|The Devil Stone|
|Beneath an ancient oak tree, in the North Devon village of
, lies 'The Devil Stone'
Legend has it that the devil dropped it while passing on his way to who-knows-where? Not many years ago the ceremony went almost unnoticed, but social media has attracted more visitors, with the occasional folk-groups, Morris-men and from time-to-time radio and TV. Going by various YouTube uploads, the story seems to get more outrageous with each telling, but the nearby church of St. Michael, like many of that name, is reputed to be built on a pagan site. The ancient oak may well be a descendent of an associated oak grove with further tales of ley-lines and such.
Whatever the truth of it, the stone is not local. Known as a 'Sarsen stone ' it is described as a conglomerate in a quartz matrix. Residents believe that it must be turned each year to keep the devil away, with tales of bad weather and failing harvests when the stone lay unturned during the two world wars.
This happens on November 5th, when, after ringing the bells, the bellringers turn the stone over, using crowbars. Since November in Shebbear is almost certainly wet, much sliding and grunting seems an essential part of the ensuing 'performance'.
The ceremony is well documented and reputed to be one of the oldest such rituals in Europe along with Up Helly Aa in Shetland and, locally, Hatherleigh Tar Barrels.