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Like most haunters, I do not find my witchy scenes to be complete without Witch Bottles. These can be bought at different stores like Etsy, Hobby Lobby (U.S.) or Michaels for outrageous prices. I can not say that I haven’t purchased one or two, but I will say that I prefer to make my own. In my opinion, many of the witch bottles you buy are kind of, shall we say, obviously mass produced, cartoony, with cliché ingredients. This is fine and can be awesome if that is the look you are going for, but it is not my look. This does not mean that I will not use the bottles I have already purchased, it just means I don’t plan to buy anymore unless I find something very special.

This year since I am in the process of repairing a couple of bottles that were damaged last season and making a bunch of new ones, I am going to share my process with you. Making a witch bottle is not difficult nor does it have to be expensive. It starts with what you know about herbs and plants, and your imagination.

My haunt’s back story begins in 1896 with the arrival of Lavinia. She is a wise woman, a follower of the old ways, what many would have called a witch. My witch bottles need to reflect this. I begin the witch bottle process long before sitting down to put them all together. It starts with the bottles themselves. I have, on occasion, purchased interesting bottles from stores, especially small ones with corks. These are plain, cheap bottles and I find them hard to resist. I also save any bottle I think I can use from ketchup to honey, again especially if they are an interesting shape. A narrow top like a wine or ketchup bottle I use for liquid, a wide opening like a honey jar I will use for dry ingredients.

During this collection time, I am also making a list of bottle ingredients. As an herbalist, I know that any witch worth her salt would have labeled everything. Herbalists can use an average of 100 herbs in practice. This is, of course, just an average some herbalists use more, some less. Either way, it is not safe to just rely on your memory. Labeling is essential. So, I create a list.

Staying true to my back story, I have called this list Lavinia’s Daughters’ Materia Medica. I currently have around 44 different herbs and formulas in the list. For some I have used the current common name of the herb, others I am using what would be a folk name from long ago. For example, one bottle is Catnip, another is Eye of Newt (mustard seed). I have also created formula names which I think a witch may need such as First Kiss (love potion) or Drops of Awen (inspirational potion).

From the list I create the labels. I have created labels in both Word and Publisher. In the past, I used a combination of shapes and clip art. I have also used blank labels created by other haunters. It was a few years ago, and the labels were a free download. This year, I am using a font package I recently purchased. It has vintage fonts and label templates. It is awesome. I do not have Printshop but was able to make a lot of the graphics work using Publisher.

After I finish creating and printing my labels, it is time to age them. According to my back story, the followers of Lavinia, Lavinia’s Daughters, would continue to use these formulas and bottles over and over throughout the years. I use both tea and coffee staining to age the paper. Yes, I print the labels on plain paper. When I am happy with the look of the staining, I let them dry. Once dry it is time to seal them. My haunt is outdoors. I do not own a garage, so everything has to be able to at least last Halloween night outside in rain or snow. I use Mod Podge indoor/outdoor and coat several times. I usually put the bottles out during the day on Halloween and bring in that night and have never had a problem with the labels coming off. If you are indoors, you should not have any problems.

Once they are dry, I cut the labels out of the paper. It is easier to cut them after the drying time as they are a little bit thicker. Just make sure you use sharp scissors to get around the corners and any fine details. Be careful, don't cut yourself.

Next you need to glue the labels to the bottles. I again use Mod Podge. Covering the entire label allows it to stick to the bottle without any issues. It actually looks like a real label when you are done.

After the labels have dried it is time to fill and decorate the bottles.

I try to fill my bottles with as many genuine materials as I can. So, my Catnip bottle will have actual dried Catnip from my garden. However, things like Death Cap Mushrooms or Bat’s Wings (Holly) will be made from clay. Using air dry clay, I am able to use my skills and extra cake decorating tools (that I no longer use for cake decorating) to make leaves, mushrooms or anything else I can’t find or don’t grow. If I end up running out of time or want a more authentic look and cannot achieve this by creating something myself, I will use artificial flowers and leaves. I also create a few “tinctures”. These are bottles filled with different coloured liquids. I try to create bright colours so they will glow under different lights.

Wicked Makers made a swirling potion bottle which I am hoping to replicate this year. The directions for making one yourself are on their YouTube channel. They are awesome.

Lastly, to decorate the bottles I think about what Lavinia, or her followers would use. This includes: stones, amulets, charms, chain, wooden beads, feathers, yarn, burlap, fabric, clay and twine.

Some people add dust and cobwebs to their bottles using chinchilla dust. I believe this should also match your haunt. Potions that are rarely used could be dusty and have an occasional cobweb but if the witch is using an ingredient or potion often it would not be very dusty at all. If your witch has passed on and is no longer using the bottles more dust and more cobwebs. I know these are details that only you or actors, if you have them, would notice but, in my opinion, it adds to the ambiance.

Trying to have an authentic and immersive experience for the guests to your haunt is a hard job but it can be also fun and inexpensive. Give a bottle a try, you can make them to suit whatever haunt you are creating.

As the Halloween season of 2023 came to an end, the Chabby House crew (being myself, my husband, and my son) decided that it would be the last time we had a walk-through haunted house in the backyard. There were several reasons for this decision. The primary being:

  • The cost of replacing the walls almost every year. Our haunt is a free experience for the neighbourhood kids and the cost of lumber, etc. is just getting out of hand.

  • There was also the issue of the weather. We do not have a garage so setting up in September/October in the rain, snow or heavy wind is a very stressful experience.

  • There has also been a growing group of parents who are sadly not allowing their kids to enter the walk-through.

It just seemed time to put the walk-through to bed.

BUT. . .

Please do not think we have lost heart. The Halloween spirit is still alive and kicking here at Chabby House. Our haunt is going to continue in a new form. Decorating the front of the house will not end. The cemetery will always be here come October, however, there is more in the works.

As I now only have to focus on the front and not try to fill a house with props, I believe I will have enough props, money and time to make something awesome. My plans include a new home for my witchy self and Lavinia’s Daughters. I want to include a telling of the story of Chabby House in some form. I am planning to add more detail and characters. I want the experience to be a bit more interactive and fun.

I will try to keep you all updated here on my website and on my Facebook page.

Halloween will come again with its fun, scares and tasty treats.

Only 235 more days left

Updated: May 12, 2020

Lavinia had waited until dark to head out to her garden. There was no need for prying eyes tonight and she could never be sure that the hedge would keep out the nosey. Pulling her shawl into place and securing it to her waist, she strode to the garden. It was time.

Turning toward the full moon, Lavinia raised her arms and called out. “I have placed some milk for thee, here beneath the old oak tree. I ask that you Lesidhe come and spend a moment with me.”

Lavinia lowered her arms and patiently waited, silent in the dark. Moments passed and finally she heard a faint rustling in the leaves. Slowly a branch separated itself from the tree and transformed into a little figure. He shook his fist angrily at Lavinia.

“I apologize for disturbing you. I hope you weren’t quite asleep yet. The snow has not yet begun to fall and the leaves on still on the apple tree.”

The little creature lowered his fist but continued to frown petulantly. A few moments passed before he gestured impatiently for her to go on.

“I know the time is short, but I need your help with a little problem. I know you love the wild places as much as I, likely more. There is one who is not so inclined. If I give you his name, will you deal with him for me?”

The little creature shifted from one foot to the other as he considered Lavinia’s request. Tormenting an unworthy human was a treat and well worth a slight delay in a Lesidhe’s winter sleep. If he waited until the Spring, it was possible this opportunity would no longer be available. A wicked grin began to cross his face. With a sharp nod, he agreed.

A slow smile touched Lavinia’s lips. “Thank you. Now, you can find this monster at . . .”

This year a new creature can be found at Chabby House. I have created my version of a Lesidhe (Lay-shee). According to A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk by Edain McCoy, a Lesidhe is a solitary forest guardian. These creatures are always disguised as foliage, so actually seeing one is very difficult and you might only see one when they move. They are most active at dawn and dusk but seem to prefer to be nocturnal. They do not like humans as a rule and like to lose hikers deep in the woods by mimicking the sounds of birds and people. Their dislike of people seems to be based in our treatment of the environment. Contact is not advised because no one really knows what they will do.

I found it difficult to find much more written about them. They are grouped together with other nature spirits, if you are inclined to find out more about them.

My Lesidhe was built using a small plastic skeleton for the frame and then sculpting the figure from different types of clay. Then I painted him and gave him a thick coating of leak seal. If the weather is favourable, you might be able to find him in the garden.

I will post a full picture of my Lesidhe after his debut this year.


The Lesidhe

Chabby House Notes

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