Sunday, April 27, 2014

Museum of Witchcraft welcomes award winning illustrator Hayley Potter

This week the Museum welcomed Hayley Potter, illustrator and senior lecturer at Arts University Bournemouth.  Hayley was carrying out research for her new project 'Visualizing the British Witch'.  Hayley was particularly interested in our collection of charms and during her visit used the library to research folk magic and customs associated with the sea and the Cornish coast.

Here is Hayley's beautiful drawing of a Love Charm (Object No. 258).  Hayley is currently the online artist-in-residence with HATCH, an organisation that promotes the use of drawing as a tool for research.  You can read more about the current project here.

Here is the love charm itself - a fascinating object constructed in the 1930s from sea shells, red wax and bound in a rayon stocking.  It is currently on display in 'Sea Witchcraft':

Hayley was fascinated by the Museum's collection of spirit houses.  These are thought to be dwelling places for conjured spirits, which are filled with objects the spirit may like. 

This particular spirit bottle is very unusual:  it contains a star puff ball, an egg shell, some sycamore seeds, a lily root and bulb, a lump of sulphur and a lady's bra formed into a ball.   This beautiful and deeply personal object was collected by Cecil Williamson in Shepton Mallet, Somerset.  Cecil wrote the following:  "The thinking behind such fabrications is complicated to say the least, and calls for a deal of folklore knowledge and an understanding of the world of spirit force.  My advice, leave well alone".  I am sure Cecil would approve of its current location, safe, undisturbed, unopened and on display in Spells and Charms.  

Many thanks to Hayley for visualizing anew Britain's rich traditions of witchcraft!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BBC visits the Museum

Yesterday, the Museum hosted a BBC film crew as part of the Culture 24 and the BBC's Museums at Night Event.  The programme is scheduled to air on Saturday 17th at 7pm on BBC 2 (we'll keep you updated about the programme and what we've got planned for Museums at Night that weekend)  The producer loved the Museum and enjoyed spending time talking with Joyce and Graham.  Soon, the Museum will be opening at night and lit even more beautifully then usual.  We got a small flavour of that last night when certain parts of the Museum were lit by candles to give the BBC viewers a taste of things to come.

New Michael Howard Herbal book

A fascinating study of the uses, magic and folklore of herbs by Mike Howard, editor of 'The Cauldron' magazine.  Each plant is illustrated with a beautiful colour picture taken from one of the old herbals in the Museum of Witchcraft library.  Paperback; 119 pages.  Available from the shop and the online shop for £17.

Young visitors enjoy the Open Sesame Doors

The Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft initiated the Open Sesame project which is now in full swing.  The doors are located around the Museum and each door has a plague indicating exactly who made this lovely addition to the Museum possible.  Young visitors to the Museum are really enjoying the mystery of the objects and are learning lots more about witchcraft and magical practices.  Many visitors who love the Museum and have visited for years have commented on the new doors and think they're a great new initiative.  Many thanks to all involved in making this project a success.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hunters Moon Morris

Many thanks to everyone at Hunters Moon for a great weekend.  Here are some of our favorite photos taken by the Museum team and friends!

Im Banne der Zauberin Morgan (Haunted by the Sorceress Morgan)

We have had another fascinating book donation, this time from German author Barbara Ortwein. Her book Im Banne der Zauberin Morgan (Haunted by the Sorceress Morgan) was inspired by a visit to magical sites in Somerset and Cornwall, including the Museum. Barbara describes it as a fantasy and travel novel, and it re-examines the legends surrounding Morgan Le Fay by exploring the places associated with her. It includes maps to inspire readers to visit the sites for themselves. It’s good to see Morgan given the importance she deserves as one of the South West’s great magical figures, rather than being overshadowed by her brother Arthur!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

New witch bottles in the Museum Shop

We've got a beautiful new range of one of a kind witch bottles in the Museum shop.  They are created by Gypsy Tequila from Boscastle.  We currently have three different bottles: each is completely unique.  Gypsy says of the bottles, "These are an ancient object made for protection against bad energy and magic.  They are filled with objects such as magical herbs, sharp objects to impale, threads to entangle and catch the negative energy."  They are designed to be added to, re-sealed and buried.  Have a look at them below.

Come and enjoy Morris dancing this Easter Sunday

For the eighth year in a row, Hunters Moon Morris are visiting Cornwall and leading a dance procession through the village of Boscastle on Sunday which will start at the Museum of Witchcraft at around 11am.  

Pip and Christine Faulkner popped into the Museum today for a look round and a chat. They have a busy weekend planned including Port Isaac on Saturday morning and Tintagel on Saturday afternoon at around 3pm followed by an evening food and music night at the Wellington Hotel in Boscastle.  They will also be in the Cobweb Inn on Sunday night.

If you're in the area this weekend why not try to see them or better yet, come along to the Museum at 11am on Easter Sunday morning to join us?

Great visitor feedback

You may have noticed that the Museum has a little wooden box in the shop (near the entrance/exit) into which visitors can place their comments and thoughts about the Museum.  We thought a good way to get to know the Museum would be to read through these comments and we were overwhelmed at the positive responses and the love which people have for this special place. 

Some of the best comments are displayed outside the Museum on the board and this was changed on Monday.  It sounded like an easy task at first but it proved more problematic than anticipated due to the warping of wood etc.  We (mostly Peter) persevered and the new comments are now on display for all to see...

We’re going to start tweeting some of the comments that we receive to share all the wonderful words that people have to say about the Museum with all our friends and supporters out there in cyberspace!  Keep your eyes open on Social Media.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sea kayaking

Judith, co-manager of the Museum writes:

Peter and I first visited Boscastle one wet and stormy weekend in January.  We were told then that the Harbour was ideal for sea kayaking but it was difficult to believe it at the time!  Today is a glorious spring day and Graham (and Malcolm) have taken out the sea-kayaks.  Since we moved down here, Graham has been an essential friend and helper.  He worked his socks off to get the Museum ready to open, he has befriended us both and made us feel so welcome.  He has trained us in the day-to-day working of the Museum and we owe him a great deal.  It is days like today when I imagine he enjoys his retirement...

The trip went well - Graham caught his first pollock of the season!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Open Sesame

Project Open Sesame is almost complete – most of the doors are in position in the Museum, and we now have the plaques engraved with the donor’s names, which will be put on the doors this week.  Look forward to seeing photos on this blog in a few days’ time!

Museum of Witchcraft welcomes Syd Moore

Author Syd Moore visited the Museum this week to research her latest novel, which is about the famous Essex witch Ursley Kempe.

She generously donated copies of her two previous books, Witch Hunt and The Drowning Pool, to the Museum library. One is about the Matthew Hopkins witch hunts, and the other about a 19th century Essex fortune teller who was persecuted by her community.

It is always fascinating to exchange ideas with writers, and always a delight to meet one who is passionate about research and doing justice to the subject of witchcraft. Syd was very enthusiastic about the Museum’s collection, and particularly interested in Cecil Williamson’s vivid account of how he dug up Ursley Kempe’s skeleton at St Osyth.

We wish her well with her book, and are sure it will be an excellent read.

Simon recently paid a visit to an old friend, Ralph Harvey to discuss some donations to the museum. Ralph's purple ceremonial robe, Book of Shadows and 'Great Rite Belt' are just some of his things already on display in the Modern Witchcraft section of the museum. One interesting item is the original oil painting by Tom Paddle, which was rejected by Ralph's US publishers as being, 'too racey' for the cover of his book, 'The Last Bastion: The Suppression and Re-emergence of Witchcraft - The Old Religion'. We are delighted that Ralph has passed on this piece of social history. Ralph has a fine collection of magical objects and working tools, so expect to see some interesting thing added to the collection in 2015.

Judith Hewitt, the new manager, writes about her first week at the Museum of Witchcraft...

It was lovely to arrive in Boscastle last Saturday.  My husband Peter, and co-manager of the Museum, was already here, having moved down three weeks ago.  We quickly settled into our new flat and went out for a great meal at the Wellington Hotel.

I did my first day’s work in the booth on Monday.  Peter and Joyce showed me the ropes and we have had a couple of busy days already this season.  It is wonderful to be working at the museum and the weather has been lovely for the past couple of days.  We look forward to welcoming you to the Museum of Witchcraft!

World War One Charms

Now in our new window display at the Museum of Witchcraft.

To mark the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, we have moved some of our fascinating WWI charms to the window display.

Ranging from poignant crosses inscribed with famous battles, to rare stag heads (see our window display!), to 'Fums Up' dolls, these objects were used as amulets to protect the wearer from danger.

See also our First World War magical morale booster - a pin cushion in the form of Kaiser Bill which encouraged Brits to inflict pain upon the German leader whilst doing their sewing!

Welcome the Easter Holidays at the Museum of Witchcraft

Happy Eostre!

Come and see our wonderful new window display, created by Marti Dean (

Here's what Marti said about the piece:

"Of the animals connected with witchcraft and magic, the stag is closely associated with the Horned God of Witchcraft. With roots set in the pagan histories and traditions of Europe, the symbolism of the stag has been represented in a variety of ways, from the Neolithic painting of the antlered 'Sorcerer' within the cave Trois-Frères in France, to the Gundestrup Cauldron, a piece of Iron Age silverwork depicting the Celtic antlered god Cernunnos.

For some modern witches, the stag–god Cernunnos is recognised as the horned god of nature and magic, and thus is celebrated in the rituals, art, and magic of modern witchcraft. This anthropomorphic sculpture of a green stag with branch-like antlers symbolises the magic of the regenerative force in nature. The objects hung on the antlers will be changed throughout the coming year.

The practice of decorating eggs is a very ancient tradition. Sixty thousand year old engraved ostrich eggs have been found in Africa, whilst gold and silver eggs were commonly placed in the graves of Sumerians and Egyptians as early as 3000 BC."

The antlers have beautiful Easter eggs suspended from them - watch this space to see new objects hung here according to the season!