Is there an old woman with a wart that roams your village? Does she have a cat? Have your crops been dying? Have you seen flocks of crows? Bodies drawn from their grave by the devil himself? If you answered yes to any of those questions you’re in the right place. My name is Mazelina and I’m here to help you keep your family safe from witches.
Yesterday I was in the market and Livinia told me that she heard from Margaret that when Martin was out looking for one of their sheep, he saw old Roberta Duffy dancing with a man in the graveyard. Then Joan said that after Roberta had visited all their milk went sour and last week Agnes’s baby died after her John had chased Roberta’s mangy cat away from their chickens.
So, what do you think to all that huh? I’ll tell you what I think, witches. That’s right. Witches are at work in our village and we have to protect our families.
After consulting Amelia, the local wise woman she agreed and suggested creating a witch bottle as a way to protect our families. Now, I know what you are thinking, you’re thinking, “but, Mazelina if you’re worried about witches, why go to a wise woman? Is the wise woman just code for witch?” Well, no you see there are two kinds of magic. Amelia, like her mother and grandmother before her, practices good magic. She gives us herbs to help us sleep, to cure colds and ease labour pain. Then there are witches who practice what the posh lords call heretical magic, but we common folks call black magic, which is curses that do harm and even kill. Those are what we are going to protect our houses from.
Now to Amelia’s advice, she suggested the best way to protect my home is with a witches bottle.
Witch bottles are put together by your local wise woman. You will need to supply the bottle and some of the more umm… personal ingredients.
The best bottles to use are Bellarmine bottles which are made of Bartmann stone and named after Cardinal Bellarmine. If you don’t have one of these any bottle with a lid will do. Then you will need your ingredients, here is a list you can choose from:
Bent iron nails
Hair from the person cursed
Fingernails from the person cursed
Urine from the person cursed
Small bones-from a bird
Small bits of wood
Fabric shaped like a human heart
Once you have your ingredients the wise woman will put them into the bottle and seal the top with wax. I choose to have nine bent iron nails, some of my hair, bones from a chicken and urine in mine. I’m taking no chances. Some wise women might say a few extra words of protection as Amelia did, but you get what you pay for when it comes to wise women.
When you get your bottle home you will need to decide where you are going to bury it, it needs to be in a place a witch’s curse might enter your house, doors, windows, or in front of the hearth, which is the most vulnerable spot. Unlike your door and windows, you can never close your chimney and so it is always open and a prime spot for a curse to sneak in. That is where mine is going. I had my son Thomas make a small hole in the floor in front of the hearth. Once he was done, I placed my bottle inside, making sure to put it in upside down just like Amelia told me and then filled the hole.
Now when the curse comes into the house it will be tricked into thinking I am the bottle and once it is inside it will be trapped forever.
I’ll sleep better tonight knowing it is in place.
Scotland’s Wicked Witches. By Charles Sinclair.
Witchcraft A Very Short Introduction. By Malcolm Gaskill.
The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England. By Ian Mortimer.
Witches’ Herbs on Trial. By Micheal Ostling. In Folklore vol 25 (August 2014)