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Two phials from a house in Pershore, Worcs.
|and their contents|
The practice of concealing witch-bottles appears to have started in the sixteenth century. Almost invariably in the 16th and 17th centuries a grey stoneware bottle colloquially known as the ‘bellarmine’ was used. It got its name (after the practice began) from a Cardinal called Bellarmine who published much anti-Protestant literature. These bottles are pot bellied and have masks stuck onto them of a grim looking bearded man. The bottles are mostly of German stoneware and are known as bartmann bottles.
|This bellarmine witch-bottle was discovered beneath the hearth in an old cottage in Felmersham, Bedfordshire in late 2001. After being x-rayed, photographed and examined it was found to contain hair, pins, and it tested positively for urine. The expert who analyses the contents of the bottle is Dr Alan Massey, who would welcome any communication regarding his work.|
During and after the 16th and 17th centuries glass bottles were also used for the practice, although, based on the current information in the archive, the practice appears to have been generally less popular after this period. See the photo above of the two Pershore glass phials - they were part of a 19th century hoard of concealed items.
Witch-bottles are usually found concealed beneath the hearth or threshold but sometimes beneath the floor and in walls. Of around 200 English witch-bottles on record, 130 are ‘bellarmines’. The contents of these bottles are fascinating and appear to constitute a kind of spell. Of the contents which are identifiable, by far the most common was iron pins or nails (95%). The second most common was human hair (25%). Another ingredient which is very difficult to test for if the bottle has leaked at any point is urine. Roughly 25% of those with contents have been tested for the presence of urine and all proved positive. So, we have iron, urine and hair as the most common ingredients. Other ingredients such as small bones, thorns, pieces of wood and, in a few cases, pieces of fabric cut into the shape of a heart are sometimes found.
This bottle was found in Reigate, Surrey and is thought to have been deposited somewhere between 1700-1750. It was discovered corked containing liquid and nine bent pins in a disturbance adjacent to the chalk floor of a 17th century building being excavated in London Road. Dr Alan Massey published his analysis of the contents in ‘The Reigate Witch-Bottle’, Current Archaeology, no 169, 2000, pp34-6.
The locations in which these bottles are found is significant. There is an emphasis on placing these objects at entry and exit points of the building. The hearth was and is always open to the sky and represented a major security worry where supernatural entities were concerned. The doorway was naturally the other place that would need protecting as it would be opened and closed at regular intervals day or night. The use of iron pins in the bottles is significant as it had always been regarded as a magical metal.
The effort which went into concealing these bottles was large. How fearful of supernatural intrusion into your home would you have to be before you'd consider lifting your hearthstone, digging a hole and inserting a bottle filled with pins and urine?
Ralph Merrifield, ‘The Use of Bellarmines as Witch-Bottles’, Guildhall Miscellany, no 3, February 1954, offprint.
Ralph Merrifield, The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic, 1987, Batsford, London.
The witch bottle is a magical tool that has been reported in use for centuries. In early times, the bottle was designed as a way to protect oneself from malicious witchcraft and sorcery. In particular, around the time of Samhain, homeowners might create a witch bottle to keep evil spirits from entering the home on Hallow's Eve. The witch bottle was usually made of pottery or glass, and included sharp objects such as pins and bent nails. It typically contained urine as well, belonging to the homeowner, as a magical link to the property and family within. In 2009, an intact witch bottle was found in Greenwich, England, and experts have dated it back to around the seventeenth century.
Around the Samhain season, you may want to do a little bit of protective magic yourself, and create a witch bottle of your own. The general idea of the witch bottle is to not only protect yourself, but send back the negative energy to whoever or whatever is sending it your way. You'll need the following items:
Fill the jar about halfway with the sharp, rusty items. These were used to deflect bad luck and ill fortune away from the jar. Add the salt, which is used for purification, and finally, the red string or ribbon, which was believed to bring protection. When the jar is halfway filled, there are a couple of different things you can do, depending on whether or not you're easily repulsed.
Marti Finizio 11:45in the mornin' Jan 12
Making a Witches Bottle
First select the Bottle you want to use. Your bottle maybe clear or tinted. If you're working with a colored bottle, choose a color that suits what you are doing. Tinted bottles are great for spells that use color correspondences. Once you have a bottle, wash it with warm soapy water, or cleanse it in the ocean. After you have washed it, magically cleanse it and bathe it in the light of the full moon. When the bottle is clean it is time to fill it. There are a lot of options when it comes to contents, here are a few examples:
For Protection from unfriendly forces, you can fill the bottle with very sharp objects such as nails, pins, safety pins, & needles, or sand. By collecting herbs, resins, leaves, roots, and spices and filling a bottle with them, you can concoct a wide variety of Wards, Spells, or Talismans. Add a base oil or cider vinegar and you have wonderful gifts for your friends, these would enhance their magical life as well as their cooking! You can also fill the bottle with a variety of flower petals selected for their healing properties, attributes, or correspondences to planetary or other forces.
You may want to include a bit of alcohol, vinegar, or olive oil to preserve the flowers.
HOW TO MAKE A WITCH BOTTLE
Traditional Protection from Curses, Hexes, and the Evil Eye
Witch bottles have been used for centuries in various ways.
Nowadays, as perhaps before, they are used primarily as decoys to attract, absorb, confuse and defuse negative psychic energy being sent to a target or victim, whether it be random ill will or malicious cursing.
All it takes is a bottle or jar with a good watertight lid, and all sorts of bent pins or nails, broken glass or mirrors, cactus thorns, anything spiky, bent, or broken.
Fill the jar or bottle with this stuff and then fill it a little more than halfway with one or a combo of: your own urine and/or a drop of blood or menstrual blood, and either plain water or vinegar, or for stronger effect, Four Thieves Vinegar.
Cap the jar tightly.
Then you bury the bottle somewhere near your house, preferably under the front porch or near your front door.
This is best done during the dark moon or just before, at midnight, but really anytime will do.
Here is the theory behind why the Witch Bottle works so well:
Your urine or blood identifies it as “you,” and so then acts as a decoy for energy sent your way, the bent pins confuse the hex, the mirrors reflect the energy back to sender, the vinegar dissolves the curse, and the burying "buries the hatchet".
The Craft of the Wise
Strega Herb Jar
Designed for protection of you and your home.
Gather the following fresh herbs, they may be crushed or left whole:
•Rue-protection, purification-Diana, Aradia, Fana, Faunus
•Bay Leaves-protection, strength-Faunus
•Pennyroyal-protection, peace, strength
•Fennel-protection, purification-Diana, Dianus
•Woodruff-protection, victory, prosperity
•Vervain-protection, peace, purifcation-Aradia
•Wormwood-protection, call spirits-Diana
Place a small amount of each herb into a green glass jar with a cork. You may add a special stone if desired. Ask the Goddess and Gods for their attention and blessing. Use whatever words or actions are appropriate for you. Shake well and set in your kitchen window (or in a window of any room where you have a lot of traffic). This specific Strega Jar is designed for protection of you and your home. From time to time, shake the jar and smell the aroma on the cork to remind you that you are protected.
The Craft of the Wise
House Protection Spell Bottle
Since the earliest spell bottles were created for protection, it seems fitting to begin with one made for this purpose. Ideally, such a bottle will be walled up in a new home under construction, or placed under the floorboards. If this is impossible, simply place it in a position of importance somewhere in the home.
•1 glass jar with cork stopper or lid (a small canning jar is fine)
•1/2 to 1 cup salt (depending on size of the jar)
•3 cloves garlic
•9 bay leaves
•7 TBS dried basil
•4 TBS dill seeds
•1 TBS sage
•1 TBS anise
•1 TBS black pepper
•1 TBS fennel
In the morning, ideally on a bright and sunny day, assemble all items.
Place the salt into the bowl and say:
Salt that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Add the cloves of garlic to the bowl and say:
Garlic that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Crumble the bay leaves, place in the bowl and say:
Bay that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Add the basil and say:
Basil that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Add dill and say:
Dill that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Add the sage and say:
Sage that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Add the anise and say:
Anise that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Add the pepper and say:
Pepper that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Add the fennel and say:
Fennel that protects, protect my home and all within it.
Mix together the herbs and the salt with your hands. Through the movement of your hands and fingers, lend energy to the potent protective items. Visualize your home as a shining, safe, guarded, secure place of sanctuary. Pour the mixture into the jar. Seal tightly and place in your home with the following words:
Salt and herbs, nine times nine
Guard now this home of mine.
It is done.
How to Make an Ancestor Spirit Bottle
Posted by Sarah on Monday, August 15, 2011
Spirit Bottles Crafted by the Witch of Forest Grove
Spirit vessels are used in witchcraft to attract, ground, and manifest spirits. For spirits of the dead they act as an anchor to our middle realm so the spirit is able to stay here longer, communicate more easily, and even manifest in some perceivable form.
Here is a simple method to craft a spirit vessel for working with the beloved and mighty dead. You will need a glass vial, bottle, or jar with a cork or lid, a skull that will fit on top (bone and antler are best, but stone or other materials will do), a candle (white, red, or black), and herbs associated with attracting spirits and summoning and manifesting the dead.
First layer the herbs into the bottle by sifting them one at a time through a funnel and tapping the bottle so the herb and dust settles. Once it’s filled up to the top, cork it tight. The skull can be attached to the cork with glue or with a pin pushed through both the skull and the cork if the skull is a bead.
My preferred personal combination of botanicals is: graveyard dirt, red ochre, powdered egg shell, bone dust (from my bone and skull carvings), dandelion root, balm of gilead buds, yew needles, and black henbane leaf — all are traditionally used to attract, summon, and manifest spirits of the dead. Always start with the heaviest or most finely powdered item and end with the bulkiest. If the spirit bottle is for you own familial ancestors then you may also want to add some of your personal concerns for an easier connection; hair, nail clippings, dead skin, blood, etc.
Necromancer's Spirit Bottle
The white spirit vessel contains the following – white cornmeal, powdered egg shell, marshmallow root, and bone dust and is used to attract and ground benevolent ancestral spirits. A bundle or jar of marshmallow root is commonly found on hoodoo and folk magic altars to attract benevolent spirits.
Next, before you seal it with wax, put a layer or two of wax paper down on your work surface to protect it from dripping wax. Light your candle and, holding it in one hand and the bottle in the other, tilt the bottle and turn it as you drip the hot wax on it until the cork is completely sealed. To even out any drips, just go over them with the flame to smooth them out. I wrap the neck of my bottles with sinew to finish them off, but that step is optional. If you choose to add the sinew (or yarn or cord) you can also tie and hang bones, feathers, or charms from it.
We’re not quite finished yet! Now it’s time to take your ancestor spirit bottle to your altar (preferably an ancestral altar) to consecrate it to its purpose.
The following ritual can be used to consecrate a vessel or fetiche that will be used for spirit work by an individual or a group. For this ritual you will require:
• A vessel (box, pot, jar, skull, or fetiche object)
• A white candle
• Incense burner
• Ritual knife
• Personal concerns of the deceased
• Red ochre or red brick dust mixed with water or red wine
• Anointing Oil (plain olive oil works in a pinch)
• Summoning Incense (i.e. wormwood, sandalwood, copal…)
• Offering Incense (i.e. myrrh, pomegranate peel, sandalwood…)
Before the vessel or fetiche can be used for spirit work, a consecration ritual must be performed to connect the spirit(s) to the vessel and invite the spirit(s) into it. The most common spirits housed in such boxes are the spirits of the magical practitioner’s family who have recently died or have been dead for generations. The practitioner can add anything they feel is appropriate to the vessel: a rosary, ring, a letter written by the deceased, photographs, obituaries, flowers from the funeral, teeth, hair, nail clippings—anything related to the spirit(s) the vessel is intended for. If you are consecrating a fetiche you might want to drill a hole in it to have a place to load such personal concerns. If the spirit(s) you will be working with is long dead, and no personal concerns can be obtained, then use a piece of red wool instead to create the connection. It must be red and it must be sheep’s wool. Herbs can also be used in place of personal concerns such as wormwood, althea root, copal resin, or yew.
After dusk during the waning or dark moon, create sacred ritual space however you do so in your tradition. Invoke the deity you work with who guards the gates to the underworld, and ask them to open the gates and raise up the spirit(s) you wish to work with. If you do not work with Deity, call your spirit guides to help you open the door to the underworld. If you are an animist, animals such as owls and snakes are well-known psychopomps. Once this is done, place the white candle and vessel or fetiche on the altar. Anoint the candle with oil and light it in the ancestor’s name. Anoint the vessel with oil and the red ochre mixture. Burn the summoning incense as you call up the spirit(s) by name and lineage, and invite them to reside in the vessel. It is best to have one spirit per vessel, but guilds of spirits will get along when housed in one fetiche, such as the ancestors of Witchcraft, your blood ancestors, or the ancestors of a specific trade. Next, burn some of the offering incense and tell them your intent to have the vessel be a home for them while visiting you. Ask if they will agree to work with you and use the vessel. If you do not have the second sight, watch the candle flame for flickering, spitting, and hissing for a “yes” or the flame to be inexplicably snuffed out or weak for a “no.” Sometimes it is the incense that will spark or go out as a signal rather than the candle. If the spirit(s) agree, show them the way to the vessel and to you by pricking your thumb with your ritual knife, or a sterilized pin, so a drop of blood forms and anoint the vessel with the drop of blood. If the vessel will be used by a group, have each member perform this action. The vessel is now linked to you and the spirit(s). If you’d rather not draw blood, you can add your own personal concerns (hair or nail clippings) to the vessel. Burn more of the offering incense in thanks. Continue with a planned spirit work ritual such as the Ancestor Communion Ritual given next, or ask the spirit(s) to return to the underworld, your or your tradition’s Gods to close the gates, and end your rite.
Ancestor Communion Ritual
This ritual is appropriate for an individual or a group. It will require:
• bread, butter and honey or bread, olive oil and salt (for new spirits)
• the spirit(s)’s favourite meal or foods (for familiar spirits)
• a libation (wine, mead, ale, whiskey, vodka, rum, or other beverage)
• tobacco, hemp, or offertory incense
• an ancestor altar and supplies (including a fetiche)
• summoning incense
• banishing incense
Create your sacred, protected space however you do so within your tradition or culture, and call any underworld gods you work with to aid in the rite. Use a stang, staff, ritual centre post/pillar, tree, or tree stump to access the World Tree (see On Circle Casting and the World Tree for more information) and call up the ancestors. Burn the summoning incense and call up those you wish to commune with by name. If you do not know their name, list their lineage. If they are not of your blood ancestry, be very specific. Once you are sure you’ve summoned the right spirit(s), invite them to share a meal with you. They will take sustenance from it and your offering of incense, smoke, and alcohol as well. Eat and drink with them. If you are with others, have all present share in the food and offerings. The sharing of the food connects you with one another and with the ancestors you’ve summoned physically and spiritually. This communion isn’t mean to be a silent or solemn occasion. Talk, feast, and laugh as if you were at a dinner table with family and friends. This itself is also an offering, which allows the dead a taste of life again.
Do not ask for anything of the dead the first few times you perform this ritual. If you start having communion more than once a month, then it would be appropriate to make requests. It is best and most common to ask for blessings of prosperity, fertility, and luck. After further communion, you or your ritual group could start asking the spirits to aid in divination. When you are finished, burn your banishing incense, say a clear farewell, and ask the ancestors to return to the underworld by following your representation of the World Tree down. If you work with a psychopomp, you can also ask them to direct the spirits back to their realm and close the door between the worlds. End the rite, close the Circle or ritual space, take down your wards, and the ritual is done.
The Witches Gathering
A Home Protection Spell
small glass jar with tightly fitting lid.
Fill jar with rosmary, pins & needles while you fill the jar 'push' your energy into the jar. Repeat these words while you work.
Needles, pins, herbs &wine
Protect now this house of mine
In this bottle I now trust
As in the ground it is thrust
Then pour the wine into the jar and seal the lid with the wax from the red candle. If you have land bury the jar as close to the boundaries as you can. If you don't place the jar as close to the front door as possible, making it as inconspicuous as possible and say,
With pure love,
In the Goddess I trust,
Let my will be done!