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 loved Brohard Beach & Paw Park the designated doggy beach in Venice, Florida but there's a lot more to love in this town. I mentioned the fishing pier at Venice Beach in our previous blog post. You can see the pier from the doggy beach. Venice Beach is an awesome spot to visit for the day but your four legged furry friends will have to stay home. No dogs allowed.
Free Fishing Pier at Venice Beach!
The Venice Municipal Fishing Pier is a 700 foot pier that offers "Free Fishing" to all Florida residents & guests. No fishing licenses are required to fish from this pier but Florida Fish & Game Laws do still apply. Anyone can walk out onto the pier. It's free & the view is amazing! Want to fish but lack equipment? No problem. There are poles available to rent & bait for sale on the pier. There's even a t-shirt shack!
The Venice Municipal Fishing Pier is located on Venice Beach in front of Sharky's on the Pier. Sharky's offers food, drinks & a view of the beach from a tiki lounge setting. There's a second restaurant for fine dining on property named Fins & a really nice gift shop too. You can find a lot of interesting information on the Venice Municipal Fishing Pier on Sharky's website including rules & regulations for fishing.
The doggy beach is just down the road from Sharky's & the Venice Fishing Pier and just beyond that is Casperson Beach. We really like Casperson Beach too. It's rocky but so beautiful. Helpful Hint - Be sure to poke around in the sand between the rocks. It's a great place to find trapped shark's teeth, corals & shells!
The Venice area has a long history. It was originally home to Indigenous People that inhabited this area 12,000 years ago! The Spanish occupied Florida beginning in the 1500's. However, the southwestern coast of Florida largely remained uninhabited wilderness. Then came American settlers in the late 1800's. They named the area "Horse and Chase" because the tree formations marking their fishing area resembled carriages. It was renamed Venice in 1888 by a settler named Frank Higel. He named the town after Venice, Italy because it reminded him of the canals there. There are many examples of Italian-style architecture here today.
I have never been to Italy so I have no frame of reference. Maybe that's why Venice reminds me of Charlevoix, Michigan. The drawbridges, shopping the downtown area, observing the action from a sidewalk cafe, it all felt like a beautiful summer day in Charlevoix to me. Even the street art is familiar. Venice just swaps out polar bears for mermaids. Can't say I blame them there!
LOL I found my doppelgänger in Venice, Florida! LOL
Here's a fun fact about Venice. From 1960 to 1992, Venice was the winter home for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. (That explains the drawbridge to Venice named Circus Bridge.) The circus left town when the railway went out but you can still find a few remnants here & there. One being Tito Gaona's Flying Trapeze Academy, where you can learn to "float through the air with the greatest of ease."
Earth Treasures is our favorite shop to visit in Venice & it's perfectly named. Inside you'll find all sorts of treasures from the earth. Ancient fossils, crystals & mineral specimens, jewelry, nature art, shark teeth of all types & sizes, preserved 'gators & cane toads too! Most items are for sale but they do have fascinating display pieces as well. We highly recommend visiting if you're in the area. You can also visit Earth Treasure's Facebook Page online!
Ancient Hippopotamus Teeth (Fossilized)
Megalodon Tooth Compared to Great White Shark Jaw
Mammoth Tooth - Molar
Australian Cane Toad Leather
Need a few extra teeth to round out your collection? Earth Treasures has them at a great price. We picked up one of each for the kids on our list. Then grabbed one more set for the biggest kid of all - Jason!
Sea Pleasures & Treasures of Venice
Another shop we can't pass up is Sea Pleasures & Treasures of Venice. This shop has all of your vacation needs covered. T-shirts, hats, flip-flops, beach towels, postcards, beach toys & every type of souvenir imaginable. Sea Pleasures & Treasures is a great source for seashells, corals & shark's teeth too. But, what makes this shop one of our favorites is the incredible wall of fossils on display.
We were amazed at the age & beauty of Sea Pleasures & Treasures' extensive fossil collection. Not everything behind glass is for sale but they do offer a wide selection of fossils in a variety of price ranges. Of course, we would love to own the fossils with the heftiest price tags but we were happy with our purchases. And so were the kids on on our Christmas list!
We're home now & it's a balmy 6 degrees Fahrenheit on Valentine's Day.
I'll be spending my day snuggling on the couch with a box of chocolates.
Watching Live Cam Video Feeds of our favorite beaches on Manasota Key.
I hope your day is just as sweet.
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!