Credit: Columbia Pictures Corporation

One of the our favorite Halloween fascinations is the witch. Although we mostly picture a scary, hooked-nose woman with a broomstick who casts spells and makes the occasional love potion, there’s a lot of evidence throughout history that paints a very different picture of how witches, and the practices and rituals of witchcraft, played a role in the world. Stepping briefly back in time and learning more about it might give Halloween a whole new meaning.

This Halloween in the UK, people are being encouraged to search for “witches’ marks,” which are essentially carvings or markings etched into entryways to protect the building from evil spirits.

Between 1550 and 1750, many of the medieval houses in Britain were marked with something called the “Daisy Wheel” (sounds pretty innocent, doesn’t it?), a six-petal flower with two compasses. People are on the hunt for them, and they’ve been pretty successful so far at finding them.

These markings exist in many different spots across the UK, but they haven’t been fully recorded, so Historic England is asking everyone to step up, look for the marks, and share their findings — and have some Halloween fun along the way, of course. Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, told Mic that “witches’ marks” were “a common part of everyday life” back then, so they can easily be missed if you’re not actively looking for them.

“Witches’ marks are a physical reminder of how our ancestors saw the world. They really fire the imagination and can teach us about previously-held beliefs and common ritual. Ritual marks were cut, scratched or carved into our ancestors’ homes and churches in the hope of making the world a safer, less hostile place.”

Even the home Shakespeare was born in has one of these markings engraved into it. Sometimes the markings look like a five-pointed star, or they can possess the letters AM (Ave Maria), M (Mary), or VV (Virgin of Virgins).

Folks are flocking to social media to show their findings.


It’s safe to say people in the UK are having the best Halloween of their lives — and we’re a little bit jealous.