Roderic O'Flaherty on The Lia Fail, or Jacob's Stone

Extract from Part I of "Ogygia"

From The Cabinet of Irish Literature, Volume 1 (1880), edited by Charles A. Read

[Ireland has been called the ancient Ogygia by Plutarch, "because," says he, "they begin their histories from most profound memory of antiquity."

The Ogygia, so called because this was supposed to be the ancient name of Ireland, is a most extraordinary work, compiled from Persian, Grecian, Roman, and Mosaic history. O'Flaherty commences the Milesian history 1015 years before the Christian era, and writes a poem called a chronographical poem, in which he says, "From the creation of the world my Ogygian poem shall commence." In 1684, in the reign of Charles II., he brings the poem to a conclusion thus: "God, the author of the universe, at whose pleasure Ogygia will stand or fall, will unravel the secrets of futurity."]

There is at this day, in the royal throne at Westminster, a stone called in English Jacob's Stone, from the patriarch Jacob (I know not why so termed). On this monument the kings of Ireland formerly, in a solemn manner, took the omens of their investiture. There is an old tradition, confirmed by many ancient historians, that it was called fatal for this reason, because the princes of the blood royal, in the times of paganism, standing on it, would usually try who should reign; if it would make a noise under the person who sat on it, it was an infallible sign of his accession to the crown; but if it proved silent it precluded him from any hopes. Since the incarnation of our blessed Lord it has produced no such oracle. Authors have made mention of a vocal stone which was in a statue of an Egyptian king, afterwards broken by Cambyses to the middle of the breast. And you can see in Eusebius of the delusive oracles of the globe that were suppressed and silenced since the birth of Christ. And Suidas, in Augustus, and Nicephorus Calistus, in his Ecclesiastical History, another power is ascribed to this fatal stone, in the following distich, which Hector Boethius quotes:--

"Else fates belied, or where this stone is found,
A prince of Scotic race shall there be crown'd." [1]

The time that it came from Ireland into the possession of the Scots of Britain cannot be ascertained; but I may be allowed to conjecture it was in the reign of King Kineth (A.D. 850), who conquered and subjected to the empire of the Scots the Pictish nation, and deposited that stone in the abbey at Scone, in the country of the Picts, where he transferred the palace; and it was very probably transmitted by Aid Finlaith, the son-in-law of Kineth, who was afterwards King of Ireland, as an auspicious omen. Edward I., king of England,, marching through Scotland in 1296 with a victorious army, translated it to London. The augury of this stone was exploded and disused for the space of three hundred years until King James VI. of Scotland, the 25th of July, 1603, was anointed King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland on it; and after him his son, in the year 1625; and his grandson (now reigning), the 23d of April, 1661, were crowned on it. There is no other manner of inauguration with some of the northern nations, than unanimously to constitute the kings elect, lifted upon a stone, with all possible acclamations and demonstrations of joy, as Saxo Grammaticus and others relate.


[1] Tradition says that in the year 513 Fergus, a prince of the royal line, having obtained the Scottish throne, procured the use of this stone for his coronation at Dunstaffnage