Unlocking secrets of WA’s superstitious past

Have you ever found something strange while renovating an old home? Maybe a pair of shoes sitting neatly under the floorboards, or a baby’s bonnet stuffed into a wall cavity? Perhaps it was a bottle full of pins placed up in the ceiling, or strange carvings on the door frames or skirting boards?

If the answer is yes, then you may have stumbled across artefacts from a time when superstitions and a belief in the supernatural were common among early European settlers.

“Shoes were often placed under the floorboards when a home was being built or throughout its occupation because people believed that an evil spirt entering a room would become trapped inside them,” University of Notre Dame Australia School of Archaeology researcher, Lauren Tomlinson, said.

“Similarly, bottles full of pins or nails were designed to catch witches. People even went as far as placing the dried remains of cats and other animals, inside their walls or chimneys, and beneath their floorboards to protect themselves from supernatural forces.”

“Some of these rituals date back to medieval times and were still being practiced in the United Kingdom and other European countries at the time of Western Australia’s settlement, which resulted in their continuation here up until the early 1900s.”

As part of her PhD research project, Ms Tomlinson is now hoping to enlist local home renovators to help capture and preserve what she describes as an under-researched part of our local history.

“By its very nature, this history has largely remained hidden from view and, as a result, many of these artefacts have been going straight into skip bins because renovators haven’t understood the significance of what they’ve found,” Ms Tomlinson said.

“I am hoping to change that by raising awareness of what to look out for so that we can have a chance to record, examine and preserve these curiosities accurately for future generations.”

/University Public Release. This material from the originating organization/author(s) might be of the point-in-time nature, and edited for clarity, style and length. Mirage.News does not take institutional positions or sides, and all views, positions, and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the author(s).View in full here.