To history experts, the scenario goes something like this: A Union officer stationed on enemy Southern soil drops a handful of iron nails into a bottle, adds some personal effects — clippings of his hair or fingernails, maybe some urine — corks it up and buries it near his hearth.The Wikipedia entry on witch bottles:
He likely offers up a fervent prayer that he’ll survive the Civil War and return home to Pennsylvania. And the bottle of nails was his good luck charm.
A century and a half later, in 2016, archaeologists excavating the remains of a Civil War outpost on a broad highway median in York County before widening work unearthed that bottle. The lip was broken off, the nest of nails badly rusted.
The artifact was cleaned up and cataloged as a sort of makeshift storage container. Then, six months ago, experts in ceramics and folk ritual recognized it for what it is: a witch bottle — part of a tradition of folk magic that stretches back to the Middle Ages.
At first, archaeologists at WMCAR thought there were perhaps only 12 known witch bottles in this country, compared to a couple hundred in Great Britain. But
Witch bottles began as countermagical devices used as protection against other witchcraft and evocation.