Appalachia’s early Cherokee inhabitants believed they shared the land with a tiny race of people they described as having hairy faces and living in wooded and rocky areas of the mountains.
Native legends often speak of the tiny people playing pranks on individuals, such as singing and then hiding when an inquisitive person searches for the music. It was often said that the little people loved children and would take them away from bad or abusive parents.
With Scottish and Irish folklore including tales of fairies, changelings and many similar mythical beliefs, the original European settlers who first entered Virginia’s mountains were willing candidates to receive the Native’s belief and even added their own superstitions to those long held by the Cherokee.
As the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains were explored, various individuals happened upon mysterious cross shaped rocks, often no larger than one’s smallest fingernail. The rocks included what appeared to be perfect cutouts of both Roman crosses (traditional t-shape) as well as St. Andrews’ crosses (X-shaped).
In an effort to explain the rocks’ origins, legends throughout the mountainside developed stating that long ago the fairies who inhabited the area received word detailing the dreadful agonies Christ suffered in his crucifixion. The news caused the fairies to weep and as their tears fell to the ground, they crystalized into little stone crosses.
Often the words of Jesus quoted in Luke 19.40 have been included with tales of the Fairy Stones, “I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”
Scientists say the stones are comprised of iron, aluminum and silicate.
According to Virginia State Park officials, the staurolite crystals were formed thanks to a precise combination of heat and pressure provided by the folding and crumpling of the earth’s crust during the formation of the Appalachian Mountains.
In an effort to preserve the site where these mysterious stone crosses were first discovered, the Commonwealth of Virginia created Fairy Stone State Park in 1936, one of the original six state parks created that year.
The park’s land was donated by Junius B. Fishburn, former owner of the Roanoke Times.
As the 4,741-acre park celebrates its 82nd year of operation, attractions include cabins, a campground, group camping, an equestrian campground, a conference center, hiking trails, lake swimming, rowboats, canoes, paddle boats, kayaks, picnicking and two playgrounds, including one in the water.
Visitors may also hunt for “Fairy Stones”, as “a small number may be taken for personal use.”
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