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by Talia Felix | Apr 06, 2012

The witch bottle is a very old device used for casting certain protective and curative magic spells. Its purpose is to suck in and thereby trap and contain any harmful intentions which would have been otherwise aimed at its owner. Folk magic holds that the witch bottle protects one from evil spirits, malicious witches, and magical attack, and that it works contrary to any spells cast against a person. This famous form of "bottled spell" dates back many hundreds of years; the origins of this tradition have been dated at least to the 16th century. In ancient times the bottles could be made from clay or stone. Often they contained rusty nails, urine, thorns, hair, menstrual blood, and pieces of glass, wood, and bone. They were prevalent in England during Shakespeare's time -- especially in eastern England, where beliefs and superstitions of witchcraft were strong. These bottles were most often found buried under the fireplace, under the floor, or plastered inside walls. The witch bottle was believed to be functional as long as the bottle remained unbroken and out of sight. Hiding witch bottles was important, and folks could go through much trouble to ensure their safety and secrecy - ones that were buried underneath fireplaces have been found only after the other parts of the building were torn down or had otherwise disappeared. [imonomy - free enrichment tools for your site.]

These days a traditional style of witch bottle is constructed from a little flask, about three inches in height, made from glass colored blue or green. Larger and more rounded witch bottles, up to nine inches high, were known as Greybeards and employed so-called Bartmann or Bellarmine jugs. Greybeards and Bellarmines were not made of glass, but of grey or else brown stoneware that was glazed with salt and embossed with harsh bearded faces designed to frighten evil away.

The witch bottle might be prepared at home or by a "cunning woman" such as the historical witch Mother Bombie. According to records of old time, these magical bottles contained urine, hair, or nail clippings, from the victim who believed himself to be targeted by evil magic. In recent years, the witch's bottle has taken on a more friendly tone, often stuffed with herbal matierials like rosemary, needles, pins, and red wine. Historically and currently, the bottle must be buried at the most distant corner of the property, beneath the house hearth, or placed in an hidden location in the house. It is believed that after being buried, the bottle captures evil which is impaled on the pins and needles, drowned by the wine, and sent away by the rosemary. Sometimes seawater or earth are used instead. Other types of magic witch bottles may contain sand, stones, knotted threads, feathers, shells, herbs, flowers, salt, vinegar, oil, coins, or ashes. A similar magical item is the charm of lemon and pins, wherein pins are inserted into a lemon, but note that lemons were formerly very rare in Europe.

Another variation is found within the disposal of the magical witch's bottle. Some witch's bottles were thrown into a fire and when they exploded, it was said that the evil witchcraft spell was broken or else that the witch had been destroyed and fallen dead.

About the Author

Talia Felix is translator and contributor to the historical witchcraft book Mother Bombie's Book of Witchcraft and Cunning Magick... (Bio)