What are bottle trees and what do they have to do with ghosts?
We've seen people claiming to sell ghosts in a bottle (unfortunately); however we found another story about bottles and ghosts with a similar idea of trapping unwanted spirits. Now, we do not subscribe to the idea of fearing ghosts or trapping them (if it were possible), but we do like this tale about ghosts and bottle trees – at least the decorative opportunity it presents.
If you were able to take a drive through rural regions of the southern United States, especially west of Mississippi (think Louisiana), it is possible that you might catch glimpses of bottle trees in front of homes. A piece of folk lore not unlike other Southern legends, (Oogles, for example), bottle trees seem a symbolic piece of our history, exposing our deep-seated fears. In the movie, Ghosts of Mississippi, a bottle tree can be spotted as a haunting reminder that ghosts from our past might still be hanging around us, refusing to let go.
Illustration: "The Thin Line Between Good & Evil" by Regina Cornwell illustrates one type of bottle tree.
Superstitions of bottle trees as a way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits is said to have come to this country from Africa. The slave trade also brought beliefs from the Congo to the United States and Europe – the hanging of bottles outside of homes being just one example. Passing down from generation to generation, bottle collectors stateside carried on this tradition by displaying their collection of beautifully-colored glass while continuing to believe in their power as talismans capable of repelling the worst of specters. Today, many of these bottles are now antiques, so they are definitely something interesting to observe.
How is a Bottle Tree Said to Work with Ghosts?
How is a bottle tree supposed to keep away ghosts and spirits? Legend has it that during the day, the sun shining through different hues of glass lures ghosts through bedazzling colors. Once they are within the bottles, some say they are trapped for eternity (or until the bottle is broken). Superstitious beliefs aside, we must admit that the idea of colored glass hanging from trees is at least charming.
Making a Bottle Tree for Decoration
Bottle trees are sometimes made by tying shoestring or cord around the neck of two bottles and hanging them over branches of trees outside a home. Bottle trees may also be made by breaking off branches and sticking the bottle over the stems of a live tree. Others plant a small, dead tree in a pot and move it outdoors once bottles adorn its branches.