My Bottle Tree Story

Bottle Tree stands tall, A glassy forest of light, Shimmering in sun.

This is a story of how I had created a unique garden ornament from my collection of blue bottles. I love Cobalt Blue and I had many blue bottles on my library shelves. Some of them were gifts from friends who know my passion for things blue.

One day, as I watched the snow falling outside, I wondered how I could use my blue bottles in a creative way. I imagined making a tree-like structure with a wooden post  and putting the bottles on the tips of wooden dowels.  I thought it would look beautiful in the sun and the snow.

But then I realized that wood was not durable enough for my project. I wanted something that would last for a long time. So I decided to use steel instead. I was proud of my original idea and I thought it would be a great addition to my garden.

However, when I searched online, I found out that someone else had already done something similar a long time ago...1000 years ago.  Apparently, bottle trees have been around for centuries in different cultures. I was surprised but also fascinated by this discovery.

However, when I searched online, I found out that someone else had already done something similar a long time ago. Apparently, bottle trees have been around for centuries in different cultures. I was surprised but also fascinated by this discovery.

The bottle tree is a fascinating topic that I explored through my research. I discovered that there are actual trees, called Bottle Trees, that grow in Africa and Australia. I was so intrigued that I found and bought one online from a nursery. My Bottle Tree grew grew to be about 10-feet tall…in a pot. We lost it last year…but not to fear…I have Bottle Tree seeds started.

The main thing that drew me to the bottle tree was the variety of traditions and stories associated with it. I wanted to create my own version of the bottle tree in steel. I also wanted to share my Bottle Trees with other gardeners.

I have designed several types of welded steel trees since 2001, based on the Bottle Tree Tradition…inspired by my gardens.

Here is a summary of some of the beliefs about the origins of the bottle tree. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did. Thank you for your attention and your visit!

The Bottle Tree Story

One of the most fascinating and colorful traditions that originated in Africa is the Bottle Tree. This is a story of how people used bottles to honor their ancestors, protect their homes, and express their creativity.

The Bottle Tree has its roots in the Congo region of Africa, where people practiced a ritual called the Congo Tree Altar. The ritual was a most unique and touching way of honoring the dead which involves placing plates around the grave of a loved one, as a symbol of love and respect. The plates are usually decorated with colorful patterns or images, and they can be arranged in different ways. Some plates are propped up against stones or wooden poles, some are tied to branches of nearby trees, and some are simply laid on the ground.

The plates are meant to resemble mushrooms, which have a special meaning in the Congo culture. The word for mushroom in Congo is "matondo", which sounds like "tondo", the word for love. By creating a mushroom-like altar, the grieving family is expressing their love for the deceased and inviting them to join them in a feast of memories.

When the slave trade brought many Africans to the southern United States, they brought their beliefs and customs with them. They adapted their rituals to their new environment, using bottles instead of plates, and hanging them from trees instead of placing them on the ground. The bottles were often colorful and shiny, reflecting the light and attracting attention.

There were different reasons for hanging bottles from trees. Some believed It is a way of protecting the home from evil spirits that roam the night. The idea is to hang glass bottles of different colors on the branches of a dead tree. The colorful bottles attract and catch the spirits, trapping them inside until the morning Sun destroys them.

Some people believed that evil spirits would be drawn to the bottles and get trapped inside them, preventing them from entering the house or harming the family. Some people greased the bottlenecks with animal fat to make it easier for the spirits to go in and harder to come out. Some people would cork the bottles and ritually throw them into the river to get rid of the spirits.

Other people hung bottles from trees as a way of remembering their ancestors and communicating with them. They believed that the wind blowing through the bottles would create sounds that were the voices of their departed relatives. They also believed that the Sun shining through the bottles would create beautiful patterns that were messages from their ancestors.

The Bottle Trees became a symbol of African American culture and art, especially in the rural South. They were often decorated with ribbons, beads, shells, and other ornaments, making them unique and expressive. They were also a sign of pride and resilience, showing how people could transform something ordinary into something extraordinary.

One of the most popular colors for the bottles was blue, because it was believed to have special power against evil. Blue is the color of the sky and the water, which symbolize life and purity. Blue also represents dreams, spirituality, distance, and heaven. People who followed this tradition often painted their doors and windows blue as well, to ward off sickness and bad luck.

Not all spirits were considered evil, though. Some people also used the bottle trees to communicate with their ancestors, who might visit them from the other world. However, they also feared that the ghosts of their relatives might try to take them away from the land of the living. That's why they had to be careful around the bottle trees, especially when the wind blew and made the bottles moan.

As my poem goes:

"When a soft wind blows, you can hear the moans
of the trapped spirits whistling on the breeze.
The way the spirits get free is if a bottle breaks,
so, take care around the Bottle Tree!"

African and Australian Bottle Trees

I guarantee my Bottle Trees to ALWAYS stand straight and will last longer than you or me.  Guaranteed!
No Assembly. USA-made Steel.
All my designs are original and unique.

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