Bottles in which items were placed that were believed to ward off or reverse the effects of a witches’ influence. Typical contents were strands of the victim’s hair (sometimes pubic); metal objects (usually made of brass or steel) such as studs and nails; and human urine. Another very frequent inclusion was bent metal pins, which it was believed would inflict terrible pain upon the witch. To be considered effective, the bottle had to be sealed with a cork and sometimes also with clay, and then burned without either the bottle or the seal breaking. The bottle was then buried or hidden, typically in the foundations of a building.

More than 200 witch bottles have been unearthed in England. Most are broken or empty. However, intact bottles are still occasionally found.

One 17th century example found in Ipswitch contained:

  • a piece of felt which was originally heart-shaped and into which several brass pins had been stuck
  • a piece of light brown human hair
  • more than 40 iron nails
  • over 40 fragments of glass
  • a two-pronged table-fork
  • 24 brass studs
  • several wooden spills
  • human urine
An example found in Sussex was buried in around 1720 and contained:
  • pubic hairs
  • an eyelash
  • human urine
  • eight bent brass pins
When this particular bottle was opened for the contents to be examined and analyzed, there was a hiss of escaping gas...

Witch bottles were believed to be effective only as long as the bottle remained sealed...

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