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January 20, 2016     Post 70
luck and the lake

A recent Facebook discussion prompts me to dig up this excerpt from a now out of print booklet "Mirages Monsters Myths and Mysteries of Lake Ontario" for some winter reading.

Who couldn't use a bit of luck these days-what with the stockmarket taking a nose dive and the 2016 electioneering starting to get ugly. Whether it's four leaf clovers, a seven toed cat, turkey wishbones, or something more obscure, most of us at one time or another have probably leaned on a lucky charm. On the south shore of Lake Ontario we have our own regional good luck token, the lucky rock.

Not just any old rock is lucky, though. It has to be a black rock with a narrow white ring around it. The band must be complete and continuous with no breaks. Searching for such stones on the beach is a great pastime for kids of all ages. This notion of lucky stones is fairly widely held among the population of the south shore where I live. It was passed on to me from my folks during swimming expeditions to the beach, my best friend knew of it (possibly from me!) and my husband was also familiar with it, presumably from his own visits to the lakeshore as a child.

The sacred circle has had special and often mystical powers through the ages and through many cultures. Magic rings that render the bearer powerful or invisible are firmly entrenched in Celtic myth and fable, and the infinite no end no beginning of that encircling band of white surely contributes to a black beach pebble's special power.

When I was younger I wasn't much of a believer in luck. Superior smarts, good connections, hard work, all that might make a difference but plain dumb luck? Nah, didn't work for a type A control freak. But now that I'm older, if not wiser, I feel quite differently about this luck thing.

It seems likely that the idea of a beach stone with a ring around it being lucky came here from New England where it is commonly held notion. A number of settlers came here from the region after the Revolutionary War. Ringed stones are also considered lucky in the Canadian Maritimes.

In Scotland or the Shetland Islands a sailor with a white pebble in his pocket will never drown. White rocks got their special status because once long ago there was a cemetery on one of the Hebrides Islands where islanders would sometimes graze their cattle overnight. When they did so, an old woman would sit up to watch the cows while spinning to stay awake. But one woman was surprised one night to see all the graves in the cemetery open. The ghosts then climbed out and hurried off in all different directions.

Just before dawn they returned, and the earth closed back over them. But one grave stayed open. The old woman, being an inquisitive soul, decided to find out where all those spirit folk had been, so she placed her distaff which looked like a crucifix across the last open grave. As daylight paled the sky, the last ghost, a young girl came hurrying towards the grave, but found her way blocked. She begged to be admitted, but the old crone said not until you tell me where you went and why you're late.

The ghost girl answered that she was the daughter of the King of Norway who had perished in a shipwreck in a great storm. Her body washed ashore to be buried on the island. Each night all the spirit folk had to return to the place they had died. She had the furthest to go and so was always the last to return. Then she told the crone that if she were allowed back into her grave, she would give the old woman a valuable gift. The old woman removed her distaff and the little girl ghost gave her a pure white stone with a hole in it. This stone, the story goes, eventually was used by an acclaimed Scottish prophet to help him see into the future. He threw it into a lake just before he died.

Black white or any other color, stones with naturally formed holes through them have been widely considered to possess benevolent powers and can attract good fortune, and a stone with a natural hole in it has healing powers. To this day, small stones with holes in them found on the beaches of Cayuga Lake in central New York about thirty miles south of Lake Ontario are held to be lucky.

To find a really good lucky rock, one guaranteed to make your stock portfolio soar and to bestow ample blessings upon your next visit to the Turning Stone Casino, here's what you want to search for. First, go to a pebbly beach on the south shore of Lake Ontario. You won't find lucky rocks at the sandy coast of the eastern shore, or on Canadian beaches or up around Sackets and Chaumont. You won't find them on the St. Lawrence, or at the Finger Lakes either. Only the south shore of Lake Ontario has the right geology for good fortune.

Search for a nice dark rock with good contrast between its background black and the white band. Turn it over and examine it thoroughly, for the band must be complete, a truly continuous circle. As for the size of the rock, I guess that depends on the planned application. Size is not proportional to luck. But the fineness of the rock form is. A good dark background and a sharp white line producing a bold dramatic contrast is a premium lucky rock.

Pick a bright sunny day of good light to go to the beach. If at all possible take a kid, too. Their young sharp eyes are closer to the ground and seem to spot pebbles far more readily than adult eyes.

For a geological explanation of the lucky rock see page 57 in the Edge Walkers Guide to Lake Ontario Beachcombing ( still available at www.chimneybluff.com)

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