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lean over backwards

Blarney Stone

The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle, Blarney about 8 km from Cork, Ireland. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of gab (great eloquence or skill at flattery). The stone was set into a tower of the castle in 1446. The castle is a popular tourist site in Ireland, attracting visitors from all over the world to kiss the Stone and tour the castle and its gardens.

The word blarney has come to mean clever, flattering, or coaxing talk.

Origins

The stone is believed by some to be half of the original Stone of Scone, and said to have been presented to Cormac McCarthy by Robert the Bruce in 1314 in recognition of his support in the Battle of Bannockburn.

The proprietors of Blarney Castle list several alternative explanations for the origins of the Stone and its supposed powers, all of which suppose that the Stone had previously been in Ireland but was then taken to Scotland and returned to Ireland in 1314. The stories they list include:

  • the Stone was the stone that Jacob used as a pillow, and was brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah
  • the Stone was the pillow used by St. Columba of Iona on his deathbed
  • the Stone was the Stone of Ezel, which David hid behind on Jonathan's advice, while fleeing from King Saul, and may have been brought back to Ireland during the Crusades
  • the Stone was the rock that Moses struck with his staff to produce water for the Israelites, during their flight from Egypt
  • in Ireland, the Stone was known as the Lia Fáil or "Stone of Destiny", part of the king's throne, with mysterious powers
  • the stone's powers were revealed to the McCarthys by a witch who had been saved from drowning.

Ritual

The ritual of kissing the Blarney Stone, according to the castle's proprietors, has been performed by "millions of people", including "world statesmen, literary giants [and] legends of the silver screen." The kiss, however, is not casually achieved. To touch the stone with one's lips, the participant must ascend to the castle's peak, then lean over, backwards, on the parapet's edge. This is traditionally achieved with the help of an assistant. Although the parapet is now fitted with wrought iron guide rails and protective crossbars, the ritual can still trigger attacks of acrophobia.

Prior to the installation of the safeguards, the kiss was performed with real risk to life and limb, as participants were grasped by the ankles and dangled bodily from the height. In the Sherlock Holmes radio dramatization "The Adventure of the Blarney Stone" (first broadcast March 18, 1946), a man attempting to kiss the Blarney Stone falls to his death. Holmes' investigation reveals this as a murder; the man's boots having been surreptitiously greased before the attempt.

William Henry Hurlbert wrote in 1888 that the legend of the stone seemed to be less than a hundred years old at that time, suggesting the tradition began late in the 18th century, or early in the 19th.

Legend

It is claimed that the synonymy of "Blarney" with "empty flattery" derives from a circumstance in which Queen Elizabeth I, while requesting an oath of loyalty to retain occupancy of land, received responses from Cormac Teige McCarthy, the Lord of Blarney, which amounted to subtle diplomacy, and promised loyalty to the Queen without "giving in". Elizabeth proclaimed that McCarthy was giving her "(a lot of) Blarney", thus apparently giving rise to the legend.

Echoing the supposed power of the stone, an Irish bard of the early nineteenth century, Francis Sylvester Mahony, added a number of (humorous) lines to Richard Milliken's "The Groves of Blarney". (Right)

According to tradition at Texas Tech University, a stone fragment on display since 1939 outside the old Electrical Engineering Building is a missing piece of the Blarney Stone. How this was determined is unknown.

References

External links

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