Rare Antique Petrified Cat’s Head From Mother Shipton’s Petrifying Well Knaresborough
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A Rare Antique Petrified Cat’s Head From Mother Shipton’s Petrifying Well In Knaresborough. Housed In Glass Dome With Stand.
According to medieval superstition, old shoes, bottles, and less commonly cats, were placed into walls, roofs, floorboards or fireplaces to ward off evil spirits. It was quite a widespread practice across the European continent and in some cases the cats had been positioned, indicating that they were already dead at the time of concealment. We believe this specimen falls into this category as the rest of the body is missing.
As per a sacrifice, perhaps it was hoped that some of the qualities attributed to the cat in life would continue in the afterlife. Cats are alleged to be able to see ghosts and spirits easier than humans (hailing from Egyptian beliefs) and it is possible that it was their job to catch vermin of a more spiritual kind; perhaps the witch’s familiar. George Gifford, writing in 1593, complained of witch’s familiars running about outside. If he’d only had a cat concealed in his walls, a witch-bottle beneath his doorstep and some shoes up his chimney he’d have had much less to worry about.
In this case, it was another Shipton’s Petrifying Well that was used in this process. Mother Shipton’s Cave (or “Old Mother Shipton’s Cave”) is at Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, England, near the River Nidd. Nearby is a petrifying well, also known as a dropping well. The latter is the oldest tourist attraction to charge a fee in England, and has been operated since 1630. The water of the well is so rich in sulphate and carbonate that artefacts may be put in the well to be “petrified” (encrusted) as a tourist attraction.
This piece was bought privately from a knaresborough resident who was given this curiosity by his late grandfather.
A rare piece!
Condition is good, commensurate with age. Structurally sound, no issues.
Head 10.5cm x 7cm x 8cm
Dome 20cm x 23cm x 14cm