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Witch Bottles


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#1 wren

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Posted 17 June 2017 - 11:43 PM

Something didn't sit right with me about witch bottles, and I came up with an idea that helps set that problem aside.

Piss is a magical link... so why are people putting it in a trap where the woe-worker can get at it? Sure it isn't blood or hair or fingernail pairings, but still...

How sure are we that urine was put into these bottles? Couldn't it have been lant that was not only mixed up from a whole house and had already "died?"(fermented) Lant was also used as a floorwash, the equvalent of ammonia, bleach, or pine sol.

#2 monsnoleedra

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 12:02 AM

But realistically lant is urine, it's only stale or aged. That it was collected in a pot and sold doesn't change how it was used in a magical working. Hence the old adage "No pot to piss in!"

Even today many will use urine not jut magically but to destroy hunting sites or mark boundary areas. The urine (ammonia) smell keeps many animal or daemon like spirits away from human inhabited areas.
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#3 wren

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 12:09 AM

It changes both in odor, color, and, apparently, pH. It also passes through the bodies of microbes, so maybe there is something to it.

I was curious about the old-fashioned production of salt-peter hence the odd trivia.

#4 monsnoleedra

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 12:28 AM

I know, well from what I've read anyway, that many families would collect the family urine and then sell it to tanneries and such. Then depending upon how big of a pot they had would depend upon how much urine they collected. That pretty well dictated how much ageing a particular "Pot" at home underwent. At the tannery or other business then it was placed in giant kettles to age even further, perhaps months to melt it down as it were and increase the ammonia factor. Not sure how much evaporation or heating went into the process to aid in the melting down process. But for the individual family again your looking at how big of a pot they had to collect it in.

Just my opinion but I imagine the average "Witch" wasn't using any greatly aged urine or had access to a lant kettle. So figure probably the urine would be fresh or at best maybe a week old or a little more. Granted it would not be unimaginable that some urine could be kept on hand for such practices and allowed to age but since urine was a commodity and could be sold for profit it seems unlikely. Especially if one factors in the prevailing notion that the middle ages witch was usually poor and on the fringes of society.

Then of course one also has to factor in the fluid intact of the person as that also has a significant influence on the urine generated by the person. Lots of fluid and the urine is clear and nearly no smell. Lack of fluid and the urine is dark yellow to almost deep brown to black, highly odorous and thick maybe even blood included. So we really do not know what type of urine is placed in the bottle or if when it is placed has any influence. Figure does moon period affect / effect urine? Does age affect / effect it? If you go by folk practices and Granny practices it certainly does. Same as if the woman who creates the bottle and adds the urine is pregnant or not does.
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#5 wren

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 12:47 AM

So, I don't know and don't claim to know, but the wiki says that households would also collect their urine to age into lant for cleaning that home. I knew about selling it to dyers and tanners but not the home-use of the stuff before checking the wiki.

#6 Oroboros

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 01:08 AM

I can't recall where I got this idea, so I may be wrong. But I thought the connection of the urine was intentional. Meaning, the energy sent to harm the bottle maker would "find" the bottle as opposed to the bottle maker. The signature of the urine acting as a kind of decoy. Where it would be trapped and destroyed by the other implements in the bottle.

The urine serving a dual purpose as a decoy and a cleaning agent.

Edited by Oroboros, 18 June 2017 - 01:09 AM.


#7 monsnoleedra

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 01:09 AM

Honestly do not know. In the area's I am familiar with never heard of it being used in the home. Mixed into some things, yeah vaguely recall about toothpaste or mouthwash but not sure how it was done. Other things would be used to clean or tan their own hides and such. Urine would most often be sold to purchase the things they needed that couldn't be raised or hunted. Public collection of urine at toilets and such, heck think that was going right up to the early 1900's.

I understand diluted urine in water was used for laundry washing but my understanding there was mostly industrial areas. Many rural and backwoods areas not sure they did or not as many still had wash board and wash basins. Wash board at a spring or creek didn't seem like urine would work and a wash bucket / basin might but honestly never heard of anyone using it that way.

But I am willing to admit perhaps they did. I honestly do not know.
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#8 monsnoleedra

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 01:15 AM

View PostOroboros, on 18 June 2017 - 01:08 AM, said:

I can't recall where I got this idea, so I may be wrong. But I thought the connection of the urine was intentional. Meaning, the energy sent to harm the bottle maker would "find" the bottle as opposed to the bottle maker. The signature of the urine acting as a kind of decoy. Where it would be trapped and destroyed by the other implements in the bottle.

The urine serving a dual purpose as a decoy and a cleaning agent.

Heard of Witch balls doing that with salt water and using hooks, needles, and such. But salt being the big thing there. Similar to witch bottles but associated with sea lore and water magics. Also cause one heck of a storm and widow's walks according to some lore. Still find float balls on some boats and occasionally used with fishing nets. Lovely glass balls of various sizes.
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#9 wren

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 01:21 AM

View Postmonsnoleedra, on 18 June 2017 - 01:09 AM, said:

Honestly do not know. In the area's I am familiar with never heard of it being used in the home. Mixed into some things, yeah vaguely recall about toothpaste or mouthwash but not sure how it was done. Other things would be used to clean or tan their own hides and such. Urine would most often be sold to purchase the things they needed that couldn't be raised or hunted. Public collection of urine at toilets and such, heck think that was going right up to the early 1900's.

I understand diluted urine in water was used for laundry washing but my understanding there was mostly industrial areas. Many rural and backwoods areas not sure they did or not as many still had wash board and wash basins. Wash board at a spring or creek didn't seem like urine would work and a wash bucket / basin might but honestly never heard of anyone using it that way.

But I am willing to admit perhaps they did. I honestly do not know.

Off the top of my head, I think the last commercial collection of urine was among the Gullah here in the States for the processing of indigo dye. Which is connected to their apotropaic practices.

#10 monsnoleedra

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 01:25 AM

The last I have heard of was in the 19teens and early 20's in rural Virginia. At the time tannery's were buying urine and tree bark for tanning. There's not a whole lot written about it that I can find and a lot is family history and local lore. Perhaps a bit longer in more rural or remote area's but don't think it went beyond that in any capacity.
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#11 wren

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 01:30 AM

View PostOroboros, on 18 June 2017 - 01:08 AM, said:

I can't recall where I got this idea, so I may be wrong. But I thought the connection of the urine was intentional. Meaning, the energy sent to harm the bottle maker would "find" the bottle as opposed to the bottle maker. The signature of the urine acting as a kind of decoy. Where it would be trapped and destroyed by the other implements in the bottle.

The urine serving a dual purpose as a decoy and a cleaning agent.

That's the explanation I've heard as well. It just clashes with what I've been taught about vinegar jars. A witch bottle is a jar of nastiness just like a vinegar jar, and you sure wouldn't put your own link into a vinegar jar, so why put it into a witch bottle? Made me think that that spectroscopic inspection of the contents of a witch bottle wouldn't be able to differentiate between piss that rotted in the bottle and lant that had been rotted beforehand. Since we don't make or use lant anymore it wouldn't be weird if the mention of lant got replaced with the more familiar urine over time with the accompanying cultural change.

#12 wren

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 01:32 AM

View Postmonsnoleedra, on 18 June 2017 - 01:25 AM, said:

The last I have heard of was in the 19teens and early 20's in rural Virginia. At the time tannery's were buying urine and tree bark for tanning. There's not a whole lot written about it that I can find and a lot is family history and local lore. Perhaps a bit longer in more rural or remote area's but don't think it went beyond that in any capacity.
So yeah, the rural "Southeast."

#13 violetstar

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 10:03 AM

View Postmonsnoleedra, on 18 June 2017 - 01:15 AM, said:

Heard of Witch balls doing that with salt water and using hooks, needles, and such. But salt being the big thing there. Similar to witch bottles but associated with sea lore and water magics. Also cause one heck of a storm and widow's walks according to some lore. Still find float balls on some boats and occasionally used with fishing nets. Lovely glass balls of various sizes.
What about witch balls of the Ozark?
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#14 wren

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 03:46 PM

Another way to do the witch bottle thing that makes more sense to me is if the urine was from a specific suspected witch. The jar becomes a symbolic bladder, and the idea is that when she crosses the threshold under which the bottle is buried she experiences burning, pins and needles, and rawness like rubbing against ground glass in her privies. It'd be a specifically targetted "keep away" spell, the like of which do survive.

But you can take this whole thread as me griping and moaning about just not getting the traditional instructions.

#15 Oroboros

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 04:25 PM

View Postwren, on 18 June 2017 - 03:46 PM, said:

Another way to do the witch bottle thing that makes more sense to me is if the urine was from a specific suspected witch. The jar becomes a symbolic bladder, and the idea is that when she crosses the threshold under which the bottle is buried she experiences burning, pins and needles, and rawness like rubbing against ground glass in her privies. It'd be a specifically targetted "keep away" spell, the like of which do survive.

But you can take this whole thread as me griping and moaning about just not getting the traditional instructions.

You know, I have seen this version of it discussed. Where the urine comes from the person you are protecting against. My question is, how in the hell do you get someone else's pee without them being aware of it? (Unless she is selling it as you guys were discussing earlier. And what is the likelihood of a witch selling taglocs of herself?)

Edited by Oroboros, 18 June 2017 - 04:26 PM.


#16 wren

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 05:22 PM

The spell comes from before indoor plumbing, when stealing the contents of a chamberpot would have been possible. Or the use of a diuretic while the target visited the practioner's house.

The stopped bowels curse calls for gathering the target's feces, and I have heard of that having been used within this decade. The lengths people will go to to curse others is a bit frightening. That person took the person camping and dug up the latrine.

#17 monsnoleedra

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 05:24 PM

View Postwren, on 18 June 2017 - 03:46 PM, said:

Another way to do the witch bottle thing that makes more sense to me is if the urine was from a specific suspected witch. The jar becomes a symbolic bladder, and the idea is that when she crosses the threshold under which the bottle is buried she experiences burning, pins and needles, and rawness like rubbing against ground glass in her privies. It'd be a specifically targetted "keep away" spell, the like of which do survive.

But you can take this whole thread as me griping and moaning about just not getting the traditional instructions.

I have heard of something similar but it was against all "evil" people and was done with holy water. In that instant it was more of a consecrated boundary. A small bottle was placed at the entry way or twins were placed at the entry way. The premise being no one evil could cross the threshold without suffering pain of some sort and revealing themselves. Probably similar in theory to garlic and vampires in practice.
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#18 violetstar

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 05:25 PM

View PostOroboros, on 18 June 2017 - 04:25 PM, said:

You know, I have seen this version of it discussed. Where the urine comes from the person you are protecting against. My question is, how in the hell do you get someone else's pee without them being aware of it? (Unless she is selling it as you guys were discussing earlier. And what is the likelihood of a witch selling taglocs of herself?)
Exactly.History is full of anti-witch devices,some bizzare others more thought out.History as tells us none of them worked.There are reasons for this.Firstly the ills attempted to be counteracted were usually not the work of witches.Secondly if it was,these constructs would never be effective as witchcraft works in a specific way.

The best analogy is to the Alchemists dream of turning lead into gold.Today we know thats not possible as one cannot alter the atomic structures in that way.

This is why the witches simply laughed at the desperate attempts to eradicate their powers.
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#19 monsnoleedra

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 05:26 PM

On a side note could probably hang it up in the door and use it to keep the flies out like the bags of water you see hung up in the south, referring to the bottles of holy water

Edited by monsnoleedra, 18 June 2017 - 05:27 PM.

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#20 wren

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Posted 18 June 2017 - 06:15 PM

View Postvioletstar, on 18 June 2017 - 05:25 PM, said:


Exactly.History is full of anti-witch devices,some bizzare others more thought out.History as tells us none of them worked.There are reasons for this.Firstly the ills attempted to be counteracted were usually not the work of witches.Secondly if it was,these constructs would never be effective as witchcraft works in a specific way.

The best analogy is to the Alchemists dream of turning lead into gold.Today we know thats not possible as one cannot alter the atomic structures in that way.

This is why the witches simply laughed at the desperate attempts to eradicate their powers.

Yes, many apotropaic charms are aimed at what I think of as "hags." The "hag" appears cross-culturally as more of an evil, night going spirit than a person, though people could be accused of being such a creature. Mainly the "hag" is the mythopoetic response to apparently senseless death, illness, and loss. "The cow dried up?" Hags did it. "Not enough butter in the churn?" Hags did it. "Milks gone sour?" Hags did it. "Old man couldn't get it up anymore?" Hags did it. "Child died in its sleep?" Hags did it. "Suffered Night Terrors?" Hags did it. "Just down on your luck?" Hags did it. What I called the "traditional" witch bottle is aimed at these hags, moreso than at any incarnate practitioner of magic.

The latest version is just a plain curse that's called a protection spell because it doesn't sound as bad.

As for alchemy, well, nuclear chemistry does actually show that transmutation of substances is possible, though not following traditional alchemical methods. There is a large group of elements that can only exist on earth as products of the transmutative power of the partical accelerator. There are elements that only Humanity can produce. Amazing idea isn't it?





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