Bullaun Stone: OS Grid Reference – NM 286 244
Also known as:
- Clacha Brath
- Day of Judgement Stone
- Druid’s Stone
- World’s End Stone
On this curious, broken, basin-shaped rock — thought by some to have at one time played a part in an old cross whose remains are in the Abbey Museum — are two deep cup-shaped hollows, in which were once “three noble globes of white marble” that were used for oracular purposes and were said to have originated in druidical rites. In Miss McNeill’s (1954) survey of the island, she tells that:
“near the edge of the path leading to St. Oran’s Chapel, there lies a broad, flat stone, with a slit and a cavity on its surface. Here there used to lie some small round stones which pilgrims were wont to turn sunwise within the cavity; for it was commonly believed that the ‘brath’, or end of the world, would not arrive until this stone should be worn through.”
The small stones that were once in the Brath were ordered by the Church to be thrown into the sea; but local folk replaced them with three other small stones, maintaining the traditional rites of this stone until they eventually stopped sometime in the 19th century. But in Major-General James Forlong’s (1906) study, he tells of a somewhat earlier mythic origin to this old stone, saying:
“In Iona the Druids are said to have made the flat altar stone called Clachan-nan-Druidhean, or Druid’s Stone, the stone of fate or of the last day, with round stones fitted into cup hollows on the surface, which the pious pilgrim turns round. The world will end when the stone is worn through. The Culdee monks preserved this monument.”
And what little is left is still preserved to this day. Though I still reckon the “end of the world” motif was something grafted onto and over an earlier myth by the incoming christian cult, as they did tend to invert or impose badness where once was heathen magick.
Forlong, J.G.S., Faiths of Man – volume 1, Bernard Quarithc: London 1906.
Holder, Geoff, The Guide to Mysterious Iona and Staffa, Tempus: Stroud 2001.
McNeill, F. Marion, Iona: A History of the Island, Blackie & Son: Glasgow 1954 (4th edition).
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian