By Clare Dwyer
Neolithic structures, such as stone circles, burial mounds and others, were regarded with superstition and not a little fear since pre-Christian times.
Many stories grew up around them. Some were seen as gateways to other worlds belonging to fairies and evil spirits. A common story was that of young men being lured through these gateways and when they returned they found that many years had passed in the world above, whilst to those young men it was only a few hours. During the Middle-Ages some of the stones of the stone circle at Avebury were pulled down and buried at the behest of the local priest. This was not unusual as most of these structures were seen as the work of the devil, or of the giants and witches of an earlier age.
The musket ball found at the site of Carwynnen Quoit could easily belong to someone who had fired at the Quoit in just such a state of fear and superstition. During the reign of James I, a wave of witch hunts swept the country as the king had an inordinate fear of witches and as witches were said to only to be able to be killed by fire, drowning or being shot (like were-wolves) with a silver bullet, then perhaps someone thought any spirits lurking around the Quoit could be slain by a good honest musket ball.
The Puritans of the sixteenth century were great believers in the devil and the many creatures we now believe to belong to the world of fantasy and were inclined to see them in almost everything of which they disapproved – and they disapproved of an awful lot. Carwynnen Quoit would have represented much that they feared and hated.
Just imagine that you are travelling home across the moor in the dusk, with the darkness beginning to descend. The wind is blowing and as it blows through the Quoit it makes strange noises which sound like moaning and wailing. How frightening that would be and imagine how much you would be shaking. If you were carrying your musket you might want to fire it at the spirit making those awful sounds and with trembling hands you load your musket, but you drop the musket ball and there it lies for five hundred years until it’s unearthed by the archaeologists who are excavating the site around the Quoit. Or maybe you were just trying to shoot a rabbit for the pot!