Friday, April 19, 2013

Supernatural Friday: Not Messages, But Spirits in a Bottle

A lot of places these days, gardeners get a fake tree or even use a real one, and hang blue bottles or all different colored bottles from the tree. The belief in and use of spirit bottles can be traced back to 9th and 10th century Congo, where colorful bottles, traditionally cobalt blue, were placed on the ends of tree branches to catch the sunlight. The thought being an evil spirit would see the sunshine dazzling from the beautiful bottles and growing enamored, enter the bottle. Like a fly, the spirit becomes trapped within the bottle; too dazzled by the play of light. The spirit prefers to remain in its colorful prison, rather than trouble the world of the living, trapped for all eternity. This practice was taken to Europe and North America by African slaves of the 17th and 18th centuries. While Europeans adapted them into hollow glass spheres known as "witch balls" the practice of hanging bottles in trees became widespread in the Southern states of North America, where they continue to be used today as colorful garden ornaments. For a long times, the use of spirit bottles, even spells due to them, could be found among the African-American people. In the New World, the bottle-as-talisman took on different forms.

Like witch's bottles traced as far back to the 1600s, bottles began to be used in spellwork. Bottles of all colors, shapes and sizes were filled with herbs and other items of significance for the purpose of protection, repelling evil, or attracting luck. Eventually, the bottle spell became a fundamental element of Hoodoo magic.

Today, all sorts of people have these bottle trees in their yard. Usually in the United States, they could be seen in the country or along the bayous of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, though nowadays they are all over, not just these four states. And not just blue bottles, either!

Getting spirits into bottles and even jars actually exist in many places of the world. There are jars and bottles for housing the spirits of dead babies in Thailand and called Guman Thong. There’s the lamp holding the genie in Aladdin. The Djinn have also been captured in rings and bottles, too. There’s even The Spirit in the Bottle,” a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

If you like to make your own bottle tree as I plan to this spring, here are some directions I’ve found:

Find a strong tree or stump with branches, like crepe myrtles and cedars trees that are traditionally used, but pretty much any kind of tree will work. Trim all of the foliage off and cut the branches down until you have as many bare branches as you have bottles. Then slid your bottles onto the branches.

A variation is to take a fallen branch and prune it the same fashion, making a portable tree. Plant it outside of your home, near the entrance, in the garden, or where you want it in your yard and slip the bottles onto the branches. A third way is find a large branch or stump, tying two bottles at a time with shoelaces over the branches so they hang from the tree.

And here's a tip: If you put a little oil on the bottle necks, the spirits will slip easily into the bottles and become trapped that much quicker. Give it a day, then return to your tree when there’s a wind blowing and if you listen closely, you might hear the moans of the trapped spirits in the bottles when the wind blows. Just pray they’re not calling out your name though. . .

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