Egg Shell Lore: Witches & Fairies

There’s an interesting overlap between witches and fairies in folklore, this is seen, for example, in the shared idea of their uncanny voyages and the unusual vessels they choose to travel in. According to A Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584), witches like to ‘saile in an egge shell, a cockle or muscle shell, through and under the tempestuous seas’.

A witch goes to sea in a sieve (Charles Turner, 1807, Wellcome Collection)

The belief that witches could sail in eggshells endured into my own childhood and led to us harbouring many superstitions around crushing the shells so they were not stolen by witches! It seems that fairies too are drawn to egg shells. According to Lady Wilde’s Superstitions of Ireland (1887), ‘egg-shells are favourite retreats of the fairies, therefore the judicious eater should always break the shell after use, to prevent the fairy sprite from taking up his lodgment therein’. Eggchanting!

Fairy and child discover an Easter egg,
1930 (Mary Evans Picture Library)

I thought this was a topical piece of lore ahead of this weekend’s pace egging and it allows for a mischievous gothicising of Easter. Happy holidays OGOMERS!!

gothic decoupage pace egg

About Sam George

Associate Professor of Research, School of Humanities, University of Hertfordshire Co-convenor OGOM Project
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