What Is a Witch's Mark?
A witch mark appears in various forms associated with witches and the practice of witchcraft. The different types of witch marks are:
- A mark on the witch’s body
- A raised lump or teat-like protuberance
- The Devil’s mark
- A sign or symbol to ward off witchcraft.
We’ll take a look at the various kinds of witch marks, what they signified, and why they existed.
Marks on a Witch’s Body
A witch’s mark can be an irregular mark on the body that indicates that a person could be a witch. However, as there are very few human beings who don’t have some type of birthmark, freckle, wart, mole, scar, age spot, or other natural blemish upon their skin, it would mean the whole global population are witches.
During the witch trials of the Middle Ages, ‘prickers’ were employed. A pricker was an 'expert' with a sharp tool that was used to test for invisible marks. It was systematically jabbed all over the witch’s body. If she didn’t yelp or cry out, that was a sign that an invisible mark existed in that place.
Favorite places to search included the armpits and even under the eyelids.
Sometimes hereditary witches claim that a certain mark has been passed down the generations within a family. Sybil Leek (1917-1982), the infamous witch and astrologer of the New Forest, Hampshire, England, and later of Los Angeles, claimed to have a hereditary mark that appeared on various female members of her family.
Today, symbolic marks are often made during Wiccan initiation rites. They may take the the form of a pentacle or other meaningful pattern. They are traced with a finger onto the initiate’s forehead and/or other points of the body by the High Priest or Priestess.
What is a Witch’s Teat?
The idea that people sought assistance from supernatural beings has been around forever. Witches had their ‘familiars’. These entities had to be sustained, so it was said that witches had an extra, hidden nipple which fed blood to the familiar. According to the witchfinders, a teat could be any raised lump, bump, or skin tag.
What is the Devil’s Mark?
Similar to the witch’s mark, the Devil’s version was placed upon the skin when the witch pledged allegiance to the Devil. The mark was made by the Devil raking his claws across the skin or by burning the witch with a branding iron.
Many people tried to disfigure themselves in order to remove a possible mark or teat, but the scars themselves were deemed evidence enough.
How Did the Idea of Witch Marks on the Skin Begin?
No-one is certain where the idea of witches bearing certain marks began. They are probably rooted in ancient superstition as a way to explain birthmarks and blemishes. However, the idea really took hold during the witch trials of the late Middle Ages. Witches were ritually searched, both externally and internally in a humiliating and tortuous manner.
What If I Have a Witch Mark On Me?
Don’t worry for one second. As mentioned previously, it would be a very unusual person who hasn’t got one or more naturally occurring mark on their skin. Of course, if you notice that you have one of an odd or changing appearance, you must consult a medical practitioner. Having any kind of mark or natural skin formation does not mean you are a witch.
Signs and Symbols to Ward off Evil Witchcraft
Symbols and marks carved on buildings to ward off witch’s and curses were common in Europe throughout the centuries. Many superstitions were attached to them. Frequently the marks, also called ‘apotropaic marking’ and ‘hexfoils’ were a series of interlocking circles, daisy patterns contained within circles, pentagrams, or sometimes the intertwined letters V and M to solicit protection from the Virgin Mary.
These signs and symbols were placed on doors, window shutters and chimneys; anywhere that a witch could gain entrance to a home. They are still visible on historical buildings in Britain and across Europe today.
While such markings were often dismissed as ancient scribblings or attempts to add decoration, a recent book, ‘Medieval Graffiti: The Lost Voices of England’s Churches’ by architect, Matthew Champion reveals their true purpose:
"The world was full of dangers, both physical and spiritual," Champion says. "These markings were made simply as a way to make it a safer, less hostile place; the front line in the defence of the soul."
The fact that a great many of the markings were made on and in parish churches confirms that countryfolk superstition was due to the appropriation of pagan places of worship by Christianity. They were afraid of retribution by witches, even centuries later.
Historic England, an organization that preserves ancient and traditional sites, has called on the general public to search their homes and locality for evidence of apotropaic marks.
Do you have a witch mark?
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© 2018 Bev G