A few years ago, Mary Ann and I heard an interesting piece on the radio about "bottle trees." These are trees or bushes on which are suspended glass bottles, preferably blue, the intent of which is to ward off evil spirits or ghosts. We found it amusing and actually acquired a few blue glass bottles in anticipation of someday having a bottle tree in our yard.
According to the Website maintained by Felder Rushing on the History of Bottle Trees,
"Although glass was made deliberately as early as 3500 B.C. in northern Africa, hollow glass bottles began appearing around 1600 B.C. in Egypt and Mesopotamia. Clear glass was invented in Alexandria around 100 A.D.
Soon around then, tales began to circulate that spirits could live in bottles - probably from when people heard sounds caused by wind blowing over bottle openings. This led to the belief in "bottle imps" and genies (from the Arabic word djinn) that could be captured in bottles (remember Aladdin and his magic lamp? This story originated as an Arabian folk tale dating back thousands of years, even before clear glass was invented). Somewhere in there, people started using glass to capture or repel bad spirits. The idea was, roaming night spirits would be lured into and trapped in bottles placed around entryways, and morning light would destroy them.
Incidentally, you will run into folks who refuse to put up bottle trees because of the connection to pagan superstitions. HOWEVER, before people learned about cold germs and allergies, early Greeks and Romans thought that sneezes were bad spirits being expelled. When someone sneezed, nearby people would snap their fingers to keep the spirit out of their own bodies, and say "Jupiter preserve you" to keep the spirit from reentering the sneezer. Because superstitions were so hard to stop, and pagan festivals were so ingrained, an early pope in the 3rd century A.D. (the same one who decided to "go with the flow" and put Christmas on the pagan winter solstice festivities, and Easter on the pagan spring fertility festivals) changed "Jupiter preserve you" to "God bless you."
All this is well-established, not lore. So, like it or not, or even if they aren’t aware of this historical fact, folks who say “God bless you” (or similar salutations) are performing an ancient pagan superstitious ritual. And they get indignant when this is pointed out - yet they continue to assume that those of us who love colorful bottle trees are somehow involved in pagan practices! Sheesh.
Anyway, the bottle imp/bad spirit thing was carried down through sub-Saharan Africa and up into eastern Europe, and eventually imported into the Americas by African slaves – and Germans, Irish, and other superstitious folk who among other things put hex symbols on barns and celebrated May Day and Halloween. Europeans brought "witch balls" (hollow balls with an opening in the bottom to capture witches) and "gazing balls" to repel witches.
Nowadays, bottle trees are mostly used as interesting garden ornaments that glisten in the sun, and the use of colorful glass garden art is on the upswing, as any visit to upscale garden shows (including the Chelsea Flower Show in London) will prove."
Well, Ebabe's gifts now has the latest gift for the bottle tree afficianado -- a solar-powered illuminated botte tree!!! It has a small photovoltaic panel that faces the sun and charges a battery. At night, the individual stalks on which the bottles reside glow with small light-emitting diodes. Is that cool or what?