1926.6.1

Glass flask reputed to contain a witch. [MJD 19/06/2013]

Place details: EUROPE. UK. England East Sussex Brighton and Hove . Cultural Group: European English Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Glass / Silver Metal / Cork Plant / Wax / ?. Processes: Blown / ?. Colour: Silvered Dimensions: L = 110 mm When Collected: 1915 Acquired: Donated 1926 Related Collections: See other collections given by Miss Murray.

KEYWORD: Religious Object / Vessel / Stopper / CLASS: Religion / Vessel / ?.

Object description: Glass flask reputed to contain a witch. The glass is bilobed with vertical ribs. It is silvered on the inside. The top is stoppered with a cork and sealed with brown wax. [MJD 19/06/2013]

Publications history, trails & websites: Discussed on pages 231-2 of 'Documents of British Superstition in Oxford (A Lecture Delivered before the Oxford University Anthropological Society, on the 2nd of November, 1949)', by Ellen Ettlinger, in Folklore, Vol. 54, no. 1 (March 1943), pp. 227-49. Quoting information supplied by T. K. Penniman, Ettlinger writes: 'A small ribbed glass-bottle, silvered inside, of figure-of-eight form, is corked up and sealed with brown wax. "The old lady, living in a village near Hove, Sussex, by whom it was obtained about 1915, remarked: 'They do say there be a witch in it, and if you let him out there'll be a peck o' trouble.'" Stories of ghost-laying, where the ghost is consigned to a bottle or any other small receptacle are universally current; they are especially frequent in Montgomeryshire, but also reported from Shropshire and Staffordshire.' The related footnote 23 (same page) reads: 'W. Crooke, "The Binding of a God," in Folk-lore, viii, pp. 347-8; C. S. Burne, G. F. Jackson, Shropshire Folk-lore (London, 1883), pp 122-3; Reliquary, vii, p.101.' [AP 27/09/2006; JC 30 4 2010]

Illustrated in colour (with its old metal-edged label) on page 48 of Oxford Today: The University Magazine, Vol. XV, no. 1 (Michaelmas Issue 2002) where it illustrates an entry on the Museum's Objects Talk exhibition. [JC 24 7 2003]

Illustrated in colour (with old PRM label) on page 32 of Pitt Rivers Museum: An Introduction, by Julia Cousins (Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, 2004). Caption (same page) reads: 'One of many British and European objects relating to witchcraft and magic on permanent display in the Museum.' [JC 8 10 2004]

Illustrated in colour as 35/B on page 35 of Treasures of Oxfordshire, edited by Francesca Jones, Lauren Gilmour, and Martin Henig (Oxford: FAMOS, 2004). Caption (same page), by Julia Nicholson (PRM) reads: '35/B Small glass flask, silvered on the inside and said to contain a witch. Collected in Sussex, England. In 1915 the owner, a woman living in a village near Hove, remarked "they do say there be a witch in it, and if you let un out there'll be a peck o' trouble".' [JC 23 6 2006]

Illustrated in colour on page 10 of British Archaeology, no. 108 (September/October 2009), where it illustrates correspondence about 'witch bottles' under the title 'Bottles and Blades'. The caption (on page 11) reads: 'Opposite: A silvered glass flask, height 105mm, sealed with a cork and wax, on display in the Pitt Rivers Museum.... It was collected in 1915 by Margaret Murray, Egyptologist and writer on paganism, from "an old lady...near Hove", E Sussex. Reputedly she told Murray, "They do say there be a witch in it, and if you let un out there'll be a peck o'trouble". Or it might have been designed to offer protection from witchcraft (see Bottles and blades).' [JC 23 9 2009]

Illustrated in colour in 'Margaret Murray', by Alison Petch, in England: The Other Within - Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Riuvers Museum, Oxford: Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford [website], at http://england.prm.ox.ac.uk/englishness-Margaret-Murray.html. [JC 30 4 2010]

Illustrated in colour on page 92 of The Pitt Rivers Museum: A World Within, by Michael O’Hanlon (London: Scala, 2014). Caption (same page) reads: ’69 (left) Glass flask said by its original owner to contain a witch. Sussex, England Height 110 mm Donated by Miss M.A. Murray 1926.6.1’ [MJD (Verve) 19/2/2016]