RITUAL PROTECTION MARKS & GRAFFITI
APOTROPAIC, MARIAN, WITCH, & MASONS’ MARKS
This is a huge topic, an area of study connected with scratch dials by location (church walls) and time (medieval period), but a largely separate field of interest. In addition there are masons’ marks, yet another sub-heading in the list of incised shapes and letters found on church stonework. It would be hard to for an amateur to specialise in all such marks.
These medieval marks cut into stone both inside and out are interpreted in a number ways. There is considerable debate about their specific meanings, symbolism, and purpose. I’m taking the easy route at this stage by generalising them as ‘Witch Marks’. I know that may strictly be incorrect, but it works for me while I investigate further. There’s only so much intellectual kudos to be gained from dropping ‘Apotropaic’ into everyday conversation. Or room to write it.
MARIAN & OTHER MARKS . CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION . HOLNEST . DORSET
There is broad agreement that the various marks, from the crude to the complex, have the purpose of protecting a church from evil. Marks may proclaim a church’s sanctity with passive protection – ‘thou shall not pass’ (eg the Marian marks of the ‘Virgin of Virgins’ above). Alternatively they are designed actively to frighten away and repulse the force of evil – ‘get thee gone’. Or these passive and active properties may be combined by means of multiple marks or even in one device. Triangular shapes are believed to represent the Trinity. Add a small swivel-eyed grimacing goblin, and Evil will be repulsed or vanquished.
APOTROPAIC MARK . HEAD WITHIN TRIANGULAR FORM . ST MARY . RIMPTON . SOM.
Church marks other than dials are strictly outside my self-imposed dial remit. However, inevitably I photograph some of the more striking ones. Some, like these, will end up on this page.
SMALL FACE BY THE ENTRANCE DOOR . ST MARY MAGDALENE . BATCOMBE . DORSET
SNAKE . ST OSMOND . MELBURY OSMOND . DORSET
WITCH MARK . ST MARY . RIMPTON . SOM.
MARIAN MARKS . ST PETER . STOURTON CAUNDLE . DORSET
APOTROPAIC RECTANGLE . ST MARTIN . CHESELBOURNE . DORSET
MARIAN MARK . ST MARY . CHARMINSTER . DORSET
HEXFOIL WITCH MARKS . ST MICHAEL . BLACKFORD . SOM
GEOMETRIC PROTECTION MARKS . ST PETER . STOURTON CAUNDLE . DORSET
APOTROPAIC CARVING . MONTACUTE . SOMERSET
A little carving high up on the nave – not a mark, but presumably a protection feature (see Rimpton above)
St Catherine . Montacute . Somerset – apotropaic carving
OLD ST PETER . STOCKBRIDGE . HANTS
ST CUTHBERT . CLUNGUNFORD . SHROPSHIRE