Thinking it was a really old bottle of alcohol, Antiques Roadshow expert Andy McConnell took a tiny drink of some brown mystery liquid in a 2016 episode. Repulsed by the taste, the glass expert said, "I think it's port - port or red wine... or it's full of rusty old nails and that's rust." In a new episode, the show's host, Fiona Bruce, has now revealed that he was partially right. There was rust, as well as urine, a single human hair, and a couple other things.
"Inside were these brass pins, all of these dating from the late 1840s, and the liquid – urine, a tiny pit of alcohol and one human hair," explained Bruce.
"And a mysterious little creature called an ostracod, which is like a little cockle. So [this] was not a bottle of port or wine, but a witches bottle.
"So buried in the threshold of the house as a talisman against witchcraft, against curses, against misfortune coming into the home."
McConnell replied: "Yummy. Such good news."
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Last month, I posted about "witch bottles" -- containers of curious items like human teeth, fish hooks, glass shards, and undetermined liquid -- sometimes found in chimneys or inside walls of old buildings where they were placed to ward off evil spells, spirits, and curses. Turns out that there's a new book -- "Magical House Protection: the Archaeology of Counter-Witchcraft" by Brian Hoggard -- all about the strange history of witch bottles and other kinds of occult home protection! From John Rimmer's post about the text over at Magonia Review of Books:
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We are all familiar with the practice of hanging up horse-shoes as a ‘good-luck’ token, although there is some disagreement as to whether the points of the shoe should be pointing up or down. My grandmother insisted that if the points were turned down, “the luck would all run out”.
Lots of people hang up a horseshoe, but maybe we would be less inclined to bury a dead cat under our threshold, or place a bottle full of urine and nail clippings up our chimney, or nail horses skulls underneath the floorboards? These are just some of the objects which have been used for centuries to offer some sort of ‘magical protection’ to houses and other properties.
In the past magic and witchcraft was not a topic for discussion between believers and sceptics, it was just an ordinary part of everyday life, and taking precautions to divert its power was seen as no more remarkable than taking an umbrella with you on a wet day to protect you from the rain.
In Watford, England, construction workers doing demolition at a former pub and inn found a weird bottle inside the chimney. Containing human teeth, fish hooks, glass shards, and liquid, the container was apparently a 19th century "witch bottle" meant to protect against evil spells. Above, examples of such bottles. From Smithsonian:
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The newly discovered bottle is one of more than 100 recovered from old buildings, churchyards and riverbanks across Great Britain to date. Most specimens trace their origins to the 1600s, when continental Europe was in the grips of a major witch panic. Common contents found in witch bottles include pins, nails, thorns, urine, fingernail clippings and hair.
According to BBC News, the Watford property—now a private residence but formerly known as the Star and Garter inn—is best known as the birthplace of Angeline Tubbs, a woman later nicknamed the Witch of Saratoga...
The home’s current owner does not plan on displaying the bottle. Instead, the anonymous individual says they “will probably hide it away again for someone to find in another 100 years or so.”
So, how exactly did witch bottles work? Per JSTOR Daily’s Allison C. Meier, practitioners filled the vessels with an assortment of items, but most commonly urine and bent pins. The urine was believed to lure witches traveling through a supernatural “otherworld” into the bottle, where they would then be trapped on the pins’ sharp points. Would-be witchcraft victims often embedded the protective bottles under hearths or near chimneys; as anthropologist Christopher C.
After a few false starts and rumors, the classic 1996 teen witch film The Craft will be remade, according to a fresh listing in industry trade Production Weekly. Not a big shock as right now there's a witchcraft resurgence afoot, especially among millennials. (In fact, the directors should hire badass witch Pam Grossman to help them make real magick!) Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Get Out, BlacKkKlansman) will produce the remake. Daniel Casey (Fast & Furious 9) and Zoe Lister-Jones (Band Aid) are writing it and Lister-Jones is directing. Here's the synopsis:
A remake of the 1996 supernatural teen thriller. When starting at a new school, Hannah befriends Tabby, Lourdes, and Frankie & quickly becomes the fourth member of their Clique. Hannah soon learns that she somehow brings great power to the quartet.
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The "impossible screw" will "drive you nuts." It appears to turn only clockwise -- even when you turn it around.
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It's a small project you can do in your home shop even if you don't have a milling machine or lathe. A hacksaw and a file will do. It also makes a nice last minute present.
Our current news cycle pushes out stories, scandals and tales of catastrophe faster than shit through a goose. There's no keeping on top of it all anymore. With this being the case, it's little wonder that we managed to miss the fact that a Canadian woman was charged with what amounts to witchcraft this past October.
This weekend police in Milton, a small town in Ontario, arrested 32-year-old Dorie Stevenson who was running a psychic business out of her basement. She was charged with extortion, fraud over $5,000 [$3,813 USD], and witchcraft/fortune telling. If you’re thinking, whoa, Canada has witchcraft laws? Well, the answer would be yes, but they’re probably not exactly what you think.
It's covered under section 365 in the Criminal Code under the title “pretending to practice witchcraft.” It focuses on anyone who “fraudulently” gets paid to tell fortunes, “pretends to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or conjuration,” or using their “skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science” to find where lost things are.
Stevenson was picked up by Halton Regional Police after it was discovered that she was running a business, selling psychic insights to folks out of her basement. That's fine: there's plenty of folks in Canada doing much the same. What the cops took exception with, after a months-long investigation, was the fact that Stevenson was preying on her customers while they were in a vulnerable state. According to the police, Stevenson was routinely telling her customers that she could foresee terrible things happening to them if they didn't bring her cash, jewelry and other expensive bobbles that would help her to divert their encroaching disaster. Read the rest
In 1969, Capitol Records released this incredible double LP set (and double 8-track tape) from Vincent Price titled "Witchcraft-Magic: An Adventure in Demonology." Hear the whole thing above. The nearly two hours of spoken word includes sections on the history and culture of "witchcraft" and helpful guides such as "How To Invoke Spirits, Demons, Unseen Forces" and "How To Make A Pact With The Devil." I certainly wouldn't vouch for the factual accuracy or research rigor of the material, but hearing horror icon Price's silky narration about such topics as necromancy and the "Witches Sabbat" is a joy.
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My favorite witch, Pamela Grossman (who runs the art/occult blog, Phantasmaphile, the podcast, The Witch Wave, and is the author of What is a Witch) recently sat down with Jason Louv of Ultraculture to talk all things witchy.
On the podcast they discuss (among other things):
What being an “out” magician was like growing up and in the working world, and what the reaction has been like
How the archetype of the witch can help empower us, evolve us and move us forward as a culture
The resurgence of the toxic right
How hope for the future is shining through, even in our dark present moment
For those of us interested in such things, it's a smart, far-ranging, and fascinating conversation. You can read more about Pam and listen to the podcast here.
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In light of the forthcoming Ridley Scott-produced miniseries on the life of U.S. rocketry pioneer, JPL co-founder, and occultist, Jack Parsons, it's wonderful to see this brilliant discussion of Parsons, at least the occult dimensions of his work, making the rounds.
On this Occulture podcast, host Ryan Peverly welcomes Boing Boing pal Erik Davis to discuss two significant academic papers that Erik has recently published about Parsons, "Babalon Launching" [PDF], exploring the odd interplay of techno-science and occultism in Parsons' work, and "Babalon Rising," which examines Parsons' relationship with the divine feminine and the form of witchcraft he was developing before his untimely death in 1952 in a home lab explosion. It is fascinating to speculate how modern witchcraft might have been different if Parsons' (and wife Cameron's) witchcraft had come to fruition in the early 1950s alongside Gerald Gardner's brand of Wicca. Erik and Ryan are joined in the discussion by Miguel Conner (host of Aeon Byte/Gnostic Radio) and Jeff Wolfe (Secret Transmissions).
If you are unfamiliar with Parsons, he's an extremely important figure in both the development of American/California aerospace and modern occultism. The best book on Parsons, the one the miniseries is based on, is George Pendle's Strange Angel. The book Sex & Rockets, by the pseudonymous John Carter, delves more deeply into the occult and hedonistic aspects of Parsons' life. Read the rest
My favorite witch, Pam Grossman, editor of the phantastic art and occult blog, Phantasmaphile, and author of What is a Witch, has recently released WitchEmoji, a new messaging sticker pack for iPhone.
The set offers 80 stickers in all, including the typical tools of spellcraft, symbols and sigils, and male and female witches of various skin tones. Pam created the set, with the help of icon illustrator Julia Heffernan, because she wanted to invoke more witchy symbolism in her mobile missives and there weren't many existing stickers that fit the bill.
The response to the set has been extremely positive and Pam says she'd like to expand to Android and elsewhere. Given the success of the Apple set, I imagine we'll be seeing emoji-based spellcasting coming to other phones sooner than later.
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My friend, the horror writer, Fortean investigator, and educator, Michael Hughes, has been circulating details for a series of occult rituals being planned to cast a "spell to bind Donald Trump and all those who abet him." The basic mission statement of the ritual:
To be performed at midnight on every waning crescent moon until he is removed from office. The first ritual takes place Friday evening, February 24th, at the stroke of midnight. This binding spell is open source, and may be modified to fit your preferred spiritual practice or magical system — the critical elements are the simultaneity of the working (midnight, EST—DC, Mar-a-Lago, and Trump Tower NYC time) and the mass energy of participants.
I had to chuckle at the shopping list for the ritual:
Unflattering photo of Trump (small); see below for one you can print
Tower tarot card (from any deck)
Tiny stub of an orange candle (cheap via Amazon)
Pin or small nail (to inscribe candle)
White candle (any size), representing the element of Fire
Small bowl of water, representing elemental Water
Small bowl of salt, representing elemental Earth
Feather (any), representing the element of Air
Matches or lighter
Ashtray or dish of sand
Piece of pyrite (fool’s gold)
Black thread (for traditional binding variant)
Baby carrot (as substitute for orange candle stub)
They had me a "tiny orange candle" and "baby carrot."
Whether you're a believer in any flavor of woo-woo or just see this as Yippie-esque political theater/performance art, a la the 1967 levitation of the Pentagon, you may be interested in participating. Read the rest
Animator Leigh Lahav and writer Oren Mendez created this wizarding world-salute to the holiday season. Read the rest
Richard Carter, proprietor of Mystical Moments, Huddersfield, England's New Age supply shop, does not permit Harry Potter fans to purchase his handmade magic wands. Carter says he is selling "spiritual tools," not toys. Carter, who reportedly fashions the wands under supernatural control, tells The Telegraph:
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"JK Rowling has obviously done her research but Harry Potter is for children. It has done nothing for business.... You wouldn't believe how many real witches and wizards there are knocking about. You would be amazed. They know they can come here in reveal themselves without people thinking they're mental...
If I had someone come in wanting a wand just because they liked Harry Potter I would not sell them one, not matter how much money they were offering....I can tell what people are like when they walk in by their aura."
The suspect worked at a local Naval base, but there's no talk of terrorism because he was also white.
A most bizarre book from the late 18th century.
Scans of a wonderful old book about witches are making the internet rounds anew. Here they are in hi-rez glory.
Joseph E. Baker's "Witch No. 1" (1892) is a stunning lithograph illustrating the imagined events that are part of the mythology of the horrific Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th century. To learn more, check out Smithsonian's "Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials." Read the rest