Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Witch Bottle: Breaking Spells With Ancient Smells

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Spirituality, around the globe, witchcraft, spells, Archaeology, British Archaeology,

Witch BottleIt apparently took some seriously bad mojo to go up against 17th-century witches. According to the Sept.-Oct. Archaeology magazine, U.K. researchers opened and analyzed the contents of a rare intact “witch bottle,” which was buried to ward off spells. Inside were “bent pins, a nail-pierced heart made of leather, fingernail clippings, belly-button lint, and hair, all swimming in a bath of 300-year-old, nicotine-tinged urine.” I don’t know about witches, but I’m certainly going to stay away from it.

British Archaeology magazine, which originally reported the witch bottle story, writes in a follow-up that witch bottle beliefs apparently live on in the U.K. and beyond:

A builder wrote to say he had renovated a house in Cardiff, built in 1895, that had witch bottles buried under two of its fireplaces. Even more astonishing, a police inspector in Sebringville, Ontario, Canada, wrote to say he had–just weeks ago–apprehended a man with a plastic bottle containing urine and razor blades, “for protection from bad people.”

Sources: Archaeology, British Archaeology

Image by the Greenwich Foundation, courtesy of British Archaeology.