The Brillance Of Bottle Trees

The Brillance Of Bottle Trees February 19, 2018

Bottle Tree sculpture photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.
Bottle Tree sculpture by Stephanie Dwyer,  photo by Lilith Dorsey. All rights reserved.

It’s probably best to start with the question what are bottle trees ? Bottle trees are trees with bottles placed over the ends of their branches, or hung from them. Furthermore, they can also be makeshift trees made of wood or metal, but also with bottles attached to the ends. These displays have a long history that goes back to Africa, and the ancestors. It was around 1600 B.C.E. when hollow glass bottles began to be used, and soon after the belief that they could hold spirits arose. As a result these became the genies in a bottle we are all familiar with.

The History of Bottle Trees

Historically, bottle trees are Kongo in origin. Robert Farris Thompson in his book Flash of the Spirit writes ” it is, however, in the United States that most Kongo-derived bottle trees are to be found – from the Sabine River area in eastern Texas to the coast of South Carolina, with concentrations in Virginia, southern Arkansas, northern Mississippi, and southeastern Alabama.”

A bottle tree exhibit is even featured in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. There it talks about how they can be used to keep away negativity. Bottle trees are also connected to the ancestors. They are very common in both Hoodoo and Folk magic.  This fact is shown in the popular television show Underground. The show includes a scene in series 2 episode 2 where all the slaves are gathered around one of these trees, and the following words are spoken –

Some amongst we

The evil will take over

They done forgot what the ancestors taught we

We hang the bottles for a trap the evil spirits that threaten us

To keep we people strong

This here who we be

This sacred tree can protect we

If we protect one another

It be the ancestor way

Be we way

It gwana be the children way

How To Make A Bottle Tree

If you are making a bottle tree from a living tree it is best to focus on the younger branches. Because of their age, these branches are more flexible and will be able to grow with your tree. The first bottle tree I made grew strong, and even had leaves growing inside of the bottles after awhile. Almost any kind of bottle can be used. Most often people use clear, green, or blue. The blue color is most likely associated with cobalt blue, and haint blue, two colors traditionally used in protection magick. Make sure the bottles are clean and empty, then hang or place them on the ends of the branches. In conclusion, you can add as many or as few as you like. That’s all there is to it.


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About Lilith Dorsey
Lilith Dorsey M.A. , hails from many magickal traditions, including Celtic, Afro-Caribbean, and Native American spirituality. Her traditional education focused on Plant Science, Anthropology, and Film at the University of R.I, New York University and the University of London, and her magickal training includes numerous initiations in Santeria also known as Lucumi, Haitian Vodoun, and New Orleans Voodoo.Lilith Dorsey is a Voodoo Priestess and in that capacity has been doing successful magick since 1991 for patrons, is editor/publisher of Oshun-African Magickal Quarterly and filmmaker of the experimental documentary Bodies of Water :Voodoo Identity and Tranceformation,’ choreographer/performer for jazz legend Dr. John’s “Night Tripper” Voodoo Show, and author of Voodoo and Afro-Caribbean Paganism, 55 Ways to Connect to Goddess, The African-American Ritual Cookbook, and Love Magic. You can read more about the author here.

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