There are many tales and legends that have lingered over the centuries surrounding the Callanish Stones – the ancient stone circle ritual site on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. When we visited Callanish as children, I recall a tale my Mum had told us of a scorch-marked stone, two young lassies in love with the same lad, a witch and and evil belt that would raise the hairs on your neck! When I returned to the Isle of Lewis after so many years I was looking forward to finding this mysterious stone again and learning more about the history and folklore of the area.
A Tale of Lovesick Lassies and a Witch
As the story goes, there were two young lasses who both loved the same man and in desperation one of them consulted a local witch to find a way of winning the heart of the one she loved over her rival. The witch gave her a belt bestowed with evil powers that would ensure whoever wore it would be taken by the witch’s “master” never to be seen again.
The lovesick lassie took the belt but after having second thoughts about using it on her rival, she wondered what to do to dispose of the evil object and the wicked powers it contained. Desperately wanting to rid herself of the magic belt and the evil powers it held, she took it to the great circle at Callanish and secured it around one of the stones. It is said that the stone then exploded in flames and hellfire. The young lass ran home in terror and fainted on her doorstep. The following morning she gathered all her courage to return to the circle to find the stone on which she had clasped the belt laying broken on the ground with black scorch marks where the belt had been. These are said to be the marks which are still so very prominent on this mysterious stone at Callanish!
Finding the Scorched Stone
As we explored the Callanish Stones on this recent visit, I kept my eyes open searching for the stone with the scorch mark. If I could find it maybe I could validate this distant memory of mine of the last time I had walked this ancient site with my Mum, Dad and Sister. And maybe this ancient tale my Mum had shared would tie me back to that magical time in my childhood when we would visit these ancient sites on Lewis together as a family.
On finding the stone and laying my hand upon the black ring scorched into it’s cold figure I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement. That memory had been real, and I had just travelled thousands of miles back to this remote place to validate it. This experience also gave me such a feeling of connection to the oral history tradition of my ancestors from which the tale originated, and of course to my dear late Mum who passed away only two years after our last visit together to Callanish.
Verifying the Tale
It had been 30 years since I had heard my Mum tell this tale on our last visit to Callanish and I wondered if my memory was correct or was I imagining this spooky legend? I asked all my relatives in Stornoway and none of them seemed to be familiar with the story, although they did acknowledge there was a rich tradition of folklore in the area and such a tale would not be out of the realm of possibility. I searched online and finally found this article “Strange Secrets of Ancient Scotland” that recounts the legend almost exactly as I had remembered it. Once I returned back to Canada I was excited to ask my Dad if he remembered the story about the scorch-marked stone at Callanish. “Oh yes” he replied. I then asked him to tell me the tale as he recalled it. Dear Old Dad relayed the tale to me exactly as I had remembered Mum telling it, and as had been described in that one and only source I had found online. Mission accomplished!
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