Message in a Bottle

Message in a Bottle

The Bottle and the Message

When Mark took the dogs to the beach the last thing he expected to find was a message in a bottle.

But he did. The bottle was filled with liquid as well as a photo of a lovely young woman and a piece of what appeared to be parchment with her name written on it.

When he and his wife showed it to me, at first (I am such a Polyanna) I was sure it was part of some Latin-teen-girl pseudo-ritual asking for a husband. Sooo romantic.

Mark’s wife’s comment was that if the bottle-girl was hoping for a hubby, the bottle “had found the wrong dude.” She wasn’t planning to give Mark away any time soon. Mark just laughed, but you could see he slid her a fond look, appreciating her remark.

Now THAT was romantic.

Mark describes finding the message in a bottle

Mark Tells How He Found the Bottle

But I digress. Mark continued to tell me how he had found the bottle when he was playing on the beach at Playa Comadres, throwing sticks for the dogs. He saw the bottle in the surf and retrieved it, took it home and carefully cut it open.

“The fluid inside turned out to be vinegar, not water,” he told me.

And that turned on my own alarm system. Vinegar? That had to be deliberate. Vinegar is sour.  Not friendly.

Message in a bottle - the vinegar

The Message was in the Vinegar

So I went to the ever reliable Google and searched on “vinegar in a bottle.” OMG. Polyanna in retreat.  It would seem that in Latin America a bottle filled with vinegar, a photo and a name is most likely part of a “bottle spell.” The most common reason for such a “spell” is a breakup. The other reason is an attempt to “ruin someone’s life.” Permit me to quote from, which describes it so much better than I could.


One of the oldest bottle spells that is not a witch-bottle or protective spell is the Break Up bottle. These are most commonly found in African American hoodoo magic, but their contents are related to similar “divorce from demons” spells inscribed in bowls that are found in ancient Jewish ruins.

Break Up bottles typically are fixed with the names of the people whom one wishes to separate …

Not all harmful bottle spells are used to break up relationships, Similar bottles or jars may be prepared to ruin the life of a single individual or to drive him or her away.  …

Harmful bottle spells may be prepared with dry ingredients or, alternatively, after the combination of dry ingredients is placed in the container, the bottle may be filled with … Vinegar to sour a relationship between two people or to sour the life of one person. …

To lay the trick or deploy the fixed container, it may be shaken, thrown into running water, thrown into a crossroads, buried under the doorstep or walk-way path, thrown over their roof, broken, or, in the case of a lemon, cut and the juice squeezed behind the one you want to have get away.

Generally when one undertakes harmful spell work — and a vinegar jar is always harmful — it is a good idea to perform protection work to keep the space clear of incursions, and and to humbly perform a cleansing ritual afterward for the good of one’s own soul. …“

OK. There you have it. From the witches mouth, so to speak. Moral of this story? For me? Be careful what you ask for. I moved to the Azuero because it is supposed to still have elements of “the Old Panama.”  It is called “the heart of Panama” and the Azuero is said to still hold the folk traditions, to some extent.  I did so hope learn about the Panamanian beliefs that are not commonly publicized. About the sub-culture that still holds the “old beliefs,” the non-Christian ones.

Got what I asked for, didn’t I? Don’t like it too much. That people, even here, would wish such unkindness on each other hurts the Polyanna in my heart as well as stomping all over my Anne Frank Syndrome. What’s AFS? Remember what little Anne said right before they dragged her off to the ovens? “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.”