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Monday, April 2, 2012



Inspirations Can Come From Bottle Trees!

Pamela K. Kinney

Whenever I need inspiration for the next short story or even a novel, or need to research for a nonfiction ghost book, I surf the Net or read books from true supernatural tales to myths and legends books. But I wasn’t looking for this particular piece of information at the time when I ran across this article online. Bottle trees. Fascinating, I never knew about this. It inspired me to write the horror short story, “Bottled Spirits.”

A lot of places these days, gardeners get a fake tree or even use a real one, and hang blue bottles or all different colored bottles from the tree. The belief in and use of spirit bottles can be traced back to 9th and 10th century Congo, where colorful bottles, traditionally cobalt blue, were placed on the ends of tree branches to catch the sunlight. The thought being an evil spirit would see the sunshine dazzling from the beautiful bottles and growing enamored, enter the bottle. Like a fly, the spirit becomes trapped within the bottle; too dazzled by the play of light. The spirit prefers to remain in its colorful prison, rather than trouble the world of the living, trapped for all eternity. This practice was taken to Europe and North America by African slaves of the 17th and 18th centuries. While Europeans adapted them into hollow glass spheres known as "witch balls" the practice of hanging bottles in trees became widespread in the Southern states of North America, where they continue to be used today as colorful garden ornaments. For a long times, the use of spirit bottles, even spells due to them, could be found among the African-American people. In the New World, the bottle-as-talisman took on different forms.

Like witch's bottles traced as far back to the 1600s, bottles began to be used in spellwork. Bottles of all colors, shapes and sizes were filled with herbs and other items of significance for the purpose of protection, repelling evil, or attracting luck. Eventually, the bottle spell became a fundamental element of Hoodoo magic.

Today, all sorts of people have these bottle trees in their yard. Usually in the United States, they could be seen in the country or along the bayous of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama, though nowadays they are all over, not just these four states. And not just blue bottles, either!

Getting spirits into bottles and even jars actually exist in many places of the world. There are jars and bottles for housing the spirits of dead babies in Thailand and called Guman Thong. There’s the lamp holding the genie in Aladdin. The Djinn have also been captured in rings and bottles, too. There’s even “The Spirit in the Bottle,” a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm.

If you like to make your own bottle tree as I plan to this spring, here are some directions I’ve found:

Find a strong tree or stump with branches, like crepe myrtles and cedars trees that are traditionally used, but pretty much any kind of tree will work. Trim all of the foliage off and cut the branches down until you have as many bare branches as you have bottles. Then slid your bottles onto the branches.

A variation is to take a fallen branch and prune it the same fashion, making a portable tree. Plant it outside of your home, near the entrance, in the garden, or where you want it in your yard and slip the bottles onto the branches. A third way is find a large branch or stump, tying two bottles at a time with shoelaces over the branches so they hang from the tree.

And here's a tip: If you put a little oil on the bottle necks, the spirits will slip easily into the bottles and become trapped that much quicker. Give it a day, then return to your tree when there’s a wind blowing and if you listen closely, you might hear the moans of the trapped spirits in the bottles when the wind blows. Just pray they’re not calling out your name though. . .

I am offering a $10 gift certificate from Amazon to one lucky winner of all those who leave a comment. This can get you my fiction book, or even be used toward one of my nonfiction ghost books. Just be sure to leave an email so I can email the winner their prize.

Pamela K. Kinney

About the Author:
Pamela K. Kinney is a published author of horror, science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and so far three nonfiction ghost books published by Schiffer Publishing, with a fourth, Haunted Richmond II released fall 2012. Two of her nonfiction ghost books have been nominated for Library of Virginia Literary Awards. She has a collection of short horror and dark fantasy tales, Spectre Nightmares and Visitations. Her short stories, poetry and article have appeared in anthologies, magazines and ezines. The latest out is "Donating" in Inhuman Magazine, Issue 5. Her newest short story, "Bottled Spirits" was accepted for and her Lovecraftian tale, “Azathoth is Here" will be reprinted in Innsmouth Magazine: Collected Issues 1-4 in Kindle and ePub formats.

Under the pseudonym, Sapphire Phelan, she has published erotic and sweet paranormal/fantasy/science fiction romance along with a couple of erotic horror stories. Her erotic urban fantasy, Being Familiar With a Witch is a Prism 2010 Awards winner and a Epic Awards 2010 finalist. The sequel to Being Familiar With a Witch, A Familiar Tangle With Hell was released June 2011 from Phaze Books and both eBooks will be combined into one print book, The Witch and the Familiar is to be release April 24, 2012.

She also has done acting on stage and in films. And is a Master Costumer, costuming since 1972. She has even done paranormal investigating.

She admits she can always be found at her desk and on her computer, writing. And yes, the house, husband, and even the cats, sometimes suffer for it!

Find the author online at:

Many things scare us. But the most fearful things are those that infect our nightmares and visitations. Monsters from the closet or from another planet. Ghosts that haunt more than houses. Werewolves are not the only shapeshifters to be aware of. Children can be taken by other than the human kind of monsters. Even normal things can be the start of heart-pounding terror. Prepare to step beyond the pages into Spectre Nightmares and Visitations.

Just tell yourself that they're only stories.


  1. wow, this was interesting!!!

  2. Loved the post. Spirit bottles are new to me! Thanks for including instructions on how to make a bottle tree -- I think my garden needs one!

  3. Now that was cool. I had no idea that was what they were for. Now I want one :) thanks for the info.

  4. What a great blog. I'd never heard of bottle trees. I'd like to do one, but I only have one tiny peach tree in my yard. Thanks for the interesting story.

  5. I have an apple tree in my yard that died off last year. I haven't the heart to cut it down, and this gives me the perfect excuse not to. A bottle tree is just what I need.

  6. Yes, when I first ran actoss an aritcle about them, they caught my interest and a germ of an idea for a horror short story. That story did get accepted and will be out sometime this year at as Bottled Spririts.

  7. I remember seeing a bottle tree in "To Kill a Mockingbird." At least I think that's where I saw it! Never knew the story, though. I do have witch balls all over my house, running out of windows to put them in!

  8. That's so fascinating. I've never heard of the bottles nor seen any in hanging on trees, but then I live in California so our traditions are different.



  9. I have seen these bottle trees, but never knew the story behind them. Loved the information.
    panthers.ravens@yahoo dot com

  10. Congratulations to WoolfCindy--you're the winner of the $10 Amazon gift card. Just emailed you.