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Witch-bottles were used for centuries as protection against witchcraft

David Goran

The history of witch-bottles (also known as “Spell bottles“) goes back hundreds of years. The origins of this tradition have been dated to the 1500s and were used widely for centuries.

During the 17th century, British people often blamed witches for any ill health or misfortune they suffered. Widespread fear of witches led to the development of charms to protect oneself against them during times when even the slightest misfortune was easily interpreted as being caused by a witch’s curse.

Hans Baldung - Two Witches (1523) - Detail (Devil in a bottle). Photo Credit

Hans Baldung – Two Witches (1523) – Detail (Devil in a bottle). Photo Credit

 

Early 19th-century witch bottle from Lincolnshire, England.Photo Credit

Early 19th-century witch bottle from Lincolnshire, England.Photo Credit

They were made for a variety of purposes and are used in numerous ways. In early times, the bottle was designed as a way to protect the owner from malicious witchcraft and sorcery. They were also used as magical guardians (usually walled up into new homes). Spell bottles of this type continued to be used well into the 19th century.

Witch bottles have been used for centuries in various ways. Photo Credit

Witch bottles have been used for centuries in various ways. Photo Credit

They were often ceramic vessels, filled with hair, nails, and even the victim’s urine. The pins or nails often were used to symbolize the victim’s pain and the urine symbolizes the target of the curse. The significance of pubic hair and hair was similar to that of the urine.

Other traditional items contained in Witch-bottles include small bones, thorns, wine, rosemary, needles, pieces of wood and in some cases heart-shaped pieces of cloth.

These objects are believed to protect their owners from the negative effects of witchcraft. Photo Credit

These objects are believed to protect their owners from the negative effects of witchcraft. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

The locations in which these bottles were placed was also significant. They were most often found buried under fireplaces, but also under the floor, and plastered inside walls. Those buried underneath fireplaces have been found only after the rest of the building had been torn down or otherwise demolished.

It is believed that after being buried, the bottle captures evil forces which is impaled on the pins and needles, drowned by the wine, and sent away by the rosemary.

The witch bottle was believed to be active as long as the bottle remained hidden and unbroken. Photo Credit

The witch bottle was believed to be active as long as the bottle remained hidden and unbroken. Photo Credit

 

Stoneware Witch Bottle. Photo Credit

Stoneware Witch Bottle. Photo Credit

The practice of concealing witch-bottles appears to have started in the 16th century. Almost invariably in the 17th century, a German stoneware bottle was used, colloquially known as the “bellarmine“ (also as Bartmann jugs). These types of bottles were named after a particularly fearsome Catholic Inquisitor, Robert Bellarmine, who persecuted Protestants and was instrumental in the burning of Giordano Bruno.

They were manufactured in several locations in England, either by English potters copying German patterns or by immigrant Germans. The bottles can be easily identified as they were made of brown or gray stoneware glazed with salt аnd customarily adorned with the figure of a bearded man. Of around 200 English witch-bottles on record, 130 are ‘bellarmines’.

Bartmann Jug, 1525-50, Germany, Cologne (Victoria and Albert Museum). Photo Credit

Bartmann Jug, 1525-50, Germany, Cologne (Victoria and Albert Museum). Photo Credit

 

Bellarmine jug, c. 1650. Attempted forgeries were discovered in England in the 1990s. Photo Credit

Bellarmine jug, c. 1650. Attempted forgeries were discovered in England in the 1990s. Photo Credit

Here is another wacko story from us:Mother Ludlam’s Cave – The place where the Devil stole a cauldron from the white witch

The most common purpose for constructing a Witch-bottle today is capturing negative energies targeted at the constructor of the bottle, their family, and their home.