In ancient times, the relationship between a king, the ruler of the land, and his kingdom was frequently physically symbolized by a connection between a king and a stone. Among such stones symbolizing this relationship are the blue stones.
Special stones are found throughout Europe, many mark the central pont of many cities. These stones have been long associated with kingship. The stones were often embedded in a mosaics or set into walls and roads. Shaped stones were the most primitive representations of the earth goddess, and therefore the land.
The origin of the stone is still in debate. But, John Palmer, a British artist and blue stone ehthusiast, after many years of research belives he has discovered the role of the Dutch blue stone. It played an important role in medieval society, and has its roots in a pagan past.
This particular stone, Palmer found, has been used since the Middle Ages and was imported from the Ardennes region of France. That region is believed to have been named after the pagan goddess Arduinna who was once worshipped there. The stones, it is thought, suggest the survival of pagan beliefs into the Middle ages.
An Ardennes blue stone, known as the Witch’s Stone, presently resides in the marketplace of Lier, in northern Belgium. The site was originally marked by a sacred oak beneath whose branches open-courts were held. The Druids loved the oak and often issued judgments among the trees. (See Druidism)
There is speculation that these stones as well as the circular mosaics which surround them are stylized echoes of prehistoric stone circles, since such circles often had central stones as well.
Judicial importance seem attached to the stones, for they mark the places such as open-air courts and assembles were held during the Middle Ages and possibly even earlier. They were sites where oaths were taken. Others served as seats for visiting judges and other dignitaries coming to the area.
Throughout the Netherlands blue stones also mark the centers of many cities. The center of Schoonhoven is marked by a thirteenth- century blue stone embedded in a bridge over one of the canals. Both the bridge and the canal beneath it lie on the east-west, north-south axis. The stone is the focus of a mosaic which serves as a landmark signifying the center of the city.
This mosaic is made from cobblestones which form two concentric circles, each of which is subdivided by 16 spokes radiating out from the central blue stone. Each readiation is measured by the traditional unit of measure, the “rijnlandse roed” or rod.
In Nijmegen, a rectangular stone replaced the original blue stone, and marks the principle crossroads of the city. Up until the 20th. century funeral processions past this central spot.
Three blue stones, hexagonal in shape and three feet in diameter are found in Leiden. The oldest stones marks the intersection of two crossrods. One of the roads leads to the pre-Christian mound in the town associated with the Celtic god of light, Lugh, from whom Leiden derives its name. The stones also marks the four corners of the Medieval town.
The Leiden blue stones hold a fascination for the local people. Dutch folklore tell that they were held magical and sacred until as late as the 17th. century. A.G.H.