Hild and the Snakes of Whitby

St Hild

Did you know that St Patrick isn’t the only early saint who is said to have driven snakes out of the land? Patrick’s driving the snakes from Ireland is well known, but how many know about St Hild’s driving the snakes from the estate of Whitby? Ok, not quite as impressive as driving them from all of Ireland, but Hey! Hild left evidence! Did you ever notice that icons, paints, heraldry of her schools and churches, and sculptures like this one have all these coiled structures around her? They are shown in this picture under her feet and the coil of her staff. These coils represent the snakes that Hild turned to stone and left embedded in the rocks of the Whitby headland. In reality, Hild’s snakes are fossil Ammonties found in the cliffs of Whitby. These fossils are generally known as snakestones in England. According to legend, as if just to make sure they were really dead, St Cuthbert later came along with a beheading curse and so the snakestones have coils but no heads!


One thought on “Hild and the Snakes of Whitby

  1. My first novel was titled ‘Ammonite’.

    I’ve been to Whitby countless times. In the seventies and early eighties every shopfront in town sold ammonites–and the museum is full of what I think of as Sea Monster fossils: sea creatures from the Lower Jurassic. I can’t imagine how thrilling/frightening it might have been to be walking along the beach in the 7th C and finding one of those monsters embedded in the cliff…

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