Watch out for witches!
Pontefract YAC has been exploring archaeology and witchcraft, as club leader Aleandra Grassam explains...
The members began by drawing what they imagined witches to look like, and we then compared our drawings with King James I's description from the early 17th century. We then talked about why people believed in witches and what people did to protect themselves.
Witch bottles were believed to protect a person from the effects of witchcraft. They are sometimes found in archaeological digs, and can date from the 17th century. A witch bottle contained a number of different objects and ingredients to make up a spell, which was supposed to counteract the spell being put on them by another witch. They often included something from the person who they believed they had a spell put on them – for example their urine, hair or nail clippings! The witch bottle would then be buried or hidden within the house, or sometimes placed beneath or behind a fireplace.
Later witch bottles were filled with a herb called rosemary, needles and pins, and red wine. It was believed that the bottle would capture the evil spell, which would have been pricked on the pins and needles, drowned by the wine, and sent away by the rosemary! Other contents found in witch bottles include sand, stones, knotted threads, feathers, shells, herbs, flowers, salt, vinegar, oil, coins, and ashes.
We looked at an example of a witch bottle found in Greenwich in 2006, and examined all its interesting contents. Afterwards we had a go at making our own witch bottles.
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