Spirit vessels are used in witchcraft to attract, ground, and manifest spirits. For spirits of the dead they act as an anchor to our middle realm so the spirit is able to stay here longer, communicate more easily, and even manifest in some perceivable form.
Here is a simple method to craft a spirit vessel for working with the beloved and mighty dead. You will need a glass vial, bottle, or jar with a cork or lid, a skull that will fit on top (bone and antler are best, but stone or other materials will do), a candle (white, red, or black), and herbs associated with attracting spirits and summoning and manifesting the dead.
First layer the herbs into the bottle by sifting them one at a time through a funnel and tapping the bottle so the herb and dust settles. Once it’s filled up to the top, cork it tight. The skull can be attached to the cork with glue or with a pin pushed through both the skull and the cork if the skull is a bead.
My preferred personal combination of botanicals is: graveyard dirt, red ochre, powdered egg shell, bone dust (from my bone and skull carvings), dandelion root, balm of gilead buds, yew needles, and black henbane leaf — all are traditionally used to attract, summon, and manifest spirits of the dead. Always start with the heaviest or most finely powdered item and end with the bulkiest. If the spirit bottle is for you own familial ancestors then you may also want to add some of your personal concerns for an easier connection; hair, nail clippings, dead skin, blood, etc.
The white spirit vessel contains the following – white cornmeal, powdered egg shell, marshmallow root, and bone dust and is used to attract and ground benevolent ancestral spirits. A bundle or jar of marshmallow root is commonly found on hoodoo and folk magic altars to attract benevolent spirits.
Next, before you seal it with wax, put a layer or two of wax paper down on your work surface to protect it from dripping wax. Light your candle and, holding it in one hand and the bottle in the other, tilt the bottle and turn it as you drip the hot wax on it until the cork is completely sealed. To even out any drips, just go over them with the flame to smooth them out. I wrap the neck of my bottles with sinew to finish them off, but that step is optional. If you choose to add the sinew (or yarn or cord) you can also tie and hang bones, feathers, or charms from it.
We’re not quite finished yet! Now it’s time to take your ancestor spirit bottle to your altar (preferably an ancestral altar) to consecrate it to its purpose. For full instructions see my Spirit Vessel Consecration Ritual in my previous article: Ancestor Altars & Rituals.