Many people who live by the sea or visit the coast once in a while may have found during their walks on the beach a so-called “Hühnergötter”, or “hag stone”, a stone with a natural opening in it.
Occasionally it may be found at riverbanks, as well, although it does not happen very often.
Slavs called them “Chicken God”, ascribed it some of the most magical properties, and finding such stone was considered great luck.
First of all, why Chicken God?
Traditionally, a holey stone had been hung over the entrances into the chicken coop for protection of chickens against foxes, weasels, and other predators, as well as potentially malevolent Spirits such as Kikimora and Dvorovoi, spirits of the yard who was known to have a dual, sometimes benevolent and sometimes malevolent nature.
Kikimora was a domestic spirit that caused trouble if you didn’t run an orderly peasant household. If you left your sewing and spinning things out overnight, she would tangle up your thread, she would wake the children at night, she would hide small household items, and break dishes as a punishment to lazy housekeepers.
Moreover, If you did not protect your chickens with a talisman of the Chicken God, she would upset the chickens, pluck out their feathers and in some cases steal them.
Interestingly, in absence of a stone with a natural opening in it, a neck from a broken pot or an old holey shoe did the same job.
Most researchers of Slavic culture and traditions consider Chicken God an apotropaic object, meaning that it had been traditionally seen as a protective amulet or charm against evil.
At the same a chicken coop was not the only place such stone could protect.
Holey stones were also placed inside the chicken coop near the perch or over it, as well as under the roofs of barns, or hung on a stake in the yard, always in a high place where they would attract strangers’ eye.
In Crimea, seven small chicken gods used to be worn around the neck for protection against evil eye.
Some believes also that the name Chicken God must be related to the “Cattle God”, the Slavic God of Animals Veles.
Christian St. Kuzma (Cosma) and Demian (Damian) were also sometimes called Chicken Gods as they were believed to preside over domestic chickens, and chicken meat had been traditionally eaten on their holidays. Ethnographers believe that a custom to honor Saints Kuzma and Demian is derived from the cult of Slavic God Svarog, a Patron of Hearth Fire and a Divine Smith.
In some places, Chicken God was made to resemble a Deity’s head with eyes, ears, nose, and drilled nostrils.
Chicken God stone, broken and no longer used objects such as holey shoe or a neck from a broken pot, are also signs of connection with the Otherworld.
The see-through opening in the stone is viewed as a female erotic symbol that helps it accomplish one of its functions, promote fertility in hens.
This opening also connects the holey stone and all of its replacements with the magic of hollow objects, magic of birth, re-birth, and transformation.
For instance, one of the ways to prepare a holy or blessed water, the water that is considered pure and possesses special magical properties for cleansing and healing, was to pour the water that is being blessed through the opening in the Chicken God or through the arch in the old horseshoe.
Somewhere, the holey stone by itself was also used in healing.
For example, in Tambov County, Russia, a cunning woman would cure a toothache by taking the patient into the chicken coop, whispering an incantation over a Chicken God, and then pressing it crosswise six times to the patient’s cheek.
Nowadays, Slavs believe that Chicken God has power to heal, protect, and also grant wishes.
They say that a small Chicken God laying in one’s wallet would increase the inflow of finances while, those who wish to experience true love or strengthen an already existing relationship, should keep two Chicken Gods in their bedroom, and if someone wants a very special wish to be granted all they have to do is to look through the opening in the holey stone, while focusing on their wish and say “All that is God’s is mine.”
Also in the UK locals have a name for these stones with holes in them: “Hag Stones”, “Witches Stones” or “Adder Stones”.
They also believed they possessed magical properties that would protect both man and beast from witch craft, disease and the evil eye. It was also thought that hanging one of these stones over your bed at night would protect you from “Hag-riding” which was a kind of nightmare where you awoke unable to move, as if a witch was sitting on your chest, now known as sleep paralysis.
With all this history, it is no wonder we still have an attraction to these curious stones with the holes in them!
Images from web – Google Research