The Unique Witch’s Stone

Most of the magic objects that occur in the Finnish museum collections are common in the sense that either there are similar objects in the collections or at least they are mentioned in folklore accounts. As to every rule, there are a few exceptions.

One of these exceptions is a so-called witch’s stone (Fi. noitakivi). The collection of the National Museum in Helsinki includes four objects that are labelled with this name, so it is not the name that is unique. However, what makes this stone special is its shape: it has been carved to resemble an animal’s head. Which animal, you might ask? That is not so easy to determine. Something with a muzzle, eyes pointing forward, and ears that are only small holes. Even though the mouth does not quite fit the interpretation, I would say that it is something belonging to the reptilian family, a snake or a lizard perhaps.

This so-called witch’s stone in the National Museum of Finland is unique among the Finnish magic objects. Photo: S. Hukantaival.

Another thing that makes this object interesting is a short remark about why it is effective. According to the information in the museum’s catalogue, the stone has been used to heal pain by pressing with it three times on the ailing part of the body. It heals pain because it “has been smeared with the blood of nine ravens”.

The form of healing depicted here is quite common and the part of the blood of nine ravens would fit the tradition, however, the unique shape of the object does beg some questions. Was this stone shaped by the healer or was it found somewhere looking like this (shaped by someone else, perhaps much earlier)? Was its use the innovation of one particular healer or are we missing information about this tradition? Finally, what if it did not belong to any tradition but was a scam? We may never know for sure.

The witch’s stone has come to the museum in 1914 from Artjärvi (nowadays part of Orimattila), but unfortunately the catalogue does not include further information on its user or donator/seller.

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