This fall I’ve decided to write some articles here on various spooky, occult, or strange things in the world and history as a sort of celebration of our favorite season here at the ‘Cult! Today’s is about Witch Bottles which can be traced back to the 1600s, though likely were used long before that without much record of remaining.
Witch Bottles were counter-magical devices used to protect and ward against negative witchcraft. They were actual bottles thought to pull in dark spells and harmful intentions, which would then be trapped inside the bottle. They were also meant to harm whoever cast the spell. Sometimes these bottles were physically embedded in the walls during the construction of homes, or buried near the doorways or under the hearth/fireplace.
The actual bottles used for these wards were carved German stone bottles known as “bartmann”s or “bellarmine”s, the manufacturing of these did not reach England til the 1600s. Glass bottles were not commonly used in early witch bottles though are common in modern protection-bottle spells.
Early Witch Bottles were often carved with the face of a grim bearded man alongside natural imagery such as flowers and leaves (often types of plants with magical associations). The man carved on the bottle is often said to represent the Devil, though he does not appear on all witch bottles.
These bottles were assembled by folk healers and “good” witches. Sometimes they contained a physical element from the person wishing for protection such as their nail clippings, hair, or even urine. Other times herbs like rosemary, sea water, ashes, threads, pins/needles, and red wine were put inside. These elements were believed to skewer and trap the evil energy and keep it trapped within the bottle- needles to pierce, wine to drown, hair to attract etc.
This trend can be traced to England in the late 1600s and was brought to the USA by pilgrims who’s deep fear of witchcraft is well known. However there was a lot of secrecy surrounding these bottled wards, no one was to talk of where they hid theirs less a nefarious individual find it and break it (freeing the evil energy)- so it’s thought these were in use long before any recording of them was made. Many times the bottles aren’t discovered on a property until the structure has been torn down entirely.
Witch Bottles or bottled protection spells are still a fairly common practice in modern witchcraft, though now often made without the intent of harming the source of the negative spell. Other modern witch bottles are constructed to draw in negative intentions and turn them into positive ones to be released again.
Some step by step guides on making your own Witch Bottle for a variety of intentions: