’In 2008, a ceramic bottle packed with about fifty bent copper alloy pins, some rusty nails, and a bit of wood or bone was discovered during an archaeological investigation by the Museum of London Archaeology Service. Now known as the “Holywell witch-bottle,” the vessel, which dates between 1670 and 1710, is believed to be a form of ritual protection that was hidden beneath a house near Shoreditch High Street in London.
“The most common contents of a witch-bottle are bent pins and urine, although a range of other objects were also used,” writes archaeologist Eamonn P. Kelly in Archaeology Ireland. Sometimes the bottles were glass, but others were ceramic or had designs with human faces. A witch bottle might contain nail clippings, iron nails, hair, thorns, and other sharp materials, all selected to conjure a physical charm for protection. “It was thought that the bending of the pins ‘killed’ them in a ritual sense, which meant that they then existed in the ‘otherworld’ where the witch travelled. The urine attracted the witch into the bottle, where she became trapped on the sharp pins,” Kelly writes.
It’s probable many witch bottles were made as a remedy at a time when available medicine fell short.
Akin to witch marks, which were carved or burned onto windows, doors, fireplaces, and other entrances to homes in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, witch bottles were embedded in buildings across the British Isles and later the United States at these same entry points. “The victim would bury the bottle under or near the hearth of his house, and the heat of the hearth would animate the pins or iron nails and force the witch to break the link or suffer the consequences,” anthropologist Christopher C. Fennell explains in the International Journal of Historical Archaeology.…’
Via JSTOR Daily