Bells Repellers of witches and evil spirits. Bells are
associated with the divine: their sound is symbolic of
creative power, their shape a symbol of the female force
and the celestial vault. The sound vibrations created by
the ringing of bells have been believed for centuries to
possess magical and/or spiritual power. Bells are used in
many religious rites. In Wicca and Paganism, small
hand bells may be rung in rituals to enhance harmony
and augment power. In African religions and Vodun,
bells and dancing are used to invoke the gods and loas
(see African witchcraft). Shamans have long used
magical bells in their rituals to chase away evil spirits.
In folk magic, the ringing of bells drives away evil
spirits, witches and the Devil himself, and wards off the
evil eye. Bells have been attached to clothing, worn as
amulets, tied to children and hung from the necks of
horses, camels, cows, asses and other animals important
to a community.
As fertility charms, bells have been worn on human
phalluses in certain rites. Bells are sometimes said to
have curative powers; medicine is drunk from them. In
the Middle Ages, bell ringing was believed to clear the
air of disease and was prescribed by some doctors. Bells
also have been used to raise the spirits of the dead and
Since the fifth century c.e., Christian church bells
have been ascribed a special magical potency to combat
evil and chase off the wicked spirits that lurked on every
church threshold. In the Middle Ages, on nights when
witches were believed to be about, such as Samhain (All
Hallow’s Eve) and Beltane (also known as Walpurgisnacht),
church bells were rung to keep the witches from
flying over a village. The townspeople also turned out
and added to the noise by banging on pots and pans and
ringing their own bells. In witch trials, accused witches
bells 19
testified to being transported through the air to sabbats
on the backs of demons or the Devil, and to being thrown
off to fall to the ground when a church bell sounded in
the night.
Thunder and lightning storms were believed to be the
work of witches and demons, and church bells also would
be rung at an approaching storm in an attempt to dispel it.
At someone’s death, the tolling of the church bells helped
the departing soul on its way to heaven and prevented
evil spirits from interfering with the journey.
Church bells were baptized, named for saints and in
some cases, ascribed human characteristics. Some were
said to talk, ring on their own and sweat blood at the invasion
of their community. Medieval Europeans believed
that their church bells traveled to Rome on Good Friday;
everyone stayed inside so as not to witness their flight
from the belfries. A bell that missed the Good Friday pilgrimage
brought bad luck to the community.
Shopkeepers hung bells over their thresholds, not so
much to alert them to the entry of customers but to keep
evil spirits from entering their premises.
The Necromantic Bell of Giradius. Bells have been used in
rituals for summoning the dead. One such necromantic
bell is that of Giradius. Eighteenth-century French instructions
specified that the bell be cast from an alloy of
gold, silver, fixed mercury, tin, iron and lead at the exact
day and hour of birth of the person who intends to use
it. The bell was to be inscribed with various astrological
symbols and the magical words of Adonai, Jesus and the
Tetragrammaton (see names of power).
The bell was to be wrapped in green taffeta and placed
in the middle of a grave in a cemetery. It was to be left for
seven days, during which time it absorbed certain vibrations
and emanations. At the end of a week, the bell was
properly “cured” for necromancy rituals.