Creepy “magic circles” used to ward off evil spirits have been found at different ends of the country.
The first of the geometric apotropaic signs – from the Greek word for defense – were uncovered last month during restoration work on an ancient cathedral in Kamień Pomorski.
The latest discovery was made this week at Wawel Castle in Kraków, 700 km away.
It is believed to protect people or animals from witches’ curses. One was carved in the stone frame of a window next to King Zygmunt August’s former apartment, the other on a staircase named after the 16th-century King Henryk Walezy.
Surveyor Mariusz Meus, who made the discovery of Wawel Castle, said: “The circles were cut with a compass because you can see a hole made through the leg of the compass. They form regular compositions of smaller and larger circles.”
The other Wawel icon, thought to date from at least the 16th century, was found in the Henryk Walezy Staircase, one of six secret StAir hidden within the castle’s ten-foot-thick walls, which provided a secluded alternative to the two official staircases.
The Walezy Staircase is a narrow spiral staircase that runs the entire height of the castle in the Jordanka Tower. Tradition has it that Henryk Walezy, widely regarded as Poland’s worst king of all time, used it as an escape when he fled Poland to take over the crown of France after the death of his brother in 1575.
Meus said: “They are symbols of abundance, but also of a closed sphere that offered isolation from something outside, so they protected from the evil that wanted to invade the private, royal space, but also the space that was most important for the state.”
According to Meus, the presence of the symbol next to the royal apartment showed that courtiers wanted to show that this is a unique zone and should enjoy exceptional protection.
Although the symbols are hidden from public view, Meus says the archaeological department at Wawel Royal Castle was not previously aware of the finds.
Witch signs or ritual protection symbols can be found all over Europe, often in medieval churches, houses and castles.
The markings were usually placed on stone or woodwork near a building’s entry points, particularly doors, windows, and chimneys, to protect residents and visitors from witches and evil spirits.
They come from times when belief in witchcraft and the supernatural was widespread. Magical symbols and ritual objects were an integral part of life in the 16th century.
Last month, roof renovators at St Mary’s Co-Cathedral in Kamień Pomorski on Poland’s northeastern coast also uncovered medieval “protective magical” markings.
The characters were engraved on the inner gable wall on a Gothic pillar 18 meters above the chancel vault.
Said to have protected temples and the faithful from demons, evil spirits or witches, the shields depict six circles inscribed within a larger circle to form a daisy at its center.
This stylized flower with six symmetrically arranged petals in a circle is the most legible.
Similar finds are known in England, in the county of Norfolk (Eastern England).
Such signs held great power in the culture of medieval and early modern Europe.
The circle symbolized infinity but also the perfection of the natural world, law and order and divinity. Crossing the circle expressed the transition from the profane to the sacred world.
The signs may have been created during the construction of the cathedral in the Middle Ages, when many trials of women accused of witchcraft were taking place in Europe, including in Kamień.
The cathedral was built in the Middle Ages in Romanesque and Gothic styles.
It was founded in 1176 by Pomeranian prince Kazimierz I and completed in the 15th century. In 1934 a massive neo-Gothic tower block was added.
It was a Lutheran cathedral in the period 1544-1648 and has been Catholic since 1945.