Canna’s cursing stone
A graveyard on the Isle of Canna is the site of an exciting find for the National Trust of Scotland. The bullaun stone, or ‘cursing stone’ is 25cm in diameter, dates back to AD 800 and is engraved with a cross. It is the first example ever to have been found in Scotland, with Ireland a much more common location for the stones.
Cursing stones are linked to early Christian standing crosses, one of which stands on Canna. There is a worn hole at its base, into which the new find perfectly fits. Bowl-shaped lower stones have previously been found elsewhere in Scotland, including on Canna, but this is the first discovery of a top stone.
In the early-Christian period, Canna belonged to the monastery on Iona. The island was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1981 by Gaelic scholar John Lorne Campbell.
Katherine Forsyth, an expert in the history and culture of early Celtic-speaking peoples, based at the University of Glasgow, said the stones “date from the early Christian period but have continued to be used by pilgrims up to modern times. Traditionally, the pilgrim would recite a prayer while turning the stone clockwise, wearing a depression or hole in the stone underneath."
She added: "This exciting find provides important new insight into religious art and practice in early Scotland and demonstrates just how much there is still to be discovered out there."
Key stories include the thalidomide scandal in the 1960s, the exposure of Kim Philby as a Soviet double-agent in 1967, and the revelations about the Israeli nuclear programme in 1986. Further back, there is a letter from Charles Dickens, mediating in a dispute between his friend Edmund Yates and William Makepiece Thackeray; and the regular Freemasonry column, outlining the activities at various lodges.
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