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witch posts


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In North Yorkshire farmhouses of the 17th and 18th centuries, hearths were screened by partitions ending in posts of rowan wood carved with X-shaped patterns, called ‘witch posts’. Lancashire farms had similar rowan posts, but without the decoration. Belief in their protective power continued into the 1920s, when Yorkshire builders made new ones when old houses were being rebuilt. A modern stonemason explained:The witch, in order to gain power over a dwelling house, must go through the house and past the hearth. The door and chimney were the only means of access, but she could not pass the witch post with its cross. Hence it was a defence at the hearth … a crooked sixpence was kept in a hole at the centre of the post. When the butter would not turn you took a knitting needle, which was kept for the purpose in a groove at the top, and with it got out the sixpence and put it in the churn. (Brears, 1989: 31)

The witch, in order to gain power over a dwelling house, must go through the house and past the hearth. The door and chimney were the only means of access, but she could not pass the witch post with its cross. Hence it was a defence at the hearth … a crooked sixpence was kept in a hole at the centre of the post. When the butter would not turn you took a knitting needle, which was kept for the purpose in a groove at the top, and with it got out the sixpence and put it in the churn. (Brears, 1989: 31)


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