Saturday, June 4, 2011

Weekend Whimsey!! My Bottle Trees!!!

I am very proud of my deep Southern roots -- albeit put down by poor dirt farmers in the 1700s.  As a historian, primarily of Southern culture, and my very Southern grandmother's best student of traditions, superstitions, and folklore, I carry on these beliefs and customs hoping they will survive the passage of time!

For instance, I cut off the point of a piece of pie and eat it last for good luck and  I would never let a New Year's Day go by without turnip greens and blackeyed peas for folding money and pennies.  My Christmas tree is (almost) always down before New Year's Day, and when I have failed to complete this task, I can hear my Granny admonishing me and warning of bad luck in the coming year!!

When I had my house painted last year, the discussion of colors included the proper shade of "haint (haunt) blue" for my porch ceiling (a traditional method of warding off ghosts) -- alas, it really didn't need painting, so I must trust in other means to keep my house safe!

The porch of my grandmother's house with its properly blue ceiling!

Enter my bottle trees!

Bottle trees have their roots in Africa and the belief is that evil spirits will be captured inside the bottles and trapped forever.  Some believe the spirits are attracted by the brightly colored (most often cobalt blue) bottles and slip inside and are trapped, while I have always heard the spirits roost on the tips of bare branches and are prevented from taking up residence by the bottles!  Bottles on a window sill serve much the same purpose, preventing evil spirits from entering one's home through the windows!

my kitchen window

I had always known about bottle trees, but became particularly attached to the notion after reading "Livvie," a short story by Eudora Welty, in a college course on Southern Literature.  This fabulous photograph of bottle trees was taken by Welty when she worked for the Works Progress Administration during the Depression.

Throughout most of my adult life, my homes have had some sort of bottle tree -- or at least blue bottles in the window sills -- what are some of the cultural beliefs and folklore you keep alive??


  1. I've never heard of a single one of those traditions except eating black-eyed peas on New Year's (which I've never done). Very interesting! I don't think I do anything associated with folklore or superstition. Hmm... I'll have to think about it.

  2. I have never heard the bottle trees legend before... very cool! :):):):):):):):):):):):):):):):)

  3. I love the look of cobalt glass! Fantastic collection you have there!


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