Growing up in New England, I never questioned the wisdom of displaying a witch ball in the front window of a home – an east window, if at all possible. I’d see them often, especially outside the city, usually a large glass fisherman’s float, green in color, and hung in a woven net.
A witch ball is a hollow sphere of colored glass, often encasing strands of glass. Some are fanciful and decorated with enameled swirls and brilliant stripes. Today for the most part, witch balls are produced as yard ornaments with vibrant colors or iridescent coatings, sometimes with decorative objects inside.
Witch balls have been around a long time under many different names: Fairy orbs are believed to remind the fairies of flowers. In turn, the fairies reward the owner by bestowing luck. Pond balls are placed in a pool of water so that animals, seeing their reflections, would retreat instead of preying on fish. Early colonists believed in protecting their homes with spirit balls, a round glass ball with a small opening at one end. The harmful spirit would fly into the open end and become trapped inside the glass. Friendship balls, with no beginning or ending of the glass surface, were given as gifts and the reflective surface of gazing balls was believed to frighten evil spirits away. A later invention, butler globes, served a more practical purpose, allowing servants to observe their house guests without staring directly at them.
In the middle ages, witch balls were crafted into rough round shapes to ward off witches, goblins, and evil spirits. Victorians later manufactured them with higher quality glass and a more perfect spherical shape. Some even claim the modern Christmas ornament is descended from the witch ball. Glass was an expensive in the 18th century, but still the balls were popular and believed to ward off spells or ill fortune. Early settlers in New England carried the tradition across the Atlantic and continued the practice. Today they are still a common sight in the windows of many New England homes.
According to legend, the colorful balls could attract evil spirits, the glass strands inside the ball capturing and preventing the spirit from escaping to harm the home. Another legend claims the witch ball acted as a magnet attracting any type of negative energy. If a person were depressed or ill, it was believed they should rest near the witch ball to restore their spirits. No matter what the mythology, there was great faith the shimmering colors of the ball would attract negative energy and by wiping dust from the ball, the negativity would be eliminated.
Is anyone making witch balls today? Sure they are. Here’s one very comprehensive website I found if anyone is interested in exploring the legends: http://www.witchballs.com/
Do I have a witch ball in my home? You bet I do. Why take any chances? In fact, I just remembered to dust it off.
Connie Archer is the national bestselling author of A Spoonful of Murder, the first in the soup lover’s mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. A Broth of Betrayal was released on April 2, 2013. Connie was born and raised in New England. She now lives with her family on the other coast.