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Catching and Binding Spirits: The Real Story Behind The American Bottled Tree

Bottled trees originated in Africa, most people believe the bottle tree began in the 9th century in Africa, but there is evidence that it actually began around A.D. 100. It was a tradition of the Africans to hang shiny objects along with bright ribbons outside the home and in trees. The reason for doing this was to attract evil spirits to the trees and outside the home.

A tree would be stripped of its leaves near the corner of a house to be decorated with bottles. Cedar trees were the most preferred trees because the branches pointed toward heaven. But, any tree could be used it just depended upon which one set in the corner of the house. A favorite bottle color often used was blue, some people also believed that the blue bottles contained healing qualities.


The bottle tree lore contends that evil spirits are attracted to the sparkling colors. The spirits entered the bottles and were trapped inside, especially if the neck of the bottle was greased to ease their entry. When the wind blows, the evil spirits can be heard “howling” inside. There are some who believe that bottle trees can grant wishes, others who think that the tree holds the spirits of dead ancestors, but the trapped evil is the most widely accepted viewpoint. Once the evil spirits were trapped the slaves would cork the bottles and throw them into the river to wash away the evil spirits.


Written by PH

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