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Bottle tree draws interest from passers-by in Massena


MASSENA - An old legend says that hanging bottles from trees will keep evil spirits from homes.

But that’s not why you’ll see blue bottles hanging from a Rebar “tree” on the corner of Grove Street and Laurel Avenue in Massena.

MaryEllen Casselman says her tree, which has drawn the attention of passers-by, is a way to remember her mother.

She said her mother, who passed away in November, had the blue bottles in her house, and now they’re hanging from the Rebar tree she planted this spring.

“Mom had them in her house. They’re really, really beautiful. She died in November. The tree is meaningful to me in that sense,” Ms. Casselman said.

She received the tree, which was purchased from in Princeton, Wisc., as a Christmas present.

“I asked for it as a Christmas present. We put it up in the spring when the ground was finally unfrozen,” she said.

With the Rebar, she said, the “branches” can be bent in any direction to accommodate the bottles.

The bottle tree has drawn its share of interest, she said.

“I put it up a couple of weeks ago, and people are constantly stopping to look at it and ask questions. People have actually stopped and said, ‘We really like your yard.’ I’m pretty sure it’s the only bottle tree in Massena,” she said.

Ms. Casselman said she had seen the trees before, when she was in the south, but their origin dated back to the 9th century in the Congo. It started with a Congo Tree Altar, in which they honored deceased relatives with graveside memorials, surrounding the grave with plates.

Over the years, the tradition was passed from generation to generation with variations, and one of them was the introduction of the bottle tree, in which bottles were hung from trees by string in the hopes that spirits lurking near the house would be attracted to the colorful bottles. The bottle trees were sometimes placed near the entrance to the house so spirits could not enter the house.

Bottles trees can still be found in southern states such as Louisiana.

“The bottles in the south, they put on actual trees. They hung bottles on trees with strings in hopes that bad spirits in the house would be attracted to the bottle. The blue bottles are supposed to be the most powerful because of the color with the sky and the water. That’s why in the south you’ll actually find doors painted blue and window casings being painted blue,” Ms. Casselman said.

Some believe that if you take the bottles down and cork them and throw them in the water, it will take the bad spirits with them, she said.

But that’s not the reason why you’ll find the tree at the corner of Grove and Laurel, with the blue bottles shimmering in the sunlight.

“I just like the decoration. The bottles just make me think of mom. It makes me happy,” Ms. Casselman said.

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