17th Century "Witch Marks" Discovered On British Estate

Illustration for article titled 17th Century Witch Marks Discovered On British Estate

Restoration work on Britain's 600-year-old Knole House turned up a most interesting feature hidden beneath the floorboards: "witch marks" or "demon traps," designed to protect the witchcraft-fearing ruler James I from supernatural malevolence.

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Though the king never ended up visiting the estate, the eerie scratches remain as a testament to the jittery political climate at the time — using tree-ring dating, it was determined they were etched soon after Guy Fawkes and company's failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 — as well as its superstitions.

According to the Guardian:

"Archaeologists found the marks not just in the bed chamber prepared for James, but carved into the joists and around the fireplace of the room directly overhead, which would probably have been occupied by one of his sons or a close member of his retinue.

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Illustration for article titled 17th Century Witch Marks Discovered On British Estate

The marks, made in the enormous oak beams on the sides facing the fireplace — for the superstitious, a known weak spot in defense against witches — include scorch marks made with a candle flame before the timbers were installed, carved tangles of Vs and Ws invoking the protection of the Virgin Mary, and maze-like marks known as demon traps, intended to trap the malevolent spirits which would follow the lines and be unable to find their way back out."

Images via the Guardian.

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DISCUSSION

Sometimes I think discoveries like this are seriously misattributed.