St Johnston and Carrigans Pagan Heritage
Many of you will know of Beltony Stone Circle in Raphoe. This was a place of worship in honour of the nature God Baal or Bel who was believed to be the sun. The circle is composed of standing stones. It is tempting to regard the circle as "the cathedral" of paganism for surrounding areas including the St Johnston area. It is thought there were as many as 80 stones. 64 stones exist there today. The height of the location indicates a willingness to light sacred fires to Bel, especially on May Eve, that could be seen for miles around. There is some evidence of the importance of astronomy to those pagans. A stone head, the Beltany Stone Head was found. It looks scary as if it was meant to frighten away evil spirits.
In St Johnston we have some standing stones one of which is in Rockfield a short distance from the village near Kinnically. The pagans also had a thing for carving stone heads believed to have magical powers. One of these was found at Craighadoes, St Johnston. The head was certainly a Celtic idol. The features are carved into it very delicately but not very deeply. This head is now part of a private collection. Another head which was not very well made was found at Craighadoes too. It can be seen at Donegal County Museum. These heads were carved from rocks that got their rounded shape through nature and there is evidence of pagans using such rocks to make heads in Denmark and other countries.
It stands to reason that the Laggan Valley which is the most fertile area in Donegal would have seen a lot of pagan activity or even been a loose centre for its fertility rites with people wanting to bless the land to keep it fertile and keep on the right side of the deities and spirits that looked favourably on the land.