Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New place for visitors to leave their comments

This visitor comment box used to be in the shop.  Changing the door in the entrance has created space for us to have it there.  A nice little hand holds down the blank cards (the wind does sometimes gust through here!) and we have a cute little black quill pen for people to write their comments.  We've been getting some great ones here recently and also on tripadvisor.

Monday, May 25, 2015

What's been going on at the Museum...part five

The next area of our tour of the refurbishment of the Museum is 'Persecution'.  The walls and woodwork have been painted black and a new area has been added to house the weighing chair.  This section now focuses on trials and methods of "proving" witchcraft so it includes the weighing chair, the pricking pin and a section on swimming.

A major addition to the Persecution display is a Timeline of laws relating to, or impacting upon, magic and witchcraft which starts in the time of Ancient Babylon and goes up to 2008.

The main persecution display includes a life size "figure of persecution".  This model has been dressed in seventeenth century style clothing and has on a scold's bridle, manacles, a waist shackle and thumbscrews.  We have also extended our display of persecution texts.  Previously, only James I's Daemonologie was on display but now visitors can see works by Jean Bodin and Joseph Glanvill.

This part of the Museum also remembers those who died as a result of persecution with a list of the names of some of those who died and a memorial to the Pendle witch case of 1612.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

International Witch travels

If you haven't been following the movements of Kerriann and Graham as they travel through Europe, here are the witch related highlights.  Their journey has been rather epic as they have travelled through France, Spain and Portugal.  They've visited some amazing places. You can read more on their fantastic blog http://travelsindickie.blogspot.co.uk/ which also features the gorgeous Hugo (photo to the right).

Spain's Museum of Witchcraft

Portugese Witch Country

Phallic Stones

Chapel of Bones

Witchcraft in Alsace

Japanese Tour Group visits the Museum

We had a visit from some lovely people from Japan yesterday.  They had a tour of the Museum (led by Peter) and were fascinated by the collection.

One gentleman also kindly donated a book to the library of an exhibition on witchcraft which is currently being shown in Japan called Secret Witches (which looks really interesting).



The book/exhibition catalogue contained a picture of a mole's claw charm which is very similar to the ones we have here.  

It also has a little mini book at the back for "Secret Witches".  

Day of Straw Crafts - sign up now!

Summer is with us, and Lammas not so very far away. The crops are ripening in the fields, and following on from our Lammas window of last year, the Museum will this year be hosting a straw craft work shop. Come and learn about the materials used, the stories and legends surrounding the spirit of the harvest, and have a go at making a corn dolly or two to take home with you.

The workshop will be tutored by Gillian Nott, who has been involved with straw work for nearly 40 years. Although principally a researcher, historian and archivist, she has produced work for many museums, theatres, newspapers and various designers, and collaborates closely with the Eden Project and the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle.

The workshop will be held on Saturday 12th September in the Conference Room of the National Trust building adjacent to the Museum. Times: 10am til 4pm.   Cost £20 per person (to be paid on the day). Places are limited, so to avoid disappointment, please book early through the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, contact Judith Hewitt, 01840250111 or email: museumwitchcraft@aol.com.

Below are the sorts of things you could be making...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Lots of great books and magazines for sale in the Museum

We now have a dedicated book shelf in the Museum shop.  This has enabled us to expand the range of books we sell in the Museum and on the online shop.

We will continue to review these works and add new titles in future.  For now, here are a selection some of our new titles (for a full list see our online shop).

We also stock the Cauldron magazine for sale in the Museum shop and Merry Meet magazine (these are not available to buy from us online).

New shop stock available

This winter, Hannah and Judith spent a lot of time researching new shop stock.  Many items have been selling really well in the Museum shop and now they are starting to be added to our online shop as well (thanks Joyce!)  We are adding new items regularly now so keep an eye out.

One of the most popular objects in the Museum is the hare lady statue by Lionel Miskin and now you can take home a miniature version (which was made and hand painted in Cornwall for us).

We've also worked closely with a local pewter maker who has made pewter replicas of some of objects from the Museum collection.  A selection of items are pictured below, there are many more on the website.

We have Museum badges, pencils, broomstick pens and erasers (in the style of a book of magic).  

We have also worked on things which are "inspired by the Museum" so we have a scented candle which replicates the smell of the Museum (more precisely its incense) and a Wheel of the Year stained glass sticker which gives you another way of appreciating this work of art.

The story of the new Temporary Exhibition space

Once upon a time, there was an old building in Boscastle (see photo below).  One man (Cecil Williamson) had the vision to convert it into the Museum of Witchcraft.

He created lots of different rooms inside the building (see his plans below).

In one of these rooms, he displayed tableau known as The Witch's Cradle (see photo below).  According to documents in the Museum archive written by various people, "The witches cradle helps the mind and spirit to leave the body..."  Another document mentions, "...experimenting with balanite and ash, and find that even without certain aids, it works remarkably well combined with a witches cradle."  One other document states, "The darned trouble is, while I have no knowledge of the use of any Witches Cradle...I can quite imagine something of the sort being made and used..."

The room stayed that way for many years until the display was removed and replaced by the stone circle (seen below looking lovely by candlelight).  For many years, this display was a central part of the Museum and held a special place in many hearts.

This year, the stone circle was removed to make way for the room's next incarnation as a temporary exhibition space.  The idea is to have different displays here each year.  This might be objects from the collection that are currently in store or haven't been displayed for a while or it might involve getting new objects in or on loan (as is the case this year).  The first exhibition is an art exhibition but it is not intended that every future exhibition will be art - we could do anything with this versatile space.  

For a while this year, the room was an empty cream box.

But then, the paintings (which were held up in customs) arrived, were framed and Peter and Simon sprang into action (here is an action shot of them deep in concentration).

And now, the Museum's first ever temporary exhibition (to the writer's knowledge) is installed.  There are around thirty paintings on display and each has an interpretation panel or caption with it.  These texts are either from Erica Jong's book itself, comments from the artist or comments by individuals who have been influenced and affected by the book.  Special thanks must go to Desdemona McCannon for helping with the interpretation texts.

Most of the paintings are on the wall, some are on tables.  The title of the exhibition is Witches and Witch Lore: the Illustrations of Jos A Smith.  It will be on display until November 2015.  Limited edition signed prints of some of the artwork are available in the Museum shop and online shop.  Greetings cards will be coming soon.  

So it started out as what looks like an empty building, then it housed a witch's cradle, then a stone circle and now some original artworks.  Who knows what it will hold next?  Things keep moving...hope to see you here soon.

Still seeking hagstones

Many thanks to everyone who has donated hagstones to the Museum already.  We are still looking for more (all sizes - from huge to tiny).  If you have any that you would be willing to donate we would be very grateful to receive them next time you are in the area.

Candlelit Evenings this year

Our candlelit evenings were really popular last year.  If you would like to join us for one this year, we have just announced the dates (see poster below).  The first one is in a week's time (Saturday 30th May).  We will be open from 8pm until 11pm (last entry at 10.30pm).  If you know of anywhere that these posters could be put up or promoted on social media etc. please help us out by promoting these events.

Hope to see you there!

New guidebook for the Museum

After selling out of the old guidebook, it was decided that now would be a good time to update the guidebook.  The new Museum guidebook includes an atmospheric front cover of Boscastle which also incorporates the name change and re-brand, inside there are new texts and photos.  It is still available for the bargain price of £1.50 from the Museum shop or the online shop.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May Event - read all about it!

A day of talks hosted by the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

Many thanks to Joyce Froome for writing this summary of this fantastic day.  Many people were saying it was one of the best day of talks they had been to.   

Jonathan Hughes’ presentation on ‘Alchemy and the Occult and the English Kings’ plunged us into the complexities of medieval occult beliefs and politics. In fact Jonathan untangled it persuasively into the basic polarity of Mercury (white) and Sulphur (red) – with Mercury associated with Christ and spirituality, and Sulphur associated with the Devil, but also with worldly power and attributes such as military skill. Jonathan’s insights into how this alchemical symbolism was picked up by medieval kings cast fascinating new light on enigmatic figures such as Richard II, and enigmatic works such as the great magical poem ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ – and also suggested a new dimension to the symbolism of the red and white Tudor Rose. Also fascinating was the intricate connection between alchemy and the Arthurian mythos, which, interestingly, began when English Christians were looking for a way to appropriate alchemy for themselves and deny its Middle Eastern Islamic origins.

In ‘Cthulhu in Cornwall: Adventures in the Lovecraftian Abyss’, Paul Weston drew some very intriguing comparisons between H.P. Lovecraft and Aleister Crowley, before describing some of his own weirdly significant experiences. His presentation was an evocative and often witty exploration of sea-related strangeness, taking in ancient gods, the subconscious, fish people, the Loch Ness Monster and Cornwall’s sea monster Morgawr. With the harbour so close it was of course particularly interesting (and maybe just a little unsettling) to be lured into reassessing our fascination with the ocean and its otherworldly depths.

The day of talks coincided with the official opening of the Museum’s first exhibition in the new temporary exhibition space – the remarkable artworks by Jos A. Smith that became the illustrations for Erica Jong’s book ‘Witches’. After lunch Jo allowed himself to be interviewed by our director Simon Costin, and talked about his working relationship with Erica Jong (often she based her text around his pictures, rather than the other way round), and how his work has been inspired by trance states, dreams and Shamanism. Discussing the relationship between magic and art, he described how both can be used to explore other worlds and transitional states. He also gave an entertaining account of his connection with the Heavy Metal music scene, as a result of several bands adopting one of his pictures as a tattoo.  This photo shows Jos signing some fine art prints in the library.  These limited edition prints are available for sale from our online shop.

The last talk was Alex Langstone’s ‘Folklore of Cornish Holy Wells’, a reminder of what beautiful, inspiring and powerful places Cornish Holy Wells are, and also of the extraordinary wealth of legends and folktales surrounding them. In spite of the long association of Holy Wells with healing, many also have an eerie or downright sinister side, particularly if they are not shown the respect they deserve. If you fail to leave an offering at St Nun’s Well at Pelynt, the Piskies will follow you home in the shape of moths. And the precipitous path than runs down the cliff past the Fairy Well at Lelant is haunted by the bizarre ‘Cliff Creature’ – and local children still dare each other to walk down the path at dusk and risk a terrifying encounter. As Alex remarked, Holy Wells are an embodiment of the magic of the landscape.

The afternoon was rounded off with a discussion of a selection of objects from the Museum, which had been chosen by Hannah and Joyce as being particularly mysterious or thought-provoking. The knowledgeable and perceptive comments from the audience demonstrated just how valuable a resource you, our supporters, are, with so many interesting ideas put forward that Deborah had to volunteer to write them all down!

In the evening Mark Norman on accordion and Jane Cox on guitar formed an unexpected but very successful impromptu musical partnership in the Wellington bar, bringing the day to a spirited and convivial end.

Many thanks to all the speakers, to Jason for his gracious hosting of the event, to Steve for all his organisational work, to Tamsin and the Wellington staff for the friendliness and helpfulness that make it such a great venue, and to everyone who attended.  If we missed anyone who deserved thanking - we're sorry and thanks for your help!

Book Launch next week in London

As many of you know, Margaret's book Under Cover of Darkness: How I Blogged My Way through Mantle Cell Lymphoma (O Books, 9781782799306) was published on April 24th.

To help promote the book, Margaret is giving a talk at Watkins Bookshop on Tuesday, May 26th at 6pm. I hope some of you can make it - and those of you who can, I look forward to seeing you there!

Here's the link on facebook for the event:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Limited Edition signed Jos Smith prints now available to buy online

At the weekend, the Museum opened its first ever temporary exhibition which will run until October 31st.  It features lots of wonderful illustrations from Erica Jong and Jos A Smith's classic book "Witches".

Three of the original artworks have been made into high quality prints.  At the weekend, Jos Smith signed some of them for us.  They are now available to buy from the Museum shop and the online shop.


A word of warning - we sold lots at the May Event this weekend and we have a limited number left.  The three prints are: Goddess/Crone, Raven and Cat/Witch.  More will be available soon but they will not be signed.

The Museum and the Port Eliot Festival

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic will be at the Port Eliot Festival this year.  More details to follow...

Museum Director talk

Simon Costin, the Director of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic will talking in London this evening about the Museum.

Spirit of Awen Camp in Herefordshire from 29th July this year

This looks like a fantastic event if you are able to make it.  A small festival of 250 people camping close to the River Wye.  The festival is now in its third year.  

Sunday, May 03, 2015

What's been going on at the Museum.... part four

Images of Witchcraft

The main change in this area is the introduction of a new display cabinet.  The cabinet is an antique itself and was acquired by Simon from the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge.  It is beautifully made with fantastic draws for you to explore...

This room looks at the iconography of the witch and its development, with particular emphasis on four important symbols:  the cat, hat, cauldron and broom...

There are also lots of images of witchcraft in this section and they have been displayed thematically to help the visitor explore the different interpretations of witches through different mediums and time periods. 

One part of the cabinet deals with witches in poetry and the influence of the eighteenth century movement known as Romanticism on the portrayal of witches.  It includes a statue of Meg Merrilies and lots of items to do with Tam O’Shanter (including a fantastic new object – a 19th century stoneware jug).  There is also a consideration of witches in “high art” through a study of the works Shakespeare and (an original) Goya etching.

We also have two displays on famous witches and the tourism associated with them (this includes a look at Mother Shipton and the Witch of Wookey Hole).  There is a fantastic display on witches, magic and children (including a look at Hansel and Gretel, Harry Potter, Winnie the Witch, Meg and Mog…there are so many examples to look at here!) 

Images of Witchcraft considers the image of the witch in film and fiction with an exploration of how the persecution period has been portrayed by different artists and filmmakers.  This includes a look at the film Witchfinder General

Finally, we have the witch as crone.  This image occurs time and again and we have examples of masks, dolls, puppets and even candles.

We have also filled the draws with images of witches from advertising, literature, art, board games and even beer bottles.  It is proving very popular with visitors and is a great way to begin to explore the Museum collection.