On a recent evening walk, I stepped on these, and wanted to know what they were…. and was led down a rabbit hole of information and lore, that I decided to share.
Witches Burrs, or other wise known as “Sweet Gum Balls,” come from the sweet gum tree, also known as the “hazel-pine” or “red-gum tree”.
The seed balls become noticeable in the late summer and fall as they turn from a shade of green to brown. When the seed pods turn brown they will fall from the trees.
Sweet gum balls (“Witches Burrs” or “Witches Balls”) are apparently a traditional American Hoodoo magical item. They are considered a powerful protection amulet and are used for protection on altars, in witch bottles and in spirit bags.
Used as an altar offering, they can increase the efficacy of spells.
The spiny appendages will repel evil. If one hangs some above the doorway it is believed to prevent any negativity or bad luck from entering.
For enemy work or for pay-me work, the balls are used to make a person uncomfortable. This is achieved by getting their picture or name paper and wrapping their face or name toward the spines. The ball is then tied with thread. As one is doing the work the worker needs to state powerfully that the person is going to feel the sting, is going to feel uncomfortable in their skin, is going to feel pin-pricks all over their body, etc., until they pay you the money back they owe you or, for enemy work, leave you alone.
For protection of the home an old Hoodoo recipe is to wrap three witch balls in red string, sprinkle holy water on them and pray Psalm 23 over them before hanging them above the doors or windows.
Witch balls are even used in money amulets…
Hoodoo practitioners sometimes will make Hoodoo dolls out of these spiky seed pods.
Despite the way they look, these folks are actually made with the intent of protecting the person who the doll represents.
Keep them in your sacred space to keep unwanted energy or wandering spirits away.
Helps protect your space while you are away and keeps the evil eye out and can be used as a tool to meditate your energy on.
Tell the doll what your intention is and it will be there to help aid you in fulfilling that intent. Such as protecting your dreams or to aid you in a spell or working.
You can throw some dry Witches Burrs in a mortar and pestle, grind them down, and use them as a protection powder.
Witches Burrs are associated with protection because they are seed pods that have evolved to grow these spikes to protect the next generation of the plant.
They are said to keep negativity away, bring good luck, be used in breaking curses and hexes, and keep unwanted company away from yourself and your home.
In a way, you can think of them like black salt, grown from the earth, as they work very similarly.