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Bellarmine Jug

By Hannah McLaughlin

Witch bottles, or Bellarmine jugs, were Counter magical devices used as protection against Dark magic. It was part of the preparation of a witch bottle to hide objects inside, such as hair, nail clippings, pins, wine or urine and rosemary. It was believed that after the bottle was buried (underground in the walls, at the door, or in the fireplace) it would capture evil which is impaled on the pins, drowned by the wine then is sent away by the rosemary.

These bottles were found in Petworth under the Sacred Heart Church doorway, in 2005 during a trench digging to lay down new drains. They are salt glazed stoneware Bellarmine jugs, which was the earliest form of witch bottle used in the 16th-17th century. This type of witch bottle is also called a Bartmann (bearded man) jug in German, as you can see the faces on the necks of the jugs. One of the earliest descriptions of a witch bottle documented was in Suffolk in 1681, and it appeared in Joseph Glanvill's 'Evidence concerning Witches and Apparitions'. It was a story about how a witch bottle cured a cursed woman.

'An old man was visiting an acquaintance and he asked how they were, the acquaintance said that his wife was being haunted by a shape of a bird that would flurr near to her face and would stop her sleeping. The man thought that she might be cursed He therefore advised him to take a Bottle, and put his Wives Urine into it, together with Pins and Needles and Nails, and Cork them up and set the Bottle to the Fire, so they did, but when they put it on the fire the cork came out with everything inside it and the wife's condition worsened.

When the old man returned, he asked whether they had followed his advice. They replied they had but it hadn't worked the wife's condition had worsened. He laughed 'ha, it seems it was too nimble for you.' and then said that to do the same as before but to bury the bottle in the earth. The man did accordingly and his wife began to heal. Soon after her recovery a woman came down to their house and cried out in grief that they had killed her husband. The man and his wife were sure that this woman must be mad, for they had never known her husband. She replied saying 'Yes, you have killed my husband, he told me so on his death-bed' at last they understood her, for her husband was the wizard that had cursed the man's wife, and the cure prescribed by the old man had killed the wizard that had cursed her.

'But at last they understood by her, that her Husband was a Wizard, and had bewitched this Mans Wife and that this Counter-practice prescribed by the Old Man, which saved the Mans Wife from languishment, was the death of that Wizard that had bewitched her.'

1681, Joseph Glanvill's evidence concerning Witches and apparitions.