Mythological Sukiniai Stone (Mokas)
According to geologists, stones are unique samples of the rock in Earthʼs crust which formed about 500 million years ago. It is thought that most such stones “travelled” to Lithuania from Scandinavia during the last ice age about 13-14,000 years ago.
Mythological stones have had their appearance changed in some way by humans in the past, for example, by carving into the stones certain signs or symbols (the depiction of feet or fingers, messages, basins and so on). Various legends and stories have grown up around such stones. Petras Tarasenka (1892–1962), a pioneer in Lithuanian archaeology, was the first to register such stones in a systematic way and to explore their meaning.
Mythological stones are often found in forests, wet meadows, lake islands and other places that are difficult to access. There is a reason for this. With the introduction of Christianity into Lithuania, pagans were persecuted and had to perform their rites in secret. Stones seen as items used in pagan rituals were destroyed. We can learn very little from the stones themselves about the customs of those worshipping the pagan gods; research of the area surrounding the stones provides more data. For this reason, it is especially important that mythological stones remain undisturbed.
There are four mythological stones in Ukmergė District. One of them is Sukiniai Stone, or Mokas. It is one of the largest such stones in Lithuania, a state-protected geological natural monument (from 2000) and an archaeological monument. Researchers have investigated an area of about 80 square metres around the stone and have found two pits: a posthole and a pit of rocks with ash. It is thought that in this place there was a site sacred to the ancient Lithuanians, and that sacrifices were made here. Mokas is a quite common name for stones in Eastern Lithuania, and the etymology of the name has not been fully explained. There are stones with this same name in Aukštaitija National Park and elsewhere.
Sukiniai Stone, or Mokas, is found about 1.2 km to the northwest of the village of Sukiniai, about 150 m to the southeast of the left bank of the Šventoji River, on the edge of a slope next to the Šventoji River, in the northern part of block 67 of the Pašilė forest, on the line marking the edge of the block. Next to the stone, there are several smaller fragments that have broken off, including a large stone, called “Mokasʼs Son.” The forms of both Mokas and Mokasʼs Son are irregular, with an uneven surface and sharp corners and edges in places, and there are cracks and fissures, even with what one might call steps in places. The dimensions of the aboveground part of the largest stone, Mokas, are 3.45 m (height), 8.5 m (length), 6.26 m (width), and its largest horizontal perimeter is 23.12 m. Research performed in 2018 using ground-penetrating radar determined that the underground part of the stone goes down about 2.75 m. The smaller stone, Mokasʼs Son, at the surface of the ground is located about 35 cm from the larger stone, and at a higher level above the ground it is located at a distance up to 1.25 m away. The smaller stoneʼs aboveground dimensions are 1.64 m (height), 5.26 (length), 3.37 m (width), and its largest horizontal perimeter is 13.36 m. The rock composing both stones is biotite plagio-granite gneiss, of a variety of colours including greyish, light brownish and blackish tones, and of medium grain. The stone is bounded on the south by a ditch about 3 m wide and 1.3 m deep. Its end slopes have been reinforced with rocks.
Both stones are considered exceptional, sometimes even alive, and for this reason a multitude of legends and stories are told about Sukiniai Mokas and his family. In one such story, it is said that “long ago, very long ago, a family of stones with the name Mokas lived on the right bank of the Šventoji River. For a long time, this family did not have any children. “We will get old, sink into the ground and leave behind no offspring,” lamented the wife. They decided to ask the gods to give them a son. The gods heard their request, and said, “Fine, we will give you a son, but when you have your son, one of you will have to carry him to the other bank of the river. The one who carries him across will have to stay and live with him, and the other will have to remain on the same riverbank where you live now.”
After pondering the godsʼ offer for a long time, the Mokas family in the end agreed. The gods gave them a strong son. The family was overjoyed, but their joy was tempered by the knowledge of their future separation. The parents discussed which of them would have to carry their son to the other bank of the river, and they decided that the father would carry the son. The father picked up his son and carried him. The mother, remaining on the riverbank, cried sorrowful tears. So long as the mother could see her son being carried, she only cried, despite the pain. But when the father and the son passed beyond the bend in the river, the motherʼs heart could take no more. She hurried after them. As soon as the mother reached the river, the father, who was still carrying the son, dropped him into the water. A strong current swept the father onto the left bank of the Šventoji River. And thus the mother remained in the water on the right bank of the Šventoji River, the son ended up beyond the bend in the Šventoji River (which is at the village of Sukiniai), and the father came to the beautiful pine forest on the left bank of the river.”
There are legends that Mokas was especially well known for its ability to teach all kinds of clueless people. That is why there is a saying even today: “Go learn from Mokas.” Not only children, but also adults were often sent to the stone to learn, if they were unable to answer a question. And if young men asked some not very well-informed teenager the question, “Do you know how to make a child?”, and got the answer, “No, I donʼt,” they would absolutely send the lad to learn from Mokas. Another legend says that a millstone-maker decided to make millstones from Mokas, and planned to split off pieces of Mokas for that purpose. But at that moment, he began to feel sleepy. Falling asleep, he dreamed that Mokas said to him: “Do not touch me, and if you do not listen to me, you will go blind.” And the millstone-maker decided not to make millstones from Mokas. But another person, splitting off a piece of Mokas, found blood in the stone, and then went blind. After that, nobody touched Mokas.