Ramblings from Margaret's Cottage: a 6th Century Saint, Headless Stone Snakes, and a Family of Cephalopods Called Hilda
The stunning old whaling port of Whitby is only a forty minute drive from Margaret's Cottage and it's a joy to be there whether in the hurly burly of summer or in teeth of a winter north easterly.
We drive there over the North Yorkshire Moors via Pickering, Saltergate and the Hole of Horcum we skirt Goathland (home of Heartbeat) and then rise over Fylingdales Moor (who can remember the giant golf balls?). Drive over the new Esk Bridge and park at the Abbey resonant of fog, ship wrecks and Bram Stoker.
Jarvis comes with us for a run on the beach, some fossil fosicking and then a visit to one of Whitby's great pubs, we like the very old fashioned Black Horse Inn on Church Street.
If we're lucky we'll find belemnite, Devil's Toe Nails and Headless Snake fossils some of which are on the windowsill in the cottage.
Wait; you've heard of Headless Snake fossils haven't you? Aah well here's the tale that ties together a female saint, ammonites, and an ancient cephalapod with the latin name Hilda.
Hilda of Whitby or Hild of Whitby (c. 614–680) is a Christian saint and the founding Abbess of the Abbey at Whitby.
A local legend says that when sea birds fly over the abbey they dip their wings in honour of Saint Hilda. Yet another tells of a plague of snakes which Hilda turned to stone after removing their heads with a whip.
This legend is told to explain the presence of ammonite fossils on the local beaches. In past times people believed that ammonites were in fact the fossils of tightly curled headless snakes and heads were carved onto these 'petrified snakes' to honour this legend.
In reference to this story and to honour Whitby's first Abbess there is now a family of ancient cephalopods called Hildoceras.
PS There’s an interestin YouTube video here ~ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMQsU1oYKWM