What is a Hagstone?

Close-Up Of Hole In Stone
Pierpaolo Sechi / EyeEm / Getty Images

In some magical traditions, particularly in older traditions of folk magic, you may see references to something called a hagstone. Sounds intriguing–but what does it actually mean? The hagstone is simply a stone that has a hole going all the way through it–a naturally occurring hole, mind you, not one that’s been drilled or manmade. 

Where Do Hagstones Come From?

Close-Up Of Stone At Beach On Sunny Day
Merethe Svarstad Eeg / EyeEm / Getty Images

In folk magic traditions, the hagstone has a variety of purposes and uses. According to legend, the hagstone got its name because a variety of ailments, all curable with the use of the stone, were attributed to spectral hags causing illness or misfortune. In some areas, it’s referred to as a holey stone or an adder stone.

A hagstone is created when water and other elements pound through a stone, eventually creating a hole at the weakest point on the stone’s surface–this is why hagstones are often found in streams and rivers, or even at the beach.

Depending on whom you ask, the hagstone can be used for any of the following:

Magical Uses

Hagstones are typically found near water. Merethe Svarstad Eeg / EyeEm / Getty

It’s not uncommon to see people in rural areas wearing a hagstone on a cord around the neck. You can also tie them to anything else you’d like to have protected–your boat, your cow, your car, and so on. It is believed that tying multiple hagstones together is a great magical boost–they’re fairly hard to find, so if you are lucky enough to have more than one, take advantage of the opportunity.

In some areas, these are referred to as an adder stone because they are believed to protect the wearer from the effects of snake bite. In parts of Germany, legend holds that adder stones are formed when serpents gather together, and their venom creates the hole in the center of the stone.

Pliny the Elder writes of adder stones in his Natural History, saying

"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."

For fertility magic, you can tie a hagstone to the bedpost to help facilitate pregnancy, or carry it in your pocket. In some areas, there are naturally holed stone formations that are large enough for a person to crawl or walk through–if you happen to see one, and you’re trying to get pregnant, think of it as a giant hagstone, and go on through.

There appears to be some regional differences as far as the naming patterns. In addition to being called hagstones, they're also referred to as adder stones, as mentioned above, and holey stones. There are even references to them as "Odin stones," which is most likely an homage to the large Orkney Island structure by the same name. According to Orkney legend, this monolith has played a large role in island courtship and wedding rituals.

"The parties agreed stole from the rest of their companions, and went to the Temple of the Moon, where the woman, in presence of the man, fell down on her knees and prayed the god Wodden (for such was the name of the god they addressed upon this occasion) that he would enable her to perform all the promises and obligations she had and was to make to the young man present, after which they both went to the Temple of the Sun, where the man prayed in like manner before the woman, then they repaired from this to the stone [known as Wodden's or Odin's Stone], and the man being on one side and the woman on the other, they took hold of each other's right hand through the hole, and there swore to be constant and faithful to each other. This ceremony was held so very sacred in those times that the person who dared to break the engagement made here was counted infamous, and excluded all society."