The markings were previously dismissed as vandalism.
A limestone gorge cave at the Derbyshire-Nottinghamshire border, East Midlands, UK was found containing apotropaic marks – a collection of symbols made to banish misfortune or evil. This find at the Creswell Crags is perhaps the largest ever find of this nature in the United Kingdom. Heritage experts found hundreds of patterns, letters, and symbols from a time when there was a widespread belief in witchcraft. The variety and scale of marks made on the cave ceiling and limestone walls were never seen before. The caves lead to a deep and dark hole.
The markings inside the Creswell Crags were discovered by two Subterranea Britannica group members, Ed Waters and Hayley Clark, during a cave tour. They immediately recognized the symbols as protection marks. It is to be mentioned the same marks were seen by others too but quickly dismissed as the work of vandals.
Apotropaic marks, or witches marks, are generally located in historic houses and places of worship. They were usually written close to fireplaces, windows, and doorways. The markings were made with the express purpose of protecting the house inhabitants from the scourge of evil spirits.
@CreswellCrags you are the gift that keeps on giving!
Well done to the whole team, it can't have been easy recording those marks.
— Beverley Gormley ArtⓋ🥕🥒🌽🍆🦊🐄🐖🐔 (@VioletImpact) February 15, 2019
The Creswell Heritage Trust director Paul Baker said it was clear that those who made the marks were fearful of something unknown. This is evident from the thousands of markings located everywhere in the cave. The walls have a surfeit of them. The letter V has been etched everywhere, taking the form of two overlapping Vs; the two letters is a reference to the Virgin Mary. The phrase “Pace Maria,” abbreviated as “PM” is also seen, along with crossed “I”s meaning Jesus on the cross and “odd-shaped ‘A’s.”
According to Alison Fearn, a specialist on protective marks from Leicester University, although the symbols and letters were unquestionably Christian, they should not be viewed in such context. The marks, made from the 16th century to the beginning of the 19th century, belonged to a period when people routinely made witch marks. That period was also linked with an absence of religion.