The True Meaning of ‘Clock Shavings’: A Letter from a Reader

I have mentioned in many interviews recently that the title of my new book Clock Shavings is derived from this quote from The God of the Witches by Margaret Alice Murray:

The Swedish witches had a special rite which was obviously intended to impress ignorant minds. They were given a little bag containing a few shavings of a clock to which a stone was tied; they threw this into the water, saying, ‘As these shavings of the clock do never return to the clock from which they are taken, so may my soul never return to heaven.’


I had theorized that this unique phrase must refer to the metal filings that might fall from the gears of a clock over time. But reader Alain Wilmots has a much more plausible explanation. He wrote to me thusly:

Hi Mrs. Twyman,

I listened to your interviews on Red Ice Radio (first hour on youtube), and I remembered I happen to know the true meaning of the term ‘Clock Shavings’, as someone told the story when I was a kid.

The English-speaking people seem to have been put on a wrong foot by a mistranslation. The term has come to us via Swedish witches, and in Swedish the same word is used for both “clock” and “bell,” as it is in most Germanic languages.

The ‘clock shavings’ do not come from a clock, but from a new church bell. They are the metal that is removed in tuning the bell. As the bells were intended to end up in a church, these pieces of metal were a powerful symbol for those who opposed the church. They were not in tune, rejected, and destined to never end up in a church.

I remember having been told that there was great risk involved in ‘stealing’ and smuggling away these scrap metals. (Probably the church authorities knew about this?) They were used in a ritual where people were made, let’s say, ‘spiritually One’ with them, and then offered to their old gods. (I did not have the impression they were “selling their souls to the devil,” but rather that it was more a pledge to their gods against an enemy.)

Too bad I don’t remember who told me.

Best wishes,


Bell Shavings
Bell Shavings

Here’s a great 2.5-minute video report and article from the BBC about the history of the science of bell-tuning.

Let us not forget, also two important literary uses of church bells. There is the role of bell-ringer played by Quasimodo in Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, which opens with said character playing the role of the “Pope of Fools” during the “Feast of Fools” (a mocking of the Passion Play related to the Black Mass) on Epiphany Day (January 6th).

Quasimodo ringing the bell, from the 1939 film
Quasimodo ringing the bell, from the 1939 film
Quasimodo as the King of Fools, from the 1996 animated Disney film
Quasimodo as the King of Fools, from the 1996 animated Disney film

Also, there is a character named Carhaix who is a church bell-ringer in J.-K. Huysmans’ novel La Bas (published in English as The Damned or Down There), which was explicitly about the Black Mass. The importance of church bells is discussed in the book:

It’s true that the bell is an instrument apart, that it’s baptised just as if it was a person and anointed with the chrism of salvation to consecrate it. And after a Pontifical blessing, moreover, it’s sanctified in its chalice-like interior by a bishop, being anointed with holy oil seven times in the form of a cross for the sick, so that it thereby carries a consoling voice to the dying and sustains them in their last agonies. It’s also the Church’s herald, its external voice, as the priest is its voice within. It’s not just a simple piece of bronze, a mortar that you could turn upside down and shake. Added to which, like old wines, bells improve with age, their voices become fuller and more supple, they lose their shrill bouquet, their immature tone.

So the “clock shavings” stolen by Satanists are like unbaptized infants, sacrificed to the evil one instead of being blessed by the bishop like the bell from which they came.

The German word for bell, “Glocke,” was also the name of a strange device used by the Nazis, perhaps for extraterrestrial or extra-dimensional travel (see the video below). According to some researchers, ts design may have been dictated to the mediums of the pre-Nazi Vril Society during a seance.