I'm just kidding about the public school thing. I don't really think the schools need to teach children how to make witch bottles. But if you are interested in knowing how to make one read on. Maybe if you are a home schooler you can work it into your curriculum!
Witch bottles are an old European form of defensive magic, and were brought to New England by the English colonists when they crossed the Atlantic in the 1600s. The Puritan leadership frowned on any form of magic, considering it all diabolic, but many people in New England still practiced various forms of divination and defensive magic. They believed there were witches among them using malevolent magic, and it was best to fight fire with fire.
Witch bottles work on a very basic magic principle. The English colonists believed that a magical connection was made between a witch and their victim when the witch cursed them. The witch's malevolent magic would flow through this connection, causing illness, pain, and various other torments to their victim.
However, the magical connection was a two way channel. The witch sent pain and suffering through it, but the clever person could send pain along it right back to the witch. This could be done without even knowing who the witch was.
The witch bottle was designed to send pain or even death to an attacking witch. Surprisingly, for something so powerful, it could be made using common items found in any home.
There are only three ingredients: a bottle, pins or nails, and urine of the bewitched person. That last one is kind of gross, but I'll explain why it was considered necessary.
|It's more of a jar, really, but it's what I had available...|
A few notes about the bottle. In some European countries special bottles were sold specially for making make witch bottles. They were usually imprinted with an ugly face, and were often called Greybeards or Bellarmines. Bellarmine was a particularly notorious Catholic Inquisitor, so you can understand why you'd want his image on a bottle that was supposed to defeat witches. I haven't seen any records of Bellarmines here in New England. The early colonists did not have a lot of material luxuries and would have just used whatever bottles were available.
|Note: this isn't really urine in this photo, but Red Bull.|
The final and grossest ingredient is urine from the bewitched person. A couple years ago I bought a cute little souvenir witch bottle from a Salem gift shop. It contains herbs, salt, a nail, and a little scroll with a spell. It is sealed with wax. It's really nice, but it wouldn't pass muster in the 1600s because it doesn't have any urine in it.
Many witch narratives from New England tell how a farmer notices that one of his farm animals is acting strangely. Suspecting witchcraft, the farmer will cause pain to his animal by doing things like cutting off an ear or beating it with a stick. The pain he causes to the animal travels along the magical connection back to the witch. Usually these stories end with a mean neighbor being seen the next day with bruises right where the farmer beat his animal or with a missing ear. It was gruesome proof that they were the witch.
Happily, even the early colonists realized they shouldn't beat the hell out of a bewitched child or cut off a bewitched spouse's ear. But because the magic connection is linked to products of the body, not just the body itself, they didn't need to. Instead they just needed to put urine from the suffering bewitched person into the bottle along with the nails. The urine served as a substitute for the bewitched person's body, and mixing it with the nails had the same effect as actually driving nails into that person's body. Pain from the nails would shoot back along the magical connection to the witch, causing harm to them and forcing them to stop bewitching the victim.
In Europe people would usually bury a witch bottle for safe keeping once it was assembled, and many have been unearthed by archaeologists. Not many have been found here in New England, though, even though historians know they were used. One reason might be that the early colonists often added a final special twist to their bottles. Rather than bury them, they would set them in the fireplace until the urine heated up and exploded, which was believed to send extra pain and suffering back at the witch.
DISCLAIMER: Obviously, don't try this at home. Even if you decide to try making a witch bottle, heating it up will just fill your house with boiling urine, broken glass, and hot nails. It might even be worse than being cursed by a witch.