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. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Museum gets a mention on BBC Radio 4

Many thanks to the people who heard the Museum's name mentioned on BBC Radio 4 earlier today.  It was mentioned by Simon Armitage in this week's book of the week.  It can be listened to online.

Lenkiewicz paintings re-framed and re-displayed

The Museum has three amazing paintings by Robert Lenkiewicz in its collection.  They have been re-framed to form a new display with all three paintings on display together in the newly refurbished Images of Witchcraft gallery.

We believe we have found one of the original interpretation cards for the largest painting 'Initiation' which was typed by Cecil Williamson, the founder of the Museum.  A copy of this interpretation card is on display next to the painting for the first time in years.  Here it is - it adds another dimension to the painting.

The Last Witch Trial in Guernsey

We were visited last week by John William Lake who provided us with this information about his great aunt by marriage.

Aimee Henrietta Lake (nee Queripal) was born in Guernsey on the 7th January 1888, to parents Alfred and Harriet.  She was working as a housekeeper in a boarding house in St Sampsons, Guenersey when she met Walter John Lake a stone mason and quarryman who was born in Jersey on the 9th January 1872.  They married at the Greffe in St Peter Port (The Greefe is the main registry office on the island).  They had six children of their own the last one dying at birth.  When they married Aimee already had a daughter from a previous relationship who was born when Aimee was just 14 years old, John adopted her when they married.  John served in the 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry in both the Boer War and the India Campaign which was said to effect him greatly.  In 1913, he left Guernsey for Canada which many had done before him with a view to give his family a better life, presumably expecting to send for his family later.  However, he was to enlist in 1914 in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force for World War One.  The next we find is that in 1918 he purchased land in Alberta but there are no further records of him anywhere.

The following is derived from the official court documents and records.
Meanwhile Aimee was still in Guernsey and on the 28th January 1914 she appeared in court before Bailiff William Carey and Mr G E Kinnersley accused of Fortune Telling, interpreting dreams and practising witchcraft between August 1913 an January 1914.  The main evidence against her was supplied from a Mrs Marie Outen.  According to Mrs Outen's testimony she had consulted Mrs Aimee Lake on the advice of a neighbour after the death of her cattle during the previous October and had been told by teacup divination that her husband (Jean Marie Francis Outen who died at the age of 61 on the 14th April 1912) had been a victim of sorcery and that she herself was under the same spell.  To counteract this, she had buried a number of "charmed packets" she had bought from Mrs Lake for £3 10 shillings.  She was also convinced that Mrs Lake had a little tin box full of "Little Devils" and she would soon follow her husband to the grave unless she made a substantial payment for the protection powers of the sorceress.

On inspection, it was found that the buried potion contained: "Poulson's Cornflour, Paisley Flour, Brown Starch, Salt and Baking Powder."  Offering to pay back the money Mrs Lake pleaded that people visited her of their own free will and were normally satisfied with the results they got when she read their teacups.

According to a local newspaper, Mrs Lake nearly collapsed when she was found guilty and sentenced to 8 days in prison (it was later revealed that she was 28 weeks pregnant).

Many thanks to John William Lake for bringing us this interesting account and for allowing us to re-produce it here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Folklore Society event coming up in London

Free talk in London featuring Sara Hannant (who spent some time in the Museum last year taking wonderful photos of the objects in the collection).

Children's Art Week 2015

Children's Art Week 2015
Museum of Witchcraft and Magic Drawing Competition
This year's theme: Witches in fiction, fantasy and folklore

Last year, the Museum took part in Children's Art Week for the first time.  It was a huge success and we had some fantastic pictures.  Each winner received a prize and their picture was displayed in the Museum and on our blog.  Some of last years winning pictures can be seen below...

 We are taking part in Children's Art Week again this year and the theme for pictures is: Witches in fiction, fantasy and folklore.

This theme has been chosen to celebrate the re-furbishment of the Images of Witchcraft Gallery and to coincide with our first ever temporary exhibition.

Our Images of Witchcraft display includes witches such as Meg Merrilies (pcitured below top), the Weird Sisters in Macbeth (pictured below bottom), Meg and Mog (pictured below middle), Winnie the Witch, the White Witch from Narnia, Granny Ogg from Discworld and many, many more...

Our temporary exhibition, Witches and Witchlore: the illustrations of Jos A Smith includes images of witches such Baba Yaga, La Belle Dame Sans Merci and witches riding eggshells.  You might like to pop in to the Museum to see this fantastic exhibition for inspiration.

We are looking for talented under 18s to submit a drawing or painting of a well known witch.  The image could be based on something we have in our collection or it could be inspired by folkstories or fiction.  Draw us a picture of a witch from fiction, fantasy or folklore...Closing date for entrants: June  30th 2015.  Make sure you put your full name, age and address on your picture.  You can enter as many times as you like and there is no specified size for pictures.  So either visit the Museum and draw a picture while exploring the collection and temporary exhibition or send us your picture in your post.

Is there a witch or story that inspires you?  How do you imagine witches?  Let your imagination run wild - send us a picture!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Jos. A. Smith Witches and Witchlore

We have a new temporary exhibition space now within the museum and we will be showing a wide variety of work and objects within the space each year. We are starting off with a show of the original artworks from Erica Jong's 1980 book, 'Witches' illustrated by Jos. A. Smith. With a long and varied career as an artist and illustrator, most notably for Time, Newsweek and The New York Times, and as an arts educator at New York’s prestigious Pratt Institute, Jos A. Smith (b.1936) has over twenty solo exhibitions to his name.

The forthcoming exhibition at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic running until November 2015 is the latest, showcasing his original artwork for the seminal book, ‘Witches’ by Erica Jong, first published in 1981.

The book charts the persecution of witches, through poetry, history and stories and also functions as a grimoire, or handbook for contemporary practitioners. Using pen, ink and watercolour, Jos A. Smith’s illustrations vividly explore all aspects of the various guises of the witch: from seductress to crone; perpetrator to victim. His skilled draughtsmanship reflects witchcraft’s connection to nature, with figures seamlessly blending into other forms, to create an otherworldly, eerie presence on the page. These images also express Jos’s own connection to nature through his study of esoteric religion and meditation, as he states: “I am fascinated by the lore that accrues to natural things..”

Displayed together for the first time at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, this is the inaugural exhibition in a planned new series of temporary shows to be hosted at the museum from Spring 2015. The newly refurbished temporary exhibition space will allow the museum to examine its rich and varied objects in more depth and will also feature exciting collaborations with artists and researchers. People will have something new to see at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic every time they visit, alongside the fascinating permanent collection. 

Three prints from the original artworks are for sale from the museum website or shop as high quality art print or as an art card.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

We're a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence winner 2015

Thanks so much for all the great reviews.  If you haven't written one for us or looked at our tripadvisor page recently, please do.

Straw Crafts Day in September - poster now available

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).

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