Folk Magic at the MAC Lab


When do several ordinary objects have an extraordinary purpose? When an average wine bottle, some straight pins, and a third very common ingredient* are used to ward off “black magic”. Archaeologists excavating a possible slave quarter site in Dorchester County, Maryland recovered a wine bottle neck with a partial stopper from the area of the fireplace within the structure. The stopper had straight pins inserted into it. This collection of objects, and its location on the site, indicates the remains of a “witch bottle”. Witch bottles were used as protective charms and were part of a European tradition of folk magic. They were generally made from a bottle or jug, were filled with sharp objects, and were buried upside down.

*To see pictures and to find out the third (and most important) ingredient in a witch bottle, go to our August Curator’s Choice at http://www.jefpat.org/Curators Choice Archives.

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