The kind of magic I find myself closest to believing in, particularly on windy days, is the magic of Merricat Blackwood and concealed objects. You remember the magic of concealed objects, don’t you?
All our land was enriched with my treasures buried in it, thickly inhabited just below the surface with my marbles and my teeth and my colored stones, all perhaps turned to jewels by now, held together under the ground in a powerful taut web which never loosened, but held fast to guard us.
Did you know that this particular type of household magic has a name? It’s apotropaic magic, and it’s everywhere, including the walls of your house. From the Wikipedia entry on concealed shoes (muffled squeal at the thought of an entire article on concealed witch shoes):
“Since at least the early modern period it has been a common custom to hide objects such as written charms, dried or mummified cats, horse skulls, and witch bottles in the structure of a building, but concealed shoes are by far the most common items discovered.”
We’ll get back to the shoes in a minute, but a witch-bottle?
“A traditional witch bottle is a small flask about 2 inches (51 mm) high, created from blue or green glass. Larger and rounder witch bottles, up to 9 inches (230 mm) high, were known as “Greybeards” and employed so-called Bartmann or Bellarmine jugs…[made of] brown or gray stoneware glazed with salt and embossed with severe bearded faces intended to scare off evil.”
What should you put in your witch-bottle? Possibilities include (but are not limited to) urine, hair and nail clippings, red thread from a sprite trap(!), rosemary, needles, pins, wine, sand, stones, knotted threads, feathers, shells, herbs, flowers, salt, vinegar, oil, coins, or ashes. You can put pretty much anything in a witch bottle, as long as you bury it under your fireplace and never ever dig it up ever again.
Only eight witch bottles have ever been found in North America, which probably explains why we’re still mostly safe from witches. The key is to stop finding them.
If you do not have a salt-encrusted beard-jar at hand, you might also try burying a single shoe somewhere in the walls of your home. For more information, please pay a visit to the Northampton Museum Concealed Shoe Index, which is a real thing that actually exists.
When removing walls, especially around windows and doors, under roof rafters and behind old chimneys, homeowners should be aware of the possibility of turning up concealment shoes. While most are found in eighteenth and nineteenth century homes, a find hidden as late as 1935 has been reported. If shoes are found, they should left exactly as they were discovered and photographed.
When you woke up this morning, did you have any idea that the house you live in might be laced with powerful protection spells centered on Secret Wall Shoes? What object do you currently own that you suspect might hold counter-witch magic? Old jewelry, or a preserved bird’s nest, or the pack of playing cards your wealthy merchant father used to absently shuffle before that last voyage from which he never returned?
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.