Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Night Mare

A relic of a more superstitious age, sometimes a stone is found hanging from a beam or otherwise hidden in old houses, forgotten by all for centuries. This stone, called a Dobbie Stone or Hag Stone, always has a natural hole in it, thought to represent the all-seeing eye and ward off unwanted supernatural incursions. They were also hung in stables and animal byres to prevent the sudden onset of sickness and weakness now explained by viral or bacterial infection but formerly blamed on the Devil, the Faery or witchcraft. A horse that had been 'hag-ridden' in the night would all too often die in the following days, and it is thought that the term 'nightmare' comes from the same belief.

Similarly, in the house, a resident elemental called a Boggart, Boggle or Bogie was often to be found. From this we have the 'bogie-man' and 'mind-boggling.' They were considered responsible for all the phenomena which in the 20th century became the work of the poltergeist. They could make noises, move furniture, throw objects, tip sleeping people from their beds, curdle milk and cause all manner of chaos. Means were often taken to deter them, such as Dobbie Stones, rowan or hazel wreaths or crystals. But conversely, if treated with respect, a Boggart could perform helpful tasks, such as waking occupants in the case of fire.

Next time you have a nightmare, think of the night-hag who was hovering unseen above your sleeping form that night.


  1. Here in Ireland it is believed that one can see the faeries by looking through the eye of a hole stone.

  2. That's interesting. There are larger ones on Dartmoor where it is believed to pass a child through the hole will cure all sicknesses, and also can inspire a happy long term marriage

  3. Ah yes marriage contracts were made when the bride and groom stood on either side of a large stone with a hole in it and put in their hands so that they clasped in the middle. I was told that the idea of wearing a wedding ring came from this tradition.

  4. Really? The ring finger was supposed to contain the heart vein, the reason for its use. Robert Graves believed it had some significance in Ogham as well but I can't remember what

  5. Personally I do not consider Graves as an authority on
    anything other than poetry.

    The majority of scholars, particularly archaeologists,
    historians and folklorists have rejected his work
    'The White Goddess'
    Ronald Hutton is right when he states "the book
    "remains a major source of confusion about the ancient Celts and influences many un-scholarly views of Celtic paganism"

    Graves also admitted he was not a medieval historian, but a poet.

  6. Are you referring to his interpretations of eg the lapwing and the roebuck in the thicket? I always thought his ideas made sense, but a lot doesn't seem to be supported by other people's work.