Google+ Badge

Monday, 26 November 2012

Charms & Superstitions

The photo opposite is of a mummified cat which I keep at home on a table in a glass case. Now before you think me more than a little weird to own such a grisly item and display it in my home then allow me to explain. Prior to the late 18th century, it was common practice particularly in rural communities, to conceal lucky charms in newly constructed houses. When over the years many of these building were demolished or modernised, it was not unusual to find leather shoes, pins, and old fashioned tobacco- pipe heads, hidden in chimney stacks and wall cavities, put there for the purpose of protecting the house and its occupant from all manor of evil spirits. A more familiar version of this superstition is the nailing of horseshoes on the inside and outside of houses, as it was believed that the Devil would be repelled by the touch of cold iron.

Perhaps the most grotesque of these lucky charms are the great many mummified cats found immured in walls or attic spaces of many old houses throughout Britain. Folklorist suggest they were put there in the belief that the spirit of the dead animal would protect the house from vermin and possibly witchcraft.

The mummified cat in my possession was found in a wall above the fire place of a mid 18th century mud and stud cottage (walls made from mud and straw) during extensive renovations of the property in 1992. The cottage presently the family home is situated in a small village in the Lincolnshire wolds. Similarly there are cases on record of dogs who have died and then been buried within the house in the belief that their canine spirits would protect the occupants from evil spirits seeking to enter the building at night.

Both of these bizarre customs may possibly stem from the "Church Grim", the ancient practice of sacrificing an animal on the foundations of a new church so that its spirit would defend the building from devils and evil spirits: a pagan practice that lasted well into the Christian era.

There are to date over a hundred mummified cats on record, but the one in my possession, as far as I am aware is the only example in Lincolnshire. However, if any one knows of any others then I would be interested to know.

No comments:

Post a Comment