Witch Bottles goes back hundreds of years but it became famous during the Burning Times. Originally the bottles were use to ward off witches that were thought to be doing harm to some individual or a family, but today their usage changed to protecting people, homes or property from harm or negative forces. Their origins have been dated back to the 1500s.
Many are found during archaeological digs around England and some from early American digs. The last historical witch bottle was found in a cabin built in the mid 19th century in Pershore, Worcestershire in the United Kingdom. The type of bottles that were being used during the 16th and 17th centuries were clay bottles known as 'bartmann' or 'bellermine' bottles. The bottle was given as a satirical comment against the Cardinal Bellarmino, who was at the time against the Reformation. The Bellermine bottle had a figure of a bearded man which at the beginning was said to represent the bearded cardinal. Later on through time it became to represent the Devil. Wonder how that came to be?
The bartmann or the bellermine bottle not only had the bearded man with a grim looking face but also it had a round belly and a medallion of some type of floral or natural imagery. Similar bottles were manufactured in Holland and Belgium. The technique wasn't mastered in England before the 1660s. The manufacturing of the bottle was rare in Britain.
Glass bottles were used for the witch bottle but not common because glass was easier to break than the clay. The witch bottle would loose it's power when the bottle was broken and remained hidden.
The bottles were mostly hidden under the hearth of the home because that was the only area in the home that was open to the sky. Many people at the time believed that's how a witch could get into the house and harm the occupants. They were also hidden under the front porch, under doorways and inside walls. Some folk traditions teaches that when you bury the bottles, the evil is attracted to the bottle instead of the intended victim(s). The evil then gets trapped or impaled on the nails that are usually placed in the bottle and drowns in the urine, thus lifting the curse. Some also believed that if you heated the bottle until it exploded would kill the witch who cursed you or you're love one.
When the bottle was active, it was suppose to cause the witch to suffer in agony thus causing the her to show up at the door, begging for the curse to be lifted by breaking the bottle itself only if she promises to reverse her curse.
The contents of the original bottle contained many personal items such as urine, hair, bones, nail clippings as well as thorns, needles, pieces of wood and in some cases heart shaped pieces of cloth. The urine was a very important ingredient in folk traditions, but finding one with urine is very rare. The urine in the bottle symbolized the target of the curse, same with the human hair. These contents was designed to not only direct the curse to her to suffer the same agonies that she intended but also to turn the curse back onto the cursor.
Through time the usage of the witch bottle has changed. In the modern time the bottle(s) are used to capture negative energies that are targeted at the constructor of the bottle, their family and their home. The bottles are also used for financial gain, for helping with artistic creativity, to call forth positive energy and for improving health.
I found researching this folk tradition of our history very interesting and educational. I just recently built some new steps to my front deck, so I'm going to make me a witch bottle to protect myself and my home from them unknown 'uglies'.