Mystery surrounds ‘spooky magic witch circles’ found ‘hidden in plain sight’ at opposite ends of the country
Spooky ‘magic circles’ used to ward off evil spirits have been found hidden in plain sight at different ends of the country.
The first of the geometric apotropaic signs - from the Greek word for defence – were uncovered last month during restoration work of an old cathedral in Kamień Pomorski.
The most recent discovery was made this week in Kraków’s Wawel Castle 700km away.
Believed to protect people or animals from witches’ curses, one was carved on the stone frame of a window next to the former apartment of King Zygmunt August, the other on a set of stairs named after 16th-century king Henryk Walezy.
Surveyor Mariusz Meus who made the Wawel Castle discovery said: “The circles were cut with a compass, because you can see a hole made by the leg of the compass. They form regular compositions from smaller and larger circles.”
Thought to date back to at least the 16th century, the other Wawel symbol was made in the Henryk Walezy stairwell, one of six sets of secret stairs hidden in the castle’s three-metre-thick walls, which were a secluded alternative to the two official staircases.
The Walezy stairs are narrow, spiral stairs that run the entire height of the castle in the Jordanka Tower. Tradition says that Henryk Walezy, widely regarded as Poland’s worst ever king, used them to escape when he fled Poland to take the crown of France after his brother’s death in 1575.
Meus said: “They are symbols of fullness, but also of a closed sphere, which provided isolation from something that is outside, so they protected against what was evil that wanted to enter the private, royal space, but also space that was the most important in terms of the state.”
According to Meus, the presence of the symbol by the royal apartment showed that courtiers wanted to show that this is a unique zone and should have exceptional protection.
Although the symbols are hiding in plain sight, Meus says that the archaeology department of the Wawel Royal Castle was not previously aware of the finds.
Witches’ marks, or ritual protection symbols, are found all over Europe, often in medieval churches, houses and castles.
The marks were usually made on stone or woodwork near a building’s entrance points, particularly doorways, windows and fireplaces, to protect inhabitants and visitors from witches and evil spirits.
They date back to times when belief in witchcraft and the supernatural was widespread. Magical symbols and ritual objects were a common part of life in the 16th century.
Last month, roof renovators at the St. Mary's Co-Cathedral in Kamień Pomorski, on the north-eastern Polish coast also came across medieval “protective magic” markings.
The signs were engraved on the inner gable wall on a gothic pillar 18 metres above the choir vault.
Thought to have protected temples and the faithful from demons, evil spirits or witches, the signs show six circles inscribed within a larger circle to form a daisy in its centre.
This stylised flower with six symmetrically arranged petals in a circle is the most legible.
Similar discoveries are known in England, in the county of Norfolk (eastern England).
In the culture of medieval and early modern Europe, such signs had great power.
The circle symbolised infinity, but also perfection of the natural world, law and order and divinity. Crossing the circle expressed the transition from the profane to the sacred world.
The signs may have been created during the construction of the cathedral in the Middle Ages, when many trials of women accused of witchcraft took place in Europe, including at Kamień.
The cathedral was built in the Middle Ages in the Romanesque and Gothic styles.
It was founded in 1176 by the Pomeranian prince Kazimierz I and was completed in the 15th century. In 1934 a massive neo-Gothic tower block was added.
In the period 1544-1648 it was a Lutheran cathedral and since 1945 has been Catholic.