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The Clyde Mystery

The following is from The Clyde Mystery by Andrew Lang:

XXV--My Misadventure with the Charm Stone

As Dr. Munro introduces the subject, I may draw another example of the survival of charm stones, from an amusing misadventure of my own. I was once entrusted with a charm stone used in the nineteenth century for the healing of cattle in the Highlands. An acquaintance of mine, a Mac--- by the mother's side, inherited this heirloom with the curious box patched with wicker-work, which was its Ark. It was exactly of the shape of a "stone churinga of the Arunta tribe," later reproduced by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen. {96} On the surfaces of the ends were faintly traced concentric rings, that well-known pattern. I wrote in the Glasgow Herald that, "if a Neolithic amulet, as it appears to be, it may supply the missing link in my argument," as being not only a magic stone (which it certainly was), but a magic stone with archaic markings. {97a} At the British Museum I presently learned the real nature of the object, to my rueful amusement. It had been the stone pivot of an old farm-gate, and, in turning on the upper and nether stones, had acquired the concentric circular marks. Not understanding what the thing was, the Highland maternal ancestors of my friend had for generations used it in the magical healing of cattle, a very pretty case of "survival."

Writing on October 19th, I explained the facts in a letter to the Glasgow Herald. A pseudonymous person then averred, in the same journal, that I had "recently told its readers that I had found the missing link in the chain that was to bind together the magic stones of the Arunta and the discs, images, and 'blue points' of the Clyde crannog man."

I never told any mortal that I had "found the missing link!"  I said that "if" the stone be Neolithic, it "may" be the missing link in my argument. Dr. Munro prints the pseudonymous letter with approval, but does not correct the inaccurate statement of the writer. {97b} Dr. Munro, I need not say, argues with as much candour as courtesy, and the omission of the necessary correction is an oversight.

However, here was a survival of the use of charm stones, and I think that, had the stone been uninscribed (as it was accidentally inscribed with concentric circles by turning in its stone sockets), my friend's Highland ancestors might have been less apt to think it a fairy thing, and use it in cattle healing.

I trust that I have now established my parallelisms. The archaic patterns of countries now civilised and of savage countries are assuredly parallel. The use of charm stones in civilisation and savagery is assuredly parallel. The application to these stones of the archaic patterns, by a rude race in Clydesdale, familiar with the patterns on rocks in the district, has in it nothing a priori improbable.

XXVI--European Parallels to the Disputed Objects - Footnotes


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