Here lately, while living my uneventful life I have been coming across things dealing with the blue bottle trees; television, reading and videos. I took the notion of doing some research on the blue bottle tree that has become popular in many gardens especially across the South.
Blue bottle trees were sometimes called spirit trees and were thought to be a relic of African culture from around the Congo area. The natives of the Congo area would leave plates around their deceased love ones' graves to honor them. When they were captured and brought over to America as slaves they brought with them many of their traditions and cultures. The plates turned to blue bottles and they were hung on trees.
The trees are used to keep out evil spirits from one's home. Some say that the blue bottles were very effective against many demons, evil spirits and 'haints'. The 'plat-eye' was attracted to the tree as a moth to a flame. The 'plat-eye' is a nasty goblin, a demon or a evil sorceress who would appear to men as a beautiful woman then lure men to the swamps of the low lands of South Carolina. When people esp. men would disappear without a trace in low lands, the old-timers would say, "The plat eye gotta 'em."
In Gullah culture, a evil spirit is someone who was improperly buried. These spirits usually come out at dusk. The light that is reflected in the blue bottles; making them shine and sparkly, lured the spirit inside. The spirit goes inside the bottle because of their curiosity. Once inside the bottle, the spirit can't get out. Some say that it's stupid and can't figure on how to get out. When the sun comes out in the morning, the spirits are destroyed and vaporized. Some traditions say that you can hear the spirits moaning in agony when the wind blows through the trees. Another tradition, the bottles are taken off the tree, then corked and thrown in the river. For more information on the Gullah culture, go to the following websites: http://www.ultimategullah.com/culture.html http://www.knowitall.org/gullahnet/ http://www.gullahgourmet.com/culture.php
What species of trees were the bottles hung on? Well, I found two types of trees that are supposedly traditionally. One is the crepe myrtle because the myrtle tree has a connection to the Old Testament and the Hebrew's escape from slavery. Now I did some research and I didn't come across anything that favored that information, but just because I couldn't find anything on it doesn't mean it's not true. Many African cultures were mixed with Catholic beliefs in the South. My guess was because the crepe myrtle is found through-out most of the Southern states. Almost every lawn or property had a crepe myrtle especially around or near the front of the homes.
The other tree is the cedar tree because it was believed that their branches turned up towards heaven.
In many different cultures, the tree is a symbol of the family and it's connection to the homeland; it's roots reaching deep within the soil of the homeland. The trunk representing the family and it's branches, of course representing the individuals, thus the idea of the family tree.
Today you can find many spirit trees decorated with different colored bottles, but traditionally blue is used. The color blue is believed to ward off and guard from evil spirits. If you travel through the Southern states, you may see doors, porches and the ceilings of porches painted blue. This was done to keep the evil spirits from crossing the threshold into the home. The blue bottle tree was the first defense from evil spirits, keeping them from getting even closer to the house.
As I said, the idea of having a blue bottle tree in your yard or garden is becoming popular. Is it because people are getting more 'spiritual' or just fitting in with the Jones? Some trees aren't trees at all, but some people are making their trees out of iron rods weilded together to look like tree or actually old artificial christmas trees stripped of their 'leaves' and stuck in the garden with the blue bottles.
With this sudden interest of blue bottle trees, I sure that I will find myself making me a blue bottle tree. I have a nice maple tree outside that I planted myself over 15 years ago when I first moved here. Hmmmmmm.......