Pillar Stones

These are called gallauns by the peasantry. Ireland is full of them. There are several theories regarding their origin. They are variously supposed to be monumental stones, land boundaries, or idol stones. It seems to the writer that some were of a monumental character, some were land marks, and others represented idols. But at the present day one can scarcely be distinguished from another. When we meet one of those stones there will be great difficulty in determining whether it was a monument, a boundary mark, or an idol.

As monumental stones, they are the simplest form of all memorials, and are called in Scotland cat-stones, the word cath signifying a battle. Many, no doubt, were erected on the scene of a battle, or where some brave warrior fell.

Others, from the position they hold, would appear to be land marks of some kind. On Bere Island there is one exactly in the centre of the island, and we infer it was placed there to mark its centre.

Some of those stones, no doubt, were idols. We are told by some writers of the life of St. Patrick that he found the people worshipping certain idols in the form of stone pillars, some of which he overthrew, while on one, which he purposely left standing, he inscribed the name of Jesus.

The gallaun is still considered by many of the people to be something weird, to be let alone. E. A. Connell says there is little doubt that the pagan rites of incantation and divination had been practised at those stones. Up to a period not very remote they were consulted when anything happened to be lost or stolen, and in cases where men or beasts were supposed to be “overlooked,” and they were considered to be effective in curing consequences of “evil eye.”

Some of these stones bear cup and circle markings, some ogham inscriptions, and others are perforated.

The aperture in some is so large that a person can go through it. There can be no doubt that the aperture had a symbolical signification. It may mean that when a person went through he left behind his sin, or ailment. It might be also a symbol by which parties ratified a compact when they clasped hands through it. They are common in India, and devout people pass through them to be regenerated. About 50 years ago the people of Kilmalkedar, a place where ancient monuments abound, believed that a person could be cured of rheumatism, epilepsy, and other maladies, if he passed three times through those apertures. On the Arran Islands, where holed stones of about two inches wide were held in reverence, small articles of clothing of sick persons used to be drawn through in hope of their recovery. On Innismurry holed stones are called by natives praying stones, and women, about to become mothers, resort to them to pray for a happy issue.

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