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Star Stones

Crinoids are commonly preserved in limestones. Their disc-shaped columnals which make up their segmented stems are often found in abundance, and it is around these that folklore has developed.

The folklore name of St. Cuthbert's Beads originated from a belief that the monk St. Cuthbert (634-687 AD), who became Bishop of Lindisfarne, carved the disc-shaped beads on a stormy night so they could be found on the beach the next morning. This legend is depicted in Sir Walter Scott's Marmion (1808):

"But fain Saint Hilda's nuns would learn
If, on a rock by Lindisfarne,
Saint Cuthbert sits, and toils to frame
The sea-born beads that bear his name:
Such tales had Whitby's fishers told
And said they might his shape behold,
And here his anvil sound:
A deadened clang - a huge dim form
Seen but and heart when gathering storm
And night were closing round.
But this, a tale of idle fame,
The nuns of Lindisfarne disclaim"

Crinoids have also been known as Star Stones, so called because of their pentagonal shaped columnals. Star Stones were thought to have come to earth from the heavens. It was believed the star shaped columnals were generated in the clouds and sent to earth in times of thunder and violent showers.

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In England, the fossilised stems have also been known as fairy money and star-stones.

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