The Weirdest Myths Surrounding Birthmarks

Birthmarks have meant different things to different people throughout history. Some birthmarks have been seen as disfiguring and even frightening; the Peter Ch'ng Clinic shared the fact that the birthmark on the neck of King Henry VIII's wife Anne Boleyn was considered to be a mark of a witch in 16th century England. But an article in Kritika: Explorations In Russian And Eurasian History said that birthmarks were seen by some as proof of royal blood in 17th through 19th century Russia. In some European cultures, laying hands on someone with a birthmark was meant to bring good luck, although it was probably less lucky for the people who were marked since it must have been annoying having others constantly trying to touch them. In the 20th century, one of the modern era's greatest icons was known for her beauty mark – Allure noted that Marilyn Monroe's cheek mole became so famous that there's even a type of skin piercing named after her that imitates it, and retro siren Dita Von Teese had a similar mole tattooed on her face to lend her this allure that nature forgot.

Perhaps the strangest thing about birthmarks, however, is the way that people have interpreted them. Could they be a mark of something that happened in the past or a prediction of what will come in the future? Or perhaps just a random cluster of pigmented skin cells... nah, that's way too boring!

Birthmarks are thought to be the result of something that happened in pregnancy

One of the most pervasive myths about birthmarks is what is known as "maternal impression." According to the abstract of an article published in the journal Dermatology, this phenomenon describes a belief that birthmarks result from the marked child's mother having some sort of strange or frightening encounter during her pregnancy or from certain types of experiences that would otherwise be considered perfectly normal. For example, Japanese tradition held that a pregnant woman who gazed into a fire would give birth to a child with a "burn mark." The Peter Ch'ng Clinic interpreted this to be a mole or cafe au lait spot. 

A similar myth is that of a woman who "is startled and touches her face," thus causing the baby to be born with a mark such as a haemangioma or port-wine stain on that same spot on their face. There's even a more modern variant of this legend — that if a pregnant woman has an x-ray it will cause her baby to be born with a mark of some kind.

Yet another way that birthmarks are supposedly caused by the mother relates to something she eats — port-wine stains from drinking wine, cafe au lait stains from drinking coffee, et cetera. Similarly, strawberry marks are sometimes said to be caused by overconsumption of the fruit. Some believe that if an expectant mother scratches herself while having a craving, her child will have a birthmark in that spot.

Birthmarks may have spiritual significance

Some religions have traditions that revolve around birthmarks. The Dermatology article noted that the Ethiopian Orthodox Church sees these as kisses from the Virgin Mary, while an anchor-shaped birthmark was said to belong to Seleucus the first, founder of the Seleucid Dynasty, and was later adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the religion. The St. Rocco Society of Potenza in New York City and the Saint Rocco Fraternal Society of Malden shared that St. Rocco was born with a red cross-shaped birthmark on his chest, which seemingly predicted his future sainthood. But History revealed that during the Salem Witch trials, the Puritans took an opposing view of birthmarks. Instead of seeing them as signs from God, they instead reviled them as marks of Satan.

More recently, those drawn to New Age spirituality have also found birthmarks to be ripe for interpretation. Elite Daily noted that if you have a birthmark that resembles an animal or even part of an animal (perhaps a paw print or a bird's wing or feather), this could be an indicator of your spirit animal. Learn Religions explained that birthmarks in the shape of traditional good luck symbols, such as a horseshoe or four-leaf clover, are particularly favorable, while heart-shaped birthmarks symbolize "universal love." Learn Religions also explained that if you have a birthmark with a shape that is connected to sacred geometry, such as a pyramid, diamond, circle, or Star of David, it could mean that you have a questioning mind and heart.

Birthmarks may reveal something about your past life

Yet another popular interpretation of birthmarks is that they may be able to show something about your past life and could possibly be indicators of your past profession. The Peter Ch'ng Clinic mentioned the myth that a port-wine stain on your chest means you were once a soldier, while Elite Daily indicated that a birthmark shaped like a sword or a knife may mean the same thing. Learn Religions noted that a sword- or-knife-shaped mark could also show that you'd once lived a life of great bravery.

Although no mention is made of any other profession-specific birthmarks by the Peter Ch'ng Clinic or Learn Religions, we're going to guess that a birthmark shaped like a tractor might mean you'd been a farmer, a whisk or a pan might mean you were a cook, and a birthmark shaped like a TV remote could be a sign that you'd spent the greater part of your past life as an unemployed couch potato.

Birthmarks could also tell of your past death

On a much grislier note, birthmarks could also be seen as indicators of how you actually met your end the last time around. A knife- or sword-shaped mark may indicate a stabbing death, while a flame-shaped one could mean you previously died in a fire and a circular mark could symbolize a bullet hole, meaning that you'd been shot, as noted by Elite Daily, which grabbed info from author and counselor Carol Bowman, M.S.

While there is no indication whatsoever that there is any basis in reality for these birthmark interpretations, one thing is known to be true — if certain types of birthmarks like moles or freckles change in size or shape, or you suddenly develop a new mark, this may mean that you ought to see a doctor since there's a chance that mark could be melanoma, as noted by the Mayo Clinic. While you can't do anything about your past lives (or deaths) at this point, you can and should make sure that your present life will be as long and healthy as possible.