Bottle Trees Revive a Colorful Tradition

Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman September 15, 2014 18:01

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For Rebecca Seeley-Savino, it began when she saw the movie “Ray” at a friend’s house a few years ago.

“In the scenes detailing Ray Charles’ childhood in Florida, I noticed bottles hanging from trees near his home,” recalls Seeley-Savino, a business owner and grandmother of eleven who lives in Cedar Ridge, northwest of Twain Harte. “They were beautiful, and I was fascinated.”

She learned that people began hanging bottles on trees more than 2,000 years ago, believing that they captured evil spirits at night which would then be destroyed by the morning sunshine. Over centuries the practice spread to Africa, then was carried by natives brought to the U.S. as slaves. The superstition persisted through the 20th century, and even today bottle trees can be found in the rural South. But a few are also in Cedar Ridge, thanks to Seeley-Savino.

“I couldn’t help myself,” she laughs. “Those colored bottles gleaming in the sunshine were so enchanting that I had to have a tree of my own.”

She began collecting bottles two years ago, and as friends found out, they contributed all shapes, sizes and hues. Wine and beer bottles, juice bottles, soda bottles, antique bottles and more rolled in as Seeley-Savino eyed a line of pines in front of her Dapple Gray Lane home.

When the total reached 50, she and her husband, Michael, went to work. “We hung them from eight trees on wire so they wouldn’t hit each other and break,” she says.

Almost overnight, her bottle trees became a local curiosity: Neighbors stop by, cars slow down and bottle-tree questions abound. Not only is Seeley-Savino happy to answer them, but not a single evil spirit has invaded her home since those bottles were hung.

Copyright © 2014 Friends and Neighbors Magazine
Chris Bateman
By Chris Bateman September 15, 2014 18:01
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