I went gallivanting around town with my camera, through the older neighborhoods, hoping to find an example of a “bottle tree.” I had one goal in mind: I wanted to snap a picture of a really tacky looking bottle tree so that I could ridicule! You see, someone (who shall remain nameless) snubbed me once. She has a bottle tree in her yard, and I wanted to feel superior. I figured if I showed how tasteless she was, I would look better, right?
I was sorely disappointed in not finding one. Back to my computer I went, hoping to find a picture on-line to share. But, a horrible thing happened. As I was researching the history of the bottle tree, I fell in love with the idea and now I want one! I want one baaaad! Why? Well, this is the first picture I found:
© Eudora Welty Collection
Mississippi Department of Archives and History
It was taken by the author Eudora Welty during the 1930s when she took photographs for the Works Project Administration. I couldn’t look at that picture without wanting to know more. It seems those bottle trees that I want to razz have an interesting folk history.
Supposedly, they originated in Africa, perhaps as early as the 1700′s and came with the slaves to America. It was a tradition to hang shiny objects and bright ribbons outside of the home. The thought was that evil spirits were attracted to those objects, and it kept them outside of the home.
Often a tree was stripped of leaves near the corner of the house to be decorated with bottles. Cedar trees were preferred, because their branches pointed to heaven. But, any tree would do.
The bottle tree lore contends that evil spirits were attracted to the sparkling colors (traditionally cobalt blue was a favorite), entered the bottles and were trapped inside, especially if the neck of the bottle was greased to ease their entry. When the wind blows, the evil spirits can be heard “howling” inside. There are some who believe that bottle trees can grant wishes, others who think that the tree holds the spirits of dead ancestors, but the trapped evil is the most widely accepted viewpoint.
When I was little, I remember seeing bottle trees and wondering, “What in the world?” But no more. Bottle trees are an endangered species! Sometimes they can still be found. You can see some other examples of bottle trees in these links:
- The Lope has some fun examples of bottle trees he saw as he traveled along Route 66.
- USA Deep South has some fun ones, too.
- The Bottletree Man has a site devoted to them.
- Laurelines: drawings and paintings has an excellent water color of a bottle tree.
Now, I need a bottle tree. But, I don’t want an ordinary one. I can buy one fully equipped at Bottle Tree dot com. That’s not what I want. I’d love to have bottles that were given to me by friends. Anybody want to send me a bottle for my bottle tree? I’m serious! Contact me and I’ll give you my address. You can even drink all the contents first.
Do you have a bottle tree? Send me a picture or a link, if you do. I’m going to have me a bottle tree before the summer is out. Maybe it will have your bottles on it. I’ll put it in back, so the neighbors don’t scoff. And, isn’t that woman who snubbed me going to smirk?