How Hagstones Are Used in Folk Magic

Close-Up Of Hole In Stone
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Hagstones are rocks that have naturally occurring holes in them. The oddity of the stones has long made them a focus of folk magic, where they've been used for everything from fertility spells to warding off ghosts. The names for the rocks vary by region, but hagstones have been viewed as magical across the world.

Where Do Hagstones Come From?

Close-Up Of Stone At Beach On Sunny Day
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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.

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.

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

Hagstone Names and Orkney Legend

Hagstone in the garden
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Hagstones are known by other names in different regions. In addition to being called hagstones, they're referred to as adder stones or holey stones. In some areas, hagstones are referred to as adder stones because they're 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.

Additionally, hagstones are called "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 in which a woman and man stood on either side of the stone and "took hold of each other's right hand through the hole, and there swore to be constant and faithful to each other."

Breaking this promise was taken very seriously, with participants who did so facing social exclusion.

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 their neck. You can also tie them to anything else you’d like to have protected: a boat, cow, car, and so on. It is believed that tying multiple hagstones together is a great magical boost, as they’re fairly hard to find. Those lucky enough to have more than one should take advantage of the opportunity.

Pliny the Elder writes of the stones in his "Natural History:"

"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."

Hagstones for Fertility Magic

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.

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Wigington, Patti. "How Hagstones Are Used in Folk Magic." Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, Wigington, Patti. (2020, August 27). How Hagstones Are Used in Folk Magic. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "How Hagstones Are Used in Folk Magic." Learn Religions. (accessed June 10, 2023).