The Baalstone

A friend of mine who is a local author named Frank Parker lives about a mile and a half from Ludchurch at nearby Goldstych Moss, in his garden can be found a strange stone which is known locally as the Baalstone.

This strange stone has a connection with the Beltaine fires which are thought to have been named after the God Bel or Baal, the Bale fires would have at one time in the past been burnt at the changing of the four seasons to commemorate the sun passing through the heavens.

The God Baal or Bel was later changed to Beelzebub by Christians, and priests of Baal in the Bible were known to have carried out human sacrifices by throwing their victims into a fire. Baal’s origins are in the Middle East, possibly Palestine, and he was the Bull God who wore horns and was the husband of Astarte who became Diana. The Bullstone at Cluelow Cross not far from Macclesfield forest has the same derivation of the name, and is connected by the fire worship of Baal to keep the seasons in their right order and is also associated with Baal the Bull.

A face can be seen in the Baalstone

The four seasonal times when the Beltaine fires were, and still are burnt, were the festivals of the Druids and May the first, a traditional fertility celebration when the phallus maypole is danced around is known as Beltaine.

In 1769, Thomas Pennant, a traveller through Celtic Scotland said that on the first of May the Herdsmen of every village held their Bel-tien, a rural sacrifice. They cut a hole in the turf and made a fire and cooked oatmeal, each person would break off one ninth and throw it on the fire, “for the preservation of my horse”, they would say, then another piece for the preservation of another animal and so on. Another writer described an eighteenth century ritual, eggs and milk were boiled together to make custard, which is then eaten with special cakes, presumably consecrated and cooked over the Beltaine fires. This cake had knobs on it and pieces would be broken off, and it is supposed that this tradition stems from the manner that the victim would be chosen to be sacrificed on the fire, whosoever broke off the chosen piece would be roasted on the fire.

There is a field to the north of Tittesworth below the Roaches that was known as custard field. There was a tradition in the past of rolling cakes down the hills here at Beltaine, and it is believed this was previously an act whereby wheels of fire were rolled down hills. It is often said that the Kerridge hills where White Nancy now stands is a place where the Beltaine fires had used to be burnt.

Inside the Baalstone ancient charcoal has been unearthed and it has been speculated that this may have originated from the Beltaine fires that were once burnt in this area.

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