Magickal horse-mane braid mystery solved by Dorset warlock

After consulting with a warlock, police in Dorset have concluded that the mysterious plaits (braids) that have been appearing in horse's manes are part of "knot magick" rituals. As many as 12 horses have been braided.
PC Tim Poole, who has investigated the incidents, said: "We have some very good information from a warlock that this is part of a white magic ritual and is to do with knot magick."

"It would appear that for people of this belief, knot magick is used when they want to cast a spell. Some of the gods they worship have a strong connection to horses so if they have a particular request, plaiting this knot in a horse's mane lends strength to the request. This warlock said it is a benign activity, albeit maybe a bit distressing for the horse owner."

Animal magic as warlock reveals mystery behind plaits found in horses' manes

(Image: Rarity's (Styling Pony) Braids, a Creative Commons Attribution photo from dreamcicle19772006 's photostream)


  1. Note to all warlocks: using the spelling “magick” doesn’t make your rituals seem any less silly, especially when they involve horses’ asses.

  2. favourite line in the article describes it as “a benign activity, albeit maybe a bit distressing for the horse owner.”
    Distressing to think that a bunch of loons had access to their horses without their knowledge? Evidently being a warlock also makes you a master of understatement.

  3. I’m glad to hear it’s merely white magic. I shudder to think what the authorities would do if it was evil black magic. You know, the kind that does impossible-to-untie knot magick…

  4. Constable: What’s all this, then, plaiting horses’ manes?

    Perp: It’s Knot Magick, Constable.

    Constable: All right, then, if it’s not magic, then what in bloody hell IS it?

  5. Knot magick explains it all. It is “not” magick, but so much publicity for this “warlock”. No modern Pagan would take on a name like warlock since it has a very negative meaning. Oath-breaker (the meaning of warlock) is not what modern male witches are called.

    I’m male, I’m a Witch and I would never do anything with or to someone elses livestock to make magick. The misspelling of magic is how we define the difference between theatrical magic and the magick that we practice.

    Hopefully this helps people understand that modern Pagans are not like this warlock and that our religious beliefs are as important as anyone elses.

  6. I’m a Witch too, and I don’t spell magic with the extra k. I think it’s a bit silly, actually.

    But note that the guy didn’t proclaim himSELF a warlock; it was the idiot cops who used both that and the racist* term ‘white magic’. Pretty rude and stupid of them to insult him when he helped them.

    In addition, the article doesn’t say that this “warlock” did the knotting, only that he explained it to the police. He may not know who did it, in fact he probably doesn’t.

    As for me, I hope they catch whomever’s been doing this. It’s relatively harmless and probably doesn’t have bad intent, but it’s at best an annoying prank. Binding your magic into a horse’s mane may strengthen it, but having someone else pick it apart, cursing you the while, will not. Trust me.

    If you want to do horse’s mane magic, get your own damned horse. Or at least get permission.

    If these people were my students, I’d spank them.

  7. there’s a “high in the middle and round on both ends”-style joke here, but damned if i can suss it out.

  8. Hopefully this helps people understand that modern Pagans are not like this warlock..

    Some clearly are.


    Xoph’, tell me you had a witty footnote, please.

    1. *Historically the terms ‘white magic’ and ‘black magic’ come from the idea that “dark people” did evil magic and “white” people did not. In other words: white=good and black=bad; where have we heard THAT bullshit before?

      So sorry, Ark’. Not witty. It’s really true, unfortunately.

      1. @Xopher:
        I’d love a reference for that?
        Using dark/light or the closely related black/white to indicate bad/good (or nice/unpleasant) has a long history not obviously connected to skin color…

  9. Seeing the image associated with this post, I initially thought this was only a problem bedeviling My Little Pony figures, and was very perplexed as to why the police would get involved.

  10. I welcome any warlock or witch to come into our pasture and try to braid my horse’s mane and/or tail. I’ve never been able to get her to sit still and let ME do it, so it would be great to wake up and have it magically done.

    Although I would be worried that the horse would tear the braider’s arm off in the process. I wouldn’t want to wake up to that.

    1. You’re confused. Braiding the hair is the method used for the magic, not the result of the spell. It’s no easier for a Witch to braid a horse’s mane than anyone else, unless they’re a “horse whisperer” (in which case they’d probably know better than to mess with someone else’s horse that way).

  11. If the police knew their literature they would have figured it out right away.

    “…This is that very Mab
    That plaits the manes of horses in the night,”

    So speaks Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene IV, in reference to the fairy, Queen Mab.

  12. If the police knew their literature they would have figured out the “supernatural” connection right away.

    “…This is that very Mab
    That plaits the manes of horses in the night,”

    So speaks Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene IV, in reference to the fairy, Queen Mab.

  13. @xopher: Are you sure? I always thought the whole white magic/black magic stuff originated in Europe long, long before we knew there actually were black people around anywhere – or would have had enough contact with them to speculate or know that they would be doing some black magic.
    I’ve always thought it was white magic because it was basically nice and you could do it during daylight and black magic was basically not quite so nice and best done during the night.
    The whole “racist” angle seems rather north-american-centric to me.

  14. @Xopher – I’ve often ponder about why it is that evil always comes out at night. Now I know. It’s because of all those nasty black people who are pushed into the darkness by the all powerful whites. And even then they send the moon to lord it over the creatures of the night…

    I was going to add a semi-intelligent comment about blackmail being about tarnishing someone’s reputation, but then I realised that the good, proud and true caucasian silver was being sullied attacked by the…

  15. caffeine addict, you might want to cut down. You’re less coherent than you think you are. I was only talking about the use of the terms ‘black magic’ and ‘white magic’. Similar things can come from different sources, so could you maybe chill a bit?

    djin, my source for that was a lecture by Starhawk (Miriam Simos). I don’t know where she got it. I’ll look though, and if it doesn’t pan out I’ll come here and say so.

    1. @Xopher:
      Oki, excellent.

      It smells a bit like an urban myth to me, but I don’t know how old the terms “white magic” and “black magic” are in their current incarnation. If they got constructed or resurrected in the right period, I’ll accept it as plausible. :-)

  16. Oops, djn, sorry for misspelling your name. Damn these teeny little fonts!

    nasssty little fontses, we hates them, we hates them for ever!</gollum>

  17. No worries, I got the idea. ;)

    As for the term “black magic”, the oldest somewhat related use I could find was a “nigromancer” called Osmond in Famous Historie of the Seaven Champions of Christendom, by Richard Johnson (1596).

    The villain in question is a persian dabbler in dark arts, and though the persians were definitely the enemy at the time, I don’t think they’d qualify as “black”.

    Choice quote:

    Awake, great Osmond, from thy dreaming traunce, awake, I say, and raise a troupe of blacke infernall fiendes to fight against the damned Christians, that like to swarmes of Bees doe flocke about our wals: preuent, I say my lands inuasion, and as I am great Monarch of Asia, Ile make thee King ouer twentie Prouinces, & Sole Commaunder of the Ocean: rayse vp, I say, thy charmed spirits: leaue burning Acharon emptie for a time, to ayd vs in this bloudie battell.”

    I just love the language, so I’ll do another one as well:

    Ile raise a troupe of spirits from the lowest earth, more blacke than dismal night, the which in vgly shapes shall haunt them vp and downe, and when they sleepe within their rich Pauillions, legions of fierie spirits will I vprayse from hell, that like to Dragons spitting flames of fire, shall blast and burne the damned Christians in their Tents of warre” (and he goes on for another half page).

    Anyway. If the phrase “black magic” hearks back to this, then I’d say it looks like “black as night and hell”, not “black as in done by darker-skinned people”, was the original idea. It’s far from conclusive, of course.

  18. djn, in England people were called “black” if they had black hair and eyebrows as late as the Elizabethan period. Othello was a Moor, not a Nubian. They called Spaniards “black.” Persians would definitely have been called black.

    And I’m speculating here, but methinks the spelling ‘nigromancer’ may imply the author thought necromancy* had to do with Darkness (in either sense, but cf. ‘negro’) rather than Death.
    * “Get her away from that guy! He’s a necromancer!”
    “He is? How do you know?”
    “He’s doing it now!”
    “Um…doing what now?”
    “Just look at him romancin’ her neck!”

    1. @Xopher: Good point about the black people – I’d forgotten just how low that threshold was. As for darkness, “black as night” sort of hints at the same thing, wouldn’t you agree?

      @arkizzle: Excellent, I was hoping someone would dig up more than my quick efforts could find.

  19. Here’s some OED stuff. As in, the earliest recorded uses of.. May be helpful, but I’m not sure there is enough to gauge motivations.
    Magic, n.

    1. a. The use of ritual activities or observances which are intended to influence the course of events or to manipulate the natural world, usually involving the use of an occult or secret body of knowledge; sorcery, witchcraft. Also: this practice as a subject of study.

    1. b. With defining adjective. natural magic n. (also magic natural) hist. magic involving the manipulation of supposed occult properties of the natural world (usually excluding the conjuration of personal spirits); this skill as a subject of study.

    black magic: see BLACK adj. 17 (leading to Black Art). white magic: see WHITE adj. 7b.

    • c1387-95 CHAUCER Canterbury Tales Prol. 416 He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel In houres by his magik natureel.
    • …

  20. Black Art, a.

    [Probably ‘black’ refers primarily to the dark and secret nature of the magician’s art, or to the popular belief in the association of the magician with the devil; but the name is also associated with the med.L. nigromanta, corruption of necromanta (= Gr. , f. dead body), as if this contained L. niger, nigro- black.]

    1. The art of performing supernatural acts by intercourse with the spirits of the dead or with the devil himself; magic, necromancy.

    • c1590 MARLOWE Faust. ix. 53, I have heard strange report of thy knowledge in the black art.
    • 1611 COTGR., Nigromance, nigromancie, coniuring, the blacke Art.
    • 1674 R. GODFREY Inj. & Ab. Physic 178 He useth Astrology, (which the Vulgar call the Black Art).
    • 1775 SHERIDAN Rivals I. ii, I’d as soon have them taught the black art as their alphabet!
    • 1831 BREWSTER Nat. Magic iv. (1833) 69 A native of Pistoia, who cultivated the black art.

  21. White, a.

    7. fig. Morally or spiritually pure or stainless; spotless, unstained, innocent.

    7. b. Free from malignity or evil intent; beneficent, innocent, harmless, esp. as opposed to something characterized as black (cf. BLACK a. 8, 9): chiefly in phr. white lie (see LIE n.1 1b), white magic (MAGIC n. 1b; cf. BLACK ART); see also white paternoster s.v. PATERNOSTER 2, and WHITE WITCH.

    • 971 Blickl. Hom. 147 Hwylc is of us Drihten æt hæbbe swa hwite saule swa eos halie Marie?

    • 1651 C. CARTWRIGHT Cert. Relig. III. 36 He did not know whether his admonisher were black or evill or a good spirit.
    • 1655 FULLER Ch. Hist. II. v. §12 He made his Harp..make musick of it self; which no White Art could perform.

  22. White witch, a.

    A witch (or wizard) of a good disposition; one who uses witchcraft for beneficent purposes; one who practises ‘white magic’.

    • 1621 BURTON Anat. Mel. II. i. I. i. 289 Sorcerers are too common, Cunning men, Wisards, & white-witches, as they call them, in every village.
    • 1689 C. MATHER Mem. Provid. (1691) 95 Creatures that they call White Witches, which do only Good-Turns for their Neighbours.

  23. Arkie…you realize how extremely offensive it is to quote Cotton MATHER to a Wiccan, right? As well quote Kramer and Sprenger.

    As for the rest, I’ll have to look at it later. IT’s time for me to go home now.

    1. @Xopher, 34:
      No matter what he did or meant, his writings can still be mined for historical information. Note that he’s quoted in a dictionary as an example of word usage only.

      1. Of course. I was mostly kidding.

        Cotton Mather’s only virtue, as far as I can tell, is that he opposed spectral evidence (that is, testimony that while you never saw the accused do anything, her “shape” did things, or “she sent her shadow”).

  24. I wouldn’t know a Cotton Mather from a Nylon one. Oh.. a Puritan Salemite, I see.

    Sorry :)

    (His father’s name was Increase. Increase Mather.. how odd)

  25. The mysterious braids were actually created by birds trying to make a home in the horse’s hair. The only way to stop that from happening is by putting a paste of brewer’s yeast on the horse. Because (wait for it)… yeast is yeast and nest is nest and never the mane shall tweet.

  26. My pagan friends have independently agreed that the term “warlock” doesn’t mean what that policeman thinks it means. But as I understand it, getting all pagans to agree on anything is almost impossible…

    I confess I don’t understand the fuss over the white magic / black magic thing. Sure, you could argue for or against the idea that those who coined the terms were influenced by racist-type attitudes.

    But surely what matters is how we use those terms now. They don’t have any racist meaning now. Aren’t we free to redefine the meaning of words as society changes?

    Does ‘gay’ still mean happy? Does ‘sinister’ still mean left-handed?

    1. Yes, but today there’s this whole bullshit about “the White Light” and the whole Newage*-tinged hearts-and-flowers, elves-and-strawberries, unicorns-and-rainbows stream in Wicca. Magic is not black or white. Magic is a tool and it can be used for good, for evil, or for neutral purposes. The use of the terms ‘white magic’ and ‘black magic’ helps perpetuate this moronic dichotomy in the popular mind.

      And yeah, the term ‘herding cats’ was first applied to Pagans.

      *Rhymes with ‘sewage’.

      1. I have to confess that I’m biased: I view any and all forms of magic as an enjoyable pasttime at best – which means the debate over naming and kinds boils down to the same class of geekish but ultimately unimportant banter as if Han shot first or not. Not that that’s a bad thing to spend your time on, mind you.

        Of course, if you actually believe that magic has a real effect beyond the psychological, that’s another matter (and slightly scary).

  27. I have a different suggestion. Certain native tribes consider this to be from a small dwarf like creature that likes to ride but is very small. So it braids loops in the horse mane to put it’s feet while riding around. A very well known legend.

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