Bottling Year-Round Eclectic Funk

From on February 18, 2009 in CalFinder News


Here’s a great way to add a burst of color in your yard during the bleak winter months or keep in your yard year round as eclectic funk: bottle trees. A great way to recycle your bottles – use them as art. Or, at least use them for a little while until you do actually recycle them.

African inspired bottle trees date back around 1000 years. The roots can be found deep in the Congo. During the slave trade the tradition followed the Africans to the southern states of the U.S. The lore of the bottle trees has been passed on from generation to generation. Bottle trees are more than a colorful decoration, they hold spirits.

bottletree2.jpgSlaves would place bottles in trees hoping to catch evil spirits that would be attracted to the bright color, go into the bottle and be trapped. Upon trapping the evil spirits the slave would place a cork in the bottle and then throw it into the river to wash away evil spirits. Another variation on the story is, instead of being thrown into the river, the evil spirits that are trapped in the bottle are destroyed at sunrise the next morning.

Sometimes the bottles were hung by strings through the tree; however, it was more common to place the bottles on the trees branches. The brighter the bottle, the better chance of luring evil spirits, though the most traditional bottle color was cobalt blue.

When the tradition migrated from Africa to the southern United States it started a trend that would last over 300 years. As you drive around the south today you’ll occasionally come across a bottle tree glistening in the southern sun.