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Thu, 28 March 2019

Witches’ Marks Discovery Helps Crags Go Global!

News of Creswell Crags’ recent Witches’ Marks discovery and press release reaches every continent on earth!

 Weeks on from the announcement of the press release for the Witches Mark discovery, the news has gone global. There isn’t a continent on earth that hasn’t covered the story: from independent magazines and articles in Texas and Calgary, local press in Aberdeen, Irish Radio to Australian press, even Spanish National Geographic and the New York Post, Creswell’s discovery has truly, gone around the world.

The discovery, which was paired with Historic England, was a major find of the largest collection of Witches Marks ever discovered in UK caves. They were discovered in plain sight, having been mistaken for graffiti for years by tour guides of the site. The collection was another huge find for the world renowned, award-winning heritage site and is significant on a national scale for being, potentially, the biggest collection of apotropaic marks in one place in the whole of the UK.

Kat Middleton, Marketing Officer at Creswell Crags said: “The response has been absolutely phenomenal, with the help of Historic England, this story has gone global, what a whirlwind couple of weeks! It’s amazing to be part of the Crags team at this incredible time.”

These ritualistic protection marks (commonly called Witches Marks) are most commonly found in entrances to doorways and windows of old buildings and churches, to protect the inhabitants from evil, and are usually around 17th Centure-19th Century in age. The marks at Creswell are over a large cavern in Robin Hood’s Cave, which suggests locals were trying to keep evil inside the hole, preventing escape.

Following the discovery, economy has been boosted for the small, independent charity, resulting in the best February half term on record (with help from the fantastic weather!).

Visitors from across the country have been flocking to Creswell Crags to go on the new Witches Marks tour, a phenomenal response in less than two weeks, with every single tour fully booked throughout the half term!

Paul Baker, Director of Creswell Crags, said: “Interest in the story exceeded all our expectations. On the day it was released our team were busy fielding phone enquiries and from around the world and the day was regularly interspersed by cries of astonishment as we were contacted by major international broadcasters and publishers or discovered coverage from the furthest points around the globe. The story has now been reported on every continent and has been translated into many languages.  We are still reeling with excitement!”

The breadth of news coverage has been astonishing, and publications and TV include: Sky News, National Geographic, IFL Science, Radio 4, ITN, BBC National, Channel 5 News, CNN, Fox News, New York Post, Brazilian journals, Russian newspapers, and even having been translated into Vietnamese and Chinese. The significance of this news coverage is huge. A fantastic leap forward for Creswell Crags, who are on the Tentative List for World Heritage Site Status. 

Witches Marks Q&A – by Historic England

What are apotropaic marks?

Apotropaic comes from the Greek word for averting evil and the marks were usually carved on stone or woodwork near a building’s entrance points, particularly doorways, windows and fireplaces, to protect inhabitants and visitors from witches and evil spirits.

What do they look like?

The most common type of apotropaic mark is the daisy wheel, or hexafoil, which at its simplest is a six petal “flower” drawn with a pair of compasses. Daisy wheels comprise a single, endless line which supposedly confused and entrapped evil spirits.

Pentangles, which are five-pointed stars, were often used as ritual symbols and the letters AM for Ave Maria, PM for Pace Maria, simply M for Mary or VV for Virgin of Virgins are also a common type of apotropaic mark. These letters, scratched into the fabric of medieval walls, engraved onto wooden beams and etched onto plasterwork were thought to beseech the supreme protective power of the Virgin Mary.

Where are they?

As well as being found in caves, apotropaic marks can be found in medieval houses, dating from around 1550 to 1750. A few have been recorded recently at Shakespeare’s Birthplace for example, where they are carved near the door to the cellar, once the store for precious beer and they have been spotted in medieval barns like the Bradford-on-Avon Tithe Barn, where they were etched into the ancient timber to protect crops.