The Versatile Hagstone


The serpent’s stone of old, often called a witch’s or hag stone, was said in antiquity to have been made by a mass of snakes whose saliva congealed into a stone with a hole through it, made by the serpent’s tongue. It was said by Pliny that the Druids held it in high esteem. Able to cure disease and quell nightmares, its hollow passage a window through which one might see beyond the veil.

“There is a sort of egg in great repute among the Gauls, of which the Greek writers have made no mention. A vast number of serpents are twisted together in summer, and coiled up in an artificial knot by their saliva and slime; and this is called the serpent’s egg. The druids say that it is tossed in the air with hissings and must be caught in a cloak before it touches the earth.” Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History

The adder stone takes the name hagstone in the British Isles, and though in Ireland, where there are no serpents to speak of, its origins are more mundane, being simply a stone polished by moving water that wears a hole through its center, its power is none the less extraordinary.

As a ward a hagstone is hung above one’s bed, or even the bed of a farm animal believed to be haunted by night visitors. It is said to quell nightmares and to keep away malefic influences from child and farm animal alike. A common tool of horsemen, cunning craft, and witch. The term “hag” in its name comes from the concept of being “ridden” by the night-hag, a once common term for the mora or sleep paralysis.

To those who ride across the hedge the hagstone has other abilities, as a periscope through which we can view the goings on of entities not normally within our visual field. By placing it to the eye it becomes a window into that other realm.

Worn on a cord either around the neck or at the wrist the hagstone is able to influence your dreams beyond just warding away unwanted influences. It is a talisman capable of unlocking the path to the sabbat. In his essay “What is Traditional Craft?” Andrew Chumbley gives a traditional Anglian spell used to obtain the journey to the sabbat during self initiation. A simple cord of leather through the stone’s hole and bound to one’s wrist. In this way the hagstone anchors the practitioner into the stream of the other and one ride’s the current that flows naturally toward the sabbat.

Additionally a hagstone can be used to ward the edge of a space, clearing it for ritual use and chasing away whatever boggart or wight may be lurking in the corners.

The history of the use of hagstones goes back millennia, with archaeological evidence of their use in ancient Egypt. They are an incredibly versatile tool, one that travels easily in this modern world as well.

Through their water connection they are particularly useful for weather and sea magics. Their alignment to spirits of water depths and running streams makes them even more of a bridge to that other landscape. Sailors used them in their folkmagic attempts to protect from storms, nailing them to the bow of the ship.

But where does one find one? Can they be purchased? Incidentally, a hagstone is one of the rare items that should ultimately be useful even if purchased/traded from another, as long as it has genuinely been taken from running water when found. Though from the perspective of folkcraft the witch would be advised to go out and find one themselves, a tool found by the witch’s cunning being incredibly more powerful than anything gotten secondhand.

The stones vary in substance, often softer shales and slates making up the easier to find articles along river beds. But as well one might find a hard granite, flint, or quartz stone beaten by the ocean waves along some abandoned beach. The hole must be naturally made by the water’s movement, worn by friction and time.

Hagstones can be incorporated into witches ladders, spirit bindings, ritual clothing, and talismanic objects. They make exceptional ‘worry stones’ that one just carries in their pocket.

The witch’s stone is an incredibly versatile and often overlooked tool in the arsenal of the craft practitioner. While one may have several there is usually a bond with a particular stone that lets it function more personally. Worn on the body or used in a charm an adder stone is practically a must for any witch’s bag of tricks.

– from “Wyrdwood: Essays Toward an Understanding of the Folkwitch” by E.H. Wormwood, forthcoming on Alkahest Press