Lore about protecting your home from witches is very rich. It comes from a time when Christian citizens feared a specter of satan worshiping men and women who would revenge themselves and do the devils work by cursing cattle and making people sick. Was there an actual threat? Were there such witches? I believe the answer is yes. This may be an unpopular answer, but I do think that there are people out there who wish
other people ill.
In my explorations of witchcraft on the internet I have met some characters who hex people who irritate them or insult them. My research into the cunning folk tradition further supports the idea that magic users did and do use their craft to blight other people. Were all curses and hexes of the mystical sort only? No, some had the added benefit of working psychologically and physically. A witch had the herbal lore to make poisons and the frightening charisma to worry someone to distraction.
On the other hand, prevention is the best cure. Not all witches and magic users were hateful or curse at the drop of the hat. So protection from witch tools like the witch’s ball came into the popular mind. These balls were usually shiny and attractive with webs of string around them and a number of objects inside them. The various ideas about the weaknesses of the witches liken them to fairies or spirits. The witch could not continue in the room without counting the objects inside the ball, or the witch might get tangled in the strings, or the witch might become fascinated with the shiny and stop. Presumably someone in the house would wake or dawn would come before the witch could make any mischief.
Nowadays the majority of witches either a) do not curse or hex at all, or b) only curse and hex in self defense and against violent persons or deeds. There are a rare few witches who curse and hex whenever they are angry and against people who annoy them. Witches in general are not hateful people, usually witches find themselves in harmony with their surroundings and focus on knowing themselves and making a good life. Witches of this sort might hex in self defense, or bind someone from creating further harm, but they won’t just curse the local missionaries for visiting their house too much or anything like that.
However, within the witch community the traditions of protective amulets continues. Many objects that were once meant to drive away witches,
are now the collectibles of modern day witches. In many ways the modern day witch is more like a midwife or a cunning person in connotation. Witch was chosen as descriptor, but it doesn’t fit well with what it used to mean. Some folks say that the Christians demonized good pagan people who were worshiping a horned god and just slandered him as the devil. And that may be true to a point, but for the most part, magic users would not have called themselves witches and though their practices might match modern day witches closely, they would want to call us something else like wise folk or cunning folk.
The word witch has been reclaimed, in very old days words similar to witch were used to describe the more community appreciated type of magic practitioner. Now witch balls are re-purposed to protect the home of a witch from bad energy, theft, and perhaps from curses. I find that tying knots with little shells, feathers and rocks into them makes the witch’s ball an amulet for all different sorts of magic. With the right addition of power objects and natural elements, a witch’s ball can encourage good things, protect the home, and keep meddlesome energy away.