Thursday, January 29, 2015

Museum Spring Clean starts!

Whilst the museum may be closed currently to the public, there is a hive of industry buzzing away behind the scenes. It was decided last year to update the Images of Witchcraft and Persecution sections of the museum and to also look at how to tell the story of the museum's foundation and history. The museum team have been working on how best to tell this story and visitors can look forward to not only seeing this but a revamped shop space too.

Simon paid a visit to Cambridge to negotiate the donation of some wonderful old Victorian cabinets, from the Museum of Zoology, who are currently updating their displays. The new cabinets will allow for more material to be displayed and are all very much in keeping with the museum's spirit.

Expect more updates over the coming weeks as work begins in ernest. It promises to be an exciting 2015 for the museum.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Museum Talk mentioned in the Guardian

Steve Patterson and Simon Costin's talk day on Cornish Folklore and Customs, back in the summer, has a mention in a piece by the Guardian's Tom Cox today.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

"On the Blackchair" interview soon to be available online

Steve Patterson (Friend of the Museum and author of Cecil Williamson's Book of Witchcraft
A Grimoire of the Museum of Witchcraft) was interviewed yesterday on by Karagan on the show "On the Blackchair"  It will be archived and available to watch on youtube at some point.

Thanks to Troy Books for pointing this out to us.

Call for Papers: The Alchemical Landscape

THE ALCHEMICAL LANDSCAPE: Counterculture, Occulture and the Geographic Turn

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge
23rd March 2015
An interdisciplinary symposium presented by the Cambridge University
 Counterculture Research Group

"If any one book put ley lines on the map, re-enchanted the British
landscape and made Glastonbury the capital of the New Age it was John
 Michell's seminal 1969 tome The View Over Atlantis." ---Bob Rickard,
Fortean Times, 2009.

 In an age of vast ecological crisis and a widespread re-calibration of the
arts and humanities towards questions of eco-criticism, an increasing
 number of writers, artists and film-makers are re-investing the British
 landscape with esoteric and mythic imagery. From the revival of 'Folk
Horror' to the cross-over between magical and artistic practice, this
'enchanted' representation of the rural works as both a link to the past
 and an articulation of pressing contemporary concerns.

This special one-day symposium at the University of Cambridge seeks to
explore the creative, aesthetic and political implications of this
'geographic turn'.

300-word proposals for presentations of up to 20 minutes are invited on any
aspect of this theme.

Possible topics could include but are not limited to:

 - John Michell, T.C. Lethbridge, J.A Baker, T.H. White, Helen Macdonald,
 Paul Devereux, Andrew Collins, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Alan Moore, Derek
 Jarman, Penny Slinger, Arthur Machen, Susan Cooper, Alan Garner, Dennis
Parry, Sven Berlin, Geraldine Monk, Michael Bracewell, Gary Spencer
 Millidge, Alice Oswald, David Pinner, Diana Durham, Charlotte Hussey, Brian
 Catling, Janni Howker.

 - English Heretic, Ghost Box, Drew Mulholland, Julian Cope, The Outer
Church, Pye Corner Audio, Matt Shaw, The Sinister Insult, Phil Legard, The
Geography Trip, The Wyrding Module, The Haunted Shoreline, The House in the
 Woods, Wyrd England Gazetteer, The Soulless Party, A Year in the Country,
 Wyrdstone, Scarfolk, The Old Weird Albion, The Sons of T.C. Lethbridge,
 Psychic Field Recordings.

- The Stone Tape, Children of the Stones, Quatermass and the Pit, A Field
 in England, The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan's Claw, Antichrist, Voodoo
 Science Park, Robinson in Ruins, On Vanishing Land, Cobra Mist, The Living
 Dead at the Manchester Morgue, The Owl Service, Robin Redbreast, Penda's

 - Mystical, visionary and imaginative landscapes, folklore, hauntology,
 alternative nostalgia, psychogeography, speculative archaeology, inner
 space, psychedelic pastoralism, the contemporary bucolic.

 - The creative potential of magical thinking, Fortean phenomena and
 parapsychological practices: crop circles, dowsing, residual haunting,
 remote viewing, geomancy.

 Proposals can be e-mailed to:

 Deadline: 5th January 2015.

Please include a short biographical note with your submission.


Yvonne Salmon FRSA FRGS FRAI
Preceptor, Corpus Christi College
Lecturer, University of Cambridge

 James Riley FRSA
 Fellow of English
Corpus Christi College
University of Cambridge

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Peter Underwood dies aged 91

A great supporter and friend of the Museum, the paranormal researcher Peter Underwood, has died aged 91.  We wish to extend our condolences to his family and friends, and remember his fascinating work.

Urgent help needed for St Nectan's Glen

We received an email at the Museum today calling for support for St Nectan's Glen.  If you've never been there, it is a lovely site between Boscastle and Tintagel - well worth a visit next time you're near the Museum.

They are seeking planning permission for a small heritage centre and retreat as well as general improvements to their facilities.  They aim to have schools come and do eco projects and to have a building within which documented history and visuals can be displayed.  

As always happens with planning permission, there is an opportunity for people to have their say for and against the proposal.  If you would like to find out more about this proposal and support the project then please go to the website - and search the planning applications with this PA application ref: PA14/09299.  The deadline is today - November 30th so please act quickly if you want to show your support!

New edition of the Cauldron Magazine is well worth a read

The Cauldron Magazine, Witchcraft, Paganism and Folklore is always worth a read.
It has been going since 1976 (we have many of the old editions in the library here) and contains a mix of eclectic and intriguing articles.

The most recent edition contains two articles with clear links to the Museum - one on Joan Wytte (her skeleton used to be on display here) and another on the Ghosts of Boscastle by Steve Patterson, author of Cecil Williamson's Book of Witchcraft A Grimoire of the Museum of Witchcraft.  If you don't already subscribe to this magazine now is the perfect time.

Museum appears on podcast

You can listen to the podcast which mentions the Museum.  Thanks to Peter Laws for this.

These are the photos for you if you haven't visited for a while or if you're simply missing the Museum...

These photos were taken by Simon Costin, the Director of the Museum about a month or so ago.  If you haven't been for a while have a look to remind yourself of the Museum and if you have chance, make the most of our winter opening hours to pay a visit in person.

We now have 11k followers on twitter!

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

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:

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.