Re­searchers re­turn in quest to find folk magic

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - ANNE MATHER

A RE­SEARCH project that has un­cov­ered “magic” rit­u­als from Tas­ma­nia’s colo­nial past has at­tracted in­ter­est from one of Eng­land’s lead­ing her­itage or­gan­i­sa­tions.

The Tas­ma­nian Magic Project has re­ceived a grant from the UK-based Ver­nac­u­lar Ar­chi­tec­ture Group, which sup­ports the study of his­toric build­ings. The grant of $3500 will help the project em­bark on a sec­ond sea­son of re­search, hav­ing com­pleted its first field study in the South­ern Mid­lands in March.

Project leader and his­to­rian Ian Evans said the re­search un­earthed nu­mer­ous magic marks etched into old houses and other build­ings dur­ing the 19th cen­tury.

Among the find­ings were a large num­ber of de­lib­er­ately made burn marks in horse sta­bles, be­lieved to have been made to pro­tect the build­ings from fire and other threats.

While such markings have been un­cov­ered in English build­ings, Dr Evans said he did not be­lieve schol­ars of folk magic had looked in sta­bles be­fore.

“We are lead­ing Eng­land in this par­tic­u­lar area of re- search,” he said. Other markings found in the search of 30 Mid­lands prop­er­ties in­clude hax­afoils, or “daisy wheels”, which are cir­cu­lar pat­terns com­monly used as an evilavert­ing sym­bol.

The Tas­ma­nian Magic Project is re­search­ing the use of magic among set­tlers dur­ing the 19th cen­tury, which ap­pears to have been used as pro­tec­tion from ab­sconded con­victs, bushrangers, Abo­rig­ines.

Though the folk magic rit­u­als were never doc­u­mented, as they were largely car­ried out in se­cret, Dr Evans said that the burn marks in sta­bles were nu­mer­ous.

“I’m head­ing to­wards think­ing those sta­bles were man­aged by pro­fes­sional men whose life was spent car­ing for horses,” he said. and

Re­searcher Ian Evans

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