Because of their pointed shapes, it was once believed
that belemnites were cast down from the heavens during
thunderstorms. This gave rise to their widely used name,
thunderbolts. However, belemnites are also known by
many other names in folklore.
In some regions of England belemnites are known as
bullets, Devil's Fingers or Saint Peter's Fingers (Bassett
Belemnites were once believed to have medicinal qualities
and were used as cures for both rheumatism and sore
eyes in humans and horses. The treatment for horses
involved crushing the fossils into a dust that would
then be blown into the animals eyes.
They were also used to keep a person from being struck
by lightning or bewitched by demons from the sky (Kennedy
Oakley (1974) described a belemnite that was found
with a female skeleton in a Bronze Age burial site in
Yorkshire - a testament to the cult status of these
fossils among prehistoric humans.
Even in modern times, belemnites hold a fascination
with the public. For example, Oakley (1974) recorded
an interesting exchange in 1947 between a museum curator
and a local man in Peterborough. The man, a keen bowler,
had found belemnites on a bowling green and was convinced that they had fallen from the sky
during a thunderstorm the previous day. The curator
assured him otherwise.