Hello My Lovelies,
My friend, fellow pagan and author Anna Franklin, brought this amazing article from The Guardian to my attention via her Facebook page. Always one to share things of interest – especially when it’s related to history, archaeology, paganism or witchcraft – I thought I’d pass it on as I know some of you would be interested in this too. It’s amazing what you can find, just under your feet, I wonder what we’ll find next! 😉
The gateway to hell? Hundreds of anti-witch marks found in Midlands cave
Mark Brown Arts correspondent
There is no public access to the cave but the trust is considering a multi-media presentation for visitors.
Up close the walls are a remarkable frenzy of marks. Everywhere you point a torch there are overlapping Vs, a reference to Mary, virgin of virgins. There are also PMs, as in Pace Maria, and crossed Is, referring to Jesus on a cross, and odd-shaped As.
Alison Fearn, a Leicester university expert on protective marks, recalled first shuffling on her backside in to the cave and realising what she was looking at. “I think I said a very naughty word.”
The letters and symbols were Christian but should not be looked at in that context, she said. From the 16th century to the early 19th century, when people made witches marks, there may have been a lack of association with religion, such as today when people might cross fingers or say “oh god”. She said: “It just becomes a protective symbol. It was a mark you always made to protect yourself.”
What the marks were keeping out, or in, can only be speculated on. “It could be fairies, witches, whatever you were fearful of, it was going to be down there.”
The cave markings fit in with local history since the post-mediaeval village of Creswell used to be much closer to the caves. The dukes of Portland had relocated the village 20 minutes walk away during a spot of 19th century landscaping for themselves.
John Charlesworth, the caves’ heritage interpreter, said natural landscapes were once regarded as scary places. “These are places where supernatural forces in an untamed non-human environment could be at work. Local people are in the jaws of this monstrous landscape.”
Ritualistic protection marks are most commonly found in houses and churches, in doors and windows, to ward off evil spirits. They have been found in caves but never on this scale.
Creswell Crags hit the headlines in 2003 when ice age cave art, including figures of birds, deer, bison and horses, were discovered.
The announcement of the latest find was made by Creswell Crags and Historic England. Baker acknowledged that the witches’ marks might bring a new type of visitor.
Ronald Hutton, a professor and leading authority on folklore, said the find was hugely important and exciting. “It looks like the largest assemblage of protective marks ever found in British caves, and possibly anywhere in Britain.”