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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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IN 19TH CENTURY GLASS FACTORIES EXCESS GLASS BLOWN INTO WITCH BALLS

IN 19TH CENTURY GLASS FACTORIES  EXCESS GLASS BLOWN INTO WITCH BALLS
Selection of "witch balls" selling from $69-$1,208. Photo courtesy of Eldred's
“I’m going to get you my pretty!!!” The wicked witch declares in "The Wizard of Oz."

If she only knew how many kids were scared half to death with that line, she probably would have been delighted.

For years after that, every time I saw an old woman with a wrinkled face, squinty eyes, and scratchy voice, I figured this could be it. Such is the power of fear.

“There is no terror in a bang,” Alfred Hitchcock, the director said. “Only in the anticipation of it.”

All kidding aside, as long as human beings have walked the planet they have wondered about evil and created self-protection devices. Investing faith in objects like amulets, dream catchers and witch balls has been a part of our history since the beginning.

In the cottage windows of 18th century America and Europe, hung glass spheres called witch balls. Superstition has it that witches were attracted to their beautiful colors. Once inside, they became confused and unable to escape, lending protection and good energy to the household. A good luck charm.

More for artistic appeal than catching witches, you’ll see these colorful glass globes hanging in windows today. Nowadays, people focus on barring windows and installing burglar alarms. For our ancestors, the spotlight was more on the soul’s well being.

Celtic legends tell of handcrafted witch balls made by practicing witches during the Waxing-Full Moon phase. Fashioned out of clear ornamental glass balls, a “cage” of nine strands of black satin ribbon and gems of the four Elements (Air, Fire Water, and Earth) surrounded the outside. Inside were protective herbs. The ribbon was said to entangle negative spirits.

These days, witch balls have found their way into collections. The balls with the spun glass threads inside are some of the most desirable because it takes a master glass blower to create just the right threads.

In the glass factories of 19th century, excess glass was used to blow the witch balls. These glasshouse “whimsies” were called “end-of-day” items because they were created after the regular production day finished.

Glass workers didn’t have time to amuse themselves with whimsies during the regular work day. Making an item for pleasure at the end of a day was one of their perks. Whimsies were made in cut glass factories as well as bottle glass factories.

Recent research has shown that the well-known Boston & Sandwich Glass Company in Mass., was producing witch balls on a steady basis within months of its opening in 1825.

All glasshouse whimsies are one-of-a-kind and should be evaluated by their quality and beauty. Collectors focus on spheres made in England from the mid-18th century and in America from the early-19th century.

On Nov. 22-23, Eldred’s, East Dennis, Mass., featured a selection of vintage witch balls in its Americana, Marine art and Decoy auction. Here are some current values.

Witch balls

Blown glass in pink, blue, green and gold spotted decoration on a white ground; 19th century; 6 inches diameter; $69.

Blown glass; 5; 19th century; two blue, 4 inches diameter; two red, 5 inches and 5 1/2 inches diameter; one amethyst, 4 3/4 inches diameter; $103.50.

Blown glass; in pink with white swirl design; 19th century; 4 inches diameter; $126.50.

Mercury-colored; blown glass; 19th century; 10 inches diameter; $230.

Oil-spot type; blown glass; glazed in pink, blue, yellow; 19th century; 3 3/4 inches diameter; $632.50.

Blown glass with multi-color interior; 19th century; 5 inches diameter; $1,207.50.

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