Monday, October 10, 2016
Apotropaios and old shoes
Apotropaios (Greek for “turning away,” as in evil) describes magical items left in old buildings such as cottages, pubs and mansions. To date historians remain unable to explain why shoes were commonly used as an anti-witch cachet, but it has been recorded from 1500s and the practice persisted to the 19th century. People today, are still finding these “spirit traps” in walls and chimneys of old buildings. Recently a maintenance crew rewiring a room in St. John’s College at the University of Cambridge. The shoe (man’s size 6) was thought to be about 300 years old and had the sole worn through. It was placed strategically between a window and a chimney interior to ward off evil and protect academics. In any event, the shoe will be returned once the date of its origin can be confirmed.
Australian settlers borrowed the practice and it was commonplace to hide apotropaic items in buildings and the practice remained until the 1920s. There was even a child’s shoe found in a pylon in the Sydney Harbour Bridge.