A Creepy 'Witch Bottle' Used To Ward Off Evil Spirits Has Been Found At A Civil War Site

A Creepy 'Witch Bottle' Used To Ward Off Evil Spirits Has Been Found At A Civil War Site

Archeologists discovered the rare artifact that was filled with bent pins, hair, urine, nail clippings or other items.

A broken bottle found in Virginia may be a witch bottle, according to CNN. But what is a witch bottle? Sometime at the beginning of the Middle Ages, people (in the British Isles particularly) would use these bottles to 'trap harmful spirits' and jugs or other containers would be filled with bent pins, hair, urine, nail clippings or other items. The William & Mary Center for Archaeological Research took part in a dig ahead of a widening project on Interstate 64 near Williamsburg. The team unearthed a green bottle next to the remains of a hearth built by Union troops between 1862 and 1865 at Redoubt 9. Initially, the team thought that the bottle was just a place to collect spare nails. But now experts believe that the container may actually be a witch bottle.



“Witch bottles are the type of things people would use more generally in famine, political strife or feeling under threat,” Joe Jones, director of the William & Mary Center for Archaeological Research, says CNN’s, Phil Gast. “The Union troops were definitely under all those kinds of existential threats or fears.” Jones is convinced the vessel is a witch bottle. “I think it is a manifestation of that folk practice,” he explains. “It is important to let people know about that.” Apart from the bottle, which was made in Pennsylvania between 1840 and 1860, archaeologists also found others at the site. These included canteen fragments, bullets, horseshoe nails, uniform buttons, and ink bottle fragments, among others.


Jones believes that 'witch bottles' were introduced to North America by colonial immigrants. “It’s a good example of how a singular artifact can speak volumes,” Jones said. “It’s really a time capsule representing the experience of Civil War troops, a window directly back into what these guys were going through occupying this fortification at this period in time.” The article in William & Mary goes on to read: The bottles served as a kind of talisman to ward off evil spirits. An afflicted person would bury the nail-filled bottle under or near their hearth, with the idea that the heat from the hearth would energize the nails into breaking a witch’s spell. While nearly 200 witch bottles have been documented in Great Britain, less than a dozen have been found in the United States.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, Witch bottles are believed to have originated in the 1600s when a 'witch panic' was spreading across Europe.  According to JSTOR Daily’s Allison C. Meier, the items in the vessel like hair, fingernails, and urine were used to attract the evil spirits and the nails, hooks, and pins were said to trap them in there. However, there is an alternative theory that believes that these witch bottles actually attract good luck, longevity, and health.



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