Moles (Birthmarks)
Birthmarks on the human face or body, usually classed medically
as a benign form of nevus. Many superstitions exist about
moles, and moleoscopy arose as a system of divination based
on the position, character, and astrological connections of
these markings. In folk belief, a mole on the throat was said to
be a sign of good luck, but unlucky if located on the left side
of the forehead near the hair. A mole on the chin, ear, or neck
was said to indicate riches, but on the breast to signify poverty.
The position of moles on the various parts of the body had
various meanings On the feet and hands of a woman—many
children; on the right arm and shoulder of a man or woman—
great lechery; on the ankles or feet—modesty in men and courage
in women; on or about the knees—riches and virtue; on a
woman’s left knee—many children; on the thighs—great poverty
and unhappiness. An old folk rhyme from Nottinghamshire,
England, indicated the belief that the position of a mole
could affect rank in later life
‘‘I have a mole above my right eye,
And shall be a lady before I die.’’
Another belief was that hairs growing out of moles portended
good luck.
During the great witchcraft manias of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, such birthmarks as moles, as well as warts,
were considered ‘‘devil’s marks’’ if they did not bleed when
pricked. Professional witch finders like the infamous Matthew
Hopkins (died 1647) used pricking on suspected witches.
Moles, warts, scars, or other birthmarks were pricked with a
long pin; if there was no pain or bleeding, the suspect was
claimed to be a witch. Special pricking tools like thin daggers
were developed, and some enthusiastic witch prickers (who
claimed a substantial fee for each convicted witch) even used
trick pricking tools with a hollow shaft and retractable blade,
to make sure that the suspect would feel no pain and there
would be no bleeding