Monday, March 24, 2014

The Mystery Of Witch Bottles...!

I don't really know if this qualifies as a good Monday mystery or not, but it sure is interesting!

Evidently these things were not that uncommon back in the "old days", but I don't think I ever heard of them before. Just when I get to thinking I know a lot of stuff, I find an article like this that proves me wrong! Guess the biggest mystery about this practice is how it ever got started in the first place!

The Weird History Of Witch Bottles
By Debra Kelly on Saturday, March 22, 2014

Witchcraft was thought to be a rampant practice in the 16th and 17th centuries throughout England and America, but fortunately, those that didn’t necessarily practice it weren’t entirely powerless against it. Witch bottles were designed to combat evil spells, either turning them back on the caster or protecting someone against being targeted by one in the first place. They were a very personal thing, and often contained human tissues and bodily secretions.

For centuries, belief in the powers of witchcraft was a very real and very frightening thing. Those who didn’t necessarily practice witchcraft but thought themselves a victim of it weren’t absolutely powerless, though: Enter the witch bottle.

Witch bottles have been found in both England and the United States, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. On their own, they’re pretty strange things that might have had archaeologists scratching their heads if not for records specifying just what they were and what they were used for.

Witchcraft wasn’t just a fringe belief, it was a real, honest-to-goodness threat. Court records from the Old Bailey in London record advice given to a man who thought his wife had garnered the not-so-pleasant attention of a witch. According to an apothecary, the remedy for her affliction was to make an anti-witchcraft potion. The ingredients? Her urine, some nail clippings, and some of her hair, combined and boiled.

Boiling was a traditional method of preparing a potion that would turn a witch’s spell back at her, a belief that was carried from England to America. Even in the colonies, witchcraft was such as serious problem there was a variety of anti-witchcraft legislation that was drawn up as official guidelines as to what to do when there was suspected witchcraft. So it’s not strange that the everyman would be taking such precautions.

Witch bottles found in Pennsylvania are similarly constructed to ones that have been found in England, dating to about the same time period. One, buried upside-down near the foundation of a house, was filled with bird bones, a shard of pottery, and six pins. (Six is a number traditionally associated with the ability to combat the effects of witchcraft, often seen in the traditional hex signs.)

More bottles have been uncovered in England, and their contents seem to vary—most likely based on what kind of spell the creator thought had been cast on them. Urine was a common component, as those who had bladder or urinary trouble often thought that boiling their own urine, bottling it and burying the bottle would transfer the problems to the caster. Throwing in the pins and nails was done to curse the witch even further, as it was thought that it would cause even greater grief.

Other bottles have contained things like brimstone (sulfur), pins, nails, and even belly button lint. In some bottles, the pins are just put in loose, but in others, they’re carefully arranged in felt or cloth hearts. The inclusion of sulfur was thought to be particularly damning to the witch, and was reserved for those that the afflicted wanted not just gone, but dead.

Some of the contents of witch bottles can be difficult to determine, because years of sitting in urine can degrade many items. Some of the bottles found have been pottery or stoneware, more rarely glass.

In addition to returning spells back onto their caster, witch bottles were also often buried near foundations for houses as they were being constructed to ward off potentially cast bad spells. Typically placed beneath hearths and in doorways, they were always buried upside-down. Others were carried as amulets meant to ward off disease and illness.

Now I don't want to get down on anyone who might believe in this sort of practice, but...really? Burying one of these to ward off witches and curses? Wow! Like the line in the television shows goes "Kids,don't try this at home?"

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's slightly chilly, but that's alright!


Chickenmom said...

I would prefer to bury mine, not wear it! Coffee on the patio is fine - it's 17 degrees here,

Sunnybrook Farm said...

I think that truckers throw the modern plastic version of those out along the highways, probably to ward off evil road spirits.

linda m said...

i just saw something on TV (Mysteries at the Museum) yesterday. Part of the program was talking about Witch Bottles. Witch Craft is a very interesting subject - kind of scary if you think about it. Sure wouldn't want some ole witch casting a spell on me. The bottle aspect of it makes sense in helping to ward off the evil spirit. Kind of like "marking your territory".

JO said...

Those were some crazy times back then. Killing innocent children even thinking them to be witches.
But the bottles is something I had never heard of before. Thank you.

Looks like another nice day coming up here too. Coffee with friends sounds great at your place

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
Strange customs back then, but they would probably think the same thing about us!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Sunnybrook...
That's pretty good and would explain a lot!

Thanks for the visit this morning.

Hey Linda M...
I should have watched that one! I might have learned something!

Thanks for stopping in today!

Hey Jo...
I had not heard of them either, until this article.

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over this morning!

Dizzy-Dick said...

My favorite witch is Hazel. In fact, I always have a bottle of Witch Hazel in my bathroom.

Sissy said...

Quite interesting. Much of legend is truth; even today there are those who practice witchcraft, although there is the good and the bad kind. Leave me out of that hanky-panky business! Got enough problems as it is, eh? Right.

I'm staying inside today;even though the sun is gorgeous, the air is bitter.

Mamahen said...

Cold here n a bit under the weather.....maybe I need to bury a bottle....j/k...don't want to even think things lke that! Think i'll stay in but thanks for the invite :))

HermitJim said...

Hey Dizzy...
I like the smell of witch hazel. Has a clean smell to me!

Thanks for dropping by today!

Hey Sissy...
Like you, I think I'll bypass all of that stuff. Leave well enough alone!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Mamahen...
I hope you get to feeling better soon!

Thanks for the visit today!