Witch Bottle

Who knows what a witch bottle is?

Without Googling, thankyouverymuch (and you… yes, you at the back, don’t think I can’t see you firing up that Wikipedia app under the table).

A witch bottle, traditionally speaking, is a small glass bottle or jar (usually, but not necessarily, blue or green) filled with odds and ends: needles, pins, hair clippings and threads–all designed to draw evil away from a witch’s target. As this is a meandering sort of post, all bits and bobs and very little coherent thought, it seemed like an apt sort of title.

Mind you, strictly speaking, witch bottles were usually topped-off with urine. So, umm, moving on.

Firstly, I’m thrilled to report that “Murderess Lane” has appeared on Ellen Datlow’s “Honorable Mentions” list for 2010.

It’s a very long list, I know, but it includes many writers far better–and in most cases, wiser–than me; people I look up to and respect immensely (as well as the author who has probably been the single greatest influence on me over the years, and who still renders me unable to string together a sensible sentence–but y’all know about my latent fangirl already. Most of the time, I just hit her with a shovel and tell her to get back in the basement.) so I’m bowled over to make an appearance.

So yeah. Big list. On it. Very pleased indeed.


Oh, yes. I just finished reading Charles Yu‘s “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe“, which is brilliant in the truest sense of the word, and which everyone should read. It’s clever and funny and geeky, and surprisingly touching, and I’ll try and talk about it in a little more detail later in the week.

Moving from SF to horror: the Zompocalypse is coming. What foodstuffs would you stockpile? That’s what The Zombie Feed were asking last week. Granted, claiming that flamethrowers were a food group was probably a long shot (I knew I should have gone for rocketlaunchers: they’re higher in fibre), but I think I came up with the next best thing; a true multi-tasker. Vodka. You know it makes sense. Although looking at the other answers, Jared from Pornokitsch has a very good point.

Cats v zombies. There’s a thought. My money’s on the kittehs and I, for one, would welcome our new feline overlords.

One last thing: over on his blog, Michael Marshall Smith has turned his considerable attention to the Culture of Free. And cheese.

I do love it when he gets cross.



  1. The witch bottles I’ve seen before are usually Bellarmine Jars (earthenware jars decorated with a face said to be modelled on that of Cardinal Bellarmine), filled with a felt heart stuck with pins and other such stuff including hair and nail clippings, topped up with urine of a person supposedly afflicted by a witch. The jar was then placed in the fire and as it boiled the witch would also boil. Alternatively it was buried.

    That’s how we used to do it anyway….

    Zompocalypse food? Brains faggots and Brains beer of course.

    Witch balls however were green glass balls (possibly old fishing net floats) filled with hundreds of multicoloured beads or a tangled mess of threads. The witch apparently could not pass one by without an OCD-like urge to count and sort the beads or untangle the threads, being therefore unable to cause more mischief before dawn came and having to return home.

  2. The hair and nail clippings thing is interesting: I’ve always heard that you should always burn them rather than throw them away, because they can be used against you by witches (or the Metropolitan Police Force, naturally).

    The burying-by-the-door tradition is certainly the one I’m more familiar with – but that’s as a prevention rather than cure: the witch gets distracted by the bottle and all the bad juju (yes, I know) ends up getting aimed at that rather than the potential victim.

    I’ll be entirely honest and say I’d not come across the idea that the witch would have to count or untangle things – I’d always thought that one was just vampires! I can add, though, that the threads have to be offcuts from Actual Proper Sewing, as opposed to threads cut for the purpose. Apparently, they can tell the difference….

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