Myth and mystery of the Blarney Stone has been shattered by new research
The Blarney Stone is a block of stone which was built into the battlements of Blarney Castle in 1446 AD. The legendary stone is shrouded in myth and mystery and according to tradition, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness. For hundreds of years it has been believed that the stone had mythical or important historical origins. However, new research has just shattered the myths surrounding one of Ireland’s most iconic tourist attractions.
Blarney castle, which is located about 8 kilometres from Cork in Ireland, has attracted millions of people from all around the world eager to kiss the Blarney stone and receive the “gift of the gab”. Kissing the famous stone involves leaning over backwards on the parapet’s edge, supported by an assistant, and grasping onto some iron bars to access down to the stone.
Kissing the Blarney Stone. Photo source: Blarney Castle
For centuries, legends have abounded about the origins of the stone. One early story involves the goddess Clíodhna. Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, the builder of Blarney Castle, appealed to Clíodhna for assistance when faced with a legal problem. She told MacCarthy to kiss the first stone he found in the morning on his way to court, and he did so, with the result that he pleaded his case with great eloquence and won. Thus the Blarney Stone is said to impart "the ability to deceive without offending." MacCarthy then incorporated it into the parapet of the castle.
Other myths tell that it was a stone brought back to Ireland from the Crusades – the ‘Stone of Ezel’ behind which David hid on Jonathan’s advice when he fled from his enemy, Saul. A few claim it was a segment of bluestone taken from Stonehenge of that it is the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses.
The proprietors of Blarney Castle list several other explanations of the origins of the stone on their website. The stories listed include one suggesting that the stone was presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 in recognition of his support in the Battle of Bannockburn. Another legend says it was Jacob’s Pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. It was also said to be the deathbed pillow of St Columba on the island of Iona. Legend says it was then removed to mainland Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.
View of the Blarney Stone from the ground. Photo source: Wikipedia
Sadly it appears that the origin of the Blarney Stone is not as glamorous as the legends make out. A team of geologists from the University of Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum studied a historic microscopic slide, taken from the Blarney Stone in the 19th century, and discovered that the Blarney is a limestone made of a certain type of mineral calcite which is unique to the region of Ireland in which it is based.
"This strongly supports views that the stone is made of local carboniferous limestone, about 330m years old, and indicates that it has nothing to do with the Stonehenge bluestones, or the sandstone of the current 'Stone of Destiny', now in Edinburgh Castle," said Dr John Faithfull, curator at the Hunterian museum.
While many myths and legends have been shown to be based on real events of the past, it appears that this is one legend that has its roots in fanciful imagination and creative story-telling. However, it unlikely to do anything to stop the tourists flocking to the famous site in the hope that the stories about the stone’s magical properties may in fact be real.
Featured image: Kissing the stone in 1897, before the safeguards were installed. Photo source: Wikipedia