Sunday, December 27, 2009

An American Witch Bottle Found in Colonial Pennsylvania

An interesting bottle was uncovered during recent excavations in Governor Printz State Park in Essington, Pennsylvania.  It seems to indicate the presence of early American witchcraft as such bottles are considered evidence of a type of "white witchcraft" which were commonly found only in England during the 16th. and 17th. centuries. This small piece of olive green and gold glasswork had been buried upside down in a small hole. It was buried with two objects under the shoulder of the bottle: a piece of a long thin bone from some medium-sized bird, and rim shard from a small black-glazed bowl. The bottle contained six round-headed pins and had been stoppered tightly with a whittled wooden plug. The bottle was manufactured around 1740 and may have been buried about 1748. The parallels to English charm bottles are clear enough to establish its functions as an anti-witch charm.

Many people believe that the colonial anti-witch campaigns were centered around Salem Massachusetts, but in fact these campaigns were wide spread in many colonies.  This case is reported on in Archaeology Magazine

"Witchcraft was regarded as a sufficiently serious problem in the early days of the colonies that various pieces of legislation were enacted against it. In May of 1718, Pennsylvania's legislators passed "An Act for the Advancement of Justice," which incorporated verbatim "An Act Against Conjuration, Witchcraft, and Dealing with Evil and Wicked Spirits" promulgated in England in 1685, the first year of James II's reign. This prudent legislation did not stem the tide, however, for as we learn from the work of Stevenson W. Fletcher, "Following an especially sever outbreak of the devilish machinations of witches in Chester County, in 1719, a commission of justices of the county court was empowered to enquire into 'all witchcrafts, enchantments, sorceries and magic arts.'" Even Governor William Penn presided over the trial of a witch at a meeting of the Provincial Assembly in 1684."...(Cont.)...