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Historic Graffiti & Ritual Protection Marks in St James' Church, Badsey

7.30 pm

Wayne Perkins, an archaeologist and former pupil of Evesham High School, came to give a talk in St James’ Church about the historic graffiti that may be found there.  He writes: 

The study of medieval graffiti has been in the ascendant recently, with popular books published on the subject. These mainstream publications have helped to disseminate the new interpretative frameworks and ideas which are the culmination of the last thirty years of academic research into medieval inscriptions. The re-evaluation of medieval graffiti has revealed many more subtleties and diverse meanings than hitherto imagined. Furthermore, it is now understood that similar symbols and signs can be found in domestic and farm buildings which echo those often found in churches.

Graffiti can span the entire medieval period but appears to peak between AD 1650-1850 at the time of the so-called ‘witch craze’ in Europe. There are many categories now recognised, including masons’ marks, devotional and memorial inscriptions and a whole range of apotropaic* symbols now believed to represent elements of ritual building protection.

A recent survey of a random sample of medieval buildings in Worcestershire has revealed a number marks and symbols carved into their masonry and woodwork. Many of these marks have been interpreted as apotropaics;* ‘ritual protection marks’ intended to avert the evil-eye, bring good luck, to trap evil spirits and to act, in some cases, as counter-Witchcraft measures. 

At St James’s church in Badsey compass-drawn circles, Marian Marks and protective crosses have been found incised into the well as something else...evidence for an act of  ritual building protection.

At the end of the talk, a few members of the Society accompanied Wayne into the bell-tower to take a look at more graffiti. As a result of the talk, three members – Shirley Tutton, Helen Green and Kerry Moreton – are undertaking a comprehensive survey of the graffiti in the church and other old buildings in the village.