Friday, 17 June 2016

Nature's Apotropaios

Apotropaios is one of my favourite things.  From concealed shoes and the outlines of shoes carved into stonework to witch bottles, magic circles and Patrick Troughton's character in The Omen papering the walls and windows of his room with pages from the Bible, I find the whole subject compelling, and I always get a thrill when I spot examples in and around my small patch, and sometimes further afield

Examples of apotropaic circles can be seen in the doorway of the Tithe Barn at Bradford-on-Avon. These are known as Hexafoils or Daisy Wheels, and are believed to be both protection against evil and good luck symbols.  

There's some information about them here.   

When my life felt a lot less secure than it does now, I found myself unconsciously employing similar practices. I don't need to do any of that now but nevertheless, having stripped off the blown vinyl wallpaper from a historically damp bedroom wall in my new (old) house, I was pleased to find this pattern had somehow imprinted itself from the wallpaper into the cloudscape of mould, in a way that is far more beautiful than what was originally on the wall.  Of course, the wall will be sealed and painted over eventually, but the pattern of nature's daisy wheels will always be there, hidden away.  


Even before their children were born
she’d pull hair from her head to knit into every
cardigan she made to keep them safe

While they played on the sand she’d draw
circles and signs, then cover them over
so nobody else would know they were there

Or gather holed stones to thread onto cords,
hang them from bedsteads in windows by doors
to keep danger at bay
                                           afraid of an absence
she couldn’t name, that stalked through dreams
she failed to remember, kept her on edge

deaf to the twist of its key in the lock,
the creak of the bed, the familiar
breath on the back of her neck

© Deborah Harvey 2016 

'Charm' is from my latest poetry collection, Breadcrumbs, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, and is available from them, or Amazon, or all good bookshops.