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Fossil Folklore

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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 - heart urchin Micraster from the Cretaceous Chalk of England

Fairy Loaves - Sussex

Pull (2003) made a detailed study of the folklore surrounding fossil echinoids from the Chalk in the county of Sussex. Various names have been applied to these fossils, including Sugar Loaves, Fairy Loaves, Shepherd's Crowns and Pixies' Helmets. They were once frequently displayed on the windowsills of Sussex cottages.

When questioned by John Pull in 1938, the occupants of the cottages usually regarded them as harbingers of good luck, but some believed that they prevented the cottage from being struck by lightning or were useful in predicting rain. The last of these beliefs may have a basis because any moisture present in the atmosphere may condense on the fossil first.

In both Sussex and East Anglia, Fairy Loaves are also associated with fairy men, as farisses or ferrishers comes from the Gaelic word fear sidhean (fairy men) (Evans 1966). According to Lindahl et al. (2000). others considered that the marks on these echinoid fossils resembled claw marks, and thus called these fossil sea urchins eagle stones.