The Bottle Tree – Legend & Lore

When a soft wind blows, you can hear the moans
of the trapped spirits whistling on the breeze.
The way the spirits get free is if a bottle breaks,
so take care around the Bottle Tree!”

   Jerry Swanson – Bottle Tree Creations  

According to legend, slaves from Africa brought the idea of the bottle tree to the “New World” with them.  They would use a real tree and place colored bottes on the branches.  Supposedly this would trap evil spirits inside the bottle and the family that lived on the property would be safe from evil and harm.  Today’s bottle trees are a true Southern tradition but instead of being covered with old blue canning jars or even medicine bottles, they are covered with wine bottles (typically blue, but not always).  When I see one in someone’s yard, the first thing I think (with a smile) is there lives a kindred spirit (pun intended!).

My research on the bottle tree surprised me.  I have always thought they were a neat feature for the yard or flower and herb garden.  Not knowing there was any superstition surrounding how they started, I was just curious and wanted to know more about how today’s chic garden accessory came to be.

So how far back does this tradition go and why has it made such a comeback?  I haven’t found anything that tells why we are experiencing such a comeback of the bottle tree, but I have found from several sources that the tree dates as far back as the 9th century in the African Congo.  The practice started with plates being laid around the graves of deceased family members but was changed to hanging bottles off a tree once the practice was brought to America.  This was as much to keep away deceased family members as it was to ward off evil spirits.  The belief was that family Spirits would enter the home to take family members with them back to the “land of the dead.”

You can buy bottle trees online as well as at local wineries.  One winery here in North Carolina that sells them is Weathervane Winery.   Until doing my research, I had not given much thought as to why the ones on display at Weathervane were only blue bottles.  There are definitely no evil spirits in Weathervane, just good wine and good times so maybe it works!!!

All of this intrique makes me want one even more!

For more information on Bottle Trees, I would recommend: 


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Natalie
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 21:25:32

    Love this post! I really like a bottle tree, but those blue and red bottles are hard to come by.


    • Red Wine Diva
      Mar 21, 2013 @ 22:36:09

      Thanks for Dri ing by, Natalie! If you are ever in any of the South Carolina coastal towns, check out the local artisans. They all have hand-crafted bottle trees.


  2. Janice
    Jul 23, 2013 @ 17:13:08

    I am looking for red bottles. Do you know where I can find them?


  3. Lisa/Life Can Be Simple
    Aug 05, 2013 @ 20:18:24

    We made ours this past weekend and here in North East TN I may have overstepped it according from the stares from the neighbors,lololol but WE,my hubby and I love it,and really he did most of the work,but the blue bottles are really hard to find in a recycle bin for bottles,where I got mine,cleaned and scraped the labels,but like I said WE love it.


    • Red Wine Diva
      Aug 05, 2013 @ 20:23:07

      Glad you have your bottle tree AND it is all about personal preference. I would love to have some red bottles on mine, but all of mine are blue. The bottle trees are really big here in SC. Enjoy yours!!!


  4. judy lunnemann
    May 11, 2014 @ 16:15:34

    my daughter gave me a bottle tree for mothers day very neat in my garden


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