Back to: Nature online

Fossil Folklore

 Ammonites | Belemnites | Bivalves | Fish Teeth | Shark Teeth | Echinoids | Crinoids
What are fossils? Fossil types


Introductionred arrowEarly human culturered arrowShepherd's crownsred arrowFairy Loaves - Suffolkred arrowFairy loaves - Sussexred arrowSnakes and eggsred arrowWorld folklorered arrowWhat are echinoids?red arrowReferences and links

Fairy loaf - helmet urchin Echinocorys from the Cretaceous Chalk of England
Loaves of bread

Fairy Loaves - Suffolk

An interesting folklore concerning fossil echinoids originates from Suffolk in eastern England. Here, the heart urchin Micraster, along with the helmet urchin Echinocorys , are sometimes known as Fairy Loaves (Evans 1966).

The resemblance between these echinoids and round loaves inspired people in north-east Suffolk to place them as charms by the hearth in the hope that the baking bread would be influenced by the fossil's loaf-like shape. It is said that families who kept fairy loaves in their houses could ensure they would always have bread.

Failure of the weekly bread to be properly formed was attributed to witchcraft against which Fairy Loaves had protective powers. The powers given to these fossils underlines just how vital bread and breadmaking were to daily life and village economy in Suffolk during times gone past.

The fairy loaf in Suffolk was also called pharisee-loaf which at some point became facy-loaf. Farcy is a disease in horses and it has been suggested that the fossils were also used as charms by farm horsemen (Evans 1966).