Friday, July 03, 2015

Proudly stocking Pagan Dawn

It took a little while for us to sort this out but we got there in the end!  The Museum is now pleased to be stocking Pagan Dawn (the magazine of the Pagan Federation).  We've only had the latest edition for a few days but it is already selling well and enabling visitors to connect with the PF.  Here are some photos of the latest edition on our shop book shelf.  This item is not available to buy from our online shop.  For more information on Pagan Dawn journal see:

Thursday, July 02, 2015

A few more days to get your Children's Art Week entries in

If you haven't submitted your Children's Art Week entry yet you have one more week to do so.   The deadline for pictures is Friday July 10th.  We've had a lot of great pictures from visitors to the Museum but it would be great to get some from our fans from further afield!

A reminder on the conditions for entry can be found below:
Children's Art Week 2015
Museum of Witchcraft and Magic Drawing Competition
This year's theme: Witches in fiction, fantasy and folklore

The Competition is open to all young people aged between 3 and 18.

In the Museum, you will see lots of images of witches from plays like Macbeth or poems like Tam O'Shanter.  There are images of witches from fairy stories and folklore too like the witch in Snow Whitee, Baba Yaga or witches riding in eggshells.  There are lots of witches in stories and films too like in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Terry Pratchett's Discworld and the Wizard of Oz.

Have a look around our displays and think about amazing, weird and wonderful witches.  Can you draw one for us?  You can copy an existing image or you can imagine what this witch looked like for yourself.  The best entrants will probably use colour and possibly paint and other media to create a quality piece of work.

There will be prizes for the best work and the opportunity to have the work displayed in the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic and exhibited as part of an online exhibition.

Make sure you put your name and contact details on the back of your picture and also tell us what witch you have drawn.  

First ever library open day this Saturday

The library will be open from 2-4pm on Saturdays for drop-ins.  A member of the Museum staff will be there at all times to answer questions and engage in discussions with visitors.  At 2pm, there will be a brief introductory talk on the history of the Museum and its collection.  Some rare books and manuscripts will be highlighted for visitors to see and look at.  

Library open days will take place on the first Saturday of every month
4th July
1st August
5th September
3rd October

If you've never used the library before but you'd like to have a little look to get inspired or if you'd like to talk with our friendly and knowledgeable staff then you can  - this Saturday!

Do you love Museums? We do...

Show your support for Museums  We have! #IloveMuseums.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Great article on the Museum in the most recent edition of the Boscastle Blowhole

Boscastle has its very own village magazine named the Blowhole (photo above).  They have kindly devoted a whole page to the Museum in their latest edition (see top two photos below).  The article primarily looks at the refurbishment that took place over winter and upcoming events.  They have also included an advert for our candlelit evenings this year (see bottom photo).  Many thanks to the editors of the Blowhole (and everyone in the village) for their continued support.

Museum Director will be on BBC Radio Cornwall today

The Director of the Museum,  Simon Costin, will be interviewed at 3.15pm on Thursday July 2nd on BBC Radio Cornwall.  He will be speaking with Tiffany Truscott on the Afternoon Show about our temporary exhibition - Witches and Witchlore: the illustrations of Jos A Smith (pictured below).

Article on the appeal of witchcraft to women today

This was found in the magazine Grazia a couple of weeks ago.  It can also be read online.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The man who flew like a witch

We were visited the other day by a gentleman who told us left us with this fascinating account...

Brian Plummer was an incredibly intelligent teacher (Mensa IQ 212), who was very interested in all country lore.  He had 16 books in print on dog breeding, hunting, falconry and similar subjects.  He also spoke many Indo European languages.

He decided to research the problem of witches’ ability to fly.  Apparently they could fly even when they were in prison.  They used badger fat and all sorts of herbs and similar materials according to ancient literature. 

He experimented.  He stripped naked and smeared himself all over with the badger fat mixture.  He felt peculiar and began to lose his bearings.  But then it happened.  He was flying!  Success!

Then there was a knock on his cottage door.  He opened it to his girlfriend who found him naked, stinking and so disorientated that she called for an ambulance.  He had probably poisoned himself, but the doctors were able to clean him off in time to save him.  (Later he tried to become a werewolf). 

Brian first taught me at Forest Comprehensive School Walsall in the 1980s. 

Dr R L Martin, Shropshire

Above: one of the earliest representations of witches in flight.

New date for Straw Crafts Day - 19th September

We have a fantastic day of Straw Crafts coming up in September, the poster is now available to print and display (should you wish to do so).

Gillian Nott will be running an informal and fun workshop to teach you how to make your own beautiful Straw Art and corn dollies!

Book now or 01840 250 111 to avoid disappointment.  Spaces are very limited.

(NB  This is the new correct date:  19th September 2015)  

Beautiful Straw Art loans from Gillian Nott

As part of our new window display for Lammas, Gillian has kindly loaned the Museum these incredible pieces:

Bouquet de Moisson (Harvest Bouquet) a traditional design from the cereal growing areas of the Nord Pas de Calais

Bride of the Corn design from Fez, Morocco

These have been added to our window display.  There is talk of a traditional Cornish corn dolly display next year so watch this space!

Thanks to Gillian for allowing us to display these wonderful objects.

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Window display for Lammas

Pictured above: This amazing corn dolly is one of the main parts of the display.  Here it is waiting to go into the window and taking in a beautiful evening outside the Museum in Boscastle.

Lammas or Lughnasadh
1st August
Lammas or Lughnasadh is one of the four cross quarter days celebrated by witches.

This ancient festival marks the point half way between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox.

It celebrates the first grain harvest and is named after the Celtic God Lugh.

The Anglo-Saxon name of this festival is Hlafmesse meaning “loaf-mass”.

On Lammas day in 1940 witches gathered in the New Forest to raise a “cone of power” to prevent Hitler’s troops invading England. The assembly included Gerald Gardner and Old Dorothy Clutterbuck and several other renowned witches,

Traditionally Lammas is celebrated by taking a spiral path to the summit of a Lammas hill such as Silbury Hill  or Glastonbury Tor.

To mark Lammas, we have changed our window display so that the stag's antlers are adorned with wonderful straw or corn art made by Gillian Nott (who will be here in August to make items outside the Museum and also in September for a daylong straw workshop - email the Museum if you would like to take part in the latter).

Pictured above: examples of the types of straw art on display in the window.

Pictured below: the straw art hanging in the window.

Information from the window display follows:

Straw Art
Straw or corn art was made around the time of the harvest perhaps as a way of saying thank-you for the crops. 

 When harvesting, farmers will often leave the last stand of corn as it contains the spirit of the crop. In some parts of the country this will be cut by ritually throwing sickles. The corn would then be used to decorate the farmhouse for “Harvest Home”, and be made into a corn dolly to protect the home and guarantee the crops for the next season.  

Corn Dolly Poem by Minnie Lambeth
 "Tis but a thing of straw" They say,
Yet even straw can sturdy be
Plaited into doll like me.
And in the days of long ago
To help the seeds once more grow
I was an offering to the gods.
A very simple way indeed
Of asking them to intercede
That barn and granary o'erflow
At harvest time, with fruit and corn
To fill again Amalthea's horn.

Above: Amalthea's horn

Thursday, June 25, 2015

New Museum leaflet hot off the press

We just had a large delivery of promotional leaflets which incorporate the name change and new logo.  If you would like one/some posting to you please let the Museum know.  A lot of places charge to have leaflets on display in their racks but if you know of anywhere that they could be on display/distributed then please let us know (holiday cottages, businesses etc.)  Email Judith

Jewellery cast from Museum objects now available

The Museum shop has expanded its range of jewellery in recent months.  We now have items available for sale online which have been cast by Cornish jewellers to resemble objects from the Museum's collection.

Here are some examples...

A pewter hare brooch made in pewter (photo below), it was modelled on a hare which was found in a wall under a window near Liskeard in 1998 (photo above).

Some items are direct copies which have been made into jewellery such as this cat (the original of which was made in the trenches of World War One and is part of our display of wartime protection charms) and this moon face brooch which is a replica of a talisman owned by Gerald Gardner.

We also have two items cast in silver from delicate items in our charms display. 

A beautifully detailed silver newt, cast from an exhibit in the Museum, hangs from a silver chain in this subtly witchy pendant that captures the magic of the natural world.  The newt is traditionally associated with procuring love and increasing concentration.

The two silver moles' feet, which hang from a silver chain, are wonderfully detailed, and cast from an exhibit in the Museum.  This unusual pendant draws on traditional folk magic and its close connection with the natural world.   Moles' feet were believed to protect against toothache and cramp, and to ensure that whoever carried them would never be short of money.

Dog moves into Museum

Say hello to Tom - a dalmation/collie cross who you are quite likely to see at the Museum when you visit.  He is Judith and Peter's new dog and since they work and live on site as the Museum managers, Tom will be around the Museum quite a lot from now on.

Looking scholarly in the library...

Exploring our new Images of Witchcraft display...

Looking appropriately contemplative in the Persecution section...

Befriending Baphomet...

Well behaved dogs on leads are always welcome in the Museum.

New painting and display on Boscastle

We have recently acquired a new work of art by Vivienne Shanley called "Boscastle at Night".  It includes a beautiful view of the Harbour with lots of interesting things happening on the cliffs and in the night sky.  This painting is also available as a poster and a card from our online shop.

The painting forms the main part of a display which answers one of the questions most commonly asked by visitors namely "Why is the Museum in Boscastle?"  There is no one answer to this question but we have posited some theories in this section of the Museum (which is near the entrance and the section on the Museum's history and founder - Cecil Williamson).

Below is the text that we have included in this display:

Why is the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic in Boscastle?
Boscastle is a magical place.  It is said that the founder of the Museum used to walk to the White Tower on the cliffs every night to ‘put the Sun to bed.’

The painting above by local artist Vivienne Shanley imagines Boscastle at Night - a place where people revere nature and where one gets the feeling that anything could happen!

The Reverend Robert Stephen Hawker was an Anglican priest, poet and antiquarian of Cornwall in the 1800s.  He described Boscastle:

'Strange, striking and utterly unique is this first   aspect of this village by the sea. The gorge or valley lies between two vast precipitous hills that yawn asunder as though they had been cleft by the spells of some giant warlock of the west...'

The Museum moved several times before it found its home in Cornwall.  The founder of the Museum, Cecil Williamson explained the Museum’s location:

‘Three miles away from this spot you can find this pre-historic maze stone carved into a living rock face (see photograph below of Rocky Valley carving), proof that from ancient times man and his magic making with the world of spirit were active in this area.  The centuries have passed and times have changed and yet all around us in this quiet corner of England there is a strange feeling that we are not alone and that the shades of persons passed on and over into the world of spirit are very close.  That is why this Museum of Witchcraft is located here.  One is standing on the edge of the beyond.’

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Museum is part of 100 Faces 100 Stories Project

Visitors can now pick up this free booklet from the Museum.  It contains 100 stories from the First World War with each entry being sponsored by a Museum.  The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic have included information on Alan Leo (see our entry in the booklets photographed below).  If you can't come in to the Museum to collect one of these booklets, you can look online where more detailed information is available.  

Alan Leo
(1860-1917) – Astrologer fined for fortune telling
Alan Leo was the father of modern astrology and inspired Gustav Holst to write the 'Planets Suite'. In 1917 Leo cast a horoscope for a policeman and was accused of fortune-telling, a serious offence in wartime. Heavily fined under the Vagrancy Act, Leo died on holiday at Bude.

William Frederick Allen, who later took the name Alan Leo, was raised in a strict Plymouth Brethren household in London.  Regular chapel attendance and fireside readings from Foxe's Book of Martyrs imparted on the young boy a strong belief in a Creator God, but this was tempered with a growing dissatisfaction with the Brethen's theology and binding morality.  ‘I was made to take life seriously’, he wrote, ‘Sunday was just a dreadful day in our home’.
He was educated in Edinburgh, but returned to London to work in the family grocery business and later ran a shop in Manchester. He soon became ill from overwork and, sceptical of the medical profession, Leo visited a local 'cunning man' known as Doctor Richardson.  Richardson correctly diagnosed a kidney complaint using only the time, date and place of Leo's birth.  From this time forward, Leo was convinced that astrology - or divination by the celestial bodies - was 'God's Law'.  Tutored by Richardson, he started to gather information about his grocery-store clients, cast their horoscopes and read their characters.

It is from these humble beginnings that commercial astrology began.  He took the name Alan Leo (from his own sun-sign), and began a successful postal horoscope service.  He founded three societies, a magazine and published many books, including The Art of Synthesis (1912).  This work was read by the famous composer Gustav Holst, who drew upon Leo's creative descriptions of the planets in his famous orchestral suite.

The Vagrancy Act of 1824 stipulated that all fortune telling was illegal, even if the intention of the fortune-teller (or astrologer) was not to deceive.  In 1917, Alan Leo was prosecuted for the second time under this Act.  He had drawn up a horoscope for an Inspector Nicholls and unfortunately included the remark: ‘at this time a death in your family circle is likely to cause you sorrow’.   Fortune-telling, which could lead to a loss of public morale, was regarded very seriously in wartime.  Leo pleaded not guilty but the magistrate did not allow him to defend the legitimacy of astrology; he was found guilty and fined £5, plus £25 costs.

Leo and his wife Bessie went to Bude to recover from the ordeal, but Leo died of a cerebral haemorrhage on the 30 August – many of his friends blamed the trial and the legal system.  Leo's lasting legacy was the re-popularisation of astrology in the popular press, and setting it on more commercial and accessible footing.

Willow Pan

Lots of people really like Dancing Pan outside the Museum.  He is probably one of the most photographed things in Boscastle!  Here is a bit of information about him from the display we have near the entrance to the Museum.  Visitors can also pick up business cards for the maker of this wonderful artwork outside the Museum.

For Illustration
For Sculpture


Made by Devon artist Woody Fox, a renowned willow sculptor and children’s book illustrator. 

This work of art is on loan to The Museum of Witchcraft as a temporary exhibit.

He writes, “The natural weave and flow of willow is a wonderful joy to work with. I’m very much interested in using natural, sustainable materials in my work.”

This sculpture of Pan was originally exhibited at the National Trust property Knightshayes Court near Tiverton.

Other works by Woody are on display at Killerton Gardens near Exeter and High Heathercombe, Dartmoor.

Graham and Woody with Pan when he was first came to the Museum.

Pan outside the Museum today with the new Museum of Witchcraft and Magic MWM logo sign.