Apotropaic magic

An ancient Egyptian apotropaic wand shows a procession of protective deities. It was used in birth rituals, perhaps to draw a magic circle around the mother and child.
The Gorgon, flanked by lionesses and showing her belt clasp of serpents; the pediment of the 580 BCE temple of Artemis in Corfu. Archaeological Museum of Corfu.
Chalcidian black-figured eye-cup, circa 530 BCE. Staatliche Antikensammlungen
A 12th-century sheela na gig on the church at Kilpeck, Herefordshire
Apotropaic marking, Niemelä Tenant Farm, now at Seurasaari Open Air Museum, Finland
Amulets for specific purposes on sale at a Shinto shrine in Japan

Type of magic intended to turn away harm or evil influences, as in deflecting misfortune or averting the evil eye.

- Apotropaic magic
An ancient Egyptian apotropaic wand shows a procession of protective deities. It was used in birth rituals, perhaps to draw a magic circle around the mother and child.

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The Witches by Hans Baldung (woodcut), 1508

Witchcraft

Witchcraft traditionally means the use of magic or supernatural powers to harm others.

Witchcraft traditionally means the use of magic or supernatural powers to harm others.

The Witches by Hans Baldung (woodcut), 1508
The Magic Circle by John William Waterhouse, 1886
Preparation for the Witches' Sabbath by David Teniers the Younger. It shows a witch brewing a potion overlooked by her familiar spirit or a demon; items on the floor for casting a spell; and another witch reading from a grimoire while anointing the buttocks of a young witch about to fly upon an inverted besom
A painting in the Rila Monastery in Bulgaria, condemning witchcraft and traditional folk magic
A witch bottle, used as counter-magic against witchcraft
Alleged witches being accused in the Salem witch trials
A 1613 English pamphlet showing "Witches apprehended, examined and executed"
Saul and the Witch of Endor (1828) by William Sidney Mount.
The Kolloh-Man (January 1853, X, p.6)
Examination of a Witch by T. H. Matteson, inspired by the Salem witch trials
Okabe – The cat witch, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi
A 1555 German print showing the burning of witches. Current scholarly estimates of the number of people executed for witchcraft in Europe vary between 40,000 and 100,000. The number of witch trials in Europe known to have ended in executions is around 12,000.
Illustration of witches, perhaps being tortured before James VI, from his Daemonologie (1597)
Goya's drawing of result of a presumed witch's trial: " [so she must be a witch]"
Albrecht Dürer circa 1500: Witch riding backwards on a goat
Louhi, a powerful and wicked witch queen of the land known as Pohjola in the Finnish epic poetry Kalevala, attacking Väinämöinen in the form of a giant eagle with her troops on her back. (The Defense of the Sampo, Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1896)

It was thought witchcraft could be thwarted by protective magic or counter-magic, which could be provided by cunning folk or folk healers.

A nazar, an amulet to ward off the evil eye

Amulet

Object believed to confer protection upon its possessor.

Object believed to confer protection upon its possessor.

A nazar, an amulet to ward off the evil eye
Djed, wadj, and figures of gods; amulets made of Egyptian faience.
Amulet, amber, with ear of wheat, Roman period (69-96 AD)
A selection of omamori, Japanese amulets
Silver amulet encasement
Carnelian 'flame'
A cross necklace
Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel or "Brown Scapular"
Sator Square, an ancient Roman amulet in the form of a palindromic word square
Amulet from Rajasthan, depicting the goddess Durga
Charm bracelet
Ancient Roman amulet from Pompeii in the form of a phallus
A mezuzah
Nazar
An amulet from the Black Pullet grimoire
Magical mirror with Zodiac signs
Nez Perce talisman, made of wolf skin, wool, mirrors, feathers, buttons and a brass bell
Afro-Surinamese Winti amulet
Ancient Egyptian Taweret amulet, New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, c. 1539–1292 BC
Omamori amulet from a Shinto shrine in Kumamoto, Japan

Amulet boxes could also be used, such as the example from part of the Thetford treasure, Norfolk, UK, where a gold box intended for suspension around the neck was found to contain sulphur for its apotropaic (evil-repelling) qualities.

Nazars, charms used to ward off the evil eye.

Evil eye

Supernatural belief in a curse, brought about by a malevolent glare, usually given to a person when one is unaware.

Supernatural belief in a curse, brought about by a malevolent glare, usually given to a person when one is unaware.

Nazars, charms used to ward off the evil eye.
Eye of Horus
Kylix eye cup (530-520 BC), inscribed with Chalcidian text. It features an eye motif, to ward off the evil eye.
Tree with nazars in Cappadocia, Turkey.
John Phillip, The Evil Eye (1859), a self-portrait depicting the artist sketching a Spanish gypsy who thinks she is being given the evil eye.
The Hamsa, a charm made to ward off the evil eye.
Detail of a 19th-century Anatolian kilim, with rows of crosses (Turkish: Haç) and scattered S-shaped hooks (Turkish: Çengel), both to ward off the evil eye
Clay hamsa with an inscription in Hebrew (translates to "success")
A Ruby Eye Pendant from an ancient civilization in Mesopotamia was possibly used as an amulet to protect against the evil eyes. Adilnor Collection.
Traditionally shaped nazar ornaments
Various evil eye amulets from Italy such as the cornicello, cimaruta, and lunula (1895).
Two handsigns (fig sign and horned sign) used in Italy against the evil eye (1914).
Azabache bracelet charm with a fist and protruding index finger knuckle

The earliest known belief in the power of the evil eye predates ancient Roman and Greek times classical antiquity, there has been literature that mentions at 6th century BC it appeared on Chalcidian drinking vessels, known as 'eye-cups', as a type of apotropaic magic.

The goddess Taweret, portrayed as a bipedal hippopotamus with limbs like those of a feline. Her hand rests on the sa sign, a hieroglyph that means "protection".

Taweret

Protective ancient Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility.

Protective ancient Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility.

The goddess Taweret, portrayed as a bipedal hippopotamus with limbs like those of a feline. Her hand rests on the sa sign, a hieroglyph that means "protection".
This red jasper Ptolemaic amulet bears Taweret's likeness and represents a longstanding tradition of female hippopotamus amulets in ancient Egypt. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.
Faience hippopotamus statuettes like this one were placed in tombs and temples to help the deceased be successfully reborn into the afterlife. Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum.
Faience amulet depicting Taweret, Late Period (c. 600-400 BCE), held in the Louvre Museum, Paris.
Images of protective deities like Taweret and Bes were placed on the outer walls of Ptolemaic temples in order to keep evil forces at bay. Edfu, Egypt.
This clay statuette of Taweret was found in a foundation deposit under the enclosure wall of the pyramid of the Nubian King Anlamani (c. 623–595 BCE). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
This image (c. 1463 BCE) shows the astronomical ceiling of Senemut's tomb. A celestial form of Taweret can be seen towards the bottom in the center.
This faience vessel from the early Ptolemaic period (4th century BCE) is molded in the form of Taweret and was perhaps used to ritually cleanse liquid. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.
This apotropaic wand (c. 1880 to 1700 BCE) shows a procession of protective deities, including a hippopotamus goddess. Such a wand would have been used in rituals associated with birth and were perhaps used to draw a magical circle around the mother and child. Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

However, female hippopotamuses were revered as manifestations of apotropaic deities, as they studiously protect their young from harm.

Gargoyles of Notre-Dame de Paris

Gargoyle

Carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing it from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between.

Carved or formed grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing it from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between.

Gargoyles of Notre-Dame de Paris
Dragon-headed gargoyle of the Tallinn Town Hall, Estonia
Gargoyle of the Vasa Chapel at Wawel in Kraków, Poland
Chimera of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Chapel in Flagstaff, Arizona
A gargoyle on the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Paris, France, showing the water channel
Gargoyle at the St. John's Church, Helsinki, Finland
Gargoyle at the St.-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk, Ostend, Belgium
One of four gargoyles atop the Peace Tower, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Gargoyle of Notre-Dame d'Amiens, France
Notre Dame Church in Dijon, France
Gargoyle at the Cloth Hall, Ypres, Belgium
Gargoyle on Zagreb Cathedral, Croatia
Gargoyle from Cologne Cathedral under reconstruction
Gargoyle showing carver Roger Morigi with carver's tools, Washington National Cathedral, Washington D.C., USA
Gargoyle from Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Scotland.
Gargoyle from the Château de Blain, France
Gargoyle from Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence, Italy (sometimes called "il Boccalone")
Original Old City Hall, Toronto gargoyle
Replica gargoyles at Old City Hall, Toronto
A 1st century BC Hellenistic gargoyle representing a comical cook-slave from Ai Khanoum, Afghanistan
During a refurbishment of Paisley Abbey in the early 1990s, twelve gargoyles were replaced. One of them is modeled on the titular creature from the 1979 film Alien.
Gargoyle spewing water as part of a fountain Prčice, Sedlec-Prčice, Příbram District, Central Bohemian Region, the Czech Republic. Vítek's Square
Gargoyle representing a comical demon at the base of a pinnacle with two smaller gargoyles, Visby, Sweden

The primary use of the gargoyle was to illustrate evil through the form of the gargoyle, while another theory posits that grotesques in architecture were apotropaic devices.

Knock on wood illustration

Knocking on wood

Knock on wood illustration
Knocking on wood in the Oval Office

Knocking on wood (also phrased touching wood) is an apotropaic tradition of literally touching, tapping, or knocking on wood, or merely stating that one is doing or intending to do so, in order to avoid "tempting fate" after making a favorable prediction or boast, or a declaration concerning one's own death or another unfavorable situation.

A traditional American jack-o'-lantern, made from a pumpkin, lit from within by a candle.

Jack-o'-lantern

Carved turnip, pumpkin or other root vegetable lantern, commonly associated with the Halloween holiday.

Carved turnip, pumpkin or other root vegetable lantern, commonly associated with the Halloween holiday.

A traditional American jack-o'-lantern, made from a pumpkin, lit from within by a candle.
A jack-o'-lantern in the shape of the Wikipedia logo.
An assortment of carved pumpkins.
A plaster cast of a traditional Irish Jack-o'-Lantern in the Museum of Country Life, Ireland.
Modern carving of a Cornish Jack-o'-Lantern made from a turnip.
A commercial "R.I.P." pattern.
Halloween jack-o'-lantern.
Pumpkin projected onto the wall.
A jack-o'-lantern

By those who made them, the lanterns were said to represent either spirits or supernatural beings, or were used to ward off evil spirits.

A Gorgon head on the outside of each of the Vix-krater's three handles, from the grave of the Celtic Lady of Vix, 510 BC

Gorgon

Creature in Greek mythology.

Creature in Greek mythology.

A Gorgon head on the outside of each of the Vix-krater's three handles, from the grave of the Celtic Lady of Vix, 510 BC
Perseus killing Medusa
Archaic (Etruscan) fanged goggle-eyed Gorgon flanked by standing winged lionesses or sphinxes on a hydria from Vulci, 540–530 BC
Gorgon statue at the Paolo Orsi archaeological museum of Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
Gorgon of Paros, marble statue at the Archaeological Museum of Paros, 6th century BC, Cyclades, Greece
Gorgon of Paros, marble statue at the Archaeological Museum of Paros, 6th century BC, Cyclades, Greece
Disk-fibula with a gorgoneion, bronze with repoussé decoration, second half of the 6th century BC (Louvre)
An archaic Gorgon (around 580 BC), as depicted on a pediment from the temple of Artemis in Corfu, on display at the Archaeological Museum of Corfu
Winged goddess with a Gorgon's head, orientalizing plate, {{circa}}600 BC, from Kameiros, Rhodes
Gorgon Medusa 200 AD with wings at the top of her head (Romano-Germanic Museum in Cologne)
An Amazon with her shield bearing the Gorgon head image. Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, 510–500 BC
First century BC mosaic of Alexander the Great bearing on his armor an image of the Gorgon as an aegis (Naples National Archaeological Museum)
Gorgon in medaillon. Roman fresco from the House of the Vettii (VI 15,1) in Pompeii
Athena wears the ancient form of the Gorgon head on her aegis, as the huge serpent who guards the golden fleece regurgitates Jason; cup by Douris, Classical Greece, early fifth century BC (Vatican Museum)

In Ancient Greece a Gorgoneion (a stone head, engraving, or drawing of a Gorgon face, often with snakes protruding wildly and the tongue sticking out between her fangs) frequently was used as an apotropaic symbol and placed on doors, walls, floors, coins, shields, breastplates, and tombstones in the hopes of warding off evil.

A 12th-century sheela na gig on the church at Kilpeck, Herefordshire, England.

Sheela na gig

Exaggerated vulva.

Exaggerated vulva.

A 12th-century sheela na gig on the church at Kilpeck, Herefordshire, England.
Sheela na gig on the south-west pillar of the presbytery in St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, ca.12th to 13th centuries, Norman and Romanesque.
Sheela na gig on town wall in Fethard, County Tipperary, Ireland.
Sheela na Gig and male figure, Whittlesford
La Fontaine plate, illustrated by Charles Eisen (1762).
A sheela-like figure in a non-architectural context, the "santuario rupestre" at Coirós, Province of A Coruña, Galicia.

It is commonly said that their purpose was to keep evil spirits away (see apotropaic magic).

Samonios on the Coligny calendar

Samhain

Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or "darker-half" of the year.

Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter or "darker-half" of the year.

Samonios on the Coligny calendar
The hero Fionn fighting Aillen, who is said to have burned Tara each Samhain
The 'Cave of Cruachan', one of the many 'gateways to the Otherworld' whence beings and spirits were said to have emerged on Samhain.
Bonfires were a big part of the festival in many areas (pictured is a Beltane bonfire in Scotland)
Snap-Apple Night (1833), painted by Daniel Maclise, shows people playing divination games on 31 October in Ireland
A Mari Lwyd, the Welsh equivalent of the Láir Bhán
A plaster cast of an Irish Seán na Gealaí turnip lantern from the early 20th century at the Museum of Country Life
Samhuinn Wikipedia editathon at the University of Edinburgh, 2016

It was fixed over the doorway to ward-off bad luck, sickness and witchcraft, and would be replaced each Samhain.