The holystone is mentioned twice directly by VMS (42,57), and perhaps once indirectly (6) as the tiny black orb in S’s pocket. It is also referred to in the marginalia by Eric and Jen as one of 19 known pieces of obsidian (p40) – sent to him by Desjardins. Jen and Eric also discuss how the other 18 pieces seem to be slowly vanishing from archives around the world.
Ostensibly, a holystone is a small stone used by the crew of a ship to scrape the deck clean. The 19 pieces are likely those of S’s 19 crewmen. However, in a broader context, a “holy stone” is a sacred symbol, something that connects heaven and earth – an axis mundi – the term Eric Husch uses to describe VMS’s description of Obsidian Island on p278.
With this in mind, consider the insert between pages 32-33 in SOT – The Daily Pronghorn. In addition to the article about Eric’s vandalism of Standefer Hall, there is an interesting article about the repair of the Lake Cormorant Boathouse. The article states…
Surviving member’s of PSU’s 1949 Catherwood Cup-winning men’s sailing team will be the guests of honor at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Note that 1949 is the year of publication of SOT. And then there is Catherwood. Why Catherwood? Is it a reference to Frederick Catherwood, “the first westerner to make a detailed survey of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem?”
The stone within the Dome of the Rock is perhaps the world’s most famous holy stone: the Foundation Stone, the rock believed by Jews to be the location of the Holy of Holies in the Jewish temple and by many Jews, Christians, and Muslims as the site where Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice to God. It is often referred to as the “most contested real estate on earth,” because three different world religions have each claimed it as sacred. Each tradition writes its own story on top of the previous. A living palimpsest.
One of Jen’s favorite words in SOT is palimpsest, referring to a scroll or book where older text has been scraped clean and a newer text written on top. The word palimpsest in latin means, literally, “scraped clean and used again.” Holystones were used to scrape the deck clean, probably for Sunday worship.
There is something at play here in “S” with the obsidian holystones, one of which Eric and Jen now hold, and this idea of palimpsests and the axis mundi. A palimpsest is a “book within a book.” S is a book within a book. If you are like me, you believe there is a deeper and more sacred story within “S” – another book within the book – that we have yet to uncover. Somehow we must find the right “holystone” (the clues) and scrape diligently until the story underneath reveals itself.