By Romany Reagan
Written accounts of witchcraft, witch trials, cunning folk, and folk magic were largely recorded by the Church, with all the prejudices associated with a one-sided narrative. Given these practices were handed down generation to generation through oral histories as a form of intangible heritage, only the Church’s ‘official’ version of these practices has traditionally survived as our record. Luckily for researchers, instructions for creating witch bottles were written down and tangible items such a old shoes and written curses were tucked into walls kept safe from destruction in their hidden places. Stepping away from the ‘official’ texts to these scraps and personal finds can help us learn from another perspective about these practices, offering a fascinating look at the fears—and sometimes wrathful vengeances—secreted away in hearths and walls by our ancestors.
The following is an excerpt from a talk I gave at the Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum) in November 2019, ‘Witch Bottles & Worn Shoes: Home Protection Folklore Practices’.
Continue reading Witch Bottles & Hidden Curses: Objects of Protection; Objects of Vengeance
In Victorian times, in some parts of northern England, it was considered a sin to point at the moon, while gentlemen would touch their hats 🎩 and young girls would curtsy to the new moon. The new moon shining on your purse would keep you poor; only make wine 🍷🍷🍷 in the dark of the moon; calves weaned during a full moon produce the best milking cows 🐄; and sleeping in moonlight can make you blind. 🛌
In Tudor times, divination and astrology were common practices and the casting of #horoscopes was taken very seriously. In a letter to her grandmother, Arbella Stuart (1575-1615), a claimant to Elizabeth I’s throne, mentions that she has enclosed her hair, which was cut on the “sixth day of the Moon”. This lunar precision was necessary as the hair was going to be used astrologically to cast a horoscope to foretell Arbella’s chances of becoming Queen of England.
In some parts of Northern England it was thought that sleeping in moonlight could make you blind, cause birth defects or alter mental health. Many thatched cottages have extra thatch extensions projecting over upstairs windows to protect moonshine from falling on sleeping inhabitants. 🌚🌜