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Witch Bottles

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.



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