Witch Marks: Feminine Power Symbols
Witch MArks, also known as apotropiac marks, are symbols that hold magical feminine power, including the V sign and the flower of life, which is also found in Sumerian Temples.
* V is for vulva
* Talismanic Grafitti
* Magdalene Marks
* Robin Hood Lineage
* Otherworld Portals
Discover the true meaning of the infamous ‘V’ sign
Giving someone the ‘V’ sign has come to mean something insulting, just as the word ‘witch’ eventually became an insult or accusation used against wise women. But what if this ubiquitous insult, is actually a female sign of power, waiting to be reclaimed?
In ancient times the letters and symbols V and M were talismans of the Goddess, conveying the power of the womb and vulva to birth not just children, but states of consciousness and magical power and spells. Later these symbols were used by native medicine women, now known as ‘witches’, and also adopted as blessing symbols of Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, and were carved all across sacred sites in England.
Even to this day we can call upon these old power symbols to create a ‘magic portal’.
I discovered the magic of these female power symbols shortly after the death of my mother in 2018, when I was connecting to the deep-soil-blood-wisdom of my Ancestral lineage of native British wise women - and a lost lineage of knowledge that included the secret myths of Mary Magdalene, Virgin Mary and Robin Hood and Maid Marian.
It began the day before my mum’s funeral when I felt her presence guiding me. There was a place, only about thirty minutes’ drive from my childhood home, that suddenly began to call out to me. I wasn’t sure if I would have time to visit, but the message was coming through with “urgent” stamped all over it. I had to visit Cresswell Crags.
Cresswell Crags, on the borders of Yorkshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire, is a stunning old limescale gorge that feels as if you just stepped back into prehistory. It has a number of preserved caves that were first inhabited by Neanderthals over 40,000 years ago, then used by modern humans over 20,000 years ago, and also—as local legends say—became the hideout of Robin Hood and his merry men in medieval times. Containing Britain’s only examples of Upper Paleolithic cave art, predating the pyramids by 10,000 years, the caves are a cathedral of the prehistoric Mother religion.
Red ochre has been found there, symbolic of menstrual and birth blood, used in shamanic rebirth and death ritual. There are also a number of “bird” figures, which are considered to be female anthropomorphs, highly stylized magical female forms, plus drawings of red deer, who were animal familiars of female fairy shamans, women who were between the worlds, as guardians and keepers of Otherworld. The cave art also contains several downward pointing triangles, which archaeologists suggest symbolize vulvas, making it a classic site of the old womb religion – the native wisdom tradition of the witches.
Entering Cresswell Crags, on a cold autumn day, I bump into a member of the Heritage staff who is leading a group of children to the Robin Hood Cave for an educational tour. He is a jovial man who is very helpful, and I walk along and chat to him about the site before our paths part, so I can take the left-hand path that circles around the gorge.
After an hour of walking the land, I circle around and reach the Robin Hood Cave—just as the Heritage guide is leaving it. I stop and talk for a while, and ask why it’s called Robin Hood’s Cave—he tells us it was named in Victorian times, after legends that say Robin Hood came here. He then tells us proudly that they have just made a new discovery in the cave only last week, around the time of Samhain (Hallow’s Eve). Excited, I ask what they have discovered, imagining some more early Ice Age art that the caves are famous for. Instead he leans forward, and he replies: “Witch marks.”
It turns out that the public had been asked to create a record of these ritual carvings, known as witch marks, by the heritage agency Historic England, to coincide the with celebration of Halloween. The BBC had even reported on the news story, saying:
‘The symbols, also known as apotropaic marks, can be found on medieval houses, churches and other buildings, most commonly from around 1550 to 1750. They took many forms, but the most common type was the “Daisy Wheel,” which looked like a flower drawn with a compass in a single endless line that was supposed to confuse and entrap evil spirits. They also sometimes included letters, such as AM for Ave Maria, M for Mary or VV, for Virgin of Virgins, scratched into walls, engraved on wooden beams and etched into plasterwork to evoke the protective power of the Virgin Mary.’
In the book Hidden Charms, English folklore experts say that the W or VV sign is the most popular symbol used as a ritual protection mark, “by a ratio of nearly 2:1.” The V and W, and the M, symbolize the vulva of the birthing mother, and the Great Mother.
A group of witch-mark hunters had discovered them etched into the Robin Hood Cave, once a haunt of the ancient Neanderthals, who had also etched out their own vulvic witch marks, and images of shamanic shapeshifting magical women, who were witches of sorts.
The findings have hardly been made public, and no pictures of the witch markings have been shared yet. The Heritage guide pulls out his phone and asks, “Do you want to see them?” As I peer over to look, he scrolls through his phone to find them. He then shows me distinctive etchings on the cave wall of stylized Ws, double V’s and door markings, all consistent with the womb religion and the symbols for the sacred gateway of the feminine, the Doorway of Life, later adopted in Mary Magdalene and Marian worship.
He remarks on the feminine connection, sharing with some embarrassment that the symbols are of “female anatomy.” And he also references the evidence for art depicting female shamans and magical female Vs—symbol of the vulva— elsewhere in the site. He says, mistakenly, that the newly discovered witch markings are to protect people from witchcraft, and to ward off the “gateway of hell.” This is a sadly common misconception of most people, still perpetuated from the witch persecution times. In fact, the carvings are sacred symbols of the witches, drawn to invoke blessing and protection of the feminine in the sacred womb cave. The gateway to “hell” was in fact the gateway to the ancestors and the gateway of the goddess, Helen/Elen/Helle, and the sacred Earth Womb.
Mark of Magdalene
The recent surge of interest in witch marks and their rediscovery by modern archaeologists shows that the practice of folk magic, or practical witchery, was extremely widespread in medieval Europe, including the British Isles. Witch marks are talismanic symbols engraved on wood and stone, used to call in magical power—for protection, for blessings, to ward off evil, to navigate a threshold, or for various magical spells.
They were carved and recarved over hundreds of years into public, private, and sacred sites, ranging from old churches, caves, and historic buildings, to Shakespeare’s birthplace and the Tower of London. The Wookey Hole cave of Somerset, England, has a large number of witch marks found in a cave, a traditional site of worship by Druids and witches as the yoni passageway into the womb of the earth. The caves at Cresswell Crags have the most witch mark carvings anywhere in Britain. Caves were understood to be “birth and death” gateways of the earth goddess used in magic ritual and rebirth.
One of the main features of witch marks is the vulvic nature of their magic. They appear at liminal thresholds such as holes, doors, or entry points that represent the vulva, the vaginal gateway that is the threshold between life and death or Otherworld.
Often, modern scholars now dismiss these fascinating female power symbols as something used to guard against the ‘evil power’ of witches, not understanding the feminine wisdom traditions that the witches represented. These symbols were power sigils of the wise women and their magical wombs, calling on their creative blessing.
We can visit the sites of the witch marks for remembrance, use ‘witch mark’ symbols in our rituals, and call on the feminine power of the ‘V’ in our everyday lives, within our sacred body, knowing this feminine wisdom is to be reclaimed, and is not to be feared.