Concealed Fertility Charms

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post from Ceri Houlbrook explores concealed fertility charms.

In October 2015 I was contacted by a man named Roy Carter who’d been renovating a Tudor cottage in Burwash, East Sussex. During renovations he’d found a small wooden figurine, about an inch and a half long, which he believes had been deliberately concealed within the cottage, either placed above a roof beam or within one of the walls. This certainly isn’t the first obscure object to have been found secreted away within a domestic space. All manner of items have been discovered – from shoes and bottles to animal remains – in unusual locations: within walls; under floorboards, hearthstones, and thresholds; above doors and ceilings; up chimney breasts; in thatching; and buried in gardens. The majority of these items date to the 18th and 19th centuries, and appear to have been deliberately concealed rather than accidentally lost. But why?

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