent’s eggs, or snake’s eggs. In Wales, they are called glain neidr, while in Corwall, adderstanes is the word of choice. The southern provinces of Scotland use the word Gloine nan Druidh (“Druids’ glass).

Believed to have magical powers, the stones have been used to cure eye diseases, preventing nightmares, curing whooping cough, or snakebites. Superstition says they can aid the holder by giving a person the ability to see through fairy or witch disguises.

There are many legends that define the origin of the stones. Among the most popular include: (1) the stones are the hardened saliva of large numbers of serpents massing together; (2) the stones are from the head of a serpent or are made by the sting of an adder; and (3) the stones can be any rock with a hole bored through the middle by water.

Druids highly esteemed Adder stones. There is a passage in Pliny’s Natural History, book xix, minutely describing the nature and the properties of this amulet. The following is a translation of it:

“There is a sort of egg in great repute among the Gauls, of which the Greek writers have made no mention. A vast number of serpents are twisted together in summer, and coiled up in an artificial knot by their saliva and slime; and this is called “the serpent’s egg”. The druids say that it is tossed in the air with hissings and must be caught in a cloak before it touches the earth. The person who thus intercepts it, flies on horseback; for the serpents will pursue him until prevented by intervening water. This egg, though bound in gold will swim against the stream. And the magi are cunning to conceal their frauds, they give out that this egg must be obtained at a certain age of the moon. I have seen that egg as large and as round as a common sized apple, in a chequered cartilaginous cover, and worn by the Druids. It is wonderfully extolled for gaining lawsuits, and access to kings. It is a badge which is worn with such ostentation, that I knew a Roman knight, a Vocontian, who was slain by the stupid Emperor Claudius, merely because he wore it in his breast when a lawsuit was pending.”

About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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