Witch Bottles

Moving in with another witch is always an interesting proposition. My significant other and I have slowly been feeling each other out magically and coming up with what works best for us as a couple. He works a lot with the fey, I don’t. He’s staunchly Wiccan, and while I myself have decided to follow a Wiccan path, my eclectic tendencies still tend to creep in. For instance, I like smudging, and he refuses because it isn’t a part of his tradition. (My Pirate philosophy on things like this is, hey, it works, so I’ll keep at it…). But since I was the one that moved in with him, I didn’t want to barge in with the usual sort of magic that I do in a home.

So it surprised me when he was the one to bring up the idea of making a witches’ bottle. I guess it shouldn’t have, but I had been talking about it with a Pirate friend who was down a few weeks ago. Maybe he picked up on the ideas my friend and I shared,or maybe we’ve just started thinking a lot alike…and at the end of the day, a witches’ bottle is a logical response to a lot of things that are going on in our lives and in our neighborhood. (We were robbed New Years Eve by the kids across the street. They’ve gone on to rob everyone else on the block as well, so I generally leave home wondering if I will come home to find more of my things missing). With my S.O. leaving for his summer tour, we both wanted an extra layer of protection on the house.

So like any wholesome Witch couple, we made a witches’ bottle together.

It always surprises me how many people don’t know what a witch bottle is. I find them to be one really effective way to defend your house and yourself without a certain level of constant vigilance or shielding.

Traditional Witch Bottle

Traditional Bellarmine Witch Bottle

Witch bottles historically reach back at least several centuries. They were extremely popular from the fifteenth century into the seventeenth century, due in large part to the persecution of witches. They were often called Bellarmine Bottles after a famous witch hunting Cardinal from the sixteenth century. (You might recognize the name Bellarmine from the Galileo controversy. Yes, that Bellarmine). Originally these bottles were used to protect yourself from the direct attack of witches or malicious spirits. (One thing I wonder, did “witches” of the sixteenth century consider Bellarmine to be the actual witch? Which would especially make sense if the accused weren’t witches at all! Hmmmm…)

I don’t usually look at them as offense, but as defense. My witch bottles are for just generally deflecting ill will and anything bad that might come my way. If something in particular is going on, I will make one specifically to ward against whatever that particular thing is. The witch bottle is supposed to protect you from harm by sending harm back on the sender. Traditionally, if someone sent something at you, the witch bottle would send it back at them and make their lives misery, and only the owner of the witch bottle could consent to break the ill effects that were returned to the sender. There are stories of witches afflicted and in pain from a witch bottle,who would come crawling back to the home of the witch bottle to beg the owner to forgive them and to swear to never cause trouble again.

So how do you make one?

Original witch bottles were made from stoneware or glass. I prefer to use a mason jar (I’m from a Southern redneck family, what can I say?). I usually let the jar sit on my altar through one full moon cycle and focus my intent on it when I’m doing my daily meditation/devotionals. I think about how it will suck in any harm that comes knocking at my door and incorporate it into my home wards. I think how you handle this is totally up to you and your intent and how you usually do your spell work. There really isn’t anything fancy that goes into a witches bottle, your intent and the ingredients are the important part of the spell for a successful witches bottle.

After I’ve done that, I go about collecting odds and ends of sharp nasty things. Usually I like to find things like broken glass from out on the streets around my home, fish hooks, sharp wires, needles, pointy rocks, anything that can pierce and hurt unexpectedly and well and truly get stuck in someone. If you were going to be particularly hard-core about it, I would include some barbed wire in there as well to truly catch and hold whatever nastiness was unlucky enough to stop by. This is the traditional way of starting to put a witch bottle together.

The Eyes are watching you!

For something a little less traditional, think of your intent. I had a problem with gossips at work a few months ago. When I was discussing it with my friend, she suggested using black-eyed peas as a part of a bottle so that when the gossip and its ill effects were reflected back, the people involved would always feel watched. This is just one example of the type of things you can put into a bottle such as this. I also like adding herbs like rosemary and sage into my bottles for that extra layer of protection. You can really incorporate a lot of different things into a witches bottle, as long as they line up with your intent for that particular spell.

The last ingredient/s are the most critical and this is where it gets a little gross. When you get up, the first thing in the morning, take your jar and urinate in it. This binds the jar to you specifically and to your home. The urine essentially becomes the part of you that pulls the curse to the bottle instead of to you. You can also add in some of your hair, fingernail clippings, and even blood if you like. This essentially makes the bottle work for you. (And let me tell ya, if you’ve never handed your lover a jar full of your urine and other oddities, you’re really missing out on a truly romantic experience!)

The last things that you need to do are to seal it (I like to use red or black wax) and place it somewhere inconspicuous in your home. Traditionally, you would bury a witches bottle under your front stoop or under your hearth. Some people even put them in the walls of a new house. It simply needs to be in a place where it’s not going to be noticed and not going to be jostled about. My S.O. likes to say that things hidden in plain sight can often be more effective than those well hidden away.

Some people want you to say rhymes over the jar and other whatnot nonsense, but I’m a pretty practical person. I keep my focus and intent on it throughout the whole process and ask my patron deities for assistance and I generally figure that I’m good to go. Unfortunately, that is one part of Wicca that I don’t think I’m ever going to manage; making up bad poetry is just too painful for me to bring myself to.

Also be prepared for whoever you’re invoking for these sorts of things to find some other form of payment to really get the witch bottle going. The same day that my S.O. and I made ours, we went out to one of the local cemeteries to take some pictures. I was out of contacts and had taken my glasses off to look good in the pictures. I was walking towards one of the stacked graves that we have down here in New Orleans when I heard a buzzing noise…that’s right folks, I nearly walked right into a nest of bees. I realized what it was in time and walked calmly away, but I still got stung several times. I thought it was appropriate to have added my pain into my working from something that was protecting its home. My S.O. managed to burn himself pretty badly when he was sealing the bottle as well. There is always a price to pay for any sort of working such as this.

A lot of occult shops sell ready made witches bottles, where all you do is take the bottle home and urinate in it and then seal and bury it somewhere. While I’m lucky to have several competent occult shops around me (I do live in New Orleans after all), for a witches bottle, homemade is always the best choice. It’s a very intimate spell and will be much more in-tune with you and your home and family when you manage all of the ingredients.

Witch bottles are a pretty straightforward sort of magic and protection, but they are also extremely effective. It’s the sort of crafting that can really get you into a magical mood. But then, I do have a rather dark sense of humor and to me, this sort of thing brings out all of my wicked delight at being an instrument of the threefold law.

Mess with me and mine? Well, I’m going to send it right back at’cha! Even if I’m not aware that anything has come at me at all…

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6 thoughts on “Witch Bottles

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  4. Great post. I thought you might like my machinima animation about The Wise Woman, The Witch

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  5. Evon Ife says:

    Thank you for providing a good practikal outline(sans the frills) to this protection ritual. Shout out to your S.O. for the recommendation of keeping it hidden in plain sight.

  6. Gunnar says:

    Greetings. Regarding Cardinal Bellarmino, (also known as “Bellarmine”) after which these bottles got their name: he WAS a member of the Inquisition, but he was not a “witch hunter” specifically, though an accused witch was certainly regarded as a “heretic” at the time, and within his focus. He lived at the time of the Reformation and was known for his sermons advocating abstinence with alcohol. Wine at that time was sold in bottles such as these, and Protestant German wine sellers – in an effort to mock him – began putting a likeness of his face onto their wine bottles. That is the origin of the Bellarmine bottle”, (also called a Bartman jug) though bottles like this were made long before Bellarmine lived. The faces on those, sometimes surrounded by oak leaves, typically depicted Bacchus, the Green Man, etc., so it’s easy to see why people began to employ them for magical purposes.

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