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Bullaun Stones


Within the confines of Addigoole Graveyard we encounter 2 unusual stones known as “bullauns” 
Situated to the west of the site of the ancient church ruin we find a large flagstone in which there is a deep, hemispherical depression about 3 inches in diameter.


This circular cup is about the size of an adult’s fist. Local tradition tells us that this is a “cursing stone” or bullaun (búllán in irish). Cursing stones, while clearly remnants of a pagan practice, are usually associated with Christian sites, such as those within the walled monastic enclosure at Addrigoole.  For centuries it was clear that this old bullaun stone continued to be invoked for its “maledictive” powers. 

Bullaun Stone at AddrigooleBullaun Stone at Addrigoole


In earlier times it was not uncommon to have a curse placed on an individual for some alleged misdeed. A widow’s curse or traveller’s curse were the most notable. The curse could be lifted by inserting a hand into a stone similar to the one in the cemetery. 
“If you wanted to put a curse on someone, you turned your hand anti-clockwise in the morning.” The power of the stones was such, however, that the person performing the malediction needed to be certain that the cause was a just one because if it was not, the curse “would rebound on you before night.”


Another “bullaun”  consisting of a large rectangular block measuring 22inches long, 16 inches wide and 12 inches high of weathered sandstone with a deep bowl-shaped depression 3 inches deep, hollowed out of its upper side is located to the right of the entrance gate at the graveyard. This is reputed to have been a holy water or baptismal font from the ancient church of Addrigoole. During the demolition of the stone gable of this chapel during the 1960’s it was inserted into the wall at Dalgin bridge. However in recent times it has been returned to its rightful home.   

Holy Water Font from Old Church at AddrigooleHoly Water Font from Old Church at Addrigoole

This stone probably predates Christian times and has its origin in the Neolithic or Bronze Age. It may have been used in pagan worship with perhaps offerings of milk, grain or even blood deposited in the bowl. However it’s more likely use may have been for grinding corn and only took on religious significance in Christian times. Other sources suggest that the rounded basins, now used as the cursing stones, were originally left by the early Christian missionaries as tokens of the faith for their newly converted congregations. Some of these stones were reputed to have healing powers as they were deemed to have been blessed by the saint or holy person. The rainwater that accumulates in the hollows is often said to have curative powers for warts or other similar ailments.


A strong local belief and tradition prevails that the stones should not be removed from the site or misfortune will befall he who dares to take them. There are many tales of the misfortunes that befell those that tried!