Saturday, 23 October 2010



There has only ever been one witch post found outside the North Yorkshire Moors, and that was from Rawtenstall in Lancashire. They were always made of oak and built into the structure of the house as a support for the smokehood above the inglenook fireplace.
The posts were carved at the top with varying degrees of complexity, but all the designs included at least one X shaped cross. Often there were one or more rolls fashioned beneath it. A witch post from from Postgate Farm, Glaisdale has the date 1664 carved into it, together with the letters EPIB.

Witch posts: 1 From Danby. 2 From an old house near Scarborough. 3 Postgate Farm, Glaisdale. 4. In Stang End at the Rydale Folk Museum. 5 Low Bell End, Rosedale. 6 Gillamoor. 7 Quarry Farm, Glaisdale.

There is one on display in Whitby Museum from East End Cottage, Egton. An example of one performing its supporting role by the fireside can be seen in The Rydale Folk Museum at Hutton-le-Hole. The whole of the Stang End house at Danby was painstakingly transplanted there complete with the mysterious and cryptic witch post.
No folk tradition exists to cast light on their actual meaning, and it is only during the twentieth century that they have become known as witch posts. It was assumed that the carvings provided the household with protection against dark forces in those days of superstition and dread. Some suggest the X is a solar symbol, as widely used in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

The witch post in Whitby Museum

In earlier times they were often referred to as priest posts. Some claim travelling priests on blessing a house, would make a mark to confirm their holy work. The famous priest Nicholas Postgate was working in this area at the time. One idea is that they indicate a room where Catholic Mass could be safely performed.
The posts remain as relics of a lost tradition, their meaning and their secret symbolism a reminder of how the moors are laced with mysteries that still remain out of reach to our modern consciousness.

1 comment:

Capt. Gio said...

Can you tell me what the symbols are in the wood, they are like alchemy symbols! Must be Pictish art going back to ancients. That's what the call scrolls?