Ancient graffiti called “witch marks” were discovered in the ruins of a medieval church in the English village of Stoke Mandeville and they were put there in order to keep evil spirits away.
St. Mary’s church was constructed around the year 1070 as a private chapel for the lord of Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, England. It was renovated in the 1340s which made it bigger so that locals could also attend the church. But then in the 1860s when a new church was built, St. Mary’s was demolished.
It was during the preparations for the construction of a new high-speed railway that revealed the ancient marks in the ruins of the church. The village, as well as the church, are directly in the path of where the tracks will be.
While archaeologists were excavating the church site, they found the remains of walls measuring about five feet in height as well as intact flooring. The most interesting discovery was stone beams that had very peculiar markings on them. The odd circular patterns that are called “witch marks” resembled wheel spokes with a hole that was put in the center with several lines spreading out from it. In fact, they found two different stones that contained those markings – one of them was on the ground level while the other was at an elevated location.
Those types of radial markings were also used as sundials to divide the day up with morning, mid-day, and evening prayers. However, since one of the stones was found at the ground level, its purpose was more than likely to protect the location against evil. In a statement, the project officials explained them as being put there to “ward off evil spirits by entrapping them in an endless line or maze”.
These “witch marks” have been found at other medieval locations around the United Kingdom and were normally etched into stones near entrances, fireplaces, and windows to stop evil forces from entering. And they’re not just found in churches as the etchings have been discovered in houses, barns, and even caves.
Pictures of the witch marks and an image of what St. Mary’s church would have looked like 700 years ago can be seen here.