Growing up, I thought everyone had a fairy stone. My mother kept hers in the box that held her most treasured jewelry. She'd take it out from time-to-time and lay the cross-shaped stone in my hand. It was cool and brown, lightly polished with a metal loop on top but otherwise imperfect, raw, like it had just been pulled from the ground.
"This cross wasn't made by man," Mother would tell me.
Every time, I was amazed. I'd studied rocks in school. I'd pulled them from countless river beds. I'd never seen stones like this, but she said that there were many of them and that they were created by heartbroken fairies.
Many years ago, the fairies were happy, she'd explain. They lived in the woods not far away and were dancing when a stranger came. He'd traveled the world, and he stopped to tell them about the things he'd seen--great pyramids, rivers as wide as seas, and the saddest death ever.
A man who said he was the son of God had spent his life healing people and spreading love. "Jesus," I'd whisper. Mother would say, "Yes, Jesus," and continue. The stranger told the fairies that some men were afraid of Jesus and threatened by him, so they captured him and nailed his hands and feet to a cross. They whipped him, starved him, and let him die.
The fairies had never heard anything so sad. They began to weep and when their magic tears splashed against the earth, they suddenly crystallized and were frozen forever in the shapes of little crosses.
Fairy Stone State Park. Photo provided by "hsarik" on Flickr.
I'd squeeze the rock in my hand, certain that it was an ancient fairy tear and wonder if I could find a fairy stone of my own. I searched every stand of trees in our suburban neighborhood and kept my eyes to the ground whenever we were in the woods. I never found one, but maybe I just wasn't looking in the right place.
This Wednesday, June 6, Fairy Stone State Park in southwest Virginia will host a fairy stone huntand a necklace making workshop. The park, named after the famous keepsakes found within its borders, is one of a kind. Stones form like crosses in other places, but they are only found in abundance at this one park, and, of course, nowhere else has built such a endearing story around the stones.
Geologically speaking, the stones are staurolite, a combination of silica, iron and aluminum. According to the Virginia State Parks website, staurolite crystallizes at 60 or 90 degree angles, creating the stone's cross-like structure.
The mineral, which is only found in rocks that have been subjected to great heat and pressure, was formed during the rise of the Appalachian Mountains.
As a grown up, I think the truth behind the stones is nearly as enthralling as the myth.