There were many traditional rituals
at the Mên-an-Tol, distinguished by its strangely pierced central stone
The Mên-an-Tol monument consists of four stones: one fallen, two uprights, and between these a circular
one, 1.3m (4ft 6in) in diameter, pierced by a hole that occupies about half its size. An old plan of
Mên-an-Tol (the name means stone with a hole in Cornish) shows that originally the three
stood in a triangle, which makes certain astro-archaeological claims for it difficult to support. They
could be the remains of a Neolithic tomb, because holed stones have served as entrances to burial chambers. Its age in uncertain but it is usually assigned to the Bronze Age, between
3000-4000 years ago.
Holed stones are found in many parts of British Isles as well as in other countries of the world; together with holy wells they have retained the ideas and customs associated with them more
tenaciously than any other type of ancient sites. Beliefs connected with them are remarkably similar
from the Orkneys to the far west of Cornwall.
Traditional rituals at Mên-an-Tol (centuries ago
known also as Devil's Eye) involved passing naked children three times through the holed stone
and then drawing them along the grass three times in an easterly direction. This was thought to cure
scrofula (a form of tuberculosis) and rickets. Adults seeking relief from rheumatism, spine troubles
or ague were advised to crawl through the hole nine times against the sun. The holed stone also had
prophetic qualities and, according to nineteenth-century folklorist Robert Hunt: If two brass pins
are carefully laid across each other on the top edge of the stone, any question put to the rock will
be answered by the pins acquiring, through some unknown agency, a peculiar motion.
From Mên-an-Tol, about five minutes walk further up the main lane, is
Mên Scryfa, a stone clearly
visible standing in the centre of a field over to the left.