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.
Her mother, who died in November, had the blue bottles in her house, and they’re now 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,” she said.
She received the tree 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.
“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, where deceased relatives were honored 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 couldn’t enter.
Bottle trees still can be found in southern states such as Louisiana.
“I just like the decoration. The bottles just make me think of Mom. It makes me happy,” Ms. Casselman said.