Demon Bells, Gremlin Bells, Spirit Bells, Motorcycle Bells, or Blessed Bells are many of the names for the bells bikers hang on their motorcycles. Many riders put them on to participate in the practice among the motorcycle community. For others, gremlin bells are a serious matter and they subscribe heavily to the superstitions of the bells. Many don't even know what they are for or why they are hanging them on their bikes. Fewer still understand there are rules to follow if you want the gremlin bell to fulfill its purpose.
Common Gremlin Bell Beliefs
Some believe that demons or gremlins will wait under the pavement or alongside the road waiting to ambush riders. When a motorcycle comes along without a bell they will reach up and grab at the motorcycle. Then the gremlins will then attach themselves to the motorcycle. Next, they will begin causing mischief to the rider or the motorcycle. The gremlins will cause unexplained breakdowns, flat tires, electrical issues, sleepiness, or even branches falling in front of the riders.
If you attach these bells to your motorcycle, close to the ground, it will capture or ward off the evil road spirits. This in turn stops the spirits or gremlins from causing mischief. One superstition surrounding the bell is that it rings so loudly that gremlins let go of your bike as you ride and leave potholes as they hit the asphalt. Others believe the bells contain or call guardians or angels that protect you while you ride. Another legend is the bell wards off gremlins so they never have the chance to grab hold of your motorcycle and cause mischief.
Why Are Demons Or Gremlins Afraid Of Bells?
It is important to understand the historical beliefs and superstitions behind bells. This knowledge will give an idea of their significance in being used on motorcycles. Historically, bells were used throughout many cultures to ward off demons and evil.
Archbishop of Genoa Jacobus de Voragine
In The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa (printed by Caxton about 1483), it states: "The evil spirits that be in the region of the air doubt much when they hear the bells ringing. Thus the bells are rung when it thunders, or when great tempest and outrages of weather happen. To the end that the fiends and wicked spirits should be abashed and flee, and cease of the moving of tempests."
The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of Druandus (1459)
A popular work dealing with the origin and meaning of ecclesiastical services, states that the church rings the bells on the approach of a storm, so that the devils, hearing the trumpets of the Eternal King, might flee in fear and cease from raising the storm.
Bells were baptized and blessed to consecrate them. In 1521 it was stated that "suffragans used to baptize bells under the pretense of driving away devils and tempests." Many old bells in Britain were inscribed with the sign of the cross and the statement, "By my lively voice I drive away all harm."
Early Roman Use Of Bells
During ancient Roman times, bronze bells were used to repel demons. The geographer Strabo (64 or 63 B.C.E.-23 C.E.) recorded that Roman herdsmen attached bells to the necks of their flocks to keep away evil spirits and wild beasts. The Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.E.-17 C.E.) stated that people used to beat bronze vessels during an eclipse and at the death of a friend to scare away demons.
20th and 21st Centuries Use Of Bells By Bikers
In the 20th and 21st centuries, it seems the tradition and superstition of the ringing of bells to repel demons has remained alive in part through motorcycling. Bikers are now keeping this historical belief and superstition alive in regards to keeping demons from breaking their motorcycles or causing the rider to crash by hanging these bells on their motorcycles. Though the superstition has slightly transformed the concept of warding off demonic hexes in one form or another, it is still alive through bikers.
Types Of Bells Used To Ward Off Evil
It is important to understand that bells are used by many different cultures and spiritual beliefs. There seems to be a universal commonality of basic beliefs about the purpose of bells. Some bells bring prosperity, some bring good health, and others are used to ward off evil spirits.
In Buddhism, the ring of the bell can represent the heavenly enlightened voice of the Buddha teaching the dharma. It can also be used as a call for protection and a ward from evil spirits.
After 1000 AD, people made bells from iron. According to European lore, iron scares off or, at the very least, agitates faeries. Folks kept iron horseshoes above the doorway to ward off the fae and evil spirits and employed iron bells as protection in various ways. In addition, church bells scared off trickster spirits. And traditionally loud sounds, like those from bells or chimes, scare off ghosts and demonic entities.
Feng Shui Bells- China
Feng shui bells are activated whenever they are rung. There are several areas where you can place and use a bell to act as a cure or to bring good luck and prosperity. The bells are also used to expel evil spirits and harmful energies. These bells like the ones bikers hang on their bikes have symbols on them. Each symbol brings about a specific benefit. The sound of the bell generates a positive Chi and the benefit is released. Feng Shui bells are meant to be hung on the front door. It doesn't completely relate to bikers' symbolism of gremlin bells. The general idea is similar though and may have had some influence on the way bikers use gremlin bells today.
The Dead Bell
Belief in the supernatural was common in the Middle Ages. Special protective powers were sometimes attributed to certain objects, including bells. The Church itself condoned the use of bells to frighten away evil spirits. This ensured the practice's survival and development. Bells were often baptized and were believed to possess the power to ward off evil spells and spirits. The use of the dead bell was typical of this belief, rung for the recently deceased to keep evil spirits away from the body. The bell was originally rung for two reasons. First, to seek the prayers of Christians for a dead person's soul. Secondly, to drive away the evil spirits who stood at the foot of the dead person's bed and around the house.
These bells are sometimes given after a bike blessing ritual by the person blessing the bike. Blessed bells serve a different purpose besides warding off demons from the road. They are a symbol that the motorcycle itself is protected by God.
Exorcists And Blessed Bells
Exorcist Father Theophilus explains "why the Devil hates bells (Taken from The National Catholic Register) “The devil hates everything beautiful and bells are specifically used to draw attention to the divine worship of God.”
“Satan is always attacking us through our senses,” says Father Theophilus. “So the liturgy itself needs to be a holy assault on our senses: our sight, our touch, our smells, and hearing. We have prayed as a Church with all these sensual things because we learned through millennia that this is what repels the enemy. When these consecrated bells are used at Mass it is to say, ‘Look at him, the Word made Flesh!”. “The bell humiliates the devil because it’s a non-rational object that is doing what they were made to do. They don’t want to adore God.”
Another reason the devil hates bells is that they hate everything beautiful and holy, according to Father Theophilus. “We are moved by beauty,” he said. “It stirs our souls—beautiful music, beautiful prayers, flowers, and beautiful tones. The devil hates everything beautiful and the bells are specifically used to draw attention to the divine worship of God.”
How Gremlin Bells Became Popular Among Motorcyclists
There are quite a few stories regarding how gremlin bells became part of the motorcycling community. What story, legend, or myth you believe in will even have a different twist depending on where you read it or who is telling the tale.
Many WW2 pilots recounted stories where they were afraid to go to sleep because they didn’t want to dream. Their dreams were so gruesome that they would rather stay awake. The military would issue drugs to the troops to help them stay awake and focused for longer.
On long flights, pilots would often start to hallucinate. Out of the corner of their eyes, they would envision things like small creatures outside their planes trying to make them crash, pulling panels off the plane, or creatures that wanted to cause them harm.
Many pilots chose not to take the drugs because they didn’t like the way it made them feel, so some began hanging small bells somewhere in the cockpit in order to keep them awake and sharp. The constant jingle of the bell would help them focus and stay awake. In essence, the bells would keep the gremlins away.
When American pilots returned home from WWII, many of them continued their wartime camaraderie on motorcycles. Some of them formed clubs, making lifelong friends with their fellow servicemen. They brought the same gremlin myth to their motorcycles, and some of them hung small bells from their bikes.
The Bikers Road Trip From Mexico
One night there was a biker on his way home from a road trip to Mexico on his motorcycle. He was several miles North of the Mexican border and enjoying the open road all to himself. Unknown to him, there was a group of gremlins up ahead who had left some obstacles in the road to cause an accident.
The rider didn’t have time to react because of the darkness and the poorly lit road. He crashed his motorcycle and skidded to a stop near one of his saddlebags. Hurt from the crash, the rider couldn’t get up, and as the gremlins drew closer to him he began to throw things at them from his saddlebag.
The last thing he had left in his saddlebag was a small bell. As he began ringing it to try to scare them off, two nearby riders who had made camp for the night heard the bell. They hiked to the road to find the injured rider being attacked by the gremlins.
The bikers fought off the gremlins and nursed their fellow rider back to health. As a token of appreciation, the injured rider gave the bell to one of the men and told him that if he ever needed help, just to ring that bell and a fellow rider would be there to help him.
The Dark Hooded Figure
This legend has its origins in the early days of motorcycles. A man was riding his motorcycle late one night down an open road. His motorcycle began to have electrical issues and his light went dead. The engine lost power and he slowly rolled to a stop at the side of the road. As he was looking for the problem the hair on the back of his neck stood up as if someone was watching.
He jumped around ready to fight and found himself face to face with a dark hooded figure. The dark hooded figure held up their hand and said, “Don't be worried, I’m here to help.” He handed the rider a small brass bell and gave the instructions to hang it from the lowest part of his motorcycle. “As you ride along, the gremlins along the road will find themselves caught in the bell. As the bell rings the gremlins will fall out of the bell onto the road and you’ll leave them safe behind.”
The figure asked the man to spread the word and disappeared into the trees. The rider hung the bell from his motorcycle and tried to start up his motorcycle. The engine sprang to life and he made his way home safe, never worrying about the gremlins again.
Audible Theft Alert
As early motorcycles became popular with the general public there were no alarm systems and no insurance companies that would cover a motorcycle. Legend has it that many riders would hang a bell from the bottom of their motorcycle so that if someone tried to steal it during the night, the owner would hear the bell and run out to catch the thief. Bells were used as an inexpensive way to prevent theft and saved many owners from losing their motorcycles.
Rules Regarding The Use Of Gremlin Bells
- A rider should not purchase their own bell and hang it from their motorcycle. Don’t buy your own bell. If you want the bell's magic to work, it MUST be a gift. Its supernatural powers are activated by the gesture of goodwill and care.
- The person gifting the bell should be the one to hang it on the motorcycle. It can be relocated after this ritual is complete.
- Never leave the bell behind – If you sell your bike, never leave it on the motorcycle for the new owner. The bell should be cherished for the gift and tradition it was given. You should take it off, keep it, or transfer the bell to a new ride. If you want to give the bell to the new owner as a present, you'll need to take the bell off and personally gift it to them. If you don't give a bell with goodwill that is intentional, it won't have any effect.
- Bells should be as low to the pavement as possible to ensure it is the first thing gremlins hear. Some believe the bells actually capture gremlins. Placed at the lowest point close to the pavement, it will be the first thing gremlins will grab and become captured within.
- Bells should be as far forward on the motorcycle as possible to ensure the gremlins are warded off before they grab the motorcycle. The bottom of one of the front forks is ideal if possible.
- Stolen bells lose their power. If the bell is stolen by you or someone else who is then gifting it to another rider, it will have lost its power of protection.
- The bell should be cleaned every time you clean your motorcycle. While cleaning the bell you should remember fallen riders as a way of paying them respect.
To Believe Or Not Believe
Whether you believe in the power of the bell to ward and protect it is still an interesting subject. Among some bikers, superstition and tradition can run quite strong. For others, it is simply something that goes along with the biker lifestyle and is an object of fun conversation with people who don't know about them. Whatever you believe, there are plenty of bells available for purchase in biker stores and online to give that perfect gift of protection to another biker you care about.