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literacy, where contemporaneous documentation

of popular thought, culture, and beliefs are more


readily produced. Pottery containing libations or
animal bones2, and at times human sacrifices3,
beneath structures provide evidence for
foundational rites, in practice throughout Celtic
and Roman times. Celtic sacrificial rituals,
particularly of the human variety, were noted by
Julius Caesar to be a group’s offering the gods a
substitute for themselves in times of peril4.
Modern Wicca practitioners claim the hexafoil, or
Figure 1. Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land, by G.W Evans 1828.
daisy wheel, originates from druidry’s ancient sun
Far from the explorers and conquistadors who symbol5, but the
sought out strange lands, many early Tasmanian origins and direct
settlers and convicts were farmers, paupers, meaning of many
tradespeople, and bureaucrats. They managed to apotropaic
bring their British society, agriculture, and symbols, however,
urbanisation to a new land whilst trying to cope remain a mystery.
with famine, disease, the unfamiliar environment,
bushrangers, and perhaps the transition from By the 15th century,
convict to citizen. Recent attention to a pervasive many practitioners
series of carved symbols, clusters of burn marks, of British magic are
and peculiar objects hidden in the foundations of documented as
colonial-era homes have likely connections to ‘cunning-folk’, derived Figure 3. Hexafoil/Daisy Wheel
protective magic practices – known as apotropaic from the Anglo-Saxon
magic – has sparked a new chapter in Australia’s word, cunnan, that means, ‘to know’6. Their craft
social history, one told solely through the secret was popular magic: a culmination of traditions
practices of those struggling to survive in the from pre-Christian
colonies. In research initiated by historian Dr Ian religions,
Evans in 20101, a significant connection can be superstitions and
found with similar, and older, practices from the the veneration of
British Isles. Importantly, apotropaic magic may local saints and
have been a way for colonists to cope in the face relics from
of hardship, fear, and isolation. Catholicism, and
later the addition
of Protestantism7.
Christian Britain
Und had long feared
erst witchcraft – the
andi conjuring of
ng spirits and causing
the harm via magic –
origi and classed it a
ns moral crime,
of punishable by
Briti death8. While early-modern physicians treated
sh bewitchment, the cunning-folk could not only
mag ‘unbewitch’ the afflicted, but also deal in
ical protective charms, and even identify the
prac offending witch9.
Figure 4. Witches brewing a spell in
tices improves alongside the increase in Figure 2. Burn marks in the Nant Mill & Distillery barn. a cauldron, c.1508
Testimonies from the 16th century cunning- settlers and freed convicts to experience
women Cowdale of Maidstone and Margaret prosperity previously unknown: lack of business
Hunt detail their healing rituals that meld a series and trade competition, new land ownership for
of Catholic prayers with herbal remedies10. farming, and the advantage of convict labour21.
Cunning-magic remedies were often familiar, The incentive to stay in Tasmania was great, but
affordable, and less invasive than orthodox they would also have to make do, somehow.
medicine that focused on balancing the physical
body11 through trepanation, crude surgeries12,
blood-letting and violent purging13.

Figure 6. Hobart Town Chain Gang, c.1831.

Surviving in the alien landscape of antipodean


seasons, flora, and fauna was impacted by violent
weather22, deadly illness23, and diseased
livestock24. Conflict between colonists and the
Indigenous population – the Palawa – was overtly
brutal. Retaliation and massacres would follow
for decades. Land clearing by farmers destroyed
Palawa hunting grounds, with farmers attacking
Figure 5. The Grete Herball, 1529 herbology guide. hunters for taking sheep for food25; Palawa
women and girls were abducted and abused as
17th century publications, such as Daemonologie ‘wives’ for Bass Strait sealers26. Bands of escaped
by King James I,14 and sermons by puritanical convicts survived as bushrangers, attacking both
preachers failed to sway popular opinion to their rural colonists and Palawa27.
claim that cunning-magic was as much aligned
with the devil as malevolent witchcraft15. Both For many, the
secular and church court systems had been familiar rituals from
largely dismissive of cunning-magic accusations16. home may have
In time, the Witchcraft Act of 173617 and the offered a sense of
Vagrancy Act of 182418 ended the legal stance of comfort, a connection
popular magic being in league with the devil: to those they left
rather, the accused were committing fraud by behind, and a way to
pretending to use magic. This legislation has, in gain a sense of
turn, provided court documents that evidence control in their
the continuation of cunning-magic into the 20th unpredictable new
century19. It is unlikely that such pervasive, and 28
life . Amongst the
clearly adaptive, practices had simply been earliest known sites
forgotten in transit to the colonies. containing apotropaic
magic is Glen
For convict and settler alike, coming to the Derwent, built in 1808
Australian colonies meant leaving behind the and expanded in the
country and customs they had always known. 1820s29. A concealed
Around 45 percent of all Australian convicts shoe and burn marks
served time in Tasmania, numbering about in the wooden horse Figure 7. Glen Derwent burn
75,00020. They provided an inexpensive labour stalls at Glen Derwent marks and shoe
force for settlers, many of which had invested encapsulate some of the typical apotropaic
their life savings into their emigration. This new practices found in barns and stables. Engraved
society, however, presented the chance for
hexafoils, or daisy wheels, have been commonly evil spirits entering the home through doorways,
found in domestic or interior settings. The stables windows, and chimneys34. In analysing the
of Tedworth, built in 1833, display burn marks, presence of hexafoils in various locations – a
whilst hexafoils have been found on the judge’s courthouse rooms, desks, barns, mantles
mantelpiece of Tedworth’s watch house30. – Dr. Evans has deduced the direct involvement
Fieldwork by Dr. Evans with the Tasmanian Magic of cunning-folk35. Their presence in Australia’s
Project has revealed a relationship between relatively short colonial history is limited, but the
concealed objects in building foundations, and almanac of William Allison and the somewhat
the presence of tradespeople31. This includes dubious dealings of Benjamin Nokes are some
carpenters, masons, plasterers, and roof tilers. known examples. Both publicans, Nokes ran the
Similarly, apotropaic practices in stables, barns, Albemarle Inn, popular with former and current
and mills were also the work of associated trades, convicts, whilst dealing in healing remedies as a
particularly horsemen and blacksmiths. self-proclaimed, but unlicensed, ‘doctor’36. Allison
had previously been the overseer to Lieutenant
Arthur Davies before taking over the British Hotel
in Hobart. His 1811 almanac, ‘Vox Stellarum’, or,
‘Voice of the Stars’, documents his collection of
recipes and procedures from a cunning-man in
Durham37, prior to Allison’s arrival in the colonies.

Figure 8. Concealed shoes by carpenters, Hobart.

The practice of concealing shoes in buildings is


lacking in written record, despite their common
occurrence in both England and its former
colonies. A potential meaning behind their
concealment, proposed by historian June Swann,
may relate to sacrificial offering32. A highly
Figure 10. Almanac of William Allison, c.1811.
personal item, leather molds to the wearer’s foot
and can be indicative of age, occupation, and Concealed in a suburban Newcastle chimney, a
gender. These factors may make shoes ideal for woman’s shoe from the early 1930s extends the
foundational rites. tradition into the 20th century. How many more
have been found and not understood? The
A single Tasmanian absence of these practices in the Australian
Devil skull was historical record implies that the use of magic
recovered from was a secretive one. Concealed shoes and
Morningside, animals within building foundations. Their
Maquarie River: placement around entryways also suggests the
having only the continuation of Celtic and Roman traditions
skull concealed in a through the evolution of human sacrifice and
subfloor space by Figure 9. Concealed Tasmanian Devil foundation offerings. Investigation into the
an entrance to skull. subject, in both Australia and abroad, offers
the building strongly suggests its use its ritual insight into the reality of early colonial life - a new
magic, whilst also being the first example of window into life from the working class, and
native fauna to be used in these practices33. The some of the ways colonists sought to adapt to a
association with entryways and protective new world.
measures harkens back to the superstitions of
King James I, his Daemonologie warning against
1
Ian J. Evans, ‘Touching Magic: Deliberately Concealed Objects in Old Australian Houses and Buildings’, Ph.D. thesis (University
of Newcastle, 2010), 10.
2
Ralph Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1987), 49.
3
Ralph Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1987), 50-51.
4
Ralph Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1987), 23.
5
Champion, Matthew, ‘Magic on the Walls: Ritual Protection Marks in the Medieval Church’ in Ronald Hutton (ed.), Physical
Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in Christian Britain (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2015), 22.
6
Owen Davies, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London: Hambledon and London, 2003), VIII.
7
Bonzol, J., ‘The Death of the Fifth Earl of Derby: Cunning Folk and Medicine in Early Modern England’, Renaissance and
Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme, 33/4, (2010) 83.
8
Owen Davies, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London: Hambledon and London, 2003), 7.
9
Owen Davies, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London: Hambledon and London, 2003), 103.
10
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), 179.
11
Bonzol, J., ‘The Death of the Fifth Earl of Derby: Cunning Folk and Medicine in Early Modern England’, Renaissance and
Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme, 33/4, (2010) 89.
12
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), p. 9.
13
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971), p. 14.
14
Ralph Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1987), p. 161.
15
Bonzol, J., ‘The Death of the Fifth Earl of Derby: Cunning Folk and Medicine in Early Modern England’, Renaissance and
Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme, 33/4, (2010) 82.
16
Owen Davies, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London: Hambledon and London, 2003), 17.
17
Owen Davies, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London: Hambledon and London, 2003), 20.
18
Owen Davies, ‘Cunning-Folk in England and Wales during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’, Rural History, 8/1 (1997),
91-107.
19
Ian J. Evans, ‘Touching Magic: Deliberately Concealed Objects in Old Australian Houses and Buildings’, Ph.D thesis (University
of Newcastle, 2010), 19-20.
20
Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish, ‘Convicts’, in Alison Alexander (ed.), The Companion to Australian History (Hobart: Centre for
Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2005), 415.
21
Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish, ‘Convicts’, in Alison Alexander (ed.), The Companion to Australian History (Hobart: Centre for
Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2005), 498.
22
‘The Weather’, Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser, 10 Jul. 1838, 7, in Trove [online database], accessed 16 Sep. 2018.
23
‘The Influenza’, Port Phillip Gazette, 5 Jan. 1839, 3, in Trove [online database], accessed 16 Sep. 2018.
24
‘Van Dieman’s Land’, Port Phillip Gazette, 1 Dec. 1838, 4, in Trove [online database], accessed 16 Sep. 2018.
25
Ros Haynes, ‘Van Diemen’s Land’, in Alison Alexander (ed.), The Companion to Tasmanian History, (Hobart: Centre for
Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2005), 501.
26
D. J . Mulvaney, The Axe Had Never Sounded: Place, People and Heritage of Recherche Bay, Tasmania (Canberra: ANU E-Press,
2007), 93.
27
Ros Haynes, ‘Van Diemen’s Land’, in Alison Alexander (ed.), The Companion to Tasmanian History, (Hobart: Centre for
Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2005), 497.
28
Ian J. Evans, ‘Touching Magic: Deliberately Concealed Objects in Old Australian Houses and Buildings’, Ph.D thesis (University
of Newcastle, 2010), 16.
29
Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the First Field Season: March 13-26 2017,
<https://www.academia.edu/34894136/Tasmanian_Magic_Project_Report_of_the_First_Field_Season>, 17, accessed 14 Oct.
2018.
30
Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the First Field Season: March 13-26 2017,
<https://www.academia.edu/34894136/Tasmanian_Magic_Project_Report_of_the_First_Field_Season>, 20, accessed 14 Oct.
2018.
31
Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the Second Field Season: January 6-27 2018,
<https://www.academia.edu/36996265/Tasmanian_Magic_Research_Project_Second_Field_Season>, 2, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.
32
June Swann, ‘Shoes Concealed in Buildings’, in Ronald Hutton (ed.), Physical Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in
Christian Britain (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2015) 128-129.
33
Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the Second Field Season: January 6-27 2018,
<https://www.academia.edu/36996265/Tasmanian_Magic_Research_Project_Second_Field_Season>, 26, accessed 14 Oct.
2018.
34
I. J. Evans., ‘Seeking Ritual in Strange Places: Dead Cats, Old Shoes and Ragged Clothes’, Academia [online article], (2015),
<https://www.academia.edu/14950999/SEEKING_RITUAL_IN_STRANGE_PLACES_DEAD_
CATS_OLD_SHOES_AND_RAGGED_CLOTHING._DISCOVERING_CONCEALED_MAGIC_IN_THE_ANTIPODES>, 1, accessed 16 Sep.
2018.
35
Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the Second Field Season: January 6-27 2018,
<https://www.academia.edu/36996265/Tasmanian_Magic_Research_Project_Second_Field_Season>, 3, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.
36
Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the Second Field Season: January 6-27 2018,
<https://www.academia.edu/36996265/Tasmanian_Magic_Research_Project_Second_Field_Season>, 4, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.
37
Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the Second Field Season: January 6-27 2018,
<https://www.academia.edu/36996265/Tasmanian_Magic_Research_Project_Second_Field_Season>, 4, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.

IMAGES
 Figure 1. G.W. Evans, Hobart Town, Van Diemen’s Land, 1828, National Gallery of Australia,
Canberra, in NGA [online database], accessed 18 Sep. 2018.

 Figure 2. Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the First Field Season: March 13-26 2017,
<https://www.academia.edu/34894136/Tasmanian_Magic_Project_Report_of_the_First_Field_Sea
son>, 24, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.

 Figure 3. Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the First Field Season: March 13-26 2017,
<https://www.academia.edu/34894136/Tasmanian_Magic_Project_Report_of_the_First_Field_Sea
son>, 39, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.

 Figure 4. Ulrich Molitor, Witches brewing a spell in a cauldron, c.1508, in Bridgeman Images [online
database], accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

 Figure 5. Stannard, Jerry, ‘Medieval Herbalism and Post-Medieval Folk Medicine’, Pharmacy in
History, 55/2 (2013).

 Figure 6. Bruce, Charles, ‘Hobart Town Chain Gang’, c. 1831, in Bridgeman Images [online
database], accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

 Figure 7. Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the First Field Season: March 13-26 2017,
<https://www.academia.edu/34894136/Tasmanian_Magic_Project_Report_of_the_First_Field_Sea
son>, 39, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.

 Figure 8. Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the First Field Season: March 13-26 2017,
<https://www.academia.edu/34894136/Tasmanian_Magic_Project_Report_of_the_First_Field_Sea
son>, 39, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.

 Figure 9. Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the Second Field Season: January 6-27 2018,
<https://www.academia.edu/36996265/Tasmanian_Magic_Research_Project_Second_Field_Seaso
n>, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.

 Figure 10. Libraries Tasmania: Online Collection, NS261-1-1, Almanac of William Allison (1811).
BIBLIOGRPHY
 Bonzol, J. 2010, ‘The Death of the Fifth Earl of Derby: Cunning Folk and Medicine in Early Modern
England’, Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 73-100.

 Champion, Matthew, ‘Magic on the Walls: Ritual Protection Marks in the Medieval Church’ in
Ronald Hutton (ed.), Physical Evidence for Ritual Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in Christian Britain
(New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2015).

 Davies, Owen, ‘Cunning-Folk in England and Wales during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth
Centuries’, Rural History, 8/1 (1997), 91-107.

 Davies, Owen, Cunning-Folk: Popular Magic in English History (London: Hambledon and London,
2003).

 Evans, I. J., ‘Touching Magic: Deliberately Concealed Objects in Old Australian Houses and
Buildings’, Ph.D. thesis (University of Newcastle, 2010).

 Evans, I. J., ‘Seeking Ritual in Strange Places: Dead Cats, Old Shoes and Ragged Clothes’, Academia
[online article], (2015), <https://www.academia.edu/14950999/SEEKING_RITUAL_
 IN_STRANGE_PLACES_DEAD_CATS_OLD_SHOES_AND_RAGGED_CLOTHING._DISCOVERING_CONCE
ALED_MAGIC_IN_THE_ANTIPODES> accessed 16 Sep. 2018.

 Maxwell-Stewart, Hamish, ‘Convicts’, in Alison Alexander (ed.), The Companion to Australian


History (Hobart: Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2005).

 Merrifield, Ralph, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic (London, B.T. Batsford Ltd, 1987).

 Mulvaney, D. J ., The Axe Had Never Sounded: Place, People and Heritage of Recherche Bay,
Tasmania (Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2007).

 ‘The Influenza’, Port Phillip Gazette, 5 Jan. 1839, 3, in Trove [online database], accessed 16 Sep.
2018.

 ‘Van Dieman’s Land’, Port Phillip Gazette, 1 Dec. 1838, 4, in Trove [online database], accessed 16
Sep. 2018.

 Swann, June, ‘Shoes Concealed in Buildings’, in Ronald Hutton (ed.), Physical Evidence for Ritual
Acts, Sorcery and Witchcraft in Christian Britain (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2015).

 ‘The Weather’, Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser, 10 Jul. 1838, 7, in Trove [online database],
accessed 16 Sep. 2018.

 Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the First Field Season: March 13-26 2017,
<https://www.academia.edu/34894136/Tasmanian_Magic_Project_Report_of_the_First_Field_Sea
son>, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.

 Tasmanian Magic Research Project, Report of the Second Field Season: January 6-27 2018,
<https://www.academia.edu/36996265/Tasmanian_Magic_Research_Project_Second_Field_Seaso
n>, accessed 14 Oct. 2018.
 Thomas, Keith, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971).

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