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A Blackfoot chief

Buffalo stone

World Folklore 2

China
In Chinese folklore, ammonites were called Jiaoshih, or horn stones, after their resemblance to coiled rams' horns.

They feature heavily in Chinese writings, including Su Sung's Pen Tshao Thu Ching (Casanova 1983): 'the stone-serpent appears in rocks which are found beside the rivers flowing into the southern seas. Its shape is like a coiled snake with no head or tail-tip. Inside it is empty. Its colour is reddish- purple. The best ones are those which coil to the left. It also looks like the spiral shell of a conch. We do not know what animal it was which was thus changed into stone'.

North America
Among the medicine men of the Plains and Navajo Nations, ammonites were called wanisugna - meaning 'life within the seed, seed within the shell' (Bassett 1982).

The Blackfoot called them insikim - buffalo stones - because of their resemblance to sleeping bison, and used them in spiritual ceremonies in order to corral bison herds (Kehoe 1965). They believed that buffalo stones could procreate, a mother stone hatching baby stones (Oakley 1978). One possible explanation for this belief is the tendency for ammonites to fragment along the septa that separate the chambers of the shell.

According to Grinnel (quoted in Kehoe 1965), buffalo stones are 'found on the prairie, and the person who succeeds in obtaining one is regarded as very fortunate. Sometimes a man, who is riding along on the prairie, will hear a peculiar faint chirp, such as a little bird might utter. The sound he knows is made by a buffalo rock... If it is found, there is great rejoicing.'

   
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