Fairy Loaves, Pixie Weights, and Shepherd’s Crowns

In the Middle Ages two things were clear: the Europeans hated snakes and they were anxious to obtain Fairy Loaves, also known as Pixie Weights and Shepherd’s Crowns.  How are these two facts connected? Let’s see.

PlinyOn the Hunt

Snake eggs were highly prized during the Middle Ages by Europeans, even though they despised snakes as a whole. They took the advice of Pliny the Elder (23 AD – 79 AD), a Roman author, naturalist, and philosopher among other lines of work.

Pliny advised egg hunters that they had to jump over a pile of hissing snakes while tossing the egg in the air, and catch it.  Another version said that the snakes themselves would launch the egg in the air and the hunter would have to catch it.

FairyLoafCaptureEither way, if the egg fell to the ground, it lost its magical powers.

But here’s the twist. The items that the Medieval Europeans thought were snake eggs, were actually fossilized sea urchins.

Sea Urchins?

These people called the “magical” snake eggs/sea urchin fossils “Fairy Loaves”, “Pixie Weights”, or “Shepherd’s Crowns” and they believed they would help them in a number of ways:

  • Protect against bad luck
  • Protect against illness
  • Protect their owners from lightning
  • Assist dead souls as they journeyed to the afterlife.

Apparently this fascination with fossilized sea urchins predates the Medieval era. I read a report that said a hand axe, believed to belong to a member of Homo heidelbergensis, had a fossilized sea urchin embedded in it.

This is what fossilized sea urchins look like:

FossilSeaUrchin01

FossilSeaUrchin02

FossilSeaUrchin

Here’s a diagram of what makes a sea urchin, and a picture of a living species today. Sea Urchins (Echinoids) come in many colors.

UrchinDiagram

Giant red sea urchin

Sea urchins as cryptids – you gotta love it! How easy it is at times to misidentify and misinterpret things in nature. I think there’s a lesson to be learned from that, especially for us cryptozoology lovers!

Til the next time!

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