Child stones

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Mên-an-Tol

The Kindstein is a prehistoric menhir near Unter-Widdersheim in Hesse. In the 1950s, shards of the late Bronze Age urnfield culture were found nearby. The name of the stone goes back to a legend. According to legend, unborn children must live in the stone, whose screams can be heard when you put your ear to the stone. The midwife has the key.

In my previous article, stories about sacrificial stones, I discussed sacrificial stones. Stones with cups, according to folk tales the impressions were made by devils, saints, heroes or giants. Not only cups, but also hoof prints occur. Food or money was left behind and water also plays a role with some stones. And sometimes the stones bled when you put a nail (or needle or pin) in them, such as De Gesloten Steen (the closed stone) near Utrecht. In some cases, the bleeding showed that the woman who had driven a nail into the stone could be expecting a child. This occurs, among other things, with a stone in the forest near Rheden, as was mentioned in the previous article.

And that brings me to the subject of children’s stones. Stones with a special meaning for mother and child are found all over the world. The Gramsberger forest is located near Gramsbergen. Here are two hills, in which horses used to be buried in one of them. On the other hill are a few beech trees and there is a large stone. This is where babies would come from: the child’s stone.

There are also other stories about mothers and children. Cupolas can be seen on the Mutter-Kind-Stein (“mother-child stone”) at Kleinpertholz; one large and one slightly smaller. According to legend, Mary would have visited this place during her walk with the baby Jesus through the Waldviertel and left a “lasting impression” by resting on this stone. Reminiscent of the footprint the Virgin Mary left in the sledovik at Pochaiv Lavra, I already mentioned this special stone in my previous article.

Mutter-Kind-Stein at Kleinpertholz

In my article “Place of the giants, megalithic temples in Malta” I mentioned that the megalithic temple of Mnajdra in Malta may have been a birth center. Stones are also known in Hawaii where babies were born. Kukanilok are birthstones. The site became the site for some of Hawaii’s royal births. Children born here were given power as a result. The ancient islanders believed that the land was strong because of the power of life. Kukaniloko’s birthplace may have served as an astronomical function.

The pregnant royal lady should lie down on a finely woven mat on top of the smooth lava rocks. Supporters would surround the mother and hold her in place, using notches in the stones as supports. Gravity was expected to do most of the work, although one or two Kahuna (shaman) would also be on hand to assist. Known as pohaku, according to Hawaiian belief, the rocks contain the power to relieve the contractions of childbirth.

Offerings at the Kukaniloko Birthstones

Stories about children born of stones have been around for a long time. In fact, “Birth from rock” (T544.1) is a mythical category that appears in Stith Thompson’s “Motif-Index of Folk-Literature”. Eliade (1978) notes: “The theme is reflected in the great civilizations of Central America (Inca, Maya), in the traditions of certain tribes of South America, among the Greeks, the Semites, in the Caucasus and in the generally from Asia Minor to Oceania”.

Lewis (2006) explains that the birth of Yu is related to ancient Chinese beliefs about the fertile and creative power of stone, as evidenced by the stone altar of the Gao mei (where married couples prayed for children in the past). Yu the Great (a demigod, sage king and founder of the Xia dynasty) is born in Shiniu (stone). Stories about his life and rule were orally transmitted in various parts of China until they were finally recorded during the Zhou dynasty.

Yu’s son Qi is also born of stone. The story goes that Yu once said, “If you want to give me something to eat, if you hear the sound of a drum beat, come to me.” But Yu jumped on a rock and accidentally drummed on it. The Tushan girl came forward, but when she saw Yu in the guise of a bear, she was ashamed and fled. She reached the foothills of Mount Songgao, when she turned into a stone and gave birth to Qi. Yu said, “Give me back my son!” The stone then split open on its north flank and Qi was born.”

Statue of Yu the Great in Yu Temple

The stone birth of Sun Wukong is very famous. It is even referenced in the world famous anime Dragon Ball Z. This anime has made an “attack ball” known worldwide (spherical in shape and represents the stone from which Wukong was born). Sun Wukong, better known in Western countries as the Monkey King, is a figure from Chinese mythology who is central to many legends and folktales. He is best known as one of the main characters in the novel “The Journey to the West”. In the novel, he is one of Xuanzang’s helpers on his journey to India. In Japanese he is called Son Gokū, in Indonesian he is Sun Go Kong and in Thai Sun Ngokong.

The Greco-Roman god of light, Mithras, is perhaps the best known and best studied of the stone-born gods in Western mythology.

Researchers often refer to his birthstone with the Latin term Petra Genetrix.

Mithras’ son, Diorphus, is also said to have been born from a stone. Mithras, who wanted a son (but hated women) lay with a stone until he heated it so that the stone grew large and gave birth to a son at the predetermined time.

The story of the conception of Diorphus follows the same tradition as the story of Ullikummi, where a god wants to father a son with a stone and not with a goddess. The boy was made of diorite stone.

Birth of Mithras. The relief depicts the front of a temple: two columns with capitals, which bear a tympanum. Between the columns a representation of Mithras’ rock birth. In his hand the youthful naked god carries a globe and with his raised right hand he supports a circle, on which six signs of the zodiac.

Ullikummi or Vishap was the son of the god Kumarbi in Anatolian mythology, who was later introduced into Hittite and Armenian mythology. The myth of Ullikummi has it that Kumarbi attempts to exact revenge on his first son Teshub, after he overthrew his authority. Kumarbi then harbored a desire to generate an evil creature. He slept by a huge stone and it gave birth to Ullikummi. Teshub could not defeat the sun god. In confusion, Teshub then sought help from the wise old god Ea. He pulled out a saw that had originally served to separate heaven and earth. With that, Ea whipped Ullikummi off his ankles, and then the power drained from the monster. The gods then resumed their attacks on Ullikummi, and Teshub was eventually able to ascend the throne again.

Also, according to mythology, Jupiter performed his lust on a stone. This received the rock, and with much groaning Agdistis is born in the tenth month. Agdistis was a hermaphrodite monster in Phrygian mythology. Legend has it that it was born when some seed of the great god Zeus fell on Mount Ida, just where the Mother Goddess Cybele was sleeping.

The book of Zerubbabel (7th century) describes: “I said: ‘I see a marble stone in the form of a very beautiful woman.’ And he told me: ‘This stone is the wife of Belial (Satan) and when Belial sees her , he shall lie with her, and she shall conceive and bear him Armilus, and she shall be the chief idolatry. And he (Armilus) will take his mother out of the house of shame, and all the places and all the nations will worship this stone and offer sacrifices and libations there.” Zerubbabel or, from the Greek spelling Zorobabel, was the leader of the first group of Jewish exiles to return from the kingdom of Babylon.

In the Caucasian Nart Saga, it is related: “Seeing the beautiful Satana (the mother of the Narts) washing clothes on the riverbank, a shepherd across the river poured his semen onto a stone from which nine months later the child Soslan emerged.”

The site of Gobleki Tepe

Stone circles are also associated with births. Even today, childbirth can be one of the most dangerous moments in a woman’s life. In ancient times this would have been even more the case. Matriarchal societies would have tried to create the safest possible environment for expectant women.

By placing individual markers or posts within a permanent calendar circle of immobile stones aligned with annual points, a due date could be predicted and prepared. A due date is still being set so that women can prepare.

A stone circle is sometimes interpreted to describe the cosmic egg or womb, as well as the serpentine loop associated with the ouroborus and eternity. Could stone circles have been places where nomadic people went to use the larger stones as a yearly calendar and then get a smaller individual stone marker indicating when to start traveling?

This can also be the reason for potholes on stones (which may indicate a personal moon phase or shadow sign for women to help them remember time spans). Perhaps these are the roots of astrology. A girl could be told to look at the stars and when the ‘Taurus’ or ‘Aries’ (or other zodiac sign) moves to a certain place in the sky, this would be the time when her baby would arrive. Before that, she must return to the stone circle to give birth there (under the guidance of the shaman).

In many ancient birthing traditions, even today, drumming and singing are used to support the rhythm of the birth process. Could this be the reason for unusual stone properties that occur with stone circles?

Because often the acoustic properties of the stones are special, for example in Gobekli Tepe. They vibrate when hit. Gobleki Tepe (Navel Hill, 9500-8000 BC) is a mountain shrine that is the oldest known temple complex in the world at around 11,500 years old.

Could Gobekli Tepe be a place where nomadic peoples went to get help during childbirth? It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since at least 2018.

In stone-carved image of a woman in Gobleki Tepe

Klaus Schmidt believed that Göbekli Tepe is a Stone Age mountain reserve. Radiocarbon dating and comparative stylistic analysis indicate that it contains the oldest known megaliths ever discovered and that these ruins may represent the remains of a temple. Schmidt believed that what he called a “cathedral on a hill” was a place of pilgrimage that attracted worshipers as far as 150 kilometers away. This is reminiscent of Stonehenge, in my article King Arthur and Stonehenge I described that this would have been a place where people came from enormous distances to seek healing. A kind of Lourdes of antiquity.

According to the theory, small stone circles were used to determine when it was time to go to the main sanctuary. Here, the pregnant women were able to give birth under the supervision of experts in the safest possible environment.

Mên-an-Tol is a megalithic monument in County Cornwall consisting of a stone ring flanked on either side by a menhir. These are probably no longer in the original place, they would have been part of a stone circle. The stone with the hole would have been the keystone of a Neolithic tomb. So it could possibly be a stone with a ‘Seelenloch’. The passage through the hole in the middle stone could in this case symbolize a transition from this world to another, either death or new life.

Today, this megalithic edifice still plays a role in folk beliefs and folk medicine. The stone with the hole is said to have medicinal and supernatural effects. Women would get pregnant if they crawl back and forth through the devil’s eye seven times on a full moon.

Çatal Hüyük (7400 BC) in Turkey is arguably the largest and most advanced Neolithic site yet uncovered, and is considered a major turning point in the development of civilization from nomadic life to permanent communities that eventually developed agriculture. The settlement also contains one of the finest examples of Neolithic art and religious symbolism. In 2012, the site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The word çatal is Turkish for ‘fork’, while höyük means ‘hill’, so the name roughly means ‘forked hill’. A famous find from this site is the mother goddess of Çatal Hüyük (c. 6000-5500 BC), today on display at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara. This terracotta statue would represent a woman sitting on a throne during childbirth.

One creeps through the devil’s eye; symbol for a transition from this world to another, either death or new life.
Mother Goddess of Çatal Hüyük Interpreted as a woman during childbirth.

Stones also play a role in the desire for a child. Women who could not have children threw a coin at the Menhir of Ceinturat (height: 3.6 meters). It is the largest menhir in Haute-Vienne, France. This menhir is said to have been built by God himself by turning the distaff that the Blessed Virgin had left in the moors into a block of granite. If the coin hit a body part, she became pregnant. The ritual still exists today. An article has appeared on the hunebed news cafe about this menhir: click here.

Throwing coins occurs in more places, for example at the Manthal Buddha Stone in Pakistan. It is a large granite rock (engraved with an image of Buddha probably dating from the 8th century). Above the engravings is a notch. According to popular belief, one had to throw coins at the notch. If the coin remained in the notch, a son would be born.

The Manthal Buddha Stone

In Germany, women slipped off the Kapitstein at Grossenkneten when they wanted children. At new moon they went to the Breiten Stein in Vischow for the same purpose. In Brittany, men rubbed their bellies against a menhir. Barren women swallowed gravel in Nohant-Vic (from a megalith).

A story about children is also linked to a large stone near Urk. The Ommelebommele stone is located in the water off the coast. This is where the children came from. The babies are said to have been taken from Egypt by the stork and hidden under the stone until they were retrieved. The father rowed with vroemoer (the midwife) to this stone to get the baby. First they had to row to Schokland and ask an unkind man for the key to get the baby.

The folktale about the Ommelebomelesteen also says that the mother-to-be is glued to the bed with a nail by her right foot to prevent her from leaving the bed. This is again reminiscent of the Kukanilok in Hawaii, here the woman was held on the stone during childbirth using notches in the stones.

De vroemoer, a statue from 1998 by Piet Brouwer that depicts the folktale of the Urker Ommelebommelesteen.
Own photo of the Poppensteen in Bergum. The stone is now located in the built-up area of ​​the village in Friesland.

The name “Steinerner Schlüssel” (“stone key”, a dolmen south of Apeldorn and north of Meppen in Emsland, Lower Saxony) is explained by popular belief. It was also believed here that babies could be extracted from the stone. You just needed the right key to open the stone.

In Bergum there is a similar story about the ‘Poppestien’ (baby stone), here the stone has to be lifted. Other stories say that if a woman wants a child, all she has to do is knock on the stone. In 2007 the stone was in danger of being lost, it sank into the ground. With great difficulty the stone has been lifted; no children were found, the newspaper article stated. The stone was not originally located within built-up areas. There is now an information sign next to it. Hendrik Bulthuis wrote a Frisian poem about this stone, this is the translation:

There at the beginning of Burgum
That is well known to you
There is a very thick stone
At Jan Krol in the meadow
When the tower rooster crows
Bring the stone up
And our Burgumer mother gets
Then her little baby

In a larger area in the north of the Netherlands it used to be said that children come out of the stones. Examples are the stone at the church tower of Ezinge and the children’s stone at the Kromme Kolk south of Leek. At Boelenslaan there was also a large stone where the babies came from. There are also four stones at the northern door of the church of Rinsumageest. They were used for official announcements, they are court stones. According to a legend, the children of Rinsumageest were born under these stones.

In Oenkerk lay a group of cobblestones. Goblins are said to live below these who, in exchange for a new suit of clothes, could deliver a baby from under the rock. In southeast Friesland and in Drenthe, parents told their children that babies came from under megaliths (hollow barg, hollow mountain). Sometimes there were very specific stones; small children come out from under the blue stone, it was said in Smallingerland. In Haren, babies came out of the church wall. Was there a pre-Christian stone here before?

Were the bloodstones used for bloody sacrifices or should they be more associated with fertility and childbirth? Are they just stories not to teach children at a young age how children really come into being and come into the world? Or are they stories from times long gone, when a baby was actually given birth here?

In any case, there are many differences, but also similarities in the stories that are told worldwide. Knocking or drumming on a stone, hammering nails (or needles or pins) into the stone or mother’s foot. And a key to open the stone occurs several times. Would there also be a key to open “De Gesloten Steen” near Utrecht?

Marinda Ruiter

Ommelebommelestien off the coast near Urk, father and vroemoer had to row here to get the baby from under the stone.
First the key was fetched in Schokland to be able to open the room.

This is a translation of a Dutch article, sources can be found in that article: kinderstenen

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