Building Styles and Additions to Keep Witches Away

One cultural element that our ancestors had for years was that evil was broadly defined as coming from spirits, the devil, envious neighbors, witches, or other sources. People were superstitious and many believed that witches had supernatural powers and might live among them. That classic example were when neighbors in Salem, Massachusetts held trials in 1692 and hung those they found guilty of being witches and that included men.

Many methods were developed over the years to help ward off witches. They were afraid of not just the devil or things evil but having personal illness or their crops failing they then blamed on a witch. So many physical things were added to a home to protect it and the family. Here are some of the things that people used to build into houses to keep evil at bay.

There was the ‘witch bottles‘ filled with nails used in the house, to fingernail clippings, pins, needles or anything else personal that would fit in a ceramic or glass bottle. Those were sealed and placed above or below a threshold, in the walls or under floorboards and hearths in a house. Any harmful or evil intentions would be directed to the bottles not the residents of the house. However, they had to remain hidden and unbroken.

While a house was being built a pair of old worn family shoes would be placed in the walls or ceilings. This way it was thought any evil from a witch would be directed to the shoes and not a real person in the house.

A common belief was that a witch could not fly on her broom into sideways windows. In the New England region, especially in Vermont, in the 1700s and into the 1800s, it became common to place a window or two at an angle, 45 degrees, especially as second floor dormer windows, known as witch windows. This would have sunlight come into awkward spaces in the eaves also. So if you have any vintage photos of a family house with upper windows turns on their side, you know why now.

In older homes can still be found markings placed into heavy wooden beams in the ceiling or along hearths of fireplaces or along windows. These engraved markings, also known as apotropaic marks, were to protect the people of the home. Common markings included two ‘Vs’ such as V V with the V’s crossed over each other, which meant Virgin of Virgins, that the Virgin Mary protect the house. Other designs were used as anti-witch markings such as a daisy wheel.

Any of these anti-witch items in your family homes?

Photo: Witch windows for a home.

Related Blogs:

Other Witch Trials

Locations of Witch Hangings

Any Witches on the Family Tree?

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