According to The Sussex Archaeological Society, which owns Michelham Priory:
“It was buried in the mid-late 17th century when John Lulham was a tenant farmer. Intended as a countermeasure to witchcraft, it saved the victim by throwing back an evil spell onto the witch who cast it.”The stoneware jug contained pins and a wax effigy of a heart and is currently on display in the priory museum.
There is no historical evidence as to why John Lulham buried the witch bottle, although this was a common form of defensive magic at the time.
Today, protective spells are still one of the things witches are often asked for. Something that works in a similar way to a witch bottle is to place a small mirror in a window to deflect harmful influences.
I even used this myself once when I fell out with a friend who, in the heat of the argument, told me she hoped all sorts of horrible things came my way. I didn’t totally trust her to obey the Wiccan Rede, “Do what thou wilt, but harm none”, so I thought it was sensible to take precautions just in case she decided to curse me for real.
Nothing bad did happen to me, although whether that was thanks to my mirror or not I will never know.
Michelham Priory is at Upper Dicker, Hailsham, East Sussex BN27 3QS. Tel: 01323 844224.