An old tradition, newly springing-up around Tucson, that has roots in Africa and Arabia, is worth studying and practicing at home: the crafting of Bottle Trees. In Arabia, the bottles trap wicked or mischievous spirits - called the djinn. The djinn are a far cry from the American TV version of I Dream of Jeannie.
All of the following sites have photos of bottle trees. Please see my List for more photos and information.
In 2007, “The Item” referred to a French author (1776) traveling through Africa who describes a tree hung with broken pots and containers to ward off evil spirits and criminals. Professor of Art history Babatunde Lawal, a Yoruba from Africa, explains plates and gourds still hang on trees throughout Africa to trap or repel evil forces and attract goodness. While small gourds are powerful, many prefer glass bottles because it provides sound and light.
If you have seen the movie “Because of Winn Dixie,” you may remember the bottle trees with the wind blowing eerily over them. Bottle trees are also seen in the movie, “Ray.”
David Tabler, in Appalachian History, refers to the Hoodoo folk-magic tradition where the blue bottle tree is preferred. The belief is that the elemental blues of water and sky place the bottle tree at a crossroads between heaven and earth; between the living and the dead. Blue bottle trees can interact with the powers of both creative and destructive spirits.
Homemade Southern Biscuits speaks of a Southern author during the 1930s, Eudora Welty, who describes bottle trees and provides photos from that era in her book, One Time, One Place, Mississippi in the Depression. Historically in the U.S., bottle trees have been most popular throughout the South, having been introduced by slaves from Africa.
So get with the kids, find pretty bottles and start reading, hanging or gluing. Have fun!