The above are three Bellarmine jugs in my collection. They date from the 1800s to the early/mid 1900s. The most expensive and highly sought Bellarmines date from the 1500s through the 1700s.
Bellarmine Jugs, a.k.a. Bellarmines, Bartmann (bearded man) Jugs, or Greybeards, is a style of stoneware jug, that usually has at least one handle and is corked. The most distinctive feature of the bottles is the older, bearded, male face that is found slightly below the neck of the bottle. This style of bottle originated in the 16th century and was popular for around 200 years. Bellarmine jugs were primarily used to store liquor. It's the "second life" of the Bellarmines that is of importance here. That second life was for the creation and employment as a "witch bottle".
The popular name of Bellarmine is in fact a reference to St. Robert Bellarmine, a notorious Catholic inquisitor and enemy of Protestantism. It was long assumed that due to the name that the face portrayed on the bottles was in fact his. This belief is incorrect as the bottles originated before his birth.
Of all the old witch bottles recovered from old houses and property in Europe, over half of the bottles were Bellarmines. It appears that Bellarmine jugs were the preferred container to use when creating a witch bottle. As far as why this is so, there are many opinions. Some have argued that the bearded face acts as an apotropaic charm to scare off evil. This may be true of the Bellarmines produced in the 17th century, as such tend to portray very grotesque faces. However, the original Bellarmines produced in the 16th century portrayed a normal face.
I favor two reasons why these Bellarmines were the preferred bottle of choice. The first reason is that the inclusion of the face made the bottles anthropomorphic. Since witch bottles are designed to protect a specific person this anthropomorphic bottle would have been viewed as superior than the standard variety. The second reason is that these bottles just look cool! Many of them have a spookiness aspect to them which may have been viewed as being ideal for usage as a witch bottle.
Now, when discussing witch bottles I need to state that there is a lot of misinformation online. Much of the misinformation stems from the self-styled witches of modern times who tend to not understand what a real witch bottle is and how to make one. The term "witch bottle" is not a synonym for "spell bottle" or "bottle spells". A witch bottle is not a bottle made by a witch.
To confuse matters even more, there are three different types of witch bottles. I'll list them below.
1. The Fake Witch Bottles - These are made by modern witches and contain any number and type of ingredients. They usually include herbs and gemstones believed to possess protective qualities. These bottles are often decorated quite beautifully. Many of them are designed to be displayed openly in the home or area. I'm not saying that these bottles don't work or don't have power. By listing them as fake I'm stating that they have no connection to the old, traditional witch bottles. The people who make these types of witch bottles mistakenly believe that a witch bottle is a bottle made by a witch. Included in this category are also things such as honey jars, vinegar jars, break-up jars, etc. People who may claim that these are witch bottles mistakenly believe that the term "witch bottle" is a synonym for any type of spell that incorporates a bottle.
2. Blue Glass Witch Bottles - These do have a history of use. The color blue has a very long history of belief that it can protect against the evil eye as well as evil spirits. So although I accept that these can be called witch bottles I must add they don't act the same as a traditional witch bottle.
3. True Or Traditional Witch Bottles - A true or traditional witch bottle is used not to repel or drive away witches and evil spirits. Instead, a traditional witch bottle is created to act as a spiritual decoy or dummy, taking the full brunt of the spiritual attack so that the person that it represents is spared harm.
From analysis of the contents of old witch bottles recovered in Europe and in colonial America, we know that the overwhelming majority of them contained just 3-4 basic ingredients. Those ingredients are:
-Hair and/or nail clippings
-Iron pins and/or needles
That's it! In rare cases items such as the following have been found;
-Slivers of wood
I'm going to go over these ingredients and share with you a very interesting observation I had concerning the inclusions of urine.
Of the basic ingredients used, hair and nail clippings are personal concerns from the person that the bottle is mean to act as a spiritual decoy or dummy for. The iron pins/needles and urine are very intriguing.
So I would like my readers to ponder why urine was used. Just think about that. Of all the personal concerns one can use why is it that urine is used so frequently? Pause reading here and think about it for a while before scrolling down and continuing
It is my personal opinion that the reason why urine was so frequently used was because people of this time period were plagued with UTI's (Urinary Tract Infections) and STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) . Can you imagine how painful it must have been for women back then? Think about how you would get buy having constant battles with UTI's and without there being any antibiotics or pain medicine available to remedy it? It must have been excruciating. Top that with rampant STDs and it's hard not to think that everyone must have experienced routine burning, painful urination. Now, I'm not female and I've never had an STD. However, I've been told that having and STD causes not only burning sensation while urinating, but also a type of shooting pain that feels like sharp pins or needles are being stabbed into your urethra. Could this be the reason that urine and pins/needles were used? Were people trying to inflict or reverse the same pain they felt back to the witch they believed was causing such pain? Or was the inclusion of urine meant for the evil to attack it instead of the urine in the person's body, to stop painful urination? Can you blame people back then for thinking that UTIs and STDs must be the work of witchcraft?
With regard to the pins and needles used, such were made from iron. Iron has a long history of possessing magical protection against the supernatural. Also, the pins and needles were often purposefully bent before being placed into the bottle. Why? This practice is also very old. It's a form of sacrifice. It dates back to pagan times where gifts for the gods were purposefully bent or broken so that they no longer had value to mortals. For example, a sword may be bent or broken in two before being cast into a river as a gift to the river god. So the bending of the pins and needles is a similar form of practice. By bending them they can no longer be used as regular pins or needles. It should also be stated that pins and needles were somewhat expensive.
Additionally, pins and needles are sharp. Pins and needles may have been used as replacements for knives or blades. The belief is that the sharpness "cuts" the evil or witchcraft, killing it. Since a knife or blade usually won't fit down the narrow neck of a bottle, pins and needles may have been chosen as substitutes.
Moving on to the rarer ingredients recovered from old witch bottles, slivers of wood and thorns are substitutes for the needles and pins. They too are sharp. All three may represent the pain of UTIs and STDs. Or the slivers of wood, thorns and needles/pins may have been used to "cut" and destroy the evil. Maybe it was both at the same time.
The inclusion of bones, usually chicken bones, could be because the cock was a solar symbol, with the cock's crow symbolizing sunrise. Witches and witchcraft belonged to the night, the time of darkness. So sunlight itself was deemed protective as it drove darkness away. Or it could be that the inclusion of chicken bones was an attempt to trick the witch or evil spirit into believing that the victim was already dead. Maybe the answer is both as well.
The most curious inclusion was the cloth heart. Again, these are among the rare items found in witch bottles. I'm curious to know if researchers have had the cloth hearts tested. My personal belief would be that the cloth heart would have had drops of blood from the person the bottle was made for on it. That's just what I would do. Or it could be that the cloth used to make the heart was in fact an unwashed piece of clothing from the person whom the bottle represented. Maybe both as well.
What we don't find as ingredients in these witch bottles are things like herbs, roots, gemstones, and the like, the kind of things that modern, self-styled witches use. The reason being is because these bottles are decoys for specific people and are not meant to repel or drive away evil.
It should be stated that Bellarmines were never popular for use as witch bottles in the U.S. Instead, witch bottles in the U.S. tended to be made of ceramic or glass. They did work their way into hoodoo and were recorded by Harry Middleton Hyatt. Hyatt also recorded various ways to identify or kill witches that often employed the use of urine. So perhaps the belief that UTIs and STDs were caused by witchcraft was a idea that spread and was still active in the U.S. at the time that Hyatt was conducting his interviews. It should be noted that neither Hyatt nor his informants call these things "witch bottles", but the ingredients and purpose are the same.
If you are interested in creating your own witch bottles to use as spiritual decoys or dummies then below are a couple of recipes that I have personally used. I was going to withhold the second recipe, considering it one of goodies from my "bag-o'-tricks" but then thought, "what the hell" might as well share it.
Traditional Bellarmine Witch Bottle
-1 Bellarmine Jug (or plain jug or bottle)
-Hair and/or nail clippings
-9 bent nails and/or pins
-Urine (about a shot glass full)
Modern Bellarmine Witch Bottle
-1 Bellarmine Jug (or plain jug or bottle)
-Hair from the crown of the head
-Nail clippings from each finger on the right hand
-Nail clippings from each finger on the left hand
-Underarm hair from each armpit (if male or a woman who doesn't shave)
-Nail clipping from each toe on the right foot
-Nail clipping from each toe on the left foot
-Dead skin (the heel is a good place to take it from)
-Cloth heart made from one's unwashed clothing and containing drops of one's blood (women can use their menstrual blood if they so choose)
-Urine (about a shot glass full)
-1 magnet or lodestone (to draw anything thrown at you or sent to you toward it instead of hitting you)
-1 razor blade (to cut and kill the evil)
-*1 black stone (obsidian, jet, black tourmaline, etc.) [This is optional. Black stones work by not repelling evil but by absorbing it and neutralizing it.\
I fix my Bellarmines similarly to mojo hands, mainly that I pray and state my petition over them, spit into the bottles, breath into them, and then seal them before inhaling. Once fixed they are ready for use and can be buried or concealed in the home or on the property.
I can attest that these witch bottles do indeed work. However, the key is to understand how they work and how to properly employ them. Just constructing them is not going to help you. You have to know how to properly employ them.
Do not store these out in the open. They have your personal concerns in them. If you keep them out in the open then any enemy can steal them and have some powerful stuff to use against you.
Witch bottles were employed by burying them on the property or concealing them in the house. Evil and witchcraft love to take certain paths into your home. One of these paths was through the fireplace [Note that's how Santa Clause gains entry to the home. The fireplace was viewed as an entrance for the supernatural]. So this explains why many old witch bottles have been found in chimneys and fireplace mantels. You can create multiple witch bottles and bury one near the front door and others in concealed locations around the home. Pay attention to all means of entry, such as windows and vents. If possible, make one for each room.
When under spiritual attack, the evil or witchcraft is going to make a rush toward you. Ideally, you will want the witch bottle to be between you and the evil. That way the evil will sense the bottle first and mistake it for you. If the witch bottle is not in front of you and the oncoming evil then it won't be able to take the hit for you. So keep that in mind. Also note that when you are not at home you remain vulnerable to attack. So employ witch bottles in conjunction with other means of personal protection. Finally, once you deposit and employ your witch bottle you do not need to dig it up or take it out to refresh it in any way. As long as you included something to cut or kill the evil it will continue to work the rest of your life. If you buried it then the evil will be grounded and made harmless. If you want to move you can chose to dig them up and take them with you but it's not necessary. You can always just remake more once you settle in to your new home. People have only found the old witch bottles because the owners did not disturb them once they were in use.
Note: Witch bottles will protect against both witchcraft and lower level spirits. Spirits that are more intelligent may be able to see through this ruse and can still attack a person. That's why additional means of protection should be used along with witch bottles.