Contrary to popular belief, a witch bottle was something people used to ‘protect themselves’ from witch’s curses. It was a container (usually made of pottery or later glass) filled with all manner of things, mainly sharp, and certain bodily fluids, and poisonous herbs and enchanted in rhyme form to protect the user or holder from witchcraft. The first documented use of a witch bottle dates back to the 17th Century, and they’ve been in use ever since. In addition, ‘witch bottles’ were also used for general protection, safe-guarding the home from fire, flood or thieves. The bottles are buried in the earth by the threshold, or under the floor boards and quietly go about their work, protecting all of the inhabitants inside against negativity and dark magics.
What actually went in a witch bottle? Well, the mainstay of these bottles were generally sharp objects such as nails, broken pieces of flint and glass. However, as mentioned above bodily fluids such as urine and blood were also included, as well as protective and/or baneful herbs (such as henbane, wolfsbane, nightshade etc). Witches bottles actually work with sympathetic magic, in that you use objects that have an association with the intended ‘victim’ or purpose. So, for example, to deter thieves you might add sharp objects ‘to prick and cut’ thieving fingers, to protect you would use protective herbs such as rowan or blackthorn.
Witch bottles can be created specifically to curse or hex but also for thwarting general negativity. Traditional English cunning-craft isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, neither is Witchcraft, it’s good to be reminded of that sometimes (this article is NOT written from a Wiccan perspective).
If you want to create a witch bottle you first need to decide its purpose. The following is taken from an article written by Jason Mankey in Patheos:
To make a witch bottle you’ll need either a jar or a bottle. Mason jars work well, but you can use a spaghetti sauce jar or a wine bottle; whatever you want. Word of warning though, the narrower the opening the more difficult making your bottle might be (especially towards the end). We created our bottles in four easy steps, though if you want to repeat our version of the spell you can add or subtract a few depending on your circumstances.
Step One: Items to pierce and cut. Materials you can use: nails, screws, pins, razor blades, bottle-caps (the rustier the better for all of these)
When I was creating my bottle I envisioned all of these nasty little things cutting and slicing up any negative that tried to make its way through my front doors. Often times people will use a specific number of pins, nails, etc., because it has a magical meaning for them. (In the 19th Century the number nine comes up a lot, but don’t let tradition dictate what you do, do what makes sense to you!) I simply trusted my hands to pick the right number of nails and razor blades, putting only those that “felt right” into my jar. Once the coven had picked out all of their pointy objects and deposited them into jars we held our bottles and recited the following chant:
Sharp and pointy Metal and mighty No one shall hex or curse So says this witches verse
We repeated this chant six times because I like to do things in increments of three while picturing bad things stepping on bottle-caps and getting pricked by needles.
Step Two: Edibles to cause thirst, burning, and blistering. (Yeah, I took a long shower after this ritual, and I wrote it.) Materials you can use: Spicy food (hot peppers, ginger), salt, vinegar, spoiled wine, stuff you personally don’t like.
Let’s say that cutting out darkness isn’t quite enough, maybe you want to burn it out? Since it would be hard to stuff an ever-burning flame into a bottle hot peppers are an easy alternative. For our ritual we used red pepper. In order to be a little more aggressive we also added some salt, making anyone who would wish us harm eternally thirsty, or at least thirsty once they dared to cross over our witch bottles! To that end we also added vinegar. Once all of the materials we wanted were in our jars we chanted once again, focusing on the intent of the new ingredients added to our jars.
Blister, thirst, and burn To this spell we turn Taste failure taste despair So says this witches prayer
Step Three: Silver dimes for deflection Materials: dime coins (10 cent pieces for those of you outside of the US and Canada)
Silver dime protect me from harm Be a part of this witches charm
Step Four: A piece of yourself Materials: hair, nail clipping, blood, urine, spit
Before the spell is complete the owner of the bottle has to mark their property. Urine was very common a few centuries ago, with toenails and fingernails coming in a close second. (In my bottle I used a finger nail, a few strands of hair, toenails, and some urine.) The important thing is to make sure the bottle and its contents know who to keep safe from harm, and the easiest way to do that is with something directly from the body. If the idea of nails, spit, and blood is too much, you could always simply write your name on a piece of paper and add it to the jar, but since names have power, you might be taking an unnecessary risk. Just spit into it when no one’s looking. Before finishing up this step be sure to top of your witch bottle if it needs a little extra liquid. In addition to vinegar or wine here, you can also used salted water, nothing drives away negativity better. During our ritual we ended with this bit of magic and the following chant:
I give this bottle a bit of me From evil and darkness free Witch bottle I have conjured thee The spell is now cast so mote it be!
Step Five: Sealing the bottle Materials: Wax, ribbon, tape
Due to time and space constraints we skipped this part in our ritual, but sealing up a witch bottle is a nice little extra step. The easiest “seal” is to simply tie a ribbon around the bottle somewhere. A bit more involved would be to make a wax seal. If you’re out of ribbons or wax duct tape would work here too. The whole point of a witch bottle is that it can be made out of easily available ingredients in the home. Nothing is right or wrong. Had we used this step during our ritual we would have chanted the following:
I seal this bottle whole and well Now I finish this witch’s spell!
Step Six: Bury the witch bottle Materials: Shovel
When your witch bottle is ready for use all you have to do is bury it. It’s best to bury it near the entrance to the home, or if you are really ambitious, under your fireplace. Mine ended up right in front of my back door, the door that leads to my office.. My chants are never very good, but they do always rhyme. As I was tossing dirt over my jelly-jar witch bottle I recited the following words several times:
I bury this bottle deep in the ground Now this witch shall sleep safe and sound!
Remember folks that you don’t have to use the same ingredients as suggested above. Use your imagination in keeping with your intent. Witch Bottles can be adapted for Wiccan use and don’t have to incorporate sharp nasties 🙂