Witch bottles have been around for hundreds of years, their popularity peaking in England and the United States during the 17th and 18th centuries. They were used by witches and wise women, healers and lay folk as counter curses or protection against evil spirits and psychic attack. The idea was to place sharp objects such as needles, pins, nails (the rustier, the better), broken glass, thorns or bits of wood into a bottle along with a liquid such as urine, red wine, vinegar or sea water, a written spell, pungent herbs or personal objects such as hair or nail clippings. The bottle was then sealed and placed in a hidden corner of the house, between walls, or buried either beneath the doorstep, hearth (evil spirits were thought to enter the house through the chimney) or at the farthest corner of the property. There it was thought to draw evil into the bottle to be impaled on the pins, drowned in the liquid or banished by the herbs. As long as the bottle stayed intact and undiscovered, the power of its spell remained alive.
Witch bottles are still used, although the intent has shifted from countering curses to ensuring luck and protection, encouraging creativity, positivity, happiness or wealth. Go ahead and use urine if you want (eww) … but most witch bottle recipes today call for more palatable ingredients such as sea salt, peppercorns and other spices, herbs such as rosemary, bay leaves and basil, sand, saw dust, crystals, coins – and anything else that symbolizes your intent.
As December wanes, I wanted to make a protection bottle as a symbolic clearing of old energies, readying the house for the New Year. While I was at it, I made a flower-filled “witch ball” ornament – hung in the home for good luck – as a Christmas gift for a friend. I used only what ingredients I already had on hand, and saw no need to use liquid or hide the bottle. In fact, both projects use pretty colours, as they are intended to be seen! Here are my ingredients and their associated properties:
All-purpose Protection Bottle (layered from bottom to top)
Moss: connection to the earth • charity • luck • money • protection
Pink Himalayan salt: protection, especially against negative energy • purification
Pink peppercorns: protection
Crushed bay leaves: wisdom • victory
Lavender: love • longevity • peace
Allspice berries: (male) energy • money • luck
Cardamom pods: (female) hospitality
Rosehips: health • wealth • luck • encourage friendly spirits
Rose petals: love • protection against the evil eye
I chose to seal the small corked bottle with white candle wax (dripped from a couple of tea lights), but you can also use a bottle with a screw-on lid or a small mason jar. As I don’t expect to repel a curse (!), I intend to leave the bottle on my work table so that I can admire its colours and textures and gain inspiration from the simple act of its creation.
My friend, whose favourite colour is purple, struggles daily with illness, so I filled a glass ornament with dried lavender, rosebuds and rose petals to represent love, good health and protection. Although the cap is glued on for security, small holes in the top allow a delicious potpourri to waft out.
Stay tuned for more bottled magick coming soon!