Witchcraft used to be everywhere. While there are still places today where the practice thrives, it’s not nearly as common as it used to be. What is still common, and surprisingly so, are objects and artifacts that claim magical properties, made by “witches” of the past and the present.
See Also: Top 10 Bizarre Coffins
While most people regard these as superstitious trinkets, others see them as genuine magical objects . . . sometimes malicious, sometimes neutral, but always fascinating—to readers here at least!
While some of these items have fallen out of favor, a few remain; some are even still made today. So, with that in mind, let’s dive into the world of witchcraft!
10 Witch Bottles
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Witch Bottle was a popular item for protecting the home from malicious witchcraft. The belief at the time was that a witch (or wizard, though they were not commonly believed to be evil) could send a spirit, be it their own or someone else’s, to terrorize a person and cause them great illness. So, how do you protect yourself against magic?
Apparently, with more magic. If you found yourself on the wrong side of a witch’s ire, you would set up this counter-magic device. The bare basics construction was really simple. You would pee in the bottle (or fill it with saltwater or wine if you’d already exhausted your daily supply) then add pins, needles, and nails, as well as some red threads and rosemary.
Once it was corked and sealed, you buried it somewhere on your property, and waited. The next time a spirit was sent to haunt you, the red thread in the bottle would draw it in, the pins and needles and nails would impale it, and the liquid would drown it. Then, if you had included rosemary, the rosemary would carry the now twice dead spirit away. As long as the bottle was buried and unbroken, your house was protected from most malicious spirits.
9 Frog Coffins
According to Finish legend, the frog coffin had many uses. Like the witch bottle, the frog coffin was often used as a counter-magical device to “reflect” evil magic back onto the caster, and as a healing charm. Unlike the witch bottle, however, frog coffins could also be a form of evil magic in and of themselves. It was also undeniably more gruesome than a witch bottle to make.
According to legend, you first had to catch a frog, as red as you could get. Then you were to carve a chunk of alder wood into a classic coffin, complete with lid. The next step varied depending on what the frog was actually for, but the final preparations invariably required that the frogs back legs be bound with red twine, and then the frog be placed on its back in the coffin. The lid was shut over the frog, and then 9 coffin nails were driven through the center of the lid from top to bottom, saving the place over the frog’s heart for last. PETA would be thrilled I’m sure.
The frog would then be buried in a church yard and a prayer said over it as you would at a human funeral (no “celebration of life” poems if you please). If all went as planned, and depending on the use you intended for the frog, you’d be saved from evil or inflict some yourself.
8 Raccoon Penis Bone
Appalachian magic is a peculiar thing patched together from several different cultures and a hefty helping of Christianity. This religious stew has led to some interesting magical practices, a personal favorite being the Raccoon Penis Bone.
When a raccoon dies, be it from old age, having been hunted, or struck by a car, the seeker of the magic bone must deflesh the animal—right down to the skeleton to retrieve the penis bone (baculum). The bone is then tossed into a boiling pot to strip off the hard to reach bits of flesh and fat. Once the bone is free of meat, it is dried. Then it’s life as a magical object begins. Among the most frequent uses is presenting it to a girl on a red ribbon (there’s that color again!) to be worn as a necklace: a declaration of love.
Other uses for it call for it to be buried under the porch of your crush’s house to make them love you, or placed between your bed and the floor to increase your libido and stamina. I believe it also helps with a stiff neck.
English folklore has it that, with patience, anyone can become a toad-witch (a very powerful witch with the power to cast the evil eye), but the path there is pretty disgusting and disturbing. There are two paths to toad-witchdom, and neither one is particularly pleasant. Both, however, require one particular item: a toad’s magic bones.
Option one requires you to catch a Natterjack Toad and kill it, then carry it in your bra (or jock-strap if you’re a gender-non-conforming witch) until it rots away clear through to its backbone. Once the toad is all but a skeleton, you take it to a river and hold it out over the water, whereupon Satan himself will appear and snatch you up. From that moment on, you are a toad witch, and can do all manner of black magic.
Option two was slightly less revolting, but no less gruesome. You are still required to catch and kill a Natterjack, but instead of carrying it in your bra, the toad should be buried in an ant hill (very common to find) so that the ants can strip away its flesh. When the toad is fully defleshed, you take it to a river and place each bone in the water one by one. If one of the bones floats, it is your magic bone, and its use will grant you great magical power.
6Black Cat Bone
My personal pick for worst and most horrific magical item on this list, the Black Cat Bone has a long history in both African and European black magic rituals. Having the ability to make you invisible, the black cat bone is reportedly an object of great power, but the method used to obtain it is horrific.
A black cat must be put, alive, into a pot of boiling water at exactly midnight. The cat is then boiled until all the meat falls off the bones and turns to shreds. The bones are strained from the stew, and each one in turn is placed into the mouth of the witch until the witch’s personal assistant informs them that they have become invisible.
The bone can also be used to attract a lost lover back into your arms, though I recommend against telling him the method you used to do that.
5 Gris-Gris Bags
Louisiana, particularly New Orleans, is known for witchcraft and voodoo. Among the many magical abjects made and sold there, the gris-gris, pronounced Gree Gree, is the most well known.
A gris-gris is made by taking a square of cloth and filling it with different objects. The number of ingredients varies from bag to bag, but is always either an odd number between 1 and 9, or 13. The particular ingredients also vary depending on the bags use, but common ingredients are small bones, gofer dust, colored stones, herbs, and spices.
The ingredients are laid out on the cloth square, which then has its corners drawn together to form a bag. The neck of the bag is tied shut or sometimes sewn, and the gris-gris is consecrated with salt, water, incense, and held briefly over a flame.
After that, the gris-gris is considered complete and active, and can be used for whatever it was built for, everything from luck with gambling to murder.
4 The Hand Of Glory
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, you may already know a little about this particular object, once seen on the shelves at Borgin and Burkes. Although it seems completely made up, a number of these do exist, leftovers from mystical traditions in Europe in the 1800s or thereabouts.
A real hand of glory is made by first hanging a man for a crime, usually theft. Once he is dead, you cut off his hand, right or left, while he is still hanging. You then place the hand in a barrel filled with a mixture of salt and saltpeter (potassium nitrate), and leave it to dry. At the same time, fat from the hanged man is taken and made into a candle. When the hand is properly mummified, the candle is placed in it, turning the hand into a candle holder of sorts.
The candle, when lit, is said to put all occupants of the house in which it is lit to sleep, making it easy for the thief who holds the hand to ransack the home for valuables. The candle flame is also said to be impervious to water, only being able to be doused with blood or milk.
You won’t find one of these readily available at Walmart, but if you shop around online you might get lucky. The one pictured here is the genuine article from a museum.
3 Dried Cats
It seems like Europeans had a penchant for hiding strange objects in and around their home. Like the witch bottles, dried cats were thought to protect the home from evil, and they’re exactly what they sound like.
A cat, one of any size or color, would be killed and then posed in a way that suggests attack. The corpse was then carried to a barrel and packed in salt much like a hand of glory. When the cat was fully desiccated, it was taken out of the salt and into the house of the maker, where it would be sealed into a wall.
The cat was often also accompanied by a dried rat or bird. This ritual sacrifice and spell was thought to ward off not only witches and bad spirits, but also pests, sicknesses and bad luck. It also had the amazing ability to ward off Tinder (or Grindr) dates.
Dried cats can still be found in British homes and cottages to this day, some being found 400 years after being buried in the walls! No doubt some may have gotten there accidentally when a hasty builder wasn’t paying attention, but a number were genuinely intended for magical purposes.
2 Alder Horse
In addition to protecting their homes from witches, Europeans were concerned about the health and happiness of their horses.
When a new stable was built, a life sized horse was carved out of alder. The horse was given its own, smaller stable, and a basket to eat from. The basket would be filled with barley and mercury, and then a blanket made from the skirt of a new mother would be thrown over the horse (preferably after it had been removed from the woman). Finally, eyes would be painted on the horse using the new mother’s blood, and the entire miniature stable would be placed underground, the new stable for the real horses was built over it.
This practice was said to ensure the horses, like the alder horse, would always be warm, fed, happy and healthy.
1 Hidden Shoes
Like many other objects on this list, hidden shoes were used to deter evil, such as ghosts, demons, and witches. However, there was no special ritual for this object, you simply took your kid’s shoes and hid them in the nearest wall. According to experts, the reasoning behind this was that children were so innocent that placing their shoes in the walls created a barrier against evil.
One house, located in Western Creek, Tasmania, was found to have at least 40 shoes stashed in the walls, chimney, and attic. In addition to the shoes, there were also hats and toys said to serve the same purpose, and even a dried cat.
No records remain to tell us who lived there, but having gone to the trouble to hide so many anti-witch devices in the property, they must have been incredibly terrified . . . or incredibly cursed.