Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Witch Trees

On a scenic Louisiana road, if you're lulled by the rolling hills and verdant woods, you might pass by this tidy little house and never notice. But if your gaze happens to fall at the right place, at the right time, you will see not one but two . . .

witch trees, better known as southern bottle trees.

Maybe these folks just enjoy the sun shining through cobalt glass. But the southern witch tree tradition has roots in Africa, brought to this country by slaves. According to legend, witches and other evil spirits cannot resist the sunlight glinting through beautiful colored bottles upended on tree branches. They go inside the bottles to investigate and are trapped for all time. Another version of the story is that the witches/evil spirits become trapped in the bottles at night -- wind moaning through the bottles carrying their desperate cries -- and the morning sunlight shining on the bottles destroys the witches/evil spirits. Cobalt blue is the favored color, but you will see multi-colored bottle trees throughout the South.

These folks also trimmed all their doors and windows in bright blue paint.

Maybe they simply liked the blue paint as a complement to the bottle trees. But in many areas of the South, you will see blue doors and windows, as well as blue porch ceilings. This tradition also has roots in slave culture. In the Carolina Low Country, Gullah tradition teaches that evil spirits cannot cross water. So painting all portals into your home -- windows, doors, even porch ceilings -- the color blue will repel evil, because the spirits think the surface is water. On a less paranormal plane, common-sense Southern wisdom teaches that dirt daubers and wasps won't build nests on a blue-painted surface. I know from personal experience this is true, and banishing those evil insects from my home is good enough for me!

This home, tucked away on a winding Louisiana road and adorned with cobalt blue bottles and paint, must be completely safe from evil spirits. On the beautiful sunlit day when I took these photos, nary a haint was in sight!


  1. Good to know how to keep away 'haints'..I love this suzie~

  2. That is fantastic! I see they have a high wire fence as well, just to be on the safe side. :) I like the idea of the wind moaning through the bottles - I would make one for this alone.

    Curiously, there used to be a tradition of witch bottles in the UK


    I wonder how (if at all) they are connected?

  3. Thank you for that link -- How fascinating! Probably all such superstitions are linked, if we could trace their origins. I am fascinated by the inter-connectedness of all cultures. We humans have so much in common -- It is sad that we sometimes allow our differences to dictate our actions. And thank you all for reading my blog and commenting!