Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Winter opening times poster

If you're a supporter of the Museum, please display this and make people aware that we are open this winter.  If you want a copy emailing to you or a printed version sent to you, please contact the Museum and we will get one to you.  

Boscastle is a great winter destination (so says the Guardian!)

Our winter weekend openings are going well and it was nice to get an endorsement from the Guardian!  Many thanks to the person who drew this to our attention.

HAD Poetry Competition

Poetry Competition from the organisation Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD)

Often we find displays of the bones of ancestors in museums that lack much, if any, consideration of the personhood of the individual on display. Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD) never advocates display of ancestors but recognises that it still happens. Today we are launching a competition to create a poem to be used as a standard tribute for the ancient dead. Every museum known to have ancestors on display will be offered the winning poem to be used as a plaque alongside the display. Additionally, the best local entries will be presented to the relevant museum – to celebrate the community voice.

Detail can be found on HAD’s website at www.honour.org.uk/?p=1202

Are we one of the world's wackiest Museums?

According to an online article we are one of the ten wackiest Museum's in the world!  See the complete list by clicking on this link...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Event in April - call for papers

An event has been organised in collaboration with the Museum.  More details on tickets etc. to follow.  If you would like to submit papers, see this document.  If you would like any more details then please contact the Museum.  Should be an interesting day...

Read a blog (and see some more photos) of our Halloween event

Cassandra Latham-Jones has written a blog about the event that took place at the Museum in October.  There are lots of great photos too.


Fantastic Friends AGM

Saturday was the Friends AGM and it was a very lively and interesting day.  Friends of the Museum had the chance to listen to a day of talks, to meet with like minded people and to find out about the future of the Museum of Witchcraft.  It was lovely to see so many people there and to know what widespread support the Museum has.  There were also lots of changes to the Friends organisation - welcome to the new trustees who will do a great job.  The photographs below give you an idea of the talks.  If you want to come next year why not join Friends?

The Museum Team tell us about their library favourites

We recently catalogued our 7000th library item!  Thanks so much to all the people who have generously donated their books to us to help create one of the most fantastic collection of books on witchcraft, magic and much much more.  To commemorate having over 7000 works in our library, the Museum Team have chosen their favourite books and sections of the library.

It is hard to pick a favourite thing about the museum library, each book is a single thread in the complex web of magical instruction, personal opinion, outrageous views, poetic works that make your mind sing, artworks that transport you to other realms and academic research into our magical past, as a sister or brother that partners the museum object collection.
Those who have used the library will know, it entices you initially and then just by browsing the shelves you can get drawn to other paths and mysteries, time being the only constricting factor.

Lesser known are the 147 box files containing a vast array of occult related magazines, from pamphlets to glossies, it’s worth having a browse online if there are magazines of the past that you would love to see again, or maybe have contributed to, we may hold a copy here….

Since arriving here in April, I have made it my mission to read quite a few books from the library.  One of the most interesting was Blood and Mistletoe, a History of the Druids by Ronald Hutton.  I hardly knew anything about this subject and was a bit confused about the difference between the Druids of the Ancient Past, those of the Celtic/Welsh tradition which I knew had some association with bards and those Druids who seemed to be linked to Paganism and magic.  This book really helped to clear up a lot!  It traces the history of Druids from the classical texts and archaeology arguing that the archaeological evidence should really be allowed to speak for itself as the primary sources are so misleading. The book also considers the relationship between Druids and Stonehenge and charts along the way the influential thinkers who have shaped a lot of people's views of this topic.   Because of the difficulty of constructing Druids as historical reality, Hutton argues that people have constructed the Druids that they want to believe in.   Some people really like Druids and others really dislike them.  As a result of this, they have been used as symbols of all that is good and virtuous by some writers and of all that is damnable by others!  

I really like the wide variety of cassettes, videos, CDs and DVDs we have in the library - many of these items have not yet been catalogued but we plan to make a start soon.  Thanks to the generosity of donors and supporters of the Museum, the library can boast many occult films including silent films, 40s and 50s classics, avant-garde Japanese cinema and schlock-horror films.  

Some of my favourite things though are the old cassettes:  wonderful tapes such as ‘Dusty Miller (the Folk Magician) Chats about … Brown Magic’ (self-released, 1985) who explains aspects of traditional English earth and lunar magic; hag stones, the ‘out of work’ charm, a thunderbolt ‘money magnet’, and healing stones.  We have a series of fantastic interviews with MoW founder Cecil Williamson on CD, in which Cecil talks elegantly about a number of issues: his relationship with Gerald Gardner, Ursula Kemp’s mortal remains, and the joys of running a Witchcraft Museum, among many others…  

I have also really enjoyed listening to the great music/spoken word collections in the library collection.  Highlights include:  ‘Aleister Crowley:  The Gnostic Mass’ –  a live recording of the ceremony performed by the Gnostic Catholic Church in London 1994 (Talisman Tapes) including a spoken description/commentary and beautiful synth music by Alison Gould and Kenneth J. Rea.  The great fiddler Dave Swarbrick appears on ‘Pagan Roots: Esbat Music’ (Esbat Music, 1994), and Freya Aswynn, dedicated priestess of Wodan, is most impressive on ‘Songs of Yggdrasil:  Shamanic Chants from the Northern Mysteries’.  Any donations from collectors, record labels and enthusiasts are most welcome!

Choosing a favourite book from the library has turned out to be impossible, so instead I’ve opted for the strangest book I’ve come across. That wasn’t an easy choice either, but in the end I decided on The Necronomicon.

Originally a book that existed only in the imagination of H.P. Lovecraft, encapsulating the maniacal labyrinthine darkness of his Cthulhu Mythos, by a kind of eerie inevitability it has become real.

The museum’s copy is a handsome, only slightly sinister-looking, black-bound book, written by the mysterious ‘Simon’, and inspired by Sumerian and Babylonian magical texts.

It is a testament not only to H.P. Lovecraft’s enduring significance as a spokesman for our unease about our position in the Universe, but also to the way we continually reinvent and explore the nature of mythology and our relationship with the supernatural.

Above all, it is a testament to the role of the book as an embodiment of knowledge in all its power and danger – and so, I feel, not a bad choice of a book to sum up the role of the museum’s library!

You can search the library online to see what we have: http://www.museumofwitchcraft.com/library/simplesearch_library.php

If you would like to spend time in the Museum Library when you are next in Boscastle, please contact the Museum to book a visit.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Don't forget we are open this weekend

Remember we are open weekends in November and December.  Saturdays and Sundays from 10.30am until 4pm (last entries at 3.30pm)  This is a trial and we really want it to be a success.  If you can come along and support the Museum with this venture we would be really pleased to welcome you here!  Don't be put off by the weather, there are plenty of other businesses open (lovely cafes and shops, the Visitor Centre etc.) so why not visit Boscastle this weekend?

Monday, November 03, 2014

A very busy October 31st!

We had a great day on October 31st, lots of young visitors came to the Museum in lovely costumes.

We were also given a generous donation - a very special, hand carved pumpkin which was lit and left in the Shrine all day.  

And last but not least, we had the most amazing visitors!  Thanks so much to everyone involved - it was too wonderful to put into words!  The music, the atmosphere, the spectacle and the goodwill of all the participants and the audience was amazing.  The osses started outside the Museum where they knocked for admission and where an interaction took place between those inside (including the Museum staff) and those outside (see photo below)  Then they came in and toured the Museum to bring us luck for the year ahead.  Afterwards, quite a crowd gathered and there was music and dancing outside and a sharing of wine, ale and cake!  There has been talk of making this an annual event...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Interview with Simon Costin (Director of the Museum) can be read online

You can read a fascinating interview with the Museum's Director online here:

Hayley Potter spent time at the Museum this year, follow the progress of her project...

You may remember that Hayley spent time earlier this year at the Museum researching the British Witch.  She spent time getting to know the collection and researching in the library.  This was part of an ongoing project.  You can read more about her research and see her work here:

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Wheel of the Year - Samhain

As visitors to the Museum will know, we have in our collection a lovely object called the Wheel of the Year (seen above).  This is a large wooden disc painted with scenes representing the various festivals of the year. Painted by Vivienne Shanley on disc made by Mark Highland.  We also display in the window of the Museum some seasonal texts which explore and celebrate the different times of year.  At the moment, the text in the Museum window is on Samhain and it reads:

Halloween (Samhain)
31st October

Samhain is the most important of the cross quarter days celebrated by witches.

It marks the beginning of winter, and is the eve of the Celtic New Year. On this night the Veil between the Worlds of life and death is at its most thin, and the ancestors return to feast and celebrate with their living kin.

Of all the old pagan festivals, it is the most popular. Children dress up as ghosts and witches and spooky fun is enjoyed by all. The origin of Trick or Treat may be to do with the Lord of Misrule, as boundaries dissolve mischievous spirits play havoc on mortals.

The Christian Church calls it All Hallows Eve or All Souls Eve. In the Midlands Soul Cakes were baked and parties of “soulers” would go from house to house begging for these cakes in memory of the dead.

Celebrate Samhain by honouring the return of the Dark, for within it are the seeds of rebirth. Send love and blessings to those of your family and friends who are dead for tonight they are near.

Also spare a thought for the women and men killed as witches during the times of persecution.

The picture below is an old Museum postcard from a painting by Vivienne Shanley entitled 'Samhain Witch'.

Museum Director appears in Christie's Magazine

Simon Costin, Director of the Museum, has an amazing array of items in his own collection.  He has just featured in Christie's Magazine which showcased his collection.