Irish Folklore: Magic rocks, Bullán stones and curses (Part 1)


Given the amount of rock we have down in West Cork it probably comes as no surprise to find the occasional ‘magic’ or folklore-related rock. This is often the case where the stone has some essential feature (the shape, location etc.) that sets it apart from the other (many, many, many) rocks lying around.

This particular stone is a bullán stone found over Bantry way. Bullán stones are particularly fascinating as they’re usually associated with some particular local story. These usually relate how the stone was created or else the stone forms an essential prop (usually magical) to some other event. Of course, it’s not only in West Cork (or even only in Ireland) that you find bullán stones. There are plenty in countries such as France and Scootland as well.

Generally speaking, bullán stones are rocks that contain a cup shaped depression in it. Mostly, these tend to lie horizontal and collect rainwater but there are also examples where they appear on vertical rocks. The size and shapes of the stones vary immesely from place to place.

Of course, the truth is nobody really knows what the hell bullán stones were originally used for. Mostly, these stones date back to the Neolithic period so the reasons behind their function have been lost over the subsequent centuries /millennia.

As is often the case with impressive monuments though, subsequent populations incorporated them into their own rituals. Hence, the later Celts associated them with their traditions (particularly where water was collected in them). Subsequently, these ‘pagan’ rituals were also incorporated by the Christianity and it’s quite likely that the holy water basins found on entering and leaving a church was derived from this.