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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Historical Tidbit: Witches and Vampires

Corpse of Medieval Witch (Source)
Did you know...that in medieval times, people had their own ways of dealing with supernatural creatures, and it was nothing like what we've all learned from Dorothy Gale and Bram Stoker?

It's true. In 2011, archaeologists digging in the Tuscany region of Italy uncovered what they believed to be an 800-year-old witch graveyard. The women buried there seemed to be between 25 and 30 years of age. One of them had seven nails driven into her jaw, presumably to keep her from uttering spells. More nails were found driven into the ground around her, bolting her clothing to the earth. It is believed those who buried her feared she might rise from the dead to haunt them. They put the extra nails there to keep her in her grave.

Another corpse was found surrounded by seventeen dice. In Italy, seventeen is an unlucky number, and during the time this woman lived, women were not allowed to dice at all. It was considered unseemly. 

Then there's the fact that these women were buried in the raw ground, rather than in pine boxes. They don't even sport shrouds. The only odd thing is that the archaeologists were digging on the site of an 800-year-old church, which makes the ground consecrated. 

Archaeologists claim this maybe be explained if the women came from influential families who were able to secure burials for them in these plots.

Two years earlier, a medieval woman's skeleton was unearthed near Venice with a stone driven through her mouth. Apparently this was method of choice for dealing with vampires back in the day.

Dig site where witch graveyard was unearthed; Italy. (Source)
See, the majority of the population that lived through the Middle Ages were actually very ignorant, at least compared with our level of education today. They had their own superstitions and methods they believed would keep them and their children safe from the supernatural. 

Our history and pop culture give us very specific ideas about how we think supernatural things were dealt with historically, but they aren't at all correct. People who haven't read or heard or seen the stories we have wouldn't think to throw water on a witch, use garlic on a vampire, or salt on a ghost. They had their own methods that made sense to them.

Now, this may fall under the heading of totally-useless-trivia, but it also happens to be excellent story fodder.

(For more details see this article.)

Do you think these fact could be put to good use in a story? Historical fiction, perhaps?

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