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Witchmarks Intended to Protect King James I Discovered

King James I used conventional means to avoid assassination by Guy Fawkes and the rest of the Gunpowder Plot gang but newly-discovered evidence showed his friends resorted to supernatural aid to protect him from evil spirits. Scratch marks found in wooden beams and floorboards of a country house the king planned to visit shortly after the plot have been identified as witchmarks – symbols designed to ward off demons and the spells and curses of witches.

The first Knole House in Sevenoaks, Kent, where the witchmarks were discovered, was built by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, between 1456 and 1486. In 1566, it was acquired by Thomas Sackville, the cousin of the reigning Queen Elizabeth I. Knole House was renovated in 1606 in hopes it would be used by James I for escapes from the dangers in and around the palace. Unfortunately, the king’s first visit shortly after the Gunpowder Plot was canceled and he never rescheduled.

The National Trust is currently working to preserve Knole House and that’s when the mysterious scratches were discovered on beams below the floorboards and in the fireplace in what is now called the Upper King’s Room. Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology dated the wooden beams to 1606 and identified them as apotropaic marks – intersecting lines and symbols drawn or carved to form a “demon trap” to drive away demons and evil spirits.

Beams under the floorboards in Knole House where the witchmarks were found.

Beams under the floorboards in Knole House where the witchmarks were found.

Why did James I need protection from witches? He brought it upon himself by passing a law making witchcraft a crime punishable by death, writing a book promoting witch hunting called Daemonologie and personally directing the torture of accused witches.

Sounds like he probably needed more than just witchmarks.

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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