In previous articles ("Stories with a Stone"и Mysteries of the megaliths) we talked about menhirs, dolmens and cromlechs. It was also told about the myths and legends of the peoples of different countries associated with such stones. In this article, we will talk about stones that were believed to have the gift of prophecy, or could serve as "arbiters" in the dispute between claimants to the throne. They were called "ophites", "serpentine stones", or "stones of fate."
According to Pliny, the "serpent stones" when electing kings were asked for advice in India and Persia. The Scandinavian historians Wormius and Olaus Magnus also testify that on the advice of an oracle who spoke through “these huge boulders raised by the colossal power of the (ancient) giants", The first kings of Scandinavia were elected.
The stone from which Arthur, the legendary leader of the British tribes, the hero of the famous cycle of Celtic legends and traditions processed by Chrétien de Trois, Robert de Boron, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Thomas Malory and some other authors, can be considered a "serpent" can be considered a stone. "Allowing" to extract the blade, the stone "recognized" Arthur as worthy of the royal throne.
Arthur pulls out a sword from a stone, medieval miniature
This sword was described in the article "Stories with a Stone".
Scottish Destiny Stone
The real-life Scottish Stone of Destiny (the Coronation Stone of Scotland, the Skone Stone), which since 847 served as the coronation throne of the kings of this country and was located in the Skon (Skun) Abbey, also belongs to the "serpent stones". The Scots believed that in biblical times he was the base of the famous "Jacob's ladder." According to the Book of Genesis of the Old Testament, Jacob, who spent the night in the wilderness, put one of the stones as a headboard:
“And I saw in a dream: here is a ladder on the earth, and its top touches the sky; and now the Angels of God ascend and descend on it. "
In the morning he “put it (stone) as a monument; and poured oil on top of it", and said:
"This stone, which I have set as a monument, will be the house of God."
But a rectangular piece of sandstone 27 inches long, 17 wide, 11 high, and weighing about 400 pounds (over 152 kg) is certainly not a good choice for a headboard.
According to another legend, this stone was brought from Ireland by the first Scottish king Fergus.
There is also a legend that the Stone of Destiny was brought with him by the baptist of Scotland, Saint Colombo, who allegedly used it as an altar.
However, studies have shown that this block of sandstone was mined near Scone.
It is believed that this stone was originally a relic of the Gaelic kingdom of Dal Riada.
It was on its territory that the Irishman Colombo (Columbus) preached Christianity. And after the unification of the Gaelic lands and the kingdom of the Picts, Scotland appeared.
One way or another, it is known that at first the Stone of Destiny was in the Dunadd fortress, but in 847, King Kenneth I, who united the tribes of the Gaels and Pictish tribes, moved it to Skon (and the stone was also called Skonsky). Since that time, chroniclers have recorded the tradition of sitting on this stone during the coronation, which was observed by 9 kings of Scotland. According to legend, the Stone of Destiny confirmed the right of the pretender to the throne with some sounds. It is said that he "shouted" when the "real king" sat on him. And he was silent if the applicant was not worthy of the throne, or was an impostor at all.
The Scottish Stone of Fate fell silent forever after the English king Edward I Plantagenet defeated the Scottish army at the Battle of Dunbar (April 27, 1296).
King Edward I (also known by the nicknames "Long-Legs" and "Hammer of the Scots") and his wife, Eleanor. Early XNUMXth century miniature
Then the Scottish king John I Balliol, who 4 years before had been elected monarch through the mediation and arbitration of Edward I, was also captured by the British. Please note: the Scots did not rely on the Stone of Destiny then. Although, it would seem, what is simpler: put the applicants on it in turn and wait for the joyful cry of this megalith.
John Balliol. In this picture of 1562, deprived of the throne and died in France, John I is depicted with an empty inverted coat of arms and a broken scepter.
By order of Edward I, the Scottish Coronation Stone was brought to London in 1296. And in 1301 it was placed under the throne seat in Westminster Cathedral - this is how the "King Edward Chair" appeared.
Edward I was also "famous" for the expulsion of Jews from England in 1290. He also entered history graceful deception of the Welsh, to whom he promised that the Prince of Wales would be “a local native who does not know a word of English". Then he ordered to carry out his son, who was born the day before in Wales (in the castle of Carnarvon) and did not know how to speak yet.
Since then, the heirs of the English (and then - British) throne have been called "Prince of Wales." It was this first "Welsh prince" - Edward Carnarvonsky who initiated the tradition of being crowned on the "chair" of his father.
In 1328, England and Scotland signed the Northampton Peace Treaty, one of the clauses of which obliged the British to return the Stone of Destiny. However, the British remembered the ancient prophecy: “Where this stone lies, there is the King of Scots"- and changed their minds.
The power of tradition was so great that the convinced Republican Oliver Cromwell, at the ceremony of his confirmation as Lord Protector, wished to sit on the chair with the Stone of Destiny.
The Scots did not submit. For centuries, uprisings broke out in Scotland, but luck always turned out to be on the side of the British. Many Scots were inclined to attribute their defeats to the loss of the most important relic of their kingdom. Scottish nationalists remembered the Stone of Fate stolen by the British in the twentieth century. Moreover, it was in 1950 that four students managed to do what for many centuries the numerous Scottish armies had failed.
On the night of December 25, 1950, three people entered Westminster Cathedral - Ian Hamilton (who came up with the idea of stealing the stone), Gavin Vernon and Alan Stewart. The only girl in this group, Kay Matheson, remained in the car. The British guarded the cathedral simply outrageously: no one even heard how the young people with the help of a crowbar twisted the Stone of Destiny from under the chair, which split into two parts. When Hamilton brought the first piece to the car, a policeman appeared, who paid attention only to the kisses of Ian and Kay (the girl got her bearings in time) and made them a remark about the inadmissibility of indecent behavior in a public place. After that, the girl left, delivering her part of the Stone to friends who lived in the vicinity of Birmingham. Hamilton and Vernon, with another part of the relic, headed in the opposite direction from Scotland - to Kent. Here they left this piece of stone in the forest. Later, both fragments were brought to Scotland.
Morning December 26, 1950: "King Edward's Chair" without the Skonsky Stone
The kidnapping of the Stone of Destiny became known only the next day. The royal court was shocked, the British were shocked and depressed, and Scotland was jubilant.
King George VI was seriously ill, and everyone knew that he would not live long. George had no male heirs, and many spoke of a bad omen on the eve of the coronation of his daughter Elizabeth.
Scotland Yard and the British special services were ordered to find the thieves of the Stone at any cost and as soon as possible. And it seemed that young amateurs did not have the slightest chance, but they had accomplices literally at every step. The "magic" words "Scottish Stone of Destiny", spoken in certain circles, opened doors and wallets for them. Without spending a penny, they changed their hairstyles, clothes and cars. Random people who met on their way, not limited to one-time help, gave them the addresses of their friends and relatives. Perhaps no organized criminal group and no intelligence service in the world could do more for them than ordinary Scots. In Glasgow, bricklayer Robert Gray sealed the fragments of a megalith free with cement mortar. After that, the Stone was hidden in an abandoned tavern.
Police detectives and intelligence officers never managed to find either Stone or his abductors. But they themselves reported his new whereabouts. This was done because already in Scotland the opinion began to form that the Coronation Stone was lost forever. Therefore, on April 11, 1951, the relic was transported to the ruins of the ancient Abroth Abbey, where in 1320 the declaration of independence of Scotland was signed. Here the Skonsky stone was found by the police. After that, the kidnappers were also arrested.
The trial of the kidnappers and their volunteers never took place. Both the royal family and the government understood that a conviction could lead to riots in Scotland. It was decided that the public interest required an end to the criminal prosecution of the participants in this case.
The "King Edward Chair" was used again at the coronation of Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953.
Queen Elizabeth II on the chair of Edward
It is curious that rumors began to spread in Scotland that the kidnappers had returned to the authorities not a real, but a fake stone. The real one is supposedly still kept in a secluded place. Moreover, the true king of Scotland has already been crowned on it.
And on November 30, 1998 (the day of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland), the Stone of Destiny nevertheless returned to its homeland: the restored parliament of Scotland achieved its return.
The Scottish Coronation Stone is currently kept in Edinburgh Cathedral.
And in Skona Abbey you can now see a copy of the relic:
At the same time, the British set a condition that they would take the Skonsky stone "on loan" for the coronation ceremonies of new monarchs. Given the age of Elizabeth II, we may soon see this show featuring an ancient Scottish stone.
By the way, the kidnapping of the Stone of Destiny is told in the film by Charles Martin Smith. And the creators of the series "Highlander" attributed his abduction to the "immortal" Duncan Macleod.
Lia Fail: The Talking Stone of Ireland
The Irish also had their own "Stone of Destiny". This is Lia Fail ("light stone, stone of knowledge, stone of fertility"), standing on Tara - the hill of consecration of kings.
The Lia Fail (Stone of Destiny), County Meath, Ireland
It was in honor of this hill that the Irishman O'Hara, Scarlett's father (the heroes of the novel "Gone with the Wind"), named his farm.
Tara Hill, County Meath, Ireland
Tradition connects him with some ancient people Tuatha De Dananna, who allegedly once brought this stone from the northern islands. It is not known when the tradition to bring the king to him arose, but it was observed until the turn of the 116th-123th centuries. new era. The contenders for the throne sat on a stone or put their feet on it, Leah Fail roaring his "approval". But one day the stone did not recognize the candidate as king, who was patronized by the famous Irish hero Cuchulainn. He struck Leah File with a sword and the offended stone fell silent for many years - until another Irish hero, Conn of the Hundred Battles, accidentally stepped on it. This happened either in 31, or in XNUMX AD. And on the holiday of the end of the harvest - Samhain (Samhain - "The end of summer", October XNUMX), the kings arranged here holidays with pagan sacrifices. But Christian priests cursed this place and forbade them to come here. However, people have always remembered Lia Fail, and now tourists often come to it. And the pagan Samhain initiated the pseudo-Christian holiday of Halloween.
Samhuinn fire festival, 2019