Apotropaic Ethiopia: Early Examples of Spiritual Protection from Christian Africa

The following website about Apotropaic Ethiopia, is a co-authored project by Vincent Reed and Charles E S Fairey, about Apotropaic Symbols and Protective Devices, as well as Witch Marks, which were found in the early Christian Churches of Ethiopia.

It lists each protective device by type, with photographs, interpretation and wider meaning. In some of the examples, UK parallels have been used to compare and contrast, and show us the cultural and international use of symbols to 'ward off evil'.

Some, especially the St Andrew's Cross or Saltire, have important historical ramifications about their actual origin, with this type, also being found in Ireland, stretching back to 3,200BC. It shows that this protective device has been used for at least 5,000 years, and is pre-Christian in origin, with artefacts from the Roman period also using this device to protect folk from evil.

The examples found in Ethiopia, some of which are also found in Europe and in the UK, also show us the universal application of ‘warding off evil’ through time, as a central theme across cultures, and especially of those cultures which are Christian. It speaks of the superstitious past and how those worries extended across all people of all nations, throughout time.

They also help us to contrast and compare the similarities or differences between apotropaic devices between the two Christian countries, as well as in some cases in Ethiopia, reminding us of what we have lost due to the outlawing of Catholicism and its richly decorated, embellished, and iconic churches, priories, abbeys and cathedrals, and the destruction of such buildings during the Reformation, Puritan iconoclasm, and whitewashing of interiors throughout the UK.

These examples of spiritual protection in Ethiopia also serve to show us how different countries followed the Christian faith, and how it has ascended through time, by following a path from today, going backwards to the beginnings of Christianity, perhaps showing our modern minds, the shared faith, symbolism and lineage, of the Christian ‘waye of life’, experienced by differing countries and cultures, through time.

It opens our minds to our shared worldly heritage and religious and spiritual thoughts, and possibly makes us realise that we are a communal people, all hoping to live together, and ascend in being, spirit, soul or even just learning and wisdom, whatever denomination of Christianity we follow, or whatever different faith we follow, or even if we follow no faith at all.

Vincent Reed is an expert in wood restoration and conservation, and travelled to Ethiopia in Africa, in January 2019, as a member of an official ICOMOS (The International Council on Monuments and Sites) delegation, to visit the ancient Christian Churches and investigate their structure, fabric and historic features, as well as the historic timbers used in their construction, design and decoration.

Please see our Website which hopefully you will find very informative and interesting:-


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