Iron has played a curious role in witchcraft, sorcery, and the supernatural. It is found mentioned in folklore around the world. Belief holds than iron is one of the best charms in providing protection against witches, sorcerers, demons, and other evil spirits. In European folklore, it is believed that no witch can pass over cold iron, nor enter any house which has a knife buried under its doorstep. Iron has been used to protect entire villages in some rural areas.
In India iron is believed to repel the Djinn and other evil spirits; in Scotland, Ireland and Europe iron keeps away mischievous and malicious fairies. In other parts of the world iron is said to keep away ghosts as well.
Contrary to these beliefs, witches and sorcerers have constantly used iron throughout history for such items as cauldrons, and utensils they employ in magical practices with no evil effects. Likewise, it might be added, ghosts neither seem to suffer no evil effects from iron considering the reports of iron-chain-clanking spirits roaming around in old castles.
Iron has been considered sacred in some cultures. The ancient Babylonians, Egyptians and Aztecs believed it came from heaven, perhaps because the composition of meteorites is of iron and other metals.
The ancient Greeks and Romans forbade iron in their temples and its use by their priests. Ancient Saxons would not put iron rune wands in cemeteries for fear that the iron would scare away the departed spirits.
Iron has been a popular metal for making amulets with which to ward off danger, bad luck, and the evil eye. Iron amulets were worn by ancient Babylonian and Assyrian men in the belief that it would enhance their virility; the women rubbed themselves with iron powder in order to attract the men. The ancient Egyptians inserted iron amulets in the linen of mummy wrappings in order to invoke the protection of the Eye of Horus. In certain areas of Burma, the river men still wear iron pyrite amulets for protection against crocodiles.
In the 18th century Franz Anton Mesmer used iron in his healing treatment (see Mesmerism). He believed iron conducted animal magnetism, a vital energy which every body had and needed.
by Alan G. Hefner
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen.The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft. New York: Facts On File.1989. p. 172