Sunday, June 7, 2009


A jar from the 17th century was unearthed in England containing urine, nail clippings, hair and pins. The jar was buried upside-down. Scientists are calling it the world's most complete "witch bottle".

This spell device, often meant to attract and trap negative energy, was particularly common from the 16th to the 17th centuries, so the discovery provides a unique insight into witchcraft beliefs of that period, according to a report published in the latest British Archaeology.

Lead researcher Alan Massey, a former chemist and honorary fellow of Loughborough University, believes "the objects found in witch bottles verify the authenticity of contemporary recipes given for anti-witchcraft devices, which might otherwise have been dismissed by us as being too ridiculous and outrageous to believe."

An Old Bailey court record from 1682 documents that a husband, believing his wife to be afflicted by witchcraft, was advised by a Spitalfields apothecary to "take a quart of your Wive's urine, the paring of her Nails, some of her Hair, and such like, and boyl them well in a Pipkin."

The excavated bottle appears to have been made according to those, or similar, instructions.

CT scans and chemical analysis, along with gas chromatography conducted by Richard Cole of the Leicester Royal Infirmary, reveal the contents of the bottle to include human urine, brimstone, 12 iron nails, eight brass pins, hair, possible navel fluff, a piece of heart-shaped leather pierced by a bent nail, and 10 fingernail clippings.

Although some 200 early witch bottles have been identified, all were found opened, with their contents likely eroded or otherwise lost. This artifact, in contrast, had its cork closure still intact.

The urine contained nicotine, so a smoker produced it. Since the fingernails showed little wear, Massey believes the individual was "of some social standing."

Read the full article at MSNBC.

Thanks, Stan!

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