Spiritual Middens: Foundation Deposit, Spirit Trap or Counter Witchcraft Measure?Archaeologists regularly discover large collections or ‘caches’ of clothing deliberately concealed within the fabric of 16th & 17th century buildings. Often, these objects have been hidden in the voids around the chimney stack, in the ‘dead’ space between ceilings and floors and even within the walls themselves.Much of the clothing is heavily worn, soiled and patched, showing numerous repairs whilst many of the objects have been deliberately broken or ritually ‘killed.’Such a collection of items – often referred to as a ‘cache’ of concealed clothes or a ‘spiritual midden’ –was discovered during the demolition of the Old Plough in Sittingbourne by two members of the Sittingbourne Museum team. Over 500 items were discovered, including old & patched clothing, tools and children’s toysWhat do they constitute? Foundation deposits? Acts of sympathetic Magic? Apotropaic evil-averting agents? Were they considered to possess a ‘protective function’ against incoming malevolent forces? Were they created to counter the threat of maleficium or the witch’s familiar?
Published by Wayne Perkins
I am an archaeologist with over twenty years of experience. After a decade or so working as a volunteer on excavations in the 1990’s, I undertook my degree in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham. In the last year of my degree I helped to supervise the university’s annual excavations. Directly after my exams I began my career in Commercial Archaeology as a Field Archaeologist with Oxford Archaeology and remained there for four years. Anticipating a career in archaeology in France I volunteered on excavations at Rom and at Prisse-la-Charriere, Niort (for Poitiers & Rennes University respectively). In due course I worked for the States’ premier scientific organization, I.N.R.A.P. (Institut Nationale des Récherches Archéologiques Préventives) as well as for a number of private companies. I returned to the UK in 2013 and resumed my role as a Supervisor, undertaking projects around Oxfordshire with John Moore Heritage Services before moving to London in 2014. I now undertake Historic Building Surveys and supervise urban excavations in the City of London as well as overseeing rural excavations in surrounding Sussex, Surrey & Kent. Wayne Perkins BA Hons (Archaeology) ACIfA (Associate Member, Chartered Institute for Archaeologists) View all posts by Wayne Perkins