Monday, September 01, 2014

September Book Review

James Sharpe
Instruments of Darkness: Witchcraft in Early Modern England
(University of Pennsylvania Press)



This book explores witchcraft in early modern England.  It starts with an overview of historical scholarship on witchcraft so far exploring the early histories of witchcraft by Montague Summers, Jules Michelet and Margaret Murray before exploring the Freudian and feminist explanations of witch persecution.  He is critical of the terms 'witchcraze' and 'witch hunt', preferring the less strong term the “period of witch persecution in Europe”  This is in line with his thinking on the numbers of people executed at this time which he believes to have been closer 50,000 than the 9,000,000 million figure put forward by some.

Sharpe explores the origins of early modern ideas on witchcraft by considering the influences of the Classical World, St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas.  He charts in detail the key texts which structured early modern thinking on witchcraft and explores theological and legal arguments for witch hunting as well as the attitudes of the multitude.

Chapter 4 was particularly illuminating focusing on Patterns of Persecution.  Sharpe creates a statistical picture of the early modern period using available court records.  From the available evidence, he is able to state that the period 1570-1590 included half of all accusations for the entire early modern period with the other peak period being the 1650s, that victims of witchcraft were more likely to be female (54.2% of cases involved a female victim), that earlier accusations often related to the damage of livestock while later accusations involved children as victims.  There were also cases of people who were accused of bewitching beer, milk or cream but these only appear in trial records because the witch was also accused of more serious crimes.  

Sharpe focuses on the English notion on maleficium and suggests that some of the wilder accusations (i.e., Sabbats and sex with the Devil) were the exception rather than the rule in English witchcraft trials.  His book ends with explorations of the changing religious context and the role of science in the eighteenth century which, he argues, created more scepticism about witchcraft.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

West Country Folklore Event October 4 2014

We are very pleased to announce that Steve Patterson and the Museum of Witchcraft director, Simon Costin, will be running a fascinating day of talks, tours and discussions on the theme of 'West Country Folklore and Magic' at the Museum on Saturday October 4.

Please see flyer for details:


All are welcome.  On the same evening, between 8pm and Midnight, the Museum will also be open by Candlelight - any attendees of the workshop during the day will have free entry to the evening event!

Please book your place now to avoid disappointment

museumwitchcraft@aol.com 
Tel:  01840 250 111

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Best Museum In Cornwall: Voting ends Sunday 31st August

There's still time to vote for the Museum of Witchcraft in the Cornwall Today Best of 2014 Awards.

Please vote for us by going to http://www.cornwalltoday.co.uk/awards/#/awards/vote-now/ and make your selection!  Alternatively you can email your vote to awards@cornwalltoday.co.uk.  Don't forget to type 'Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle' and 'Best Museum' in the email.

Thanks for your support

Monday, August 25, 2014

A week (and a bit) in the life of an intern by Chloe Francis...

Working at the museum, even for such a short amount of time, has been one of the most eye opening and fantastic experiences I've ever had. When I emailed Judith in April, just after Simon took over as director, I was incredibly dubious as to whether or not the prospect of an intern would be welcomed. I remember in the days from sending the first email to getting the reply from Judith, I was sat on the decking back home in Matlock with my mum saying "oh god, what if I've made a huge mistake? What if nothing comes of this email" but, ever the wise one, she said "well you're not going to lose anything just by asking them!" And that enquiry was one of the best decisions of my life. This place has captivated me and intrigued me since I was 12/13 and found the museum by complete chance looking for a logo to sew onto a bag in textiles class! Hard to believe that was seven years ago now! (Unfortunately the teacher didn't let me use the iconic black witch on a broomstick silhouette which sits proudly on one of the doors. It was eye opening enough learning that the iconic door was not the entrance!)

Sadly, due to the season, I wasn't able to spend as much time in the museum as I would have liked to, but thankfully enough time to get to know the museum, have a taste of what it's like to work in a museum and, I hope, make some very good friends in Judith, Pete and Joyce. In fact Joyce has completely opened my eyes to things I wouldn't have seen before such as the Pendle Witch Trials and I've had many a long conversation sat in the booth about Witchcraft, writing books, making jokes about really ridiculous things, all in between serving customers and munching on the massive pasties from the bakers!

Without a shadow of a doubt, I have been an incredibly LUCKY intern this year. I've been allowed to handle artefacts, leaf through original documents, assist in the day to day jobs around a museum, catalogue some of the books which were bequeathed to the library and assist in finding a document someone was using for research. Oh, and was allowed to attend a book launch (see photos) which ended up with some of the Friends, Joyce, the author and me sat in the pub with various drinks! Possibly one of the more surreal nights of my life so far as we covered everything from Theology, Celtic History, the Vikings, Witchcraft (as you'd expect) and the history of Christianity in the British Isles. The book launch itself was fascinating as I had never heard of Cecil Williamson before coming here, yet I was standing at the back of the top gallery, taking pictures on a bad quality iPhone camera, listening to this guy talking about the life of a man who, I've now come to understand, was a complete character and who did some amazing things, a view which was reinforced by looking through the archive of his letters, positively laughing loudly, gasping at some of the things he was saying and plenty of exclamations of "oh my god!"

Judith, Pete and Joyce have moved heaven and earth to accommodate me at the museum for such a short space of time, something for which I am so incredibly thankful for as it wouldn't have been the same if it hadn't have been for them. The people of Boscastle have been so friendly and welcoming, with several interesting conversations in lunch breaks and wandering around prior to the door being unlocked for us to go in and clean the place up before it opens each day. The museum is a hidden gem and Boscastle provides the perfect backdrop to the quirky, unconventional, and incredibly relaxed museum. I cannot think of a better place to have spent two of the absolute best weeks of my life then the Museum of Witchcraft!

To Joyce, Judith and Pete, thank you ever so much for making me feel so welcome here!  Special shout out the Hannah who I didn't see very much but who is, I know, an essential and valued member of the Museum team.  

And thanks to Chloe from all at the Museum!  You can see her legacy in action by buying her leaflet on Magic in the North from the Museum shop or by looking at her temporary exhibition on the Flood in the upstairs gallery.  

Green Man in Switzerland


Joyce from the Museum writes:
 Some recent visitors to the Museum from Switzerland were particularly interested in our Green Man display (an example of which can be seen above), as they are from Kleinbasel (the part of the city of Basel on the right-hand bank of the Rhine), which has a festival called Vogel Gryff featuring a Green Man.

The festival takes place in January, and begins with the dramatically masked Green Man (known as Wildi Maa) travelling down the Rhine on a raft, brandishing a small pine tree, with canons firing salutes. At the Middle Bridge he is joined by two other figures – a lion (Leu) and a griffin (Vogel Gryff – who gives his name to the festival). All three then dance through the streets, collecting money for charity.

The festival dates back to the 16th century, and the three figures are the heraldic symbols of three local societies, which were originally militias, but are now essentially social clubs.

There are some entertaining films of the festival on YouTube, for example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlgdrMC291U

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V65KHVgXxGo


Museum receives a lovely email from another satisfied visitor

We received a lovely email on Sunday, it was so nice that we thought we'd share it.  Many thanks to the family who sent it - we're glad you enjoyed your visit.

Recent Visit:-
We would just like to say a a VERY big Thank You to you for the warm welcome we received both to The Witches Museum & The Village of Boscastle.
Particularly to my furry 4 legged DOGS TRUST RESCUE dog (KEEVAH).
Dogs & their owners often get a lot of bad press via the media But the vast majority of us are responsible & caring & like to take our 4 legged companions with us where possible.
North Cornwall has made our family holiday so enjoyable because we could bring our most valued member of OUR family with us ( her first ever holiday by the sea so we ourselves were a little unsure how she'd behave) over the course of the week i have spoken to many holiday makers from various places from New Zealand to Sussex ( DOGS are NOT ALLOWED ON THEIR BEACHES)  who like us where so thrilled at the fact that dogs are made so welcome!
What a lovely attitude to have to tourists AND their family pets i do hope this remains
We WILL be back
Thank You




We thought we'd share a photo from the blog archive as a reminder that dogs are welcome at the Museum (outfits are optional!)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Please Vote For Us!



The Museum of Witchcraft has been campaigning hard to win the Best Museum in Cornwall at the upcoming Cornwall Today Awards.

Please vote for us by going to http://www.cornwalltoday.co.uk/awards/#/awards/vote-now/ and make your selection!

Alternatively you can email your vote to awards@cornwalltoday.co.uk.  Don't forget to type 'Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle' and 'Best Museum' in the email.

Thanks for your support.  The winners will be announced at a special award ceremony in September.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Launch at the Museum this Saturday

We are very pleased to be hosting a book launch this Saturday for Steve Patterson's book entitled Cecil Williamson's Book of Witchcraft.  The Museum will be open by candlelight for invited guests and there will also be a talk in the upstairs gallery.  If you have received an invitation and are planning to attend please can you RSVP or if you would like more details then please e-mail info@troybooks.com


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Remembering the 2004 Flood


Hi, this is Chloé interning at the museum of Witchcraft!

Although only two of the current members of staff were working in the museum at the time of the flood, it having been a decade since it passed was cause for remembrance in the museum. As people are already aware, in the entrance to the actual museum, there is a small piece about the flood (with a picture of Graham's car!) but it is mainly pictures. However to celebrate the first decade since the event, Pete and Judith decided to put together a small collection of artifacts, which were related to the flood, as a temporary commemorative display. As part of a two week internship, I was here to help with the display.

The artifacts in the below picture are the ones which were chosen (Judith having sent me around to see what looked interesting and was either flood damaged or related to the flood in some way) and they include things such as the number plate of Graham's car which was swept into the sea, a pot which lost some of the Graveyard Dust which had previously filled it, a doll which had to be restored, some artifacts made by Margaret Bruce which were also flood damaged, the Odd Pod, which had turned from white to dark, and, most intriguing, a spoon which Uri Geller signed and bent and he had sent it to show his support in the aftermath of the flood. In fact I heard Joyce saying that the whole ground floor was filled with fudge the next day because next door, at the time, was a fudge shop! Unusually for the museum, which normally has the descriptions in the display case, the artifacts had to be numbered and a separate piece of paper with a description (not pictured) had to be made as the actual case is around half the size of a modern school desk 


It wasn't just the museum which was commemorating the decade anniversary since the flood, the National Trust Café next door had a slide show of pictures playing all Tuesday showing pictures from the immediate aftermath and photos taken earlier this year, ITV sent their local news crew to the village on Monday to do a small piece on the decade mark since the flood and pictured below are the Boscastle Buoys who sang outside the museum on Monday and Tuesday, raising funds for a local hospice.



I'll be doing more blogs for the museum in the next two weeks....... stay tuned!