Popular author, broadcaster and paranormal investigator JASON KARL discusses one of the most frequently employed forms of ‘wards’: domestic magic used to protect a household from malign influences.
Concealed shoes – that is, shoes intentionally hidden in wall cavities, chimneys and beneath floorboards in old buildings – are relatively common throughout England. Indeed, according to folk magick expert Brian Hoggard, over 1,200 examples have been recorded.
It is important to note that in times past, shoes were a valuable commodity as they were among the most expensive items an average family would have to buy. It is therefore clear that by discarding them in magickal practice, belief in their effectiveness as a charm of protection must have run very deep.
The local village Cunning Man or Woman would advise householders to conceal a single shoe in the fabric of a house with the intention that it would act as a magickal decoy and that any evil spirit or ill intent sent upon the family would be caught in the shoe and dispersed. This belief harkens back to the end of the 13th century when the rector of North Marston, in Buckinghamshire, is reputed to have cast the Devil into a boot. Many of the examples discovered in England date back centuries, but there are more modern examples dating from the beginning of the 20th century as well.
The most recent discovery of Cunning shoes was made at The Aspinall Arms inn in Mitton, Lancashire. A pair of ancient children’s shoes, faded by the centuries and measuring only 7.5 centimetres (3 inches) in length, were found concealed beneath floorboards in the building in July 2007. They had lain undisturbed for 300 years according to a local historian who examined them, and were only found because the building was undergoing renovation. The landlord stated in the local press that he would return the shoes to their hiding place, where they would continue their warding magick.
While attending a witches’ Sabbat at Long Meg Stone Circle in Cumbria in February 2007, I discovered a tree bedecked with ribbons, money and handwritten spells. At its centre a woman’s shoe had been placed between the branches (pictured above). Without doubt, this was a modern Cunning Shoe under the protection of Long Meg.