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History of The Witch Ball

Witch balls are some of the most beloved pieces of glassblowing. Delicately hung in a window or dangling from a stand on a table, they add a unique touch of colour and sparkle to a home.

But, did you know they started out as more than just pretty ornaments?

What's a witch ball?

A witch ball is a sphere of glass with stringers or threads of glass stretched across the inside of the ball.

What's the origin of witch balls?

Witch balls are believed to have originated as one of many folk practices involving objects designed to protect the home. Originally they were made of clear glass and hung in cottage windows in England in the 1600 and 1700s to ward off evil spirits and spells. By the 1800s witch balls crossed the Atlantic to New England. They also spread to other parts of Europe, being found in Italy, France, and Constantinople in the early 1900s outside of drugists' shops.

Over time, glassblowers started to make witchballs in their spare time in the hot shop, adding colours, shapes, and patterns to the balls, and their uses shifted from spirtualist to decorative. In the 1840s in Germany and Austria witch balls were commercially blown, placed on wire poles, and set in flower beds, adding colour the garden and catching the sunlight and in America they were also placed on pitchers or jars to keep insects out.

By the 1930s, witch balls had become immensely popular. Thought to harken back to the Victorian era, they were sold in boutiques and adorning the pages of women's magazines. It was around this time as well that they started to attract the attention of artists. With this shift from spirtualist use to decorative use came beliefs as to where one could purchase an "authentic" witch ball, with the true witch balls thought to be found in shops owned by spirtualists.

Why hang a witch ball?

According to legends, the shiny surface of witch balls entice evil spirits into the ball and then the strands of glass inside capture the spirits and keep them from escaping. In other legends, it was thought that witches would see the reflection of their intended victim in the ball and mistakanely curse the reflection instead of the actual person, or evil influences would gather as dust on the surface of the ball and could then be wiped away with regular cleaning.

Today they might be hung for a similar purpose, while for other people they are just a nice way to add a pop of colour and interest to a window or living space.

What about other glass balls that aren't witch balls?

Tree of Life Balls are also popular.

As opposed to having colour all around the ball and meandaring strands of glass within, Tree of Life balls have colourful "leaves" just on the top of the ball and the strands inside resemble a tree trunk and outstretched branches.

These balls and the Tree of Life is considered to be a symbol of personal growth, strength, and beauty — a perfect reminder of where one comes from and how much they can still grow!

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Looking for a beautiful piece of blown glass for your own collection? We may have just the thing, or we might be able to make it for you! Explore our online shop or email us at grayartglass@gmail.com.

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Read more here:

Looking Glass Histories

Some Nineteenth Century American Glass

Spheres of Influence: The Magical History of the Witch Ball