Spiritual Middens: Decoys, Spirit Traps or Counter Witchcraft Measures

Archaeologists regularly discover large collections or ‘caches’ of clothing deliberately concealed within the fabric of 16th & 17th century buildings.

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.’

The term ‘spiritual midden’ was coined for such a collection of objects. A well-documented cache was discovered during the demolition of the Old Plough Public House in Sittingbourne, Kent by two members of the Sittingbourne Museum team. Over 500 objects were recovered which included old & patched clothing, tools& children’s toys.

What do spiritual middens constitute? Foundation deposits? Sympathetic Magic? Apotropaic evil-averting agents? Were they considered to possess a protective function against incoming malevolent forces? Were they created to counter the witch’s familiar?


Wayne Perkins has been an archaeologist for over 22 years, seven of those spent excavating in France. He is a member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists.

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