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Historically in cultures that accepted Magic and Magical practitioners, Witch Balls were made, and then blessed or enchanted by the local Witch or Medicine Woman before being placed in the window of ones abode to forestall any negative energies or spirits that could cause ill will or sickness.
A Witch Ball is a hollow sphere of glass. Historically, Witch Balls were hung in cottage windows in 17th and 18th century England to ward off evil spirits, witches, evil spells, ill fortune and bad spirits. The Witch Ball is still today used extensively throughout Sussex, England and continues to hold great superstition with regard to warding off evil spirits in the English counties of East Sussex and West Sussex. The tradition was also taken to overseas British colonies, such as the former British colonies of New England, and remains popular in coastal regions.
Hanging these decorative Witch Balls in the window or on the porch is thought to tantalize mischievous spirits which may be threatening a home’s tranquillity. The wayward spirit is mesmerized by the Witch Ball’s reflective beauty. When the spirit touches the sphere it is absorbed and trapped in the web-like strands of the Witch inside the Ball.
A Witch Ball was a device used for scrying or divining things. Sometimes the Witch Ball was a magic mirror, a polished stone, or a crystal ball. Some Witches fashioned specula from Black Witch Balls filled with water. By gazing into the reflective depths, a Witch could find answers to urgent questions, predict future events, or see faraway places. In maritime villages, witches sent out the Witch Ball fishermen use to hold their nets afloat. The Witch Balls were usually made of dark blue or green glass and appeared quite innocuous.
Witch Balls measure up to 10 inches in diameter, and are occasionally decorated in enamelled stripes and swirls or varying colors. Some are mirrored for use as convex mirrors. Crystal gazers sometimes claimed they used Witch Balls in which the spirits of dead souls had been banished. Therefore, the seer was thought to be dealing with spirits. Hollow Witch Balls have been suspended in the windows of homes for centuries to ward off evil spirits. Legends say that evil spirits are attracted to the beauty of the Witch Ball, and upon touching its surface they are pulled inside and become forever trapped within the glittering web, thus protecting the home from any harm.
Superstitious European sailors valued the talismanic powers of the Witch Balls in protecting their homes. Witch Balls appeared in America in the 19th century and larger, more opaque variations are often found in gardens under the name Gazing Ball. This name derives from their being used for divination and scrying where a person gazes into them dreamily to try to see future events or to see the answers to questions. However, Gazing Balls contain no strands within their interior. Glass studios traditionally make a Witch Ball as the first object to be created in a new studio.
In the 17th century, Witch Balls and Witch Bottles were filled with holy water or salt. Balls containing salt were hung up in the chimney to keep the salt dry. Witch Balls normally have a hole in the top where a peg can be inserted; string is then attached to the peg so the ball can be hung in a chimney or over a window. Early witch balls often had a short neck sealed by a stopper. The Gazing Balls found in many of today’s gardens are derived from the Silvered Witch Balls that acted as convex mirrors, warding off evil by reflecting it away. Over time the philosophy of what a Witch Ball is and should be has changed and number artists over the years have altered the Witch Ball to include vibrant colors, strands inside, twisting patterns and shape.
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