There’s not much evidence of superstition on record at Mount Vernon during the 18th century. In fact, our historians and curators were hard pressed to come up with any Friday the 13-worthy practices carried out by the Washington household.
People in the 18th century commonly buried items in their walls to ward off evil spirits. Objects included shoes, cashes or even a mummified cat as was the case at Carlyle House in nearby Alexandria, Va. Mourners were also known to cover mirrors after the death of loved ones, but the Washingtons are not on record for this practice either.
All we can say on the superstitious front is that the above “witch’s heart” brooch was found when our archaeologists dug at the sight of Washington’s distillery several years ago. The witch’s heart — almost like a regular heart, but slightly twisted – can be traced back to the 15th century when it was meant to ward off evil spirits. They were often pinned to babies’ blankets for protection, but by the 18th century had also come to stand as a symbol for love. It’s unknown to whom this brooch, made of copper with a pewter wash and glass “jewels” belonged. Whether it warded off spirits or served as a token of love to its owner is equally lost to the ages.