And similar to “witch marks”– or imprints that were either carved or burned onto the windows, fireplaces, doors, and other home entrances between the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries– these witch bottles were actually embedded at these exact entry points in buildings throughout the British Isles and later in the U.S.
According to anthropologist Christopher C. Fennell, supposed victims of witchcraft would first bury their witch bottles either underneath or near the hearth of their house.
Then, the heat emitted from the hearth was supposed to animate the iron nails or pins– forcing any witch to break their link to the victim or “suffer the consequences.”
“Placement near the hearth and chimney expressed associated beliefs that witches often gained access to homes through deviant paths, such as the chimney stack,” Fennell noted.
And again, akin to witch marks– which tended to rapidly increase in presence during times of political unrest or inopportune harvests– the contents of witch bottles often closely reflected real-life threats facing people during the seventeenth century, even though they were intended for supernatural purposes.
For instance, urinary problems were extremely common in both America and England during the 1600s and 1700s.
So, it is not unreasonable to assume that many of the so-called victims of witchcraft were actually experiencing symptoms of prevalent medical ailments during that time.
Nonetheless, victims of such illnesses, including bladder stones and other urinary-related ailments, would use witch bottles in hopes of transferring their pain back to the supposed witch who cursed them.
And that meant that if another person in the community began experiencing a similar ailment, it was possible they would be accused of witchcraft.
Similar to countless other anti-magical devices, though– like the witch cake– these bottle spells soon fell in popularity.
Although, that was not before migrants traveling to North America brought the concept to the United States.