A witch bottle discovered in Virginia and dating back to the civil war is one of only a handful ever to have been found in North America.
The rare occult artifact which was unearthed at a civil war fortification known as Redoubt 9, consists of a small bottle filled with nails. These charms, a counter-magical measure against evil spirits and in particular, witches, were placed by the hearth of a building and were often filled with nails, pins, hair, nail clippings and urine.
The belief was that the smell of urine or other items would attract the spirit of a witch, which would would then become ensnared on the sharp objects and trapped inside the bottle. Houses with a witch bottle were therefore seen as less likely to fall victim to maleficent acts of witchcraft.
Whilst discoveries of witch bottles are quite common in the British Isles, with almost 2000 having been found to date, they are much rarer in the United States where under a dozen have been found.
It is thought that such traditions were carried by migrants from Europe to the U.S. and indeed the period from which this example comes was a time of heightened superstition, when belief in supernatural forces was common and danger from witches was considered to be a very real threat.
The Museum Of London Archaeology notes that “It is said that once the evil doer was dead the bottle would break” which is of course a little perturbing, considering this one is still intact…