This is probably the most curious of all the Neolithic remains in Cornwall. It is situated close to Men Scryfa, along the same stony track that leads up from the small car park, two miles from the village of Madron. Its precise grid reference is SW 426349. To find it, look for the stone stile on your right about half a mile along the track, cross the stile and Men-an-Tol sits just a hundred yards or so into the field.
The name Men-an-Tol derives straight from the Cornish meaning “stone with a hole” and its various uses have long been a subject for discussion. It could be that the three stones are the remains of a Neolithic burial chamber. The mound would appear to have long-since been removed or weathered away, leaving the stones at either end marking the length of the “barrow” whilst the holed-stone would possibly have been the “doorway” linking the two chambers. The holed stone is known as the “Crick Stone” or “Devil’s Eye” and is aligned exactly with the two outer upright stones.
Other suggestions seem to believe that the stones have always existed above ground and that various rituals were performed using the holed stones. These include sick children being passed naked through the stone three times, after which they were dragged through the grass three times facing the east (at sunrise) in an attempt to cure rickets, measles, tuberculosis and chicken pox. Similarly, it has been said that adults suffering from rheumatism would crawl through the hole nine times facing the sun to cure them of their ailments. It has also been conjectured that young women would pass themselves through the hole in some form of fertility rite, especially if they had just taken up residence with a local man and needed to produce a male offspring.
Other possibilities are that the Men-an-Tol stones were built as an instrument for measuring the May through till August sunrises, and if used in the opposite direction, the February through till November sunsets. Other rituals include a belief that by placing two brass nails across one another within the hole, that the stone would “answer” any question put to it.
Many modern visitors to the stones speak of a feeling of euphoria and contentedness when they have clambered through the hole; maybe these folk are more in touch with the Earth spirits than the rest of us? Recently, and rather strangely, tests with modern radiation equipment have shown that levels of radiation actually within the inner circumference of the hole are twice that found in the immediate background area.
In all likelihood, the real meaning or purpose of Men-an-Tol will never be known. It remains an enigmatic structure that surely will still sit on this secluded spot of Cornish heathland for at least a further 4000 years, tempting amateurs and scholars alike to decipher its significance to the ancient people who constructed it.
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