Adder stones

Hazel's picture
Posts: 31
Joined: 2008-12-01

Pliny, in his Natural History, mentions numerous snakes entwined in a ball, held together by a secretion from their bodies & by spittle. These balls were said to be valued by Druids & considered by some to be the inspiration for carved bosses on Pictish stones & Celtic crosses of a similar era. Would anyone care to share additional information?

Be well,


Hazel's picture
Posts: 31
Joined: 2008-12-01
Re: Adder stones

Sir, I am once again indebted to you for a lesson of such value that it will take me a week to follow up on all of the leads you have provided. I will reconsider some of the reading I have recently done in light of these insights. I believe that the bosses on Christian Celtic crosses are thought to be derrived from Pictish representations of the Druid eggs.

Be well,


Astrocelt's picture
Posts: 753
Joined: 2007-09-15
Re: Adder stones

You'll find the use of quartz predates the Druid Egg, so the bling factor has increased 100%

Heddwen's picture
Posts: 91
Joined: 2007-11-24
Re: Adder stones

Thank you Astrocelt for the links, the references are very interesting. I'm afraid my druids egg is made from quartz crystal for that extra bling factor! Needless to say, druids eggs made from snake saliva are not so easily available these days.

Astrocelt's picture
Posts: 753
Joined: 2007-09-15
Re: Adder stones

Hi Hazel and Heddwen,

Pliny Natural History refers to these in Remedies Drived from Living Creatures, book 29; Serpant Eggs are dealt with in Chapter 12.


In addition to the above, there is another kind of egg,1 held
in high renown by the people of the Gallic provinces, but
totally omitted by the Greek writers. In summer2 time, numberless snakes become artificially entwined together, and form
rings around their bodies with the viscous slime which exudes
from their mouths, and with the foam secreted by them: the
name given to this substance is "anguinum."3 The Druids
tell us, that the serpents eject these eggs into the air by their
hissing,4 and that a person must be ready to catch them in a
cloak, so as not to let them touch the ground; they say also that he
must instantly take to flight on horseback, as the serpents will
be sure to pursue him, until some intervening river has placed
a barrier between them. The test of its genuineness, they say,
is its floating against the current of a stream, even though it
be set in gold. But, as it is the way with magicians to be
dexterous and cunning in casting a veil about their frauds, they
pretend that these eggs can only be taken on a certain day of
the moon; as though, forsooth, it depended entirely upon the
human will to make the moon and the serpents accord as to
the moment of this operation.

I myself, however, have seen one of these eggs: it was
round, and about as large as an apple of moderate size; the
shell5 of it was formed of a cartilaginous substance, and it was
surrounded with numerous cupules, as it were, resembling
those upon the arms of the polypus: it is held in high estimation
among the Druids. The possession of it is marvellously vaunted
as ensuring success6 in law-suits, and a favourable reception
with princes; a notion which has been so far belied, that a
Roman of equestrian rank, a native of the territory of the
Vocontii,7 who, during a trial, had one of these eggs in his
bosom, was slain by the late Emperor Tiberius, and for no
other reason, that I know of, but because he was in possession
of it. It is this entwining of serpents with one another, and
the fruitful results of this unison, that seem to me to have
given rise to the usage among foreign nations, of surrounding
the caduceus8 with representations of serpents, as so many
symbols of peace-it must be remembered, too, that on the
caduceus, serpents are never9 represented as having crests.


1 Pliny alludes here to the beads or rings of glass which were used by
the Druids as charms to impose on the credulity of their devotees, under
the name of Glain naidr, or "the Adder gem." Mr. Luyd (in Rowland's
Mona Antiqua, p. 342) says that the genuine Ovum anguinum can be no
other than a shell of the kind called echinus marinus, and that Dr. Borlase
observes that, instead of the natural anguinum, artificial rings of stone,
glass, and sometimes baked clay, were substituted as of equal validity.
The belief in these charms very recently existed in Cornwall and Wales, if
indeed it does not at the present day. The subject is very fully discussed in
Brand's Popular Antiquities, Vol. III. p. 286, et seq., and p. 369, et seq.,
Bohn's Edition. These gems and beads are not uncommonly found in tumuli
of the early British period.

2 A similar belief in its origin was prevalent in Cornwall and Wales,
and whoever found it was supposed to ensure success in all his undertakings.

3 "The snake's egg"–ovum being understood.

4 "The vulgar opinion in Cornwall and most parts of Wales is that these
are produced through all Cornwall by snakes joining their heads together
and hissing, which forms a kind of bubble like a ring about the head of
one of them, which the rest, by continual hissing, blow on till it comes off
at the tail, when it immediately hardens and resembles a glass ring."—
Gough's Camden, Vol. II. p. 571, Ed. 1789.

5 The shell of a sea urchin most probably. See Note 81 above.

6 See Note 82 above.

7 nation of Gaul. See B. iii. cc. 5, 21.

8 The wand held by heralds, and generally represented as being carried
by Mercury in his character of messenger of the gods.

9 And therefore not portentous of war.


It would suggest additional comments derived from antiquarians and modern interpretations has led to a body of information becoming available. Some examples which may be of interest:-

The Druid’s Egg: Just What Was It?

Adder stone

Druid's egg

A Quest for the Druids' Egg 

The Castles, the Druid's Egg and the Glass Sphere 

The python's egg

Druids Egg


Heddwen's picture
Posts: 91
Joined: 2007-11-24
Re: Adder stones

I wonder if they've anything to do with the famed druid stones/ druids egg?