Experts claim they have found a disturbing amount of “anti-witch” marks in a British cave network.
The Mirror reports that an unprecedented number of ancient marks said to stop demonic and evil spirits escaping from the underworld have been found in caves in a limestone gorge in the Midlands.
The Creswell Crags are located on the border between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. They are described as being a relic from a world of fire and flint and boast cave etchings 10,000 years older than the pyramids.
Hundreds of these etchings have now been identified as “anti-witch” marks. Cave enthusiasts Hayley Clark and Ed Waters discovered Creswell Crags’ dark secret during a tour.
The “anti-witch” marks used to be called “apotropaic” marks. In Greek, the word “apotrepein” means “to turn away.” Such marks are usually found in historic churches and houses. They are often etched in wooden doorways and fireplaces to protect the inhabitants and ward off evil spirits.
Before being identified, the marks were considered to have been the work of vandals.
The marks are often engraved “VV.” This is thought to be a symbol of Mary Virgin of Virgins, who would often be called upon for protection. Another common engraving is a diagonal line, box, or maze, which were believed to have been a means to capture or trap underworld spirits.
Prior to this discovery, Somerset boasted the largest known quantity of “anti-witch marks,” but the caves at Creswell Crags possess a number which far exceeds Somerset’s 57.
Heritage facilitator John Charlesworth explained, “these witches’ marks were in plain sight all the time.
“Being present at the moment their true significance was revealed will stay with me forever. This remarkable place continues to give up its secrets.”
Academic and TV presenter Professor Ronald Hutton is also something of an authority on folklore. He believes the discovery is significant because it is probably the largest amount of protective marks which have been found in a British cave network to date.
The professor said, “this is a suddenly a large new area of research for historians and archaeologists, and so adds appreciatively to the importance of the Crags as a world resource.”
The Chief Executive of Historic England Duncan Wilson added that the discovery of “anti-witch marks” adds a whole new layer of discovery to a site which already has international importance due to its ancient remains and Ice Age art.
Mr. Wilson said “even 200 years ago, the English countryside was a very different place; death and disease were everyday companions and evil forces could readily be imagined in the dark.
“We can only speculate on what it was the people of Creswell feared might emerge from the underworld into these caves.”