Last month, I posted about "witch bottles" — containers of curious items like human teeth, fish hooks, glass shards, and undetermined liquid — sometimes found in chimneys or inside walls of old buildings where they were placed to ward off evil spells, spirits, and curses. Turns out that there's a new book — "Magical House Protection: the Archaeology of Counter-Witchcraft" by Brian Hoggard — all about the strange history of witch bottles and other kinds of occult home protection! From John Rimmer's post about the text over at Magonia Review of Books:
We are all familiar with the practice of hanging up horse-shoes as a 'good-luck' token, although there is some disagreement as to whether the points of the shoe should be pointing up or down. My grandmother insisted that if the points were turned down, "the luck would all run out".
Lots of people hang up a horseshoe, but maybe we would be less inclined to bury a dead cat under our threshold, or place a bottle full of urine and nail clippings up our chimney, or nail horses skulls underneath the floorboards? These are just some of the objects which have been used for centuries to offer some sort of 'magical protection' to houses and other properties.
In the past magic and witchcraft was not a topic for discussion between believers and sceptics, it was just an ordinary part of everyday life, and taking precautions to divert its power was seen as no more remarkable than taking an umbrella with you on a wet day to protect you from the rain. Equally taking magical action yourself against another person who had hurt or threatened you was just as rational a response as reporting them to the police would be now…
In the absence of any written records of these relics and symbols, the hidden objects form what Hoggard calls the 'archaeological record' of magic, which provides evidence of magical practices by levels of society who are hardly represented in the written record.
Magical House Protection: the Archaeology of Counter-Witchcraft by Brian Hoggard (via The Anomalist)