It was a 1/2 mile walk from the house we rented to Manasota Beach. The streets of our quiet subdivision were narrow & sandy. Much like our northern two-tracks. A short, sandy walking trail at the end of our street connected the subdivision to Manasota Beach Road. From there, it was a short hop over the draw bridge to the key and Manasota Beach Park.
The drawbridge takes you over Lemon Bay onto the key. Manasota Beach offers free parking to guests to the right of the drawbridge. There is also parking for boat trailers accessing Lemon Bay complete with boat & kayak launches on the left.
Informational signage greets you as you enter the park. We're both history & nature buffs so we enjoy learning all we can about an area. Florida does a great job with their signage and all of the parks we visited were clean & well kept. But it was the sidewalks at Manasota Beach that really grabbed our attention. Look at all those shark teeth embedded in the concrete. All found on Manasota Key. AMAZING!!
Big teeth too! I'm a size 9 clodhopper!
A wooden boardwalk leads to a short sandy path to the beach. It was just off this path that we spotted our first Gopher Land Tortoise. Gopher tortoise are protected so if you see one - Do Not Disturb!
All of the beaches on Manasota Key are beautiful. Manasota Beach is no exception. We visited from mid-November to mid-December & were easily able to find parking at all of the beaches on the key. Peak season begins after Christmas so plan to arrive early to secure parking.
A Day At Manasota Beach
The sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico are spectacular. People gather on every beach near sunset to watch the amazing show. And as the sun dips below the horizon they applaud. The whole beach erupts into cheers. Groups of strangers called together for a few moments every day with no other purpose than to admire & appreciate Mother Nature. It's really something to experience.
"The Most Beautiful Sunsets Are The Ones We Share"
We enjoyed fabulous weather for the entirety of our stay. High 70's to mid 80's every day with warm, salty gulf breezes & cool nights for restful sleep. I can't think of a better way to end our fun-filled days than a beautiful sunset...
Followed by a relaxing stroll home.
Over the bay, under pink & blue skies.
“Let the sea breeze blow your hair,
let the sunset bring tranquillity to your heart,
let the distant places you travel allow you to explore yourself.”
We started collecting Hag Stones last year after finding a few on the beaches of Manasota Key. We didn't know anything about them. We both thought these hole-y rocks were interesting so we added them to our collection bags. We later learned these unusual little rocks have many fantastic stories to tell.
Hag Stones are considered sacred objects by many worldwide. But, what exactly are they? A Hag Stone is any stone that contains a natural hole through it. The holes are formed through the process of erosion, specifically moving water. The rock itself can be made up of any natural stone material, it's the water that provides the magic. Because Hag Stones are created by moving water it's believed these stones retain a portion of water's magical properties.
We call them Hag Stones but one might wonder why we wouldn't choose to refer to them as "Fairy Stones" instead. After all, Pillywiggins are a type of fairy. The simple answer is, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet but stones with many names can get confusing!
Menilite Opal or Goddess Stones are also known as "Fairy Stones." As you can see, they are very different from Hag Stones & and wouldn't you know, we collect both! Menilite Opal is found in ancient glacial deposits. It's an unusual mineral formation composed of calcium carbonate & clay. The Algonquin People of Northern Quebec named them "Fairy Stones" but many people around the world believe these stones possess good luck as well. Carrying them is thought to provide protection, prosperity & many other blessings. But, that's another blog post. Let's get back to Hag Stones.
Legends & Folklore
Other legends claim Hag Stones were created by a twisted mass of salivating snakes. Their spittle hardened into stone "eggs" that were peppered with holes from the serpents' tongues. Even Ireland, where legend says Saint Patrick drove out all of the snakes, shares a similar tale of magical rocks that transform into poisonous eels when thrown into water.
If snakes aren't your thing, how do you feel about chickens?
Did we just find a Kurinyi Bog???
We tend to laugh off folklore these days as silly or archaic. Even so, people believed in the power of Hag Stones for thousands of years. Many still believe in their magic today relying on them to provide protection, good fortune & peace of mind.
Hag Stones in History - The Stone of Oden
The Stone of Oden was a giant Hag Stone that once stood on Scotland's Orkney Islands near the Standing Stones of Stenness. Believed to be erected around 3,000 BC, The Stone of Oden was 8 foot tall by 3-1/2 foot wide with a hole so large men could place their arms through it. And that's exactly what they did for thousands of years. Men & women would grasp hands through the large hole when swearing oaths to one another. It was believed this action would make the oaths unbreakable and it extended to the promises of marriage as well. Another ritual involving The Oden Stone required passing a person's body through the hole for protection & increased strength. This was especially important when entering a new phase in life.
Unfortunately, the Stone of Oden was destroyed in 1814 by Captain W. Mackay. Mackay was an outsider that leased the land the stone sat upon. He grew irritated by the number of visitors that came to view the stone so he destroyed it and used the broken pieces to build a byre. (A byre cow shed.) Mackay was also responsible for toppling one of the Standing Stones of Stenness. Mackay's actions so incensed the locals they attempted to burn his house down several times. When they realized MacKay's plans included destroying the remaining Standing Stones of Stenness they got the law involved and a "Sist and Suspension" was issued to stop him. You can visit the Standing Stones of Stenness to this day!
Before we get into the magic of Hag Stones, there are two things one must know.
Hag Stones offer protection to the bearer when worn as an amulet.
They protect the wearer from hexes, curses & the evil eye.
If and when the stone breaks it has served its purpose protecting you.
Return the broken stone to Mother Nature immediately.
(And look for another!)
Hag Stones offer protection to people and objects alike.
They were commonly used to protect children, livestock & sailing vessels.
Hag Stones hung across thresholds stop evil spirits from entering the home.
Hanging a Hag Stone from any object offers protection to that object.
But be careful where you place them!
Hag Stones hung from bedposts may increase fertility & conception.
Ancient peoples believed Hag Stones could cure most ailments.
And protect the wearer from snake bites.
Wearing or carrying a "Pledge Stone" will help you to identify liars!
You will always recognize the truth when it's spoken.
"Fairy Stones" offer protection from the Fay.
Foolish humans believe they give the possessor control over fairies.
(Be warned - Never attempt to mess with the Fay!)
Stringing several Hag Stones together amplifies their power!
Legends also assert that peering through the hole of a Hag Stone allows one to "see the unseen." However, what is seen depends largely on the the location where the Hag Stone was found. Stones found near the ocean may allow one to see mermaids while stones found in the woods may help you see forest spirits. Others, including Italian folklore, claim Hag Stones allow one to see into the fairy realm.
Although we didn't see mermaids, tree spirits or fairies we certainly felt the magic of these enchanting stones. Calling to us to pick them up & peer through their holes. Tickling our curiosity, demanding we learn more about them.
Why of course, Hag Stones contain a bit of magic.
Everything in nature does!
We have a ton of fun in Florida but one activity tops our list by far. Almost to the point of obsession. Early morning, afternoons, even a few nights! We could be found scouring the beaches of Manasota Key hunting for fossilized shark's teeth. We never left the house without a sandwich baggie to hold our treasures. It was our favorite Florida fashion accessory.
It's surprisingly easy to find shark's teeth once you get "the eye" for it. They wash up on every beach along Manasota Key. From Englewood to Venice, we found a handful of teeth at every beach we visited. I even found one on the doggy beach!
Here's one I found just laying on the beach. You can see it's a different color. Teeth feel different too. They're very smooth. But you can't just go by color alone. There are little black stones & tons of black specks on the beach too. The black specks are tiny fragments of teeth that are so worn from the sea they resemble sunflower seeds. I look for the bottom of the tooth, where it fits into the gum. That's what would catch my eye. That little crook in the tooth was a dead giveaway.
We picked up a few shell scoops at the local beach shop to help us catch the teeth rolling around in the surf. They work well, if you want to carry them. I prefer to walk the beach with only a baggie in hand. I do wade a little, up to my knees, but that's about as far as I will go. (A little gal like me can be mistaken for bait in those waters!) I'm fine with being a chicken. I have the best luck just strolling the beach anyway.
Jason is a different story. We caught the shark's tooth bug last year & Jason has been dreaming about finding a Megalodon tooth ever since. It's possible. They find several in the area. So for his birthday last year, in anticipation of our Florida trip, I bought him a bathyscope to aid in his search. As you can see, it really helps in viewing the seabed. It can be a bugger to hold down in the waves though.
So, what did we find?
Back at the rental we would empty our baggies into a colander to rinse them. Then the fun began! Sorting through our treasures to see what goodies we had found. Between the two of us, we had several varieties of shark teeth, several pieces of fossilized bone, pretty shells, beach glass & hag stones.
We had several really exciting finds but they're all pretty amazing when you think about it. All of the shark's teeth & bone fragments are fossilized. They range in age from 10,000 years old to 75 million years old! Manasota Key is a barrier island that separates the Gulf of Mexico from the brackish waters of Lemon Bay. This area was once a shallow sea that served as breeding grounds for ancient sharks including the giant Megalodon.
We were told there is a shelf about 2 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico where divers find a lot of Megalodon teeth. Others hunt the rivers & creek beds that feed Lemon Bay. We also met a fossil hunter who claims his best finds are inland on construction sites. He had several large Meg teeth and a prehistoric bear claw to prove it.
Jason thought he had found another Megalodon tooth but after further inspection we decided it was fossilized bone. The bone fragments are most likely from marine mammals but it is possible some fragments may be human. Sea levels have changed over the millennia & now cover lands once occupied by Native peoples.
The photo on the right shows what just might be our best finds of the year. Any guess as to what they are? You may be surprised. I know I sure was. Those friends, are prehistoric equine teeth that have been fossilized. What?! Yes indeed. Prehistoric horses once roamed North America. I know, I know. I thought horses came over with the Spanish Conquistadors in the late 1400's to early 1500's too. The Spaniards re-introduced horses to the Americas long after prehistoric horses went extinct.
Working our way toward a mouthful of horse teeth!
Do we wish we were back in Florida hunting shark's teeth? You bet! But as we watch the snow fall in Northern Michigan, we have our collection of treasures to play with & wonderful memories of our fun at the beach to "tide" us over until next year.