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University Historian Reveals How People Protected Themselves From 'Bad Magic' in Tudor and Stuart Times

A University of Worcester historian will reveal how people in the past would protect their homes from bad magic and evil spirits.

Professor of Early Modern History, Darren Oldridge, will explore in a public talk the use of magical devices in Tudor and Stuart times, which people believed would protect them.

Such devices, discovered by archaeologists, also reveal the disparity of beliefs between different sections of society at the time, he said.

Titled ‘Demons and Bugs in Early Modern England’, Professor Oldridge is giving the talk for the Worcestershire Archaeological Society, at the Royal Grammar School, in Worcester, on Monday (November 20), at 7.30pm.

Items found to keep evil things at bay included inscriptions and buried objects, such as children's shoes and bottles filled with urine and pins.  Often these were placed beside entrances - doorways, chimneys and windows.

“Archaeologists have discovered hundreds of markings and hidden objects of this kind,” said Professor Oldridge. “These curious artefacts reveal much about the lives and beliefs of ordinary people.   They suggest the widespread fear of wicked spirits.  Popular beliefs about these things were very different to the ideas of educated Protestants at the time.  While the church warned against the Devil as an invisible spirit of temptation, encouraging sin and falsehood, ordinary folk were worried about nasty things that could skitter down the chimney and the physical harm they could do.”

Professor Oldridge said the fear of such spirits can be linked to witchcraft, as it was widely believed that witches sent evil spirits to torment and harm their neighbours.

“It was believed that these creatures could even get inside people's bodies", added Professor Oldridge. "The magical inscriptions and objects were a form of protection.”

The talk will take place in the lecture theatre of the Royal Grammar School, in Upper Tything, Worcester.

There is a £2 admission charge for non-members.