Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's In Your Walls?

It is an ancient and common practice to hide shoes, clothing, and other items in the walls and under the floorboards of houses. Folk legends suggest this is a way to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. A 1996 article on concealed shoes by June Swann records more than a thousand cases from Britain, Finland, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Spain, Turkey, North America, Australia, and a possible finding from China dating back to the 11th century. Shoes are considered particularly powerful, according to Swann:

Why the shoe? It is the only garment we wear which retains the shape, the personality, the essence of the wearer.

She points out that a scholar had suggested the practice may be linked with a fourteenth century belief that a rector in Buckinghamshire "conjured the devil into a boot."

"But one could rationalize this tradition," she adds, "as the shoes of his time were so narrow and pointed (some were actually called devil’s horns) that it would be easy to believe the devil was pinching you, a suggestion women today will understand. But it does reinforce the idea that evil can be lured into a boot."

The website Apotroptropaios (the Greek word for "evil averting") has a review of more than a hundred dried cats found stuffed in buildings. It has pages discussing written charms, horse skulls, and witch-bottles as well. The Deliberately Concealed Garments Project catalogues all kinds of clothing, and they have great pictures of coats and tattered shirts.

Makes you wonder what's hiding in your home, doesn't it?

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