As it is Friday 13th March we thought we would share one of the historic superstitions we have here in the Beamish collections, a witch or hag stone.
These stones were found in fields or often by the river or sea with natural holes formed in them, so they are quite rare. They would traditionally have been hung on a piece of strong threaded through the hole. Such stones were considered a most effective defence against witch-craft, they were often found hung inside the door of cottages or in cow byres. For cottagers in the 1800s their cow was their most valuable possession and so were fiercely protected as they were thought to be particularly susceptible to the evil influence of witch-craft. In rural communities of the North these were still frequently used through the early 1900s.
When a cow was considered to have been ‘witched’ it was customary to put salt on her back. If this didn’t work the cow would be sold to a neighbour with the money being passed literary over the cow’s back. Apparently this invariably cured the problem!