Witch Balls are popular gifts for Halloween - perfect for those souls seeking protection against roaming spirits, as well as those who simply prefer more attractive, authentic decoration than plastic pumpkins, spiders and skeletons!
Also called Spirit Balls, they make stunning keepsakes for people who like more unusual gifts at any time of the year. With their origins lost in time and their rumoured magical powers, these beautiful hand crafted glass spheres are treasured for many reasons.
So what do we really know about the history and mystery of Witch Balls?
1. Unknown origins
Well firstly, we don't know when the first Witch Balls were made. Some say they were brought to Britain by the Crusaders whereas others believe they originated here. According to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, "wondrous devices" of a similar description were being used in the sixteenth century. Later on, coloured glass ornaments known as "spheres of light" were often hung from garden arches to catch the sunshine.
2. Fishermen's friends
There are different versions of how Witch Balls acquired their name, two of which relate to superstitious fishermen and the glass balls they use to keep fishing nets afloat at sea. One is that their families hung some of the balls in their windows to act as "watch" balls, protecting the fishermen from evil spirits and harm at sea, and this name became corrupted to Witch Balls.
Another comes from the horrific "witch trials" of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which a suspected witch would otten be tied up and thrown into water. If she floated, she was guilty and if she sank (and probably drowned), she was innocent! The floating on water connection was made with the fishing balls and again the name changed over time.
3. Protection against evil
If Witch Balls are specifically being used to protect against evil spirits and to watch over a property - for example at Halloween - they're described as apotropaic (they repel misfortune). This is different from using a talisman, which is worn to attract good luck, although the end result may be similar!
They have shards of glass or decorative patterns inside (sometimes wool or threads in older ones) to attract evil spirits - hence their alternative name of Spirit Balls - which then get entangled and trapped inside and so are unable to harm the occupants of the house.
4. Predicting the future
People have also used Witch Balls in a similar way to crystal balls, for scrying or divining the future. If the Witch Ball became cloudy, it would foretell someone's death. As above, other objects could also be used as alternative divination objects, depending on what the fortune teller had to hand and perhaps how confident they felt!
5. Location, location, location
As Witch Balls became more popular over time, many of the glass makers would keep the first ball they produced when they set up shop. They believed that if they hung it inside the shop, it would bring them success and happiness. Some were made with a shiny, silvery inside which could reflect the rest of the room, like a mirror, so making it easier to "watch" and see around corners. Practical as well as protective!
Some of the strangest places Witch Balls have been found include a church in Cornwall and another in Jerusalem. Here's how one of our customers who ran a pub in Kent displayed his Peach Perfect Witch Balls.
Many people nowadays are attracted to Witch Balls solely for their striking yet delicate beauty, glowing in the faintest glimmer of sunlight. But knowing a little bit more about their mystery and history can only add to their timeless allure.
If you're looking for an enchanting gift for a friend, or a treat for yourself to hang in a window at home, take a peek at our stunning Witch Balls and Large Spirit Balls in our Crystal & Spiritual Gifts Collection. There's still time to order before Halloween comes creeping round the corner!