Witch balls, also called spirit balls, are one of Peach Perfect's most popular presents for mystical people and those who love unusual, quirky gifts. We wanted to find out more about these beautiful, bewitching glass ornaments, and here's what we discovered about their weird and wonderful world ...
1. Mysterious origin
Firstly, no one's entirely sure 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, "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 friend
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 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 were being used as protection against bad spirits and to watch over a property, 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!
The reason they have shards of glass or decorative patterns inside (sometimes wool or threads in older ones) - unlike "friendship balls" - is to ensure any evil entity attracted to it becomes entangled and trapped inside. Other containers could also be used such as "witch bottles", with threads and spells inside.
4. Predicting the future
Some people have used witch balls in a similar way to crystal balls, for scrying, to divine 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, 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. Many witch balls 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. We love the way in which one of our customers who runs a pub in Kent displays his Peach Perfect witch balls (pre lock down photo)!
Nowadays, most people are attracted to witch balls, or spirit balls, for no other reason than their delicate beauty and the way they sparkle in the sunlight. In our view, knowing more about their mysterious world can only add to their charm.
If you're looking for a special gift for a friend who'd be equally enchanted - or for a treat for you to hang in a window at home - you can find our Witch Balls and Spirit Balls in our Crystal & Spiritual Gifts Collection. Along with lots of other lovely gift ideas to inspire you. Good luck!