While renovating the bedroom, I discovered something that I initially found cute, but not especially exciting.
Hidden under layers and layers of white gloss paint work, a small etching on the door frame caught my attention.
I thought perhaps it was some teenage graffiti, or maybe a builders mark… it wasn’t until I posted a picture to Instagram that its true meaning became apparent. (Thank you Instagram community, where would I be without you!)
What I had actually discovered was a Hexafoil, also known as an apotropaic mark or witches mark. I cannot tell you how excited this made me. This was a physical connection to the original owners of this cottage. A window on a persons beliefs and fears. It was a weirdly personal and emotional find.
These marks were pretty common up to the middle of the 18th century. The occupiers would carve them normally over openings, doorways, windows and chimneys, in order to prevent evil spirits from entering the home. This particular one is known as a daisy wheel hexafoil, it’s a continuous line with no breaks, supposedly to trap the spirit within the never ending lines. It would have been carved using a set of dividers, a bit like a school compass. Other types of apotropaic marks have a religious element, such as an interconnected VV, which represents Virgin Mary or Virgo Virginum, or a simple M for Mary.
Some witches marks are not so artistic. What some people may take as historic accidents, burn and scorch marks on the mantelpiece were often a symbolic gesture, to protect the house from fire.
At one time these would have been so common as to have caused no remark at all. However over time they would have been painted over or worn away, to the point where they are now, a most exciting find.
I also think I sleep a little better, knowing that 300 years ago someone made sure that the bedroom remains witch free!
For further information and images regarding apotropaic marks, Historic Englands Page is here.
Love Kerrie. x