The Blarney Stone


The legend of one on Ireland's most famous landmarks, the Blarney stone, is one that is as unique and ironic as the land it comes from. For centuries, the stone has attracted visitors, drawn by its history, as well as the hope to gain the powers it is said to bestow on those who kiss it. The stone is believed to grant to those who kiss it, the power of eloquence, loquaciousness, and the skill of flattery. In short, it is said to give 'the gift of gab.' The word, 'blarney', over the years, has come to mean different things-to gently deceive, to talk a lot, or to be eloquent.

The stone is set in the Blarney Castle, a medieval castle located just outside of Cork, that is an old, historic monument in itself. Originally built in the 10th century as a timber hunting lodge, Blarney Castle was replaced by a stone and mortar castle in 1210. The castle became the ancestral home of the McCarthy family, who was also the king of Munster, for centuries until Oliver Cromwell forced them out in 1646. The McCarthy's were restored to the castle a decade and a half later, with the accession of Charles II to the English throne, but then forced out yet again just a few years later.

The irony of the stone is that it is said to allow those who kiss it to be able to spin words in such a way as to flatter and influence people. . .and also, perhaps, to tell tall tales. If that is indeed the case, then the history surrounding the stone certainly lends credence to this idea, as the history is certainly full of enough tall tales, fiction, and mythology to make anyone believe. Some of the stories that surround the stone are that:

  • it is actually the Stone of Destiny, possessing magical powers, and was part of the king's throne.
  • these magical powers were revealed to the king by a witch, saved from death by the king
  • it was Jacob's pillow, brought to Ireland by Jeremiah, the prophet
  • Jonathan hid from Saul behind the rock (which is actually the Stone of Ezel), and was brought to Ireland during the Crusades
  • the stone was the one that produced water when struck by Moses

Surely, with such a mixed and uncertain history, someone has been 'giving a lot of blarney' over the years!

In another ironic twist, the use of 'blarney' to mean a lot of talk, actually has its origins with Queen Elizabeth I of England. When the Queen wanted the Irish chiefs to rule their lands under her title, Cormac McCarthy responded time after time with such outlandish-yet reasonable-explanations for why he couldn't seem to hand over his lands, that the Queen finally said that he was giving her a lot of ‘Blarney talk', as his title was the Lord of Blarney.

As cloudy as the actual history of this cherished landmark is, so is the reason behind how the tradition of kissing the stone first began. What is clear, is that the legend-as well as this tradition-live on, stronger than ever. Each year, thousands of people visit the castle, lie on their backs, lean out to kiss the stone, and hopefully, leave possessing the famous 'gift of the gab'.