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The history of Witch-bottles goes back hundreds of years. The origins of this tradition has been dated to the 1500's. They were used most actively for a couple of hundred years. This is the same time when the Witch-hunts were going on. After this period, the tradition slowly waned. The last historical Witch-bottle was found in a cabin built in mid 19th century, in Pershore, Worcestershire (UK).
From the point of view of a present day Witch, the original purpose for building a Witch-bottle wasn't that pleasant: they were intended to keep Witches and Witches' curses away. The contents of a Witch-bottle was designed to not only divert an attacking Witch, but also to cause her to suffer the agonies brought on by all the nasty things inside the bottle. To put it simply: to turn the curse back to the curser.
The urine in the bottle symbolizes the target of the curse. The curser and the target of the curse were believed to have a strong connection and the curse was believed to target not only its intended victim, but also the bodily fluids of the target. When the bottle was placed in a way that made it easier for the curse to meet with the urine (in the Witch-bottle) before the actual target, the curse hit the bottle and not its intended victim. This is why the bottles were usually hidden where they were. The importance of pubic hair and hair was similar to that of the urine.
Witch-bottles are very much a part of age-old traditions of sympathetic magic with its intentions of causing pain for the Witch with the contents of the Witch-bottle. According to folk beliefs, the use of Witch-bottles sometimes brought the Witch herself, writhing in agony, knocking on the door - begging for somebody to break the Witch-bottle and promising to reverse the curse.
The Witch-bottle was believed to be active as long as the bottle remained hidden and unbroken. People did go though a lot of trouble in hiding their Witch-bottles. Those buried underneath fireplaces have been found only after the rest of the building has been torn down or otherwise disappeared.
During the 17th century in England, someone urinated in a jar, added nail clippings, hair and pins, and buried it upside-down in Greenwich, where it was recently unearthed and identified by scientists as being the world's most complete known "witch bottle."
This spell device, often meant to attract and trap negative energy, was particularly common from the 16th to the 17th centuries, so the discovery provides a unique insight into witchcraft beliefs of that period, according to a report published in the latest British Archaeology.