Bewitched: Ritual, magic and witchcraft in old Australian houses and buildings

- by Sarah Perrott

Spellbinding Look At A Secret History

Witchcraft and magic were alive and well in Australia's colonial days, if the findings of respected author and historian Ian Evans are anything to go by.

Mr Evans will reveal all when he talks next Wednesday at the Queensland Museum about his research into this previously unknown "underworld" in colonial Australia.

Spells and witchcraft are commonplace in the history of many countries, but have managed to bypass Australian historians almost completely - until recently.

Ian believes a convict woman's boot from the Moreton Bay penal settlement was part of an ancient folk magic ritual, and the boot is one of many objects found in old houses and buildings across Australia for the same reason. The boot was found in the roof cavity of the old Commissariat Store in William Street, Brisbane in 1913, but its full meaning has only been recently revealed.

The practice of concealing objects as protective talismans is well known in the UK where some 2000 old shoes, numerous cats and other items have been found in buildings in recent years. Objects are typically found during building renovations on older homes and many people do not realise their significance The ritual was brought to Australia during the 18th and 19th centuries but went unnoticed until Ian began his research.

Since he began researching the ritual in 2003, Mr Evans has found the same kinds of concealed objects in every state of Australia. He said they were used as magic charms to protect people from malign forces emanating from the underworld. His research suggests they were placed in old houses in Brisbane and elsewhere in Queensland until about 1930.

Objects that have been found include:
* Old shoes
* Items of clothing, including hats, jackets, gloves and lace collars
* Domestic artefacts, including children's toys, ornaments and books
* Mummified cats

According to Mr Evans, the rituals are believed to have come to Australia with the convicts and settlers.

"This is an amazing discovery and a story which has come through to us by virtue of the artefacts which have been understood only very recently," he said.

"Because there are no documents about this practise in our research libraries or archives the story has been completely missed by historians.

"This find opens a new window on our past."

The talk is called Bewitched: Ritual, magic and witchcraft in old Australian houses and buildings. It is part of the Queensland Connections series of talks presented as a joint initiative by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Queensland Museum.

What: Bewitched: Ritual, magic and witchcraft in old Australian houses and buildings.

When: Wednesday, March 7, 12.30pm-1.30pm.

Where: Queensland Museum Southbank Theatre, South Brisbane

Cost: Free. Tea and coffee provided afterwards.

Contact: Visit www.qm.qld.gov.au, contact the Queensland Museum on 3840 7555 or the Environmental Protection Agency on 3227 7373 for more details.

Ian Evans can be contacted for interviews directly on 0419 794 610 or 02 6684 7677.

Sarah Perrott

Manager - Corporate Communications and Marketing
Queensland Museum

Ph: 3842 9388 or 0417 741 710
Fax: 3846 1918

http://www.qm.qld.gov.au/

"The Queensland Museum is valued as an innovative, exciting and accessible museum of science, environment and human experience of international standing."

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