17th Century Witch Bottle
Other Exciting News 6/4/09
By: Yona Williams
The contents of a stone flask dating back to the 17th century does not contain old wine or a message to a long lost love, but instead, was buried in an effort to keep witches away. Archeologists have found what has been referred to as a 'witch bottle,' which was believed to send witches to their grave and any spell she was thought to have cast would have been turned back onto her.
Buried in an upside-down position in a 'secret' pit, the bottle contained some of the most painful-looking objects inside. The bottle was situated in a pit that measured five feet into the ground. At the time, researchers believe that the land was undeveloped. It remained in its resting place until builders excavating in Greenwich, South London, happened upon the bottle in 2004.
At first glance, the bottle could have easily looked like it held something of great value. The flask was decorated and possessed a glaze often associated with wine. However, archeologists and researchers knew all too well what the vessel really stood for. This type of flask was hidden by the ill or someone that was dying when they believed they were being haunted by the spells of a witch.
The next step was to find out what the vessel contained inside. Medical-style CT scans and x-rays revealed a collection of rusty pins and nails with much more to explore. Using a syringe, liquid was extracted through the cork. When the bottle reached the safety of a lab, the content were carefully removed.
Archeologists are pleased with the find because it could shed light on the sorcery practices and superstitions of the past. All in all, the stoneware bottle that measures a mere 9 inches is looked upon as one of the most significant finds of its kind. It's the only one in existence that has been uncovered in its complete and unopened form.
Accompanying the sharp objects in the bottle was human hair and urine. Fingernail clippings were also detected, which researchers believe came from a gentleman, as they were 'perfectly manicured' Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a practice that hard laborers did not indulge in. Another thing that piqued the curiosity of researchers was the presence of 'belly-button fluff.'
Other assessments of the find show that whoever sealed their urine in the bottle was a smoker, as further examination detected traces of nicotine. A piece of leather fashioned into the shape of a heart was pierced with one of the bent iron nails.
Why did researchers connect the bottle to the occult? Inside the bottle, a chemist found sulphur in the mixture, which meant that the bottle contained brimstone, which was considered the strongest approach to keeping witches away. Even the Bible declared false prophets and those possessed by the devil were 'cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone'. This was a time where science and medicine were still young. People of this time period typically blamed the unknown on the spell of a witch.
Over time, other witch bottles have been uncovered, but none have produced such interesting results. Many have been found damaged or empty. Some of the contents have been contaminated with time or destroyed when a finder releases the cork.