Proof that use of bodily fluids common in ancient folk spells. From New Scientist
A rare insight into the folk beliefs of 17th-century Britons has been gleaned from the analysis of a sealed “witch bottle” unearthed in Greenwich, London, in 2004.
Witch bottles were commonly buried to ward off spells during the late 16th and 17th centuries, but it is very rare to find one still sealed.
“So many have been dug up and their contents washed away down the sink,” says Alan Massey, a retired chemist formerly at the University of Loughborough, UK, who has examined so-called “magical” artifacts and was asked to analyse the contents of the bottle. “This is the first one that has been opened scientifically.”
During the 17th century, British people often blamed witches for any ill health or misfortune they suffered, says Massey. “The idea of the witch bottle was to throw the spell back on the witch,” he says. “The urine and the bulb of the bottle represented the waterworks of the witch, and the theory was that the nails and the bent pins would aggravate the witch when she passed water and torment her so badly that she would take the spell back off you.”