Bells originated somewhere around 3500 BCE in China. At first, they were made of pottery. They were used in the worship of their gods, as alarms, to call communities together. Metal bells came with the evolution of metallurgy in China and spread to other parts of Asia as bells became embedded in Hinduism and Buddhism. In roughly the 8th century BCE, bells appeared in ancient Egypt, largely as offerings to the gods.
If you want to skip the history, folklore, and myth ramble and jump right to the DIY, skip to the bold text and pictures.
There is some evidence that a type of bell, more closely related to cymbals, called a crotal was present in pre-christian gaelic areas, especially Ireland and Scotland, potentially used by Druid priests though that is anecdotal at best. Historians postulate that these crotal were used when delivering the oracles and one source (Walker’s History of the Irish Bards) says that they were used specifically to frighten ghosts.
Bells are also very prevalent in pre-columbian Aztec culture. Their moon goddess’s name means “golden bells” or “painted with bells” Coyolxauhqui who was the daughter of the earth goddess and either the mother or sister of the god of war. Aztec warriors also wore bells on their ankles into battle. And this is a really interesting rabbit hole to fall down if you have any interest in that line of mythology and history.
Modern pagans, especially traditional and Gardenarian and Wiccans, use bells in a great number of ritual based ways – opening and closing a spell, clearing a space of negativity, exorcism. Mythologically and in folklore from all over the world, bells are said to scare demons, to offend the devil himself, and to annoy the fairies – mostly because human bells are so loud the fairies can no longer hear the tinkling of their own pretty bells. In some parts of England, the bells were painted red and said to guard specifically against the restless dead of the sea. In ancient Rome, tintinnabulum, or small windchimes and bells were hung at entry gates, often from the end of a large phallic shape or god representation. They were used to ward off negativity and bad spirits.
In the folk magic traditions in Appalachia, where pagan, indigenous, and Christian traditions come together and get all tangled up, bells are a part of many rituals, beliefs, and traditions. The bells toll for births, for deaths, for marriages. They are decorative, they are useful, they are music and magic (even if maybe different words are used).
The idea that soundwaves might have cleansing abilities isn’t so far-fetched. While the actual studies done by actual scientists focus less on bells and more on the Tibetan singing bowls, the concept is similar enough to extrapolate that bells may have a similar effect on the body and mind. In the study, sound meditation using the Tibetan singing bowls was found to have a measurable effect on feelings of anxiety, depression, and tension.
In modern witchcraft, bells have become a part of spellwork and a part of home and hearth protection and energy work. When hung on the door, they help to protect the home from negativity and from ill will crossing the threshold. Some witches use bells to mark the beginning and ending of spellwork.
Make Your Own
Supplies: Bells. Cord or rope or leather. Optional – metal ring that fits over your doorknob. Optional: charms.
I am using three bells and two charms – a key and a crow, because they are important symbols to myself. I am using a leather cord cut in three lengths and two lengths of black hemp cord.
If you are using a metal ring, you can cut your lengths of cord much shorter.
If you are making your loop, I find braids work super well. I make a braid, including the hemp cord, long enough to make a circle that will fit over the doorknob and leaving the ends of the cord free to tie the bells and charms to. Another way to do it is to crochet a loop (in the picture with the blue cord, that’s a natural dye hemp yarn, crocheted and then lengths of yarn tied to it for the bells.
Make it witchy: While you are tying your knots and/or braiding your loop – imbue the cordage with your intention – for protection, for cleansing, for a tool against negative energy. When it’s finished, ask it to protect your home and the people in it, ask it to guard against ill will and bad intentions.
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