Not All Bottles Need Caps

My first experience with Bottle Trees was at Quigley Castle in Eurica Springs, AR. The “one of a kind” house was built in the 1940’s with stones collected by Elise Quigley and gardens     contain many decorations made from glass bottles. It was then that I decided that bottle trees would be included in any future landscape project.

Quigley Castle

Quigley Castle, Eurica Springs, AR

The Bottle Tree Story

The roots of the Bottle Tree are in the middle of 9th century Africa…the Congo.In Africa, the Congo Tree Altar is a tradition of honoring deceased relatives with graveside memorials. The grieving family would surround the grave with plates which were leaned against the grave or hung from nearby trees. The plates were thought to resemble mushrooms, the Congo word for “mushroom” is similar to their word “to love”. Traditions follow people and the bottle tree tradition was brought to this country by Africans.As the stories were passed from generation to generation, the tradition changed.

Sky Cabin-Wayne National Forest-Fly, OH

In one variation of the belief, bottles were hung from trees by strings, in hopes that any devilish spirits lurking near the house would be attracted to the colorful bottles shining in the dusk. The spirits would become mesmerized by the play of the sunlight through the colors of the glass, and become trapped inside the bottles which were periodically corked and thrown into the river to wash away the unwanted spirits. In another variation of this theme, the spirits are also trapped in the bottles, but are said to be destroyed when the sun comes out the next morning.

Sky Cabin-Wayne National Forest- Fly, OH

Sometimes the bottles were hung in trees by strings, but usually they were put on the tips of the tree. Cedar trees were most-often used since their up-turned branches pointed heaven-ward and were just right for the placement of the bottles.

Sky Cabin -Wayne National Forest- Fly, OH

Although bottles of many colors were used, blue was thought to be an especially potent spirit repellant. This is why you can still find homes in the south with blue-painted doors and window frames. It was thought blue, the color of sky and water, has the power to repel or overcome evil. Blue is also the color of dreams, spirituality, of distance, and the heavenly realm. Whatever color bottle was used, it was the bright colors of the bottle trees which were used to attract and trap the spirits.

When a soft wind blows, you can hear the moans
of the trapped spirits whistling on the breeze.
The way the spirits get free is if a bottle breaks,
so take care around the Bottle Tree!”


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