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W.Y. Evans-Wentz - The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries - The symbolism of coins



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The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, [1911]

On April 17, 1909, at Carnac, in a natural fissure in the body of the finest menhir at the head of the Alignement of Kermario, I found quite by chance, while making a very careful examination of the geological Structure of the menhir, a Roman Catholic coin (or medal) of St. Peter.

The place in the menhir where this coin was discovered is on the south side about fifteen inches above the surface of the ground. The menhir is very tall and smoothly rounded, and there is no possible way for the coin to have fallen into the fissure by accident. Nor is there any probability that the coin was placed there without a serious purpose; and it is an object such as only an adult would possess.

An examination of the link remaining on the coin, which no doubt formerly connected it with a necklace or string of prayer-beads, shows that it has been purposely opened so as to free it at the time it was deposited in the stone. Had the coin been accidentally torn away from a chain or string of prayer-beads the link would have presented a different sort of opening. But it would be altogether unreasonable to suppose that by any sort of chance the coin could have reached the place where I found it.

I showed the coin to M. Z. Le Rouzic, of the Carnac Museum, and he considers it, as I do, as evidence or proof of a cult rendered to stones here in Brittany.

The coin must have been secretly placed in the menhir by some pious peasant as a direct ex voto for some favour received or demanded. The coin is somewhat discoloured, and has probably been some years in the stone, though it cannot be very old. And the offering of a coin to the spirit residing in a menhir is parallel to throwing coins, pins, or other objects into sacred fountains, which, as we know, is an undisputed practice.


Very much first-class evidence suggests that the menhir was regarded by the primitive Celts both as an abode of a god or as a seat of divine power, and as a phallic symbol (cf. Jubainville, Le culte des menhirs dans le monde celtique, in Rev. Celt., xxvii. 313). As a phallic symbol, the menhir must have been inseparably related to a Celtic sun-cult; because among all ancient peoples where phallic worship has prevailed, the sun has been venerated as the supreme masculine force in external nature from which all life proceeds, while the phallus has been venerated as the corresponding force in human nature.

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