Dolmens and Devilish Myths of the Wéris Megaliths, Belgium’s Stonehenge
Chocolate, waffles, Manneken Pis and the defeat of Napoleon are among the many things Belgium is famous for, but it also has prehistoric remains such as the Wéris megaliths situated in Wallonia. The stone megaliths are all that remain of what was once a major Neolithic burial site and they are unique in Belgium.
The Myths and History of the Wéris Megaliths
The megaliths and other standing stones at Wéris date back to 3000 BC. This is known as the Chalcolithic age. It is regarded as part of the Neolithic or late Stone Age, but some copper was also used at this time.
The probable builders of the stone structures were part of the Seine–Oise–Marne (or SOM) culture, a prehistoric society that emerged in what is now Southern Belgium and Northern France. They were identified as a separate and unique culture based on their pottery, but it seems that they had extensive links with other cultures. This is apparent in the design of their various monuments such as those at Wéris, which are similar to examples found in Brittainy in France. However, they also have definite local characteristics.
The megaliths, known as dolmens, were likely used for elite burials and probably also for ceremonies involving ancestral worships. Several individuals may have been buried together in these structures.
Although only two dolmens have survived in the area, it is believed that there were once many more. Many of the stones used in Forêt de Soignes, the so-called Belgian Stonehenge, came from the quarry in the Wéris region.
La Pierre Haina, the plug that seals the entrance to hell (photo by House of Megaliths in Wéris )
It is not known when the megaliths were abandoned, but there are many local myths told about these as well as the other unusual stones in the area. They are often referred to as the stones of the ancients and one of the stones, known as La Pierre Haina , is regarded as the seal that closes the hole to hell . To stop the devil pushing the stone away and escaping to wreak havoc on the local population, they paint the stone white, the color of purity, at each autumnal equinox.
Should the devil escape, there is a place for him to rest in the forest after a long night of tiring antics. According to local folklore, Le Lit du Diable , or Devil’s Bed, is where the devil sleeps until the dawn, when he returns home.
The Mysterious Wéris Megaliths
The megalith consists of three prehistoric monuments and stones that once belonged to other structures. They follow the natural landscape and are aligned with notable landmarks and with each other and were once part of a ceremonial landscape. Unlike other Neolithic monuments these structures were not aligned with the sun and the stars. The Wéris megaliths extend to a distance of 5 miles (8 kms).
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La Lit du Diable, where the devil rests before returning home at dawn (photo by House of Megaliths in Wéris )
At the northern end near a spring is the Tour Menhir, a large standing stone. The Northern Dolmen is an impressive ‘gallery type tomb’. It consists of two standing rectangular stones, topped with a flat capstone. The massive capstone is broken and is believed to weigh a staggering 30 tones. The dolmen has an antechamber where once a stone-lined avenue led into the structure. This monument was extensively restored in the early twentieth century.
The other important megalith in the district is the southern Dolmen. It is another gallery type of structure and it is about 30 feet (10 meters) long. One of the most interesting things about this monument is its ‘ spirit hole’ , a small aperture in the stone where offerings to the ancestors or spirits were made.
Menhirs d'Oppagne at night, Wéris ( Anneke / Adobe Stock)
In the long-stone field stand three menhirs and to the southwest are a further three menhirs. The quarry where the stones were hewn can also be visited. It provided the puddingstones that were used in the construction of the dolmens. A ‘ramp’ that was used for moving the stones is still visible.
Visiting Wéris Megaliths in Belgium
The megaliths are located outside the picturesque village of Wéris, in the province of Luxembourg, southern Belgium, where a museum in the village is dedicated to the megaliths and their construction. There is public transport to the village which had many attractions. The megaliths can only be visited on foot or, as many prefer, by bicycle. There are several trails through beautiful scenery leading to the monuments.
Top image: Dolmen and menhir in Wéris in Belgium Source: wim / Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan
Cauwe, N., Vander Linden, M., & Vanmontfort, B. (2001). The middle and late Neolithic . Anthropologica et praehistorica, 112, 77-89
Daniel, G. E. (1967). The megalith builders of the SOM . Palaeohistoria, 199-208
Available at: https://ugp.rug.nl/Palaeohistoria/article/view/24938>
Kaulins, A. (2003). Stars, Stones and Scholars: The Decipherment of the Megaliths as an Ancient Survey of the Earth by Astronomy . Trafford Publishing
Available at: https://books.google.ie/books?hl=en&lr=&id=A7MKwOWT0zgC&oi=fnd&pg=PR2&dq=weris+megalith+belgium&ots=34leyrVCAN&sig=Wi60PU_SHAziozgl_o_D3eDT-XY&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=weris%20megalith%20belgium&f=false