Irish Dried Cat

First, let me give you a little background on “Lucky” — the mummified cat that one Domestik Goddess reader discovered (most unexpectedly!) in the roof of an old thatched cottage in Ireland…

A while back, you might recall, I wrote about the fascinating old tradition of hiding ritual objects in houses as protection against evil spirits and witchcraft. And I mentioned the old boot — a tiny child’s riding boot, well worn, and just the one — found many years ago in the chimney wall of my grandfather’s old farmhouse in New Brunswick, Canada. That tiny old boot was an object of great fascination all through my own childhood, and I longed to know the story behind it.

Strange Things Found in Old Houses

It turns out that this tradition of hiding ritual objects in houses is a much more common superstition than one might think — at least in northern Europe and the United Kingdom, and in countries like Canada and Australia, which were largely settled by colonists from that part of the world. No doubt other cultures had their own versions of the superstition…

Boots and shoes were common choices for protective objects, in the UK tradition, it seems; and I’ve learned that other bits of clothing are sometimes found in old houses as well.

My theory: It may have something to do with keeping close a very personal piece of gear that once belonged to a loved one who died — something about a loving spirit offering its protection to those left behind. And it makes sense to me, learning that many of these objects had clearly belonged to children, that the purity of an innocent young child would have been seen as having extra power to protect the family in the home where these objects were hidden away.

A Carpenter’s Tale

If you’ve been following us here at for a while, you may be aware that we’re always bashing away at This Old Farmhouse — and this summer was no exception. Tearing off the old back porch, we found the name of the man who built the house, a century ago, written on the back of a piece of moulding. That led to talk of things found in old houses, and our carpenter, Alvin, told us to look out for money.

Questioned about this, he told us that he’s found a great many objects hidden in the walls and ceilings of old houses where he’s worked on renovations. A shoe or two, for sure. And some strange hieroglyphics, marked onto old beams with chalk or charcoal. Bottles of various sorts. And a lot of old newspapers — but that’s a different thing, I think: old newspapers were often used as a feeble attempt at insulation between clapboards and plaster.

But mostly what Alvin has found is coins — some of them quite rare and collectible, too! Almost every old house where he’s had to rip out old plaster walls has produced a coin or two, he says, tucked away on top of a cross-member or roof truss; one had been hidden on a projecting brick inside an old fireplace chimney. It pleased me, somehow, when Alvin told us that all but one of the homeowners asked him to put those coins back where they were — or at least as close as possible, given whatever changes had been made during renovations, to where they had been hidden away a century ago.

Clothing, footwear, money… all that’s well and good. But other traditional ritual objects are a bit less pleasant to contemplate.

Bottles of urine, for example — “witch bottles” as they are known.

And the corpses of cats.

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