Friday, July 31, 2015

It's off to Port Eliot we go...

The Museum is on tour this weekend.  A merry band of Museum miscreants are heading to the Port Eliot festival to represent the Museum.  They will be doing talks, leading night-time excursions, selling Museum items on a stall and genuinely spreading the word about the Museum at one of Cornwall's biggest cultural events.  Even the weather is looking good - we hope they all have a great time!

A closer look at our temporary exhibition Part Two

We continue our online tour of the Museum's first ever temporary exhibition - Witches and Witchlore: the illustrations of Jos A Smith.

The next image is of a one eyed heretic and then a wonderful raven from a series of paintings of witch's familiars (more on these in a future blog).  This image is available as a card and a limited edition art print from our online shop.

The next image is of Baba Yaga.  Here is an excerpt from the text panel that accompanies this image:

The terrifying witch Baba Yaga (from Eastern European folklore) makes several appearances in the book.
Erica Jong: “She is a Slavic ogress who voyages across the skies with Death, her companion.  Sometimes she travels in a flying cauldron, sometimes in a mortar, with a pestle as a rudder, steering through the clouds.  In her wake boil tempests, hurricanes, tornadoes.  She steals children, and if they are particularly unlucky, she eats them...
Parents warn their unruly progeny that she will come to take them if they don't behave.  She is thus a kind of Slavic bogey-person...”

Jos Smith: “In the large watercolour of Baba Yaga flying in her cauldron, I painted faint veins in the translucent skin of the pregnant belly that is the cauldron itself. This painting may be my favourite illustration in the book {Erica Jong's Witches)."

On the other wall, there is this striking image (below).  The section of the book in which this image originally appeared deals with the persecution of witches and this image is accompanied by a poem by Erica Jong "For all those who died."

This image has a caption next to it by a Friend of the Museum who shared her appreciation of the book and its illustrations with us.  

"I even copied out the poem at the back, “For All Those Who Died” into my English Literature schoolbook, alongside my work on (exclusively male) war poetry.  This was war too wasn't it?  I thought a great deal about the last line...the sin for which they died, the sin of being born a woman, who is more than the sum of her parts.” Deborah Westmancoat

This area of the exhibition also contains a signed copy of the book and other original illustrations.  These are displayed in a perspex topped table seen photographed below.

One of the images is a male poppet with a needle and thread next to it.  We chose this excerpt from Erica Jong's book to accompany this work:

“From ancient times to the present, the history of witchcraft has been inextricably bound up with male fear of women - the tendency of the masculine unconscious to equate women with evil (or at least with the unknown, which is presumed to be evil).”

Another interesting picture in this section of the exhibition is the black and white print (seen above top centre).  This is a copy of a woodcut from the time of the witch persecutions.  It shows a woman being raised into the flames.  The face has been altered from the original to show Erica Jong herself as the persecuted witch.  She reflects on her affinity with witches a great deal in her work saying: “…the female poet…must become an incarnation of the triple goddess herself, incorporating all her aspects, creative and destructive.  This is why it is so dangerous to be a female poet.  It is a little like being a witch.”  

There are lots of other interesting captions and details which are too numerous to dwell on here - you really should visit (if you can!)

Young expert on Gerald Gardner visits the Museum

The Museum was visited by a young lady from America recently (photographed above in the Museum's Gerald Gardner section).  She knew a lot about Gerald Gardner and had even won a US wide competition which was based on her understanding of Gardner.  It was a pleasure to meet her.

So long and thanks for all the archiving!

Yesterday was the last day of archiving for the American students.  They worked really hard and seem to have enjoyed themselves.  We certainly loved having them here and are very grateful for all their help with the archive.  Here they all are outside the Museum.

Many thanks to Doctor Tarter (photographed below in the Valency Valley) for making all this possible.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lots of reasons to visit the Museum this weekend (as if you need an excuse!!)

Candlelit Evening

Saturday 1st August, 8pm - 11pm

Come and see the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic by candlelight this Saturday.  It is a completely different atmosphere and well worth a visit - why not make a night of it with a meal out before hand?

Lughnasadh/Lammas Straw Crafts Demonstration with Gillian Nott

Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd August

Gillian will be giving free demonstrations of straw craft work outside the Museum this weekend:

Saturday:  11am till 3pm
Sunday:  12.30 till 3.30pm

Come and see us this weekend!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Best bits of the archive...Day Six

Today was the penultimate day of archiving.  These are the top three picks...

Devin, Rachel and Stephen picked a recipe for a spell which is to be cooked like scrambled eggs!

Sami and Ariel found one of the original interpretation texts from an object which is still in the Museum today.  

Isabelle and Heather found an object label which fitted perfectly with an object in the Museum's collection.  Photo of the neckalce at the top and a typed interpretation card by Cecil Williamson (the founder of the Museum) below.

Straw Crafts outside the Museum this weekend

On Saturday August 1st, Gillian Nott aka the Cornmother will be creating her wonderful straw art outside the Museum.  She has generously done this for quite a few years but this year will be extra special as she will be sitting in front of our Lammas window display which contains her amazing work.  See our blog last month for more details...

She will be with us most of the day so do pop along and have a look and a chat.  The Museum shop will also have a small number of straw crafts for sale.  A lovely way to commemorate Lammas.

Student research into the Museum archive...Day Five

For the past week, we have had seven wonderful American students working diligently in the Museum library.  They have been cataloguing notes and Museum interpretation texts/captions written by the Museum's founder, Cecil Williamson.  Here is what they unearthed on Monday...

Rachel discovered that members of different covens were not supposed to communicate with each other because they were supposed to remain secretive due to fears of hostility to witchcraft in the mid twentieth century.

Devin read a pamphlet written by Cecil Williamson that discussed all the trouble he encountered while the Museum was located at Bourton-on-the-Water.  He explained his financial troubles and mentioned a fire that made him move the Museum.  He talked about his plans to declare himself bankrupt (this never happened)  She also found a letter to Mr Hill asking for help as Cecil felt that he may face jail time!  These were difficult times for the Museum...

Stephen found an original Museum card for a magical act which called for the use of rope used by someone who had hanged themselves.  He found it "a bit macabre".

Heather found "an adorable good luck charm."  which she would like to make at some point for her friends as a gift someday.  The object card has now been catalogued as Record Number 8107 which states, "Wall-hanging pin cushion in the form of an anchor. The symbolic meaning of the anchor is security against the storms and buffetings of everyday life. So for honeymoon couples this because a favored gift, bearing the message from the man that he would hold his beloved safe and secure."

Isabelle: "I learned a story about three Cornish occultists who attempted a spirit conjuring on a cliff by the sea.  It got out of control when the image of a demon in smoke scared them so badly that two of them needed treatment for months after.  The cauldron was discovered half destroyed, and is now displayed in the Museum..."  Isabelle also found a painting which seems to have been originally displayed with the cauldron and this account (see image below).

Museum Temporary Exhibition appears on blog

If you don't already follow this blog maybe you should?  It is a good one...

Interesting article about Baphomet scuplture

As you probably know we have a horned figure which is often called Baphomet.  Interesting to see another statue of Baphomet getting a mention in the news!

Call for papers: The Supernatural in the Peripheries: Britain and Ireland

An interesting conference will take place in the Public Records Office Of Northern Ireland, Belfast on September 18 2015.

Independent and/or early career researchers as well as PhD candidates are encouraged to propose papers to Cara Hanley  See poster for details.

New information board outside the Museum

We have a new information outside the Museum.  It has lots of atmospheric photos (including one of Joan's Cottage by Friend of the Museum, Paul Febrache), and a floor-plan of the Museum.

Another friend of the Museum suggested that we include something about the Museum being a repository of magical history, so the board now says:

'Welcome to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.  Rediscover your Magical Heritage.'

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hagstones still needed

Hagstones (or holed stones) are still very much needed.  They will help us to raise funds to maintain and develop this amazing place and its connections.  We have had lots of donations since we last put out a plea but we constantly need more.  Many thanks to the wonderful people who have brought us bags of hagstones so far (and to the person who sent us some in the post!)

A closer look at our temporary exhibition Part One

The Museum's first ever temporary exhibition "Witches and Witchlore: the illustrations of Jos A Smith" is proving popular with visitors.  If you haven't been able to come and see it yet, we thought we'd provide you with an online tour of some of the paintings.  Obviously the best way to see them is to visit and get a proper feel for the artworks.  Hopefully you'll be able to visit before it ends in November.

So, lets start at the very beginning (a very good place to start!).

The first images that visitors see is the Maiden/Crone image.  This appeared on the cover of one of the editions of the book from which the illustrations are taken.

This picture is accompanied by a text panel exploring the role of the Goddess in Erica Jong's book 'Witches'.  It includes this quote by Erica Jong:
“Since the goddess of birth is also the goddess of death, women are accused of bringing death into the world as well as life.  This is why the witch is depicted both as young, beautiful and bedecked with flowers, and as a frightening crone covered with cobwebs.  She represents all the cycles of life, and if she is terrifying, it is because the cycles of life terrify.  They are inexorable.  They remind us of mutability and mortality.”

This wonderful image is available as a limited edition art print and as an art card from our online shop:

Moving around the room, the next pictures show a horned figure and a witch in flight. 

Erica Jong: “Flight is a metaphor both for freedom and for sexuality - and the figure of the flying witch, of course, expresses both these longings.”

The final image of section one of our tour shows witches in eggshells.  Throughout the exhibition, we have incorporated the thoughts and feelings of people who loved the original book.  This image is a favourite of Hannah Fox, the Museum's Office Manager.  She said of it: “Each evocative image gives opportunity for further pondering, a floating magic hat, a coat flying in the breeze of it's own accord,  how can such simple images portray such emotion?  My favourite of the exhibition is the witches at sea in eggshells.  It puts me in mind of the following; treat all with respect, however tiny and frail, or beware the consequences.”  

A closer look at our temporary exhibition Part Two coming soon...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Best of the archive Day Four

The students were busy again today cataloguing more of Cecil's personal writings, correspondences and object captions...

Here's a broad sweep of the sort of items/nuggets of information that were discovered:

Sami found out about a black lemon (stuck with pins) thought to originate in the West Country is also a charm used in Naples - the one in our collection could possibly be Italian...

The 'Madron Charm' - a piece of lead with nail struck through found in Madron churchyard (Object 263) - is also described as a means to 'break a love affair'.

Ariel wrote:

'I catalogued a lot of wish boxes which are exhibits in the museum.  Generally you would write your wish down and put it in the box and a witch would perform some sort of ritual that would make your wish come true.  I also found out many women used stockings for making various charms.'

Ariel also found out more info about our collection of coins:

Rachel found out about charms used in stables, the efficacy of bull's penis wands (these are the most powerful), and the importance of initiation rituals for witches...

Stephen catalogued lots of small caption cards that were scattered around the museum in the olden days.  These referred to the figure of the magus and possibly human skin marked with symbols...

Devin found out that Cecil engaged in a 'Blessed Be' ritual with Gerald Gardner, and that egg shells were used by sea witches to 'float away ill wishes to Never Never land'.  These witches also had a charm to protect your home from fire:  place a dried seaweed charm on the mantlepiece.

Heather noticed that Cecil's captions shed new light on some objects... a copper pot, formerly thought to be from Brent Tor in Devon might actually have been found in a Kent Church wall.  It also originally contained a pig and sheep heart.  More to follow on this one no doubt...

Isabelle found a nice card describing a witches' initiation ritual - the witch connects to the spirit world by lying naked on tree branches for days on end during the dead of winter.  Another find by Isabelle was an explanation for this curious item.  It has been in the collection since at least 1960 and we have never known its precise use until now:

Book Review

The Book of Faerie
A Guide to Elves, Faeries and Goblins
by Michael Howard

Reviewed by Judith Hewitt (co-manager of the Museum)

I remember when a copy of this book was donated to the library by the author last year.  Hannah read it and loved it.  We then decided to stock in the Museum shop.  It has been winking at me on the shop shelves for quite a while and I finally got round to reading it!

I had completed this book within a day of starting it - it was so fascinating and engrossing.  It is one of those books that you keep wanting to share with people and I found myself reading out lots of bits.  
The book starts with an essay overview/introduction on the meaning of the word faery (put simplistically it means otherworldliness) and then a look at the origin of the faery folk.  It contains everything you could want to know - from where they live, what they look like, their connections with the Wild Hunt and the spirits of the dead to their associations with ancient sites and ley lines.  One of the most interesting parts was the divide among writers in the past when it came to explaining the existence of faeries - were they demons or angels?  The connection between faeries and King Arthur was also explored.  The faery origins of Merlin and Morgan Le Fay were particularly fascinating.  

The book then moves on to a gazetteer of different types of faeries/otherworldly beings.  Ones that stand out are descriptions of the Queen of Elfhame, Dame Holda and Bucca.  But there are also descriptions and tales of encounters with the boneless one and also a washer woman with webbed feet.  The places associated with faeries are also explored such as the Burrow Mump - known locally as Mole Castle (the palace of the King of the Moles) and for the nearby River Parett which "is supposed to be inhabited by a rather nasty spirit which demands a human sacrifice every year. It is also said that "Willows do walk if you travel late" and there is a story of a young woman...who went missing and her body was found in the river.  It was said she had been strangled by one of the willow trees that grow on the river bank."(page 52)

Ways of seeing and perceiving faeries were also discussed.  Many accounts tell of faery ointments, chance encounters and looking through hagstones.  One recent account tells of a husband and wife who saw something.  He saw a ball of light and she saw a small man.  They encountered something but saw it with different eyes and therefore saw the same being in different ways.  Entrances to faeryland are numerous with many accounts telling of a place where oak, ash and thorn grow together or maybe a marsh or lake could be the entrance.  One gets the feeling that they could be all around us!

If you want to know more about faery cattle, funerals, marriages, children or anything faery related then this is the book for you.  Just remember "anyone...expecting a New Age work on cute, gossamer winged flower faeries...will be disappointed." (page 5)

I loved this book and raved about it to Peter (my husband and co-manager of the Museum).  He has now read it and we both raved about it to Simon (the Director of the Museum) who has now purchased his own copy to read.  A totally fantastic little book.

Shop stock based on Museum objects

We've expanded our range of shop items to include more things that are based on Museum objects.  Here are some examples...

The photo at the top shows an object in the collection  - a pottery skull with "Witchcraft Exhibition Bourton on the Water" on it.  This was obviously one of the souvenirs which were available from one of the earliest incarnations of the Museum.  We have had something similar made but with our MWM logo on it.

The Museum collection contains a small amulet which is part of our protection display (see top photo).  It has three soapstone charms on it - a gun (for protection), a padlock (for security) and a heart (for love).  This object was the inspiration for our protection charm bracelet which contains a gun, padlock and hearts as well as other symbols of protection and dark red beads.

One of the most popular items in our collection is the Wheel of the Year.  This large wooden disk was created by Mark Highland and painted by Vivienne Shanley.  For many years, it was housed near the Stone Circle but it has recently been moved to the Shrine.  This beautiful object celebrates the festivals of the year and has been available as a poster and postcard for some time.  Last year, a visitor came to the Museum and asked for one of our Wheel of the Year stickers.  This was puzzling as we have never sold Wheel of the Year stickers!  But it was the origin of an idea which has materialised into a beautiful stained glass window style sticker which is available for just £4.

And who can forget the lovely mini replica of our Hare Woman statue?  The original statue by Lionel Miskin is wonderful (but a bit huge and heavy for most homes!  See top photo)  Now visitors can take home a smaller version of their own (see bottom photo).

Many more original gifts, souvenirs and books can be bought at our online shop

New large print guide available

Visitors to the Museum can now pick up a large print version of our new guidebook.  New guidebooks in the original A5 size can be bought online for £1.50.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Best of the archive Day Three

Another interesting day of archiving.  After a bit of a mix up with numbering (fixed by Devin and Rachel!) the students really made great progress today.  Here are the best bits they discovered.

Rachel has been cataloguing the handwritten notes of the Cecil Williamson (the founder of the Museum).  She found this document particularly interesting.  In it, Cecil expresses his views on witchcraft (beware he is quite opinionated about it, the Museum does not necessarily endorse these views)

"The public has been blinded and deafened by the clamour sic set up by the publicity seeking 20th century witches who declare that witchcraft is no more than the ancient pre-Christian Pagan mother religion of the Fertility Goddess of Creation. Their teaching are "to do what then wilt and to have one another in complete freedom." As this museum will demonstrate the Art of Witchcraft is not as simple as all that. For this earth on which we exist is a grim and frightening place with each and every one of us taking with every passing day one step nearer to our death."

Devin found a card about witch persecutions which contains some shocking information (and the use of the phrase "piddling nonsense")!

Stephen found a card which related to the display of a skeleton in the old days of the Museum.  Here is the card and a photo from the Museum back then.

Ariel and Sami brought to light some interesting information (both to do with breasts for some reason!)

Isabelle found another interpretation for an object which is still on display today - a pair of glass knitting needles (photographed below).  

Heather went coin mad today.  Even delving into the Museum displays in her quest to locate coins mentioned in Cecil's interpretation cards.  Here she is examining them and here is what she found out about a hag penny.  

No archiving tomorrow as the students are out on a visit to three Cornish fishing villages (including Polperro).  More from the archive on Friday.