A giant, out of anger at the lords of Herzberg Castle, would have tried to throw the Sacrifice Stone on the Eisenberg of Wallenstein Castle at Herzberg Castle to destroy it. But the stone got stuck in his sleeve and fell to the ground near Willingshain, in Hesse. The five grooves in the stone are said to have come from the giant’s fingers. And about 250 meters southwest of the Sunderburg (near Schöngeising in Upper Bavaria) the so-called Opfersteine (“sacrificial stones”) lie in a small hollow in the high forest. They are also called “bloodstones”. Two nearly parallel, slightly reddish grooves can be seen.
In the previous article about sacrificial stones, stories about sacrificial stones, I described various sacrificial stones in the Netherlands, Germany and some well-known stones from Slavic mythology. Fingers of a giant, claws of the devil, the footprint of a saint. Sometimes it’s just a hoof print in a stone, and sometimes they bleed (if you pierce them with a pin). Folktales make it clear in various ways that these are special stones, and sometimes there are actually holes (also called cups) or other special shapes.
In my article on child stones there are examples of stories that women pricked the stone to conceive and who built the megaliths in the Iberian Peninsula already gave the example that sometimes a stone was licked in order to improve breastfeeding.
According to certain theories, the cups were placed to collect rock dust. This also occurred in much later times. It is narrated from Bohemia how young craftsmen went to their churches and scraped brick dust from the church walls. The flour was worn around the neck in a leather pouch and served as a talisman to protect against injury or death.
This also occurs in the Netherlands, a phenomenon that we know here as ‘scratching marks’ (or ‘scraping marks’). We regularly find such scratch marks on the walls of churches and other religious buildings, but also on gravestones, town halls and city gates, for example. They consist of slits and cup-shaped cavities.
When researching the website De Belemiet, a website about geology, scratch marks were found at 482 locations. Of these, 173 are in the Netherlands, 217 in Germany, 71 in Belgium, 7 in Luxembourg, 1 in Denmark and 13 in France. But they also occur in other European countries and even beyond. They found several locations in the Netherlands and Belgium where the powder is still used: the Sint-Gerlachuskerk in Houthem/Sint Gerlach (NL), the Sint Gerlachuskerk in Banholt (NL), the Sint Catharinakerk in Montfort (NL), the Divine Zaligmakerkerk in Hakendover (B), the Saint Evermarus chapel in Rutten (B) and the Saint Mort chapel in Hailot (B).
In Duitsland worden de sporen Wetzrillen, Teufelskrallen en Elfenmühlen genoemd. De wetstenen met slijptekens zijn vooral te vinden op middeleeuwse kerken, op grafstenen, maar ook bij fontein troggen. Er is geen schriftelijk bewijs, geen informatie, van de oorsprong van de slijpgroeven en ronde markeringen. Men kan dus aannemen dat het aanbrengen van dergelijke tekens in het geheim gebeurde en niet aangemoedigd werd in het bijzijn van de Kerk. De meeste slijpgroeven en cirkelvormige markeringen zijn opzettelijk aangebracht en bevinden zich op de buitenmuren bij deuren (binnen het bereik van uitgestrekte armen).
Naast deze kerken en kapellen waar het gebruik van het steenpoeder nog steeds actueel is, leverde literatuuronderzoek meer plaatsen op waar in het vrij recente verleden de mensen gewijde aarde en steenstof konden krijgen. Details zijn bekend over de Kilianskirche in Bietigheim-Bissingen (deelstaat Baden-Württemberg). De kosteres vertelde dat de krabsporen zijn ontstaan door het winnen van steenpoeder waarmee schapen gezegend werden. Het poeder werd over de schapen gestrooid als die in processie rond de kerk werden geleid.
In Egypte wordt door gidsen bij de oude tempelcomplexen verteld dat de bootvormige gleuven daar het gevolg zijn van vrouwen die steenpoeder hebben afgekrabd. Dat poeder vermengden ze dan met voedsel waarna ze het opaten om vruchtbaarder te worden. Steenpoeder dat op deze manier van kerkmuren en andere religieuze gebouwen was gewonnen, was een heilig poeder. In het volksgeloof was het een echt medicijn. Verder kon het ook gebruikt worden om het kwade af te weren.
Today, other ways have been found in various churches. Sand is blessed and this is distributed to believers. In the 15th century Saint Mort chapel in Hailot, believers can still take sanctified earth with them to mix with the animals’ feed. These would then be free from diseases and it is said that cows would even give more milk. The earth is found in the chapel in a hole under the altar around the top of a large stone that may be a menhir. However, no certainty can be given about this, because the stone has never been properly examined. It is unknown how deep it is underground. It could very well be a megalith, because not much further is the ‘Pierre de Diable’ (devil’s stone). This is a 4½ ton heavy stone that we can safely count among the menhirs. Was Haillot scraped from the stone in ancient times? And was a chapel built over this later?
A German study mentions that the stone dust was used in funeral rituals by scattering the stone dust in the grave. It was also used on a newly married couple: by sprinkling the stone dust over them as we now do with rice or flowers. It was also used on newborns or women who had recently given birth.
Cups can be found in the Frisian town of Rinsumageest. Not in the church wall this time. The bowls can be found on two stones of a stone wreath (small granite boulders on the edges of the grave field). So they were not ‘just’ stones or boulders. The site of the church must have been an important cult site in ancient times. According to stories, coins were placed in the cups. There are four other special stones at this church: the stones next to the door of the church were already mentioned in the article about children’s stones, here the children would be born.
A well-known stone on Rügen is the Findling of the market town of Bergen. Until 1996, the stone lay about 60 meters south on the edge of the church square. It was rediscovered during construction work under the ancient remains of the foundations of a building built about 1700 as “Schlusserey” and serving as a prison until the mid-19th century.
An older wedge hole was found on the outer edge of the stone, which could be used to attach a pedestal. The highest court on Rügen was the Bergener Stapel. In the Middle Ages, the Stapel was the “stage” (often a court stone) from which the judge pronounced the verdict. This princely dish was held weekly in the open air on the market square in front of the cemetery. It can be deduced from this that the boulder was the judgment stone of Bergen in the early Middle Ages.
The Quoltitz sacrificial stone, also on Rügen, was always called a sacrificial stone by the islanders. Due to the many traces of human processing, it has stimulated the imagination of the islanders early on and the stories have been passed down from generation to generation. These sagas and legends have been gratefully adopted by numerous local researchers and travel writers since the dawn of Romanticism (at the end of the 18th century). The adjacent cemetery, which no longer exists today, and the nearby stream, once known as “Bloodbek” (blood stream), made the site almost perfect as a place of sacrifice.
The traces of human work on the Quoltitz Sacrifice Stone include numerous small indentations with a diameter of 5 to 6 centimeters called “bowls” or “cups” (called “blood grains” on Rügen). These cups are of very early origin and should be classified as a cultic ritual event that cannot yet be clearly explained scientifically. The second thing to notice is a trench about 12cm wide (and just as deep) across the stone on the northwest side. Archaeological research disagrees about its provenance. Some see it as an attempt to divide the stone, others attribute a ritual meaning to it.
Ingrid Schmidt asked whether the Slavic place name Quoltitz can be derived from kval (Old Norse), kwaljan (Germanic) and quelan (Old High German) meaning manslaughter, pain, violent death or torment. But was there really a sacrifice here? It could be that the ground rock flour served as a kind of medicinal powder, meaning to sick people or sick cattle. Was it just a means to get rid of pain?
Then the passage grave of Qualitz, oriented north-south and excavated and reconstructed in 1966 by Ewald Schuldt, could have a similar meaning. It is located in the district of Rostock in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. It was found in a round boulder hill and has been given number 371 by Ernst Sprockhoff. The complex was built between 3500 and 2800 BC. Two of the capstones have cups (on one 5 have been found, the other has 122 pieces). Photos of this dolmen and drawings that clearly show the pans can be found on Willem Donker’s page with materials. About 130 meters further is the Ganggrab von Katelbogen, pictured at the top of this article.
The “Brillinge stones” or the “Brillinge Altar” in Sweden, as it is called in an old inventory list, is a bowl stone of unknown date in the north of the Swedish city of Uppsala. It is a so-called sacrificial stone because of the more than a hundred small pans (called lvkvarnar in Swedish, fairy mills) on the flat top of the stone. These Älvkvarnar are 3 to 7 centimeters in diameter and 0.5 to 2.5 centimeters deep. A small cemetery has been found southwest of the stone.
It is suspected that the boulders that form the foundation of the church of Heemse were part of a sacrificial site. This place was originally a Saxon sacrificial site. The first wooden church was built around 800.
There is a large boulder in front of the church. It is also suspected that it was a Germanic sacrificial stone. There is a legend about this that tells of a young man who was to be sacrificed here and that Saint Lebuinus prevented this.
In Oldenzaal there is a special stone on the market square. Merchants were not allowed to trade in the market until they had “passed the great stein.” It is believed that the stone, originally standing on the Tankenberg, was a site associated with the Germanic goddess Tamfana. The stone was probably moved to the center of town to avoid the persistent pagan practices of the early Middle Ages.
According to Tacitus (Annales 1,51), Tamfana (or incorrectly Tanfana) was a goddess of the Marsians, a Germanic tribe. According to the account of Tacitus, Tamfana is the earliest record of a name of a Germanic deity. Tacitus wrote of the destruction of a temple at Tamfana. The passage is one of the few that contradicts Tacitus’ own statement in Germania that the Germanic tribes had no temples.
“Germanicus devastated a distance of fifty miles with fire and sword. No age, no gender found pity. Both profane and sacred places, including temples so famous among those tribes (of the Marsi), which they call the sanctuary of Tamfana, were razed to the ground.”
A great feast was celebrated when the Romans struck. The festival may either be related to the date of the autumnal equinox (in the year September 14, 24, 25) or it may have been a harvest festival.
Wilhelm Engelbert Giefers suggested that Tanfana derived from tanfo, cognate with Latin truncus, and referred to a grove on the site of Eresburg, cognate with the Irminsul (this sanctuary was destroyed by Charlemagne, as described in megaliths in the moonlight). A.G. de Bruyn, a scholar of Oldenzaal folklore, mentioned splitting the name into Tan and fana on toponymic grounds and because of a postage stamp from 1336 found near Ommen (showing a woman with a fir tree flanked by a sun symbol and a feline creature and a bird). He suggested she was a moon or mother goddess, perhaps related to the Carthaginian goddess Tanit. This goddess is also found in Tas-Silġ (see place of the giants; megalithic temples in Malta).
The Horkenstein in Dalhausen, Germany, is thought to have been used in early history to mark the solstices, or as a sacrificial stone for the sacrifice of humans or animals (as indicated by a ‘blood groove’). According to folk tales, the devil took the stone from the east to kill Saint Liudger, but dropped it here when he was crossed by a missionary. According to another legend, after the Varus Battle, Roman prisoners of war were executed here by a giant named Horcus. There are several attempts to interpret the name itself, such as Högr, Old Norse for “sanctuary”, or Eorcanstan, Anglo-Saxon for “sacred stone”, or horkos, Old Greek for “oath”. From time to time, a ghostly figure is said to have appeared here at night at the old location by the Wihekeln (“sacred oaks”).
A sacrificial stone can also be found at Stonehenge. This sacrificial stone, the name of which is misleading because it is easily confused with the altar stone, is currently located in the center of the northeastern opening of the ring wall, so to speak, at the exit of the complex. This green sandstone most likely comes from Wales, where there are several deposits of such a rock.
The audio guide that leads visitors around the monument notes that this stone probably stood upright and that the red spots are not blood (which would have long since been weathered and washed away) but inclusions of iron oxide.
Sometimes the sacrificial stones are associated with butter or fat. Examples have already been mentioned in megaliths in the moonlight. An information board about the Butterstein at Hohenlangenbeck now stands by the church and it is linked to the story of a butterstone that once lay in the direction of Püggen (near the vanished town of Feldmark). The story in short: To pay tribute to a bride, a coachman stepped on a stone “like butter” and left a footprint. The town of Feldmark is gone, as is the Butterstein. But one woman said “there is a butterstone at the Beetzendorf castle ruins, maybe it’s the same one?”.
The Butterstein Beetzendorf (in Saxony-Anhalt) is a pan stone, possibly the remains of a dolmen. This stone is no longer in its original location, but can now be found in the Schlosspark. Grosssteingrab Tannenhausen is also called Botter, Brood un Kääs (Butter, Brot und Käse or in Dutch butter, bread and cheese). ‘Bûter, brea en griene tsiis, what that net sizze kin is gjin oprjochte Friis.’ If you do not live in Friesland, you may have never heard this statement, but it is familiar to every Frisian.
It could be the end of your life if you couldn’t pronounce this sentence, because in the fight against the Dutch, it was tested in this way whether you came from Friesland. In Ostfrieland it is therefore the name of a dolmen. They were once two separate dolmens, part has been restored. About Botter, Brood un Kääs it is told: A giant was buried near Tannenhausen, and he was given a piece of butter, a loaf of bread and cheese to take with him to the underworld as provisions for the journey. However, over the millennia, the three gifts have turned to stone and still lie there.
Carn Menyn in the Preseli Hills is also a butterstone. Carn Menyn is located on the top of the Preseli ridge, close to the Bedd Arthur stone area, both are mentioned in King Arthur and Megaliths. It is sometimes called Carn Meini (“rock of stones”), but this is a modern corruption of the original name.
According to a legend, the striking indentation on one of the stones of the dolmen Heidenkrippe in Erxleben, in which rainwater collects, must never dry out. Photos can be found in an article by Willem Donker; Heidenkrippe. The term “heathen manger” goes back to this notch. Here a Christian general is said to have told his soldiers for a battle against the pagan Wends: “We will slay our enemies, as sure as I will water my horse from this stone.” He then spurs his horse and it kicked a hoof-deep hole in the still soft stone. The battle would be victorious and the commander could now drink water from the depression in which the rainwater had collected. This legend has also been handed down in the form of a ballad from 1827.
A variant of this legend also tells of a battle against Wenden, but revolves around two Christian brothers fighting together in battle. When one of the brothers is wounded, the other carries him to the Gentile manger, but has nowhere to wash his brother’s wounds and quench his thirst. When he finally kneels on the stone and prays to God, water suddenly flows from the cavern in large quantities.
In The Tripartite Life of Saint Patrick from the 9th century, a deity is mentioned Cenn Cruach, and his cult statue consists of a central figure covered in gold and silver, surrounded by twelve bronze figures.
As Patrick approaches, he lifts his crozier, the central figure falls face down, with the crozier’s imprint left in it, and the surrounding figures sink into the earth.
The “demon” that inhabits the statue appears, but Patrick curses him and throws him to Hell. Jocelin’s 12th-century Life and Acts of St. Patrick tells much the same story. Here the god is called Cenncroithi, interpreted as “the head of all gods”, and when his image falls, the covering silver and gold crumble to dust, with the imprint of the crozier left on the bare stone.
Crom Cruach is described as a wizened god, hidden by fog, and is said to have been worshiped since the time of Érimón. An early High King, Tigernmas, is said to have died along with three quarters of his army while worshiping Crom on the evening of Samhain, but the worship continued until the cult statue was destroyed by Patricius (St. Patrick) with a sledgehammer. Was this a menhir surrounded by a stone circle? Were pre-Christian carvings hidden here by turning the stone over to hide the figures, and was the stone Christianized by portraying a crozier in it? Were the smaller stones buried? In spite of everything, did the pagan worship continue and was later decided to destroy it?
Sacrifice stones are found worldwide. Often there are old stories attached to it and you can see traces of blood, fingerprints or claws of a devil. Sometimes this was because the stone would be as soft as butter. In some cases it is precisely a holy or (pre-Christian) god who is associated with the stone. Nails were hammered in or holes made by other means, resulting in stone dust. Sometimes the cups were used because water could be drunk from them. This was disaster-resistant or pain-relieving, sometimes people and animals became more fertile because of it. Fat or butter was also smeared in the cups, which sometimes served as an ointment (and would also be medicinal) and in other cases as a sacrifice for the supernatural beings (such as elves).
The pre-Christian customs still exist. In some cases, the prehistoric stone has ended up in or under a chapel or other Christian building. And in certain cases the church wall is now the place where the stone dust is scraped, sometimes even sand is taken from another place and blessed. But even in this time, the ancient stones are still being scraped.
This is a translation of a Dutch article, sources can be found in that article: Verhalen over offerstenen – 2