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Witch’s wreath, ca 1940 

“Consists of a leather thong, knotted to form a necklace and strung with twelve amuletic objects: a square piece of wood with a fragment of Holy Writ beneath a sheet of mica; a hollow quill containing a scroll, sealed at each end with beeswax; a horn cross; a piece of animal bone; a thin bone plaque bearing symbols in red sealing wax; a small piece of leather tooled with a six-pointed star; a model of a human heart in beeswax, covered in red wax and transfixed by a large pin; an eye-shaped piece of horn incised with an iris and pupil; a thin bone plaque with symbols, possibly intended to be signs of the Zodiac, burnt into the surface; a fragment of translucent horn in the shape of a skull with holes burnt out to represent eyes, nose and mouth; a lump of fossilised resin, and a rusty staple of forged iron.

The wreath, purchased for £5 in 1941, came with a document, apparently written by Alice Wornum in Stratton, near Swindon, Wiltshire, on 3 October 1879, which reads that:
“This Witches wreath was used by Mary Holt a well known wise woman of Stratton who cured my Mother of the Evil eye and our cattle of the plague. This wreath was found in her cottage after she died in 1875.”

Suspicions were aroused a year later when it was revealed that no persons of the names mentioned in the document existed. Nor was it possible to trace the wreath back into the nineteenth century.“

From the British Museum’s collection

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