East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Any cold iron


An interesting discussion started last day with a friend of mine, a fine author, about what the Italian equivalent is of cold iron – as cold iron is well known as a tool against spirits, witches and demons.
The sort of thing that writers tend to notice, and file for later.
And it turns out there is no equivalent of cold iron because, basically, cold iron is plain old iron, but sharpened.


Francis Grose’s 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defines cold iron as “A sword, or any other weapon for cutting or stabbing.”

… says Wikipedia.
And Kipling, of course, used the expression to mean “weapon”.

But of course, when people that love reading and writing start discussing a topic, more and more things emerged.

For instance, it turns out that witches can’t walk across cold iron.
So it stands to reason that if you lay your sword across your threshold, no witch will be able to enter your house (through that door, at least). And believe it or not, there is this old tradition, in England – so they tell me – of burying a knife under the threshold.
Which is the sort of thing that pleases me no end – because it means that people acted, applied the logical extension of their beliefs.

And also, that’s the sort of fact that a writer of history likes to file away – because sooner or later it will come handy.

As for the Italian for cold iron, considering that ferro freddo gives me the creeps, I’d rather go for ferro affilato (sharp iron).
But that’s just me.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “Any cold iron

  1. I heard it explained as a weapon that was filed to sharpness as opposed to a weapon that was hammered to a fine edge while hot, but of course it does not make sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe fairies were sensitive to phosphorus?
    From wikipedia:
    “Coldshort iron, also known as coldshear, colshire or bloodshot, contains excessive phosphorus. It is very brittle when it is cold. It cracks if bent. It may, however, be worked at high temperature. Historically, coldshort iron was considered good enough for nails.”


    • Another interesting bit.
      Might explain why Victorian photographers had uneven results when photographing fairies, too.
      And the reference to mails is interesting, because carrying an iron nail in your pocket when traveling will guarantee that fairies will not lead you astray.
      I guess we are on to something here…


  3. incidentally, coldshort iron isn’t good for (long) blades, because they would snap easily.


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