Daisy-Wheels inscribed with a pair of compasses or dividers found in Saxon Tithe barn, Bradford-on-Avon.
What better way to spend Halloween than to go looking for “witches’ marks” in your home or your village?
In the UK, members of the public have been urged to share photos and information about ancient markings which could tell us more about supernatural beliefs from hundreds of years ago.
Historic England says witches’ marks have never been fully recorded and they are appealing to members of the public to help spot the markings.
“We need the publics help to create a fuller record of them and better understand them.
What is a “witches’ mark”?
Witches’ marks were usually carved on stone or woodwork near a building’s entrance points – doors, windows and fireplaces – and are part of an era when belief in witchcraft and the supernatural was widespread.
They can be found in medieval houses from 1550 to 1750, churches, barns, caves and buildings, including the house where Shakespeare was born.
“Witches marks are a physical reminder of how our ancestors saw the world. They really fire the imagination and can teach us about previously-held beliefs and common rituals,” Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said.
“Ritual marks were cut, scratched or carved into our ancestors homes and churches in the hope of making the world a safer, less hostile place. They were such a common part of everyday life that they were unremarkable and because they are easy to overlook, the recorded evidence we hold about where they appear and what form they take is thin.”
How do we recognise them?
The most common form of witch mark was the “Daisy Wheel”, which looked like a six petal flower drawn with a pair of compasses. It comprises of a single, endless line which supposedly confused and trapped evil spirits
Other witch marks include pentangles (five-pointed stars) and the letters AM (for Ave Maria), M (for Mary) or VV (for Virgin of Virgins). The marks were scratched into the fabric of medieval walls, engraved onto wooden beams and etched onto plaster work and thought to call on the protective power of the Virgin Mary.