What Is a Glass Witch Ball?

Updated on May 31, 2018
kittythedreamer profile image

Holding a complete fascination with the folkloric witch, Nicole has studied the history and folklore of witchcraft since she was a child.

Witch's balls are not only gorgeous...they have an interesting history too!
Witch's balls are not only gorgeous...they have an interesting history too! | Source

A Foreword on Witchcraft

Witches can be found throughout our mythology, folklore, and history in almost every culture around the world. There are tales of evil witches exacting their revenge and there are tales of good witches helping to heal those who come to them for help. Are witches evil or good? Perhaps we will never find the answer, but one thing is for sure...the history of witches is one that is incredibly entertaining and intriguing.

Let's take a look at an object steeped in witchcraft and magic.

Source
Source

What Is a Witch Ball or Witch's Ball?

Have you ever been to New England? You may have noticed some of the older homes with hanging hand-blown glass ornaments adorning the front of the houses. Or maybe your grandmother had one at her house when you were a child. Perhaps you've noticed them sitting on top of pillars in a neighbor's garden. Did you ever wonder what those shiny, pretty globes are?

A witch ball is simply a hand-blown glass ornament of varying colors, shapes, and sizes that can be hung outside of a home or business or placed on a pillar in a garden. Most people don't know them as "witch balls" any longer, though. Many people in America refer to witch balls as "gazing balls", but originally they were called witch balls and are rooted in Old English folklore.

Just as there are various purposes and beliefs of the witches bottles and jars, there are varying purposes and beliefs for the witch ball. Probably the most well-known belief of the witch ball is that if it is hung outside of your home, it will trap evil spirits inside. The original witch balls contained strings of blown glass throughout the interior of the witch ball - these strings were thought to be what captured the evil spirits inside of the witch ball. At a time in Europe when witches were considered wise women, it is believed that many witches gave witch balls to neighbors and friends to aid them in warding off negativity and evil spirits. But over time as witches became shunned and hunted with the rise of Christianity, many people began hanging witch balls outside of their homes to ward off the very witches that invented them in the first place.

Watch Someone Make a Witch Ball:

Witch Ball at the Whitby Museum
Witch Ball at the Whitby Museum | Source
Traditional Witch Ball
Traditional Witch Ball | Source

Various Purposes for Witch Balls

Witch balls can serve many purposes for modern use. Many people still hang them outside of their front doors and around their homes. Most people probably don't even realize the purpose in the witch ball; however, if you have a witch ball and weren't sure...now you'll know!

Witch balls were also thought to be the root of the modern-day Christmas tree ornament. The legend goes that the witch balls were hung on the yule tree to prevent visitors' jealousy of the presents underneath of the tree. You can hang them on your yule tree during the Winter season to prevent from jealousy and Christmas/Yule drama, too!

Hang witch balls outside of your doors by garden hooks in order to trap any negative spirits or energies from entering your home. Folklore says that the negative spirits were attracted to the shiny, intricate witch balls...would flow inside of the witch ball and thereby be trapped forever in the interior strings. Others believed that the negative spirits would be attracted to the reflective properties of garden gazing balls and would look into it...and actually scare themselves off with their own ugly reflection!

Business-owners, specifically glass-blowers, (as the video above shows) believe that it is good luck to devise a witch ball as the first glass-blown item in their new business. They believe it will bring prosperity and keep the jealous dark workers away.

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Nicole Canfield

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    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 3 years ago from Summerland

      JillKostow - I believe they'll work anywhere. :)

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Do you have to hang it outside of the home or can it work if hung inside as well?

    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

      leah - I was surprised to find that out about the ornaments too! Pretty cool, huh? Thanks for reading.

      crazyhorsesghost - Thanks so much! That's a lot coming from a writer such as yourself. I love bottle trees too...so gorgeous. I must visit your parts of North Carolina to see the witch balls and bottle trees! :)

    • crazyhorsesghost profile image

      Thomas Byers 6 years ago from East Coast , United States

      Very interesting and well written hub. I think witch balls and bottle trees are both beautiful. We have a lot of both of them here in this part of North Carolina.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 6 years ago from Western New York

      This is absolutely fascinating! I had no idea that garden gazing balls had such a cool history - and that the ornaments on the Christmas Tree are really just miniature versions of them! Great article, kittythedreamer!

    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

      PeggyW - They are closely related and probably stem from the same roots. They are gorgeous, aren't they? I want a dozen for my yard & home now too.

      Virtual Treasures - I do, as well. Thanks for reading!

      Beth100 - Maybe your neighbors don't even know the origins of the glass witch balls, because I do believe that most people who hang them do so for ornamental reasons. They are beautiful and pretty to hang on houses and trees. Thanks for reading & voting!

    • Beth100 profile image

      Beth100 6 years ago from Canada

      These are beautiful!! I have neighbors who have these hung in their trees, but never knew the exact reason why. I thought they were ornamental -- they are artists and few of them are glass blowers. :) Now I know why. :)

      Thanks for the enlightenment! Two thumbs up!!

    • Virtual Treasures profile image

      Kacie Turner 6 years ago from Michigan

      This is great information! I love, love, love colorful hand-blown gazing balls. They are a staple in my flower beds. A windstorm takes one out, and I'm kind of happy because I get to go buy another one! I had no idea of their history. Thank you for sharing!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have never heard of witch balls. From what you say they must be hung. I guess the mounted balls which some people have in their gardens must be something else? Thanks for a very interesting hub. Voted that and sharing.

    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

      Brandon - From what I've read, yes they originated in England.

      phoenix - I'm seriously considering doing that now, since you've mentioned it! I might start putting one together today.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      You're very welcome, Miss Kitty. Already got a place on my bookshelf ready and waiting. :)

    • Brandon Martin profile image

      Brandon Martin 6 years ago from Colorado, USA

      Out of all the things I have studied, I never learned of this. These originated in Europe?

    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

      donnah75 - I'm sure it's gorgeous. Everything from Germany seems to be. :) Thanks!

    • donnah75 profile image

      Donna Hilbrandt 6 years ago from Upstate New York

      I bought a glass ball like this in Germany many years ago. I had no idea the history behind these beautiful objects. Voted up and sharing.

    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

      Thank you, Gracie and Dragonfly. :) You're both very kind.

      Seeker7 - I want a couple for my back door and around my garden now for sure. Love the legends behind the witch balls. Oh, and the "howdies" as you call them were also a part of US history. Midwives in the Ozark Mountains were probably considered the same thing, and they would do similar things to what you're describing. Thanks for dropping by, I always love getting your input. :)

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      Kitty your hubs just get more fascinating every time! This was a great read!

      Witch balls are amazing things - and there are so many beautiful examples around. No wonder folks like to hang them up even if they have no idea about the real reason for having them.

      A friend of mine - who was also a nurse - used to collect them. She had some fine examples and they were beautiful. I also think one or two of them were quite old. One in particular that she received as a gift from an elderly neighbour who had known her since she was a child, said that the witch ball had been in the family for many, many years. The old lady also said that her mother and grandmother had the witch balls outside their cottage to keep evil energies away. Before there were any regular doctors/medical centres, women in the area who acted as midwives were called Howdies. So they felt it was a good thing to keep negative energies away from them or their property when looking after mums and newborn babies. Also, often because the families around were so poor, they didn't get paid in money but with home made products like bread, jam etc. One payment was in the form of this witch ball. So lord knows how old the witch ball actually is.

      Anyway, sorry about the novel but your hubs - as always - bring back so many wonderful memories. Voted up awesome!

    • DragonflyTreasure profile image

      DragonflyTreasure 6 years ago from on the breeze.........

      WOW very interesting. Glad I have a few hanging around. Wish my ex would have gotten caught in one ;)

      Love your hubs ? voted up ?

    • GracieLinda profile image

      GracieLinda 6 years ago from Brandon, FL

      Love this hub. You are a wealth of knowledge. I always wondered what those balls were. Thanks so much. Voted up!

    • kittythedreamer profile image
      Author

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from Summerland

      Parks - Very strange that it disappeared! LOL.

      phoenix - I had never thought of that, but it is a brilliant idea. Thank you! I am glad to have made your acquaintance, as well. :) Thanks for all the support and joy.

      Nell - I feel the exact same way about Christmas ornaments now! Thanks for reading!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi kitty, well I never knew that! maybe I did but forgot! lol! fascinating history of the witch balls, and I will never look at a christmas decoration the same again, voted up! great info, cheers nell

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Have you considered putting all these hubs together in a book? If you do, please let me know as I would love a copy.

      You have a such a wealth of knowledge and obviously love sharing it. I'm glad to have made you acquaintance.

      Oh yeah, I almost forgot...another cool hub.

    • Parks McCants profile image

      Parks McCants 6 years ago from Eugene Oregon U.S.A.

      I had one hanging in a window for years. When my ex wife left the farm, the ball disapeared. That's strange! Well written. Thank you.

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