CORNWALL'S ENIGMATIC MONUMENT
Men-an-Tol, Nr. Morvah, Cornwall
The Men-an-To - an enigmatic monument - sits mysteriously on gorse carpeted moor-land and consists of two standing stones, together with a rough, round middle stone the centre of which is pierced by a hole approximately forty five centimetres in diameter. It is from this that the monument gets its name, Men-an-Tol, meaning simply "stone of the hole."
No-one is really certain of the exact age of this curious stone, although there is general consensus that it dates from the Bronze Age, approximately three thousand to four thousand years ago.
Its original purpose is even more difficult to pin-point and theories range from its having been an astronomical observatory for estimating the rising and setting of either solar or lunar events; a chambered tomb of which just the holed stone or entrance now remains; or even a stone circle from which only this ragged handful of stones has survived the ravages of time.
William Borlase, the 18th century Antiquarian was convinced that the holed stone was used by the "Cornish Druids" to "…initiate, and dedicate Children to the Offices of Rock-Worship, by drawing them through this hole, and also to purify the Victim before it was sacrificed."
But folklore and legend amply compensate for the lack of hard historic fact by giving the stones certain curative properties and it has long been held that the stones, particularly the holed middle stone are imbued with the power to cure certain ailments in young and old alike.
When the William Borlase visited the site in 1749 a "very intelligent farmer of the neighbourhood" told him about the "many persons who had crept through this holed Stone for pains in their back and limbs."
It was because of this usage that the middle stone also became known as "the Crickstone," since people would crawl through it in the belief that it would act as a remedy for a crick in the back.
The farmer also told how "fanciful parents at certain times of the year, do customarily draw their young children through in order to cure them of Rickets."
The holed stone also appears to have possessed the ability to act as an oracle and there was a long held local belief that if two brass pins were laid across each other and left on the top edge of the middle stone, they would come by a curious predictive mobility whereby they could answer any questions put to them.
Answers would be discerned by how much and in which direction the pins had actually moved when the questioner returned to the site.
Men-an-Tol is a weatherworn remnant of a distant past that still manages to retain its secrets.
Come to it in the early silence of a winter’s day, when a carpet of crisp frost surrounds it, and you can truly feel the spirit of the place as the magic of the stones draws you closer to the mysterious and forgotten people, who long ago left their enigmatic mark on this gorse-clad Cornish moor.