I always had an affinity for collecting stones; and so do several other members of my family. When I was a child my late dad would often take me to the nearby quarry, on the quest for interesting stones, which were carried there by the last ice age. I remember we found geodes, agate, all kinds of quart (the workers found two mammoth teeth in said quarry). He created an impressive rockery from the finds*. My mom and I are particularly keen on worry stones, and the stones you find in the fields that show human impact, such as flint that was worked for blades. To my shamanic-self stones have ‘mana’ as much as the trees in our garden, or the deer passing by the kitchen window.
*It was like a stone rescue mission this way they did not become ground up into sand for cement
In shamanic (in the widest sense of the definition) cultures objects, plants, animals can become sacred. Hierophany, is mainly determined by the shaman—apparently at random (Eliade, 1992). Shamanic cultures are not the only ones assigning sacred or spiritual meaning to stones. If you are more familiar with the bible, than anthropology, in Genesis 28:17 Jacob placed his head on a stone, had a dream (vision) of God and subsequently consecrated the stone. There are coronation stones representing rightful kingship, in a time where kings were still considered as ruling by divine right. Here in Scotland, in Kilmartin Glen—an area brimming with ancient history—we find standing stones, cup-stones, cairns and stone circles. If this stuff is too big for you: there are rune stones used for divination, and energy work, or healing crystals. So across the world, across times, across cultures, people have assigned the sacred or spiritual to stones.
Kilmartin Glen, Cup-Stone
I have a collection of pebbles from the coast, from rivers, and mountain tops. The sometimes smooth, sometimes sharp edges are calming and grounding. I made a dress (The Magic of Stones (2)) that has the colours of Scottish pebbles. When I wear it I think of our hikes, of the raven circling below, the smell of rain. On a bad day wearing this dress is grounding.
The lining of the dress are elephants, symbolizing inter alia strength, power and longevity. So to me both the stones and elephants are symbols of permanence, of peacefulness. In stressful and chaotic times a dress which symbolizes permanence and strength can feel like wearing armor. And maybe somehow, when making my clothes, I sew into cloth my own sacred meaning—making a shamanic dress?**
**but this is a whole other story
I see you still have your eyebrows raised. Go look at the first two photos in this post, as a keen hiker, I encounter people building small cairns, on tops of mountains, at holy wells, at ancient sacred places, or somewhere in the middle of the woods. Every time I pass one of these constructions I wonder what compels us to participate in their creation. Yes, on top of mountains they are likely a mark of achievement, but the two I posted above were in Kilmartin Glen and the other at Lindisfarn Castle (Holy Isle). Are they more than simply a tourist activity? Maybe we have the urge for a shared history—a shared narrative? For acknowledgement that ‘I was there’, ‘I belong’, with the tribe of everyone who was there before me, and who will come after? Maybe it is a silent prayer? An offering, acknowledgement to something we cannot craps? Maybe it symbolizes our want for something that is bigger than just our selves? A collective self? And we participate in this small ritual, and maybe all it does is make us smile for a moment, and pause for a moment, and hold silence, before the mobile phone buzzes again. But for me, my stones are mnemonics with mana.