Appalachia Ghosts - Haints - Spooky

Bottle Trees and Evil Spirits

bottle trees in appalachia keep away evil spirits

Ever seen a bottle tree? Usually the bottles are stuck on the branches of the tree. I took the photo above of a bottle tree at the folk school, it had bottles stuck on branches as well bottles hanging from branches.

The history of bottle trees can be traced back centuries. Folklore behind the bottle trees tell us at night when spirits are roaming the countryside they get sucked into the bottles and can’t get out. Once morning arrives and the sun begins to shine the heat kills the bad spirit stuck in the bottle. I’ve seen a few bottle trees around my area, but believe they are more common farther south. To see some amazing bottle trees click here.

Tipper

 

 

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17 Comments

  • Reply
    mary Lou McKillip
    October 15, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Tipper,
    Truman and I saw a beautiful house for sell it was so neat in the yard. all colored bottles hang from a special built construction for them and they were sparking in the sunlight. Never did I realize what the purpose was, then I looked on the big oak tree in the front yard and made lips were pressed in the trees some were smiling and some natural lips painted red lips and pink tongue, this began to get spooky so we left, never calling the number of the realtor who had the house to look see.

  • Reply
    TimMc
    October 14, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    I don’t see any like that around here, the ones I see here are flipped the other way and usually on a post with pegs, maybe that’s the way you flippem when all the evil spirits are gone. Folks around here don’t take to strangers to well..

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    October 13, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    I’ve seen ’em and was warned to put a few drops of dish washing liquid in the water in them too, or you’ll not only trap evil spirits, you’ll trap skeeters who lay their eggs in it to breed more. The dish washing liquid kills the skeeters and their eggs too.
    Hope everyone’s having a great week, and a safe one too.
    Many still dealing with hurricane/flood damage around here, especially south of the I-95/I-40 interchange.
    Prayers for them for sure.
    God bless.
    RB
    <><

  • Reply
    Tamela
    October 13, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    There are a couple of really cool bottle trees in this area north of Austin, Texas. I don’t recall seeing any when we lived in Virginia or when I lived in far south Texas. Think Id remember because I love the way the light dances around in the the glass bottles. Although I knew the folklore behind the bottle trees I like to think of the sparkles as captured sunbeams or fairies (but not trapped, performing to cheer us.
    If any of your readers have bottles they’d like to get rid of, I’d pay postage to have them shipped to me. Feel free to give them my email address so we could set it up if they’re interested.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    October 13, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    My neighbor in Roswell, New Mexico, has a bottle tree! The history is new to me though.

  • Reply
    Ken
    October 13, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Tipper,
    I enjoyed seeing all the different “Bottle Trees” you provided at that link. When Miss Cindy lived in Black Mountain, she brought me a box full of them to make a bottle tree of my own. It got put on the back burner, and a lot of things have happened, but I still plan to make one for my front yard here at the shop. I guess these ‘dope heads’ would steal it in no time, or break the bottles. …Ken

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 13, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Tipper,
    I wondered if anyone reading about bottle trees have access to any red bottles. They seem to be very hard to find now a days. I have had a couple of red ones years ago, made between 1936 and 60. The beer bottles made by Anchor Hocking are included in descriptions with their famous color named “Royal Ruby”! They both had the aluminum sprinklers inserted on the top. These beer bottles had been put to use by housewives of their red beer bottles for a pretty clothes sprinkler. They were pretty expensive one as high as 60, but prices have dropped since that time. I sold these to Royal Ruby collectors, not thinking I would ever want or need a pretty red bottle! ha
    I found some Red bottles not vintage at a little store in the mountains of NC a couple of years ago. They were real pricy 14 each, looked to be made in china etc. However they were real red not the darker royal ruby. I would love to build a all red bottle tree. Guess that one is on the back of the burner. I did try painting some. I didn’t like the effect, as the sun going thru the color made in the glass is more sparkly and pretty!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    October 13, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Well now it seems that we, here where I come from, have a problem that precludes us having bottle trees. It seems that all our trees have limbs and that all our branches are filled with running water. Actually there has been a decline in bottle trees around here. A few years back every other yard had a bottle tree. Now I know of only one. It seems to be a faded fad.
    It’s about time for our latest fad to come into its own. It’s those lights that folks project on their houses at night around Christmas. I call them Tacky Lights. Some are moving, some are still but all are tacky. I told my son that the best way to make our house look good after dark was to buy Tacky Lights for all the neighbors.
    I think I spotted some mustard greens blooming in the field out beyond your bottle tree.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    October 13, 2016 at 11:23 am

    I see them around this area but in the Deep South especially in the African American communities they are common but always blue. The houses or doors on the house will be painted blue as well. I was on St. Simons Island taking a historic tour of the island and the tour guide explained why. They are to keep evil spirits away.
    Here is a link I found that is interesting as well.
    http://www.pagancentric.org/the-bottle-tree/

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 13, 2016 at 9:39 am

    Tipper,
    I have found that hanging a bottle or a canning jar by wire is easily forgotten. The mosquitoes love the accumulated water, that is if you have rain, we haven’t had that much! Also as the winter comes on if it freezes you have the chance to find them cracked or just your wire hanging with the broken glass jar under the tree. This happened to me when I hung some jars for votive candles and forgot to bring one in before winter. Just sayin’!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    October 13, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Tipper,
    I sent you a picture of my cobalt blue (only) bottle tree in the winter snow of 2014. I have three bottle trees. The cobalt blue one is surrounded by spring bulbs and daylilies in the spring/summer. My preferred landscape around the tree is the snow. It just shows off the blue bottles perfectly.
    We hang our bottles upside-down so when the bad spirits fly in they get confused and can’t escape.
    The two other trees are on our driveway. We trimmed the trees and cut and thinned the branches leaving space and short enough to place bottles on. These trees have green, clear and amber bottles on them. We had to go to the recycle a couple of times to pick up enough different colored bottles(wine, beer, etc.) to get enough for the trees. I did have a few Sparkling Apple Cider bottles, however I was impatient and wanted to get the immediate bottle tree look!
    I happen to love bottles anyway and my bathroom window is filled with old castoria, Helena Rubinstein, Aunt Lydia’s tonic, large blue milk of magnesia, etc. Mom saved old bottles from her beauty shop from 1936 of lotions, shampoo etc. so I managed to claim a few. Ha
    I also use them occasionally in a painting!, for single flowers, herbs in the kitchen window, etc.
    Loved this post,
    thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    October 13, 2016 at 8:36 am

    I have seen several bottle trees in my neighborhood. I thought it was a fun way to recycle and be creative. I had no idea that there was any history behind them.

  • Reply
    Janet McClelland
    October 13, 2016 at 8:12 am

    Where I live, the bottles are hung upside down so the spirits can’t escape

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    October 13, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Did not know the story behind bottle trees. Thanks. We tease our daughter about needing a bottle tree in her yard. She says not.
    I had never heard of bottle trees until recent years. To the best of my knowledge it was not a folk tradition in the eastern KY coalfields. When I see a bottle tree it reminds me of the old brown glass Clorox jugs, the dark blue Vicks Vaporub jars and the white glass Ponds cold cream jars. Showing my age I guess.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    October 13, 2016 at 8:01 am

    When I was young and we still lived in the hills, I used to see these all the time. They were so common they just became part of the landscape. About three years ago or so, they started springing up around here (the Cleveland area). My wife asked me if I knew what they were and all I really knew is that we called them “witch trees.”
    My Dad said they do what you wrote above. He’s a clearing house for Appalachian folk metaphysics. I also read they originated in Africa in the 9th century. Who knew?
    I love this stuff, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    October 13, 2016 at 7:58 am

    I have seen bottle trees all over the place but never knew the reasoning behind them. Perfect time for sharing this story.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    October 13, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Tip, I looked at the site, it is way cool! It makes e want to build a bottle tree in my yard, it makes my creative juices flow. Thank you.

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