What are these stacked rocks all about?
Maybe you have been on a nice hike near a shore or on a hilly mountainside and as your walking you come across a pile of rocks stacked on top of each other. You look at it both confused yet slightly fascinated. You wonder who put it there and why?
I myself have wondered why people stack rocks like this. The product of this art is called a “cairn.” Cairns were once referred to as any pile of rocks natural or artificial but today cairns are only considered artificial or man made piles. Cairns are not only seen in the U.S. but can actually be seen all around the world.
They have had many practical uses since ancient times. One such use was to mark burial grounds. In Asia it became tradition to place stones on a burial ground to deter grave robbers but also some believed it was to stop the dead from rising. In Scandinavia and Iceland they served as trail and sea markers. The Norsemen of Greenland used Cairns as a hunting strategy to create “lanes” to herd the reindeer into game jumps. Native American tribes used the same practice on buffalo.
Some cultures believe they are even more fantastic. In Portugal, cairns are called moledros and according to legend if a stone is taken from the pile and placed under a pillow, a soldier will appear in the morning for a brief moment and then the stone will magically return to the pile. In South Korea if you come across a cairn you are supposed to add another rock on top of the pile to bring good luck. They also can have spiritual meaning. In Mongolia they have cairn-like sacred structures called ovoos. They also may have been used to mark where objects had been buried such as caches of food and tools.
The art of building cairns is not new but still can have it’s uses as direction markers and landmarks and they are neat to stumble upon when you are not expecting them. Send us pictures of a cairn you construct to our instagram or to our email and get featured on our pages. Happy hiking.
UPDATE** Be cognizant of where you build your cairns. Although they can be very intriguing to some people, they can be a negative to some who want to see the natural beauty of the great outdoors. If you do build a cairn, think about the effect it will have on the environment around you. It may be best to deconstruct it after you've completed it. Happy hiking!