Witch Bottles and Concealed Shoes

Maya Chessman

Now more than ever it feels important that our homes help us to feel physically safe. This feeling acts as a link to those people who lived before us; what actions did they take to protect the home, and those within it? 

For centuries, up until quite recently, people used certain objects to ensure the house was protected from evil spirits, witches, and fairies. They would be placed where the building was thought to be weakest, where evil could let itself in, through the chimney, attic, and floor. Commonly concealed items found in houses were shoes, as people thought a spirit could become trapped in them (the result of a story that a member of the clergy captured the devil in his shoe), and witch bottles (Bellarmine jars), which would be used against witches. These were both commonly used in East Anglia; a concealed shoe was quite recently found in a house in Pottergate, Norwich. 

The items are often found during modern renovations and help to paint a picture of the many lives that occupied our homes – and the homes we walk past – before us.  

Words: Maya Chessman, Illustration, @maya.c.illustration

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