Monday, May 30, 2016

Wonderful witchy ways

We recently received a witchy donation from a local couple.  This witch oversaw their handfasting.  Before being put in store (for the time being) she took a tour of the Museum.

Above: enjoying the sunshine in the Harbour.

Above: when visiting the Museum, you have to have your photo taken by the witch door (and you can park your broomstick here too if you like!)

Above: admiring the Beltane window display (we took this photos in early May).

Above: in the Museum entrance.

Above: at "work" in the booth.

Above: spending time with Joan the Wise Woman in her cottage.

Above: is she a witch?  Getting weighed in the weighing chair!

Museum is taking part in Carer's Week

We are delighted to be taking part in Carer's Week again this year by offering free entry to carers during the week of June 6th-12th.

It really is such a small thing to do for people who do so much for others.  It is a pity more organisations aren't taking part!  Below is the list of places taking part in Carer's Week in Cornwall this year.

Halloween conference more detail on the speakers

More details of Halloween Conference speakers, October 15 2016...

Here is a brief outline of a talk to be given on the day by Tommy Kuusela who is a PhD Candidate in History of Religions from Stockholm University.

How to learn magic by going on a year walk
Year walk was a complex form of divination in Swedish folk tradition that could be used for predicting events for the coming year.  The year walker was supposed to be not locked up in a dark room without speaking to anyone nor taste any food or drink.  At midnight he or she walked to the parish church (or a cluster of different churches), circled it three times (or more) and entered a liminal stage where supernatural beings could appear and challenge the year walker, not least a terrible ghost pig called Gloson or the dead. If he or she managed these tests, glimpses of the future could appear, either in vision or by sounds which could give a glimpse of what would happen in the community during the next year.  He or she could also learn magic or acquire a black book of spells. The methods could vary widely regionally. In this paper I will concentrate on the magical aspects of year walk and give examples from the Swedish folklore archives where the goal of the walker is to become cunning or gain a magical object.

Day of Talks on Halloween Past & Present
To celebrate the 2016 exhibition Glitter & Gravedust
October 15 2016
at The Wellington Hotel, Boscastle, Cornwall 
10am - 4.30pm 
+ Evening entertainment from 8pm 
Tickets £25
Price includes admission to conference, admission to evening social event and entertainment (drinks not included!), as well as entry to the Museum on Saturday or Sunday.

Places are limited and pre-payment is essential to book your place.

Ways to pay:

By paypal.  Our paypal account is:
Please put ‘Halloween’ as a reference.

By card: phone the Museum on 01840 250 111 and complete the transaction using a credit or debit card.

By cash: pop into the Museum and pay at the counter

By cheque: send a cheque made payable to Museum of Witchcraft to our address: the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, the Harbour, Boscastle, PL35 0HD.

Any issues, email the Museum:

We recommend that attendees book their rooms directly with the Wellington.

Palmistry readings

It was a beautiful day in Boscastle yesterday and we were delighted to have someone outside reading palms and tarot!  A lady from Tintagel called Joyce sat outside in the sunshine for about five hours and had a constant stream of people eager to peer into their future.  This was all done for charity (specifically the Soi Dog Foundation  Joyce raised a lot of money for her cause and we hope to see her again here soon!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

May Event write up and photos

A day of talks was held in Boscastle on Saturday May 14th.  It was lovely to see everyone there and the day seemed like a great success.  If you weren't able to attend, here is a write up of the day by Joyce Froome.  Photos courtesy of Kerriann Godwin and Mark Norman.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this day a success.  Special thanks to Steve Patterson.

If you like the sound of this, you might consider attending our Halloween Conference on October 15th:

Above: Geraldine with Steve Patterson in the upstairs gallery.

Geraldine Beskin began the event with a compelling account of the life and character of the Spiritualist medium Helen Duncan, who has become famous as the last person tried for witchcraft in Britain. She is often seen simply as the victim of injustice whose case led to the repeal of the Witchcraft Act, but Geraldine revealed a far more complex story, with disquieting echoes of earlier witch hunts. 

Helen Duncan came from a part of Scotland where there was a strong belief in second sight. Before she achieved fame as a medium, her life was full of poverty, illness and tragedy, alleviated only by her marriage to a soldier she had communicated with psychically as he lay wounded during the First World War. Her remarkable ability to enter a mediumistic trance thus grew out of personal trauma as well as the traditional beliefs of her Scottish home. She then became embroiled in the conflict between the increasingly popular Spiritualist movement and scientific scepticism, developing an ill-advised association with the self-promoting psychic investigator Harry Price; and the apparent incongruity of the fact that her psychic powers were combined with a tough and sometimes belligerent personality made her an obvious target for those determined to discredit Spiritualism. 

Geraldine’s infectious admiration for Helen Duncan held her audience captivated, and brought alive the human story behind Helen Duncan’s historical significance.

Above: Zoe Young with Ralph Harvey and Cassie Calhoun in the Museum.

Next up was Nick Groom with a lively exploration of British May Day customs. He began (of course!) with the Padstow Obby Oss, before heading off on a fascinating foray into the numerous historical accounts of other May festivities, featuring morris dancers, maypoles, dragons and horses. The evidence suggests a wealth of locally distinctive ceremonies, confirming the social and spiritual importance of May Day. As the character of our countryside is eroded by growing uniformity and commercialisation, Nick encouragingly suggested that May Day celebrations seem to have an ability to resist this in a way that other festivals cannot.

In the afternoon, Zoe Young gave a moving and troubling account of her experiences making a film about the persecution of women accused of witchcraft in Ghana – a disturbing reminder that the fear of malevolent magic is still having terrible consequences today. She went on to suggest a connection between these persecutions and the abuse of children suspected of being possessed by evil spirits in African-origin communities in London. She explored the complicated contributing factors, including the role of the fundamentalist Christian churches that exploit these situations to gain control over their congregations, and the tension between traditional animist spirit beliefs and the growth of a commercialised attitude to the natural world. It is a subject that raises many challenging questions. Does a belief in magic lead to the persecution of women, or does the desire to disempower women lead to the demonization of magic? Zoe made the important and thought-provoking point that those of us who are fighting to rehabilitate the concept of the witch in Europe and America need to be aware of the potential implications and global context of our efforts.

Above: Joyce Froome looking at the Richel Collection.

The afternoon was rounded off with a discussion of some of the objects in the Museum’s collection. As so often happens, it was a reminder of how our supporters are one of our best sources of information. Contributions included an account of a wise woman capturing a troublesome spirit in a jam jar, and the important warning that it is extremely difficult to charge a wand made of metal. Thank you all very much – your information will be a valuable addition to our database.

Above: there were also stalls at the event selling an array of items (this photo shows Circle of Spears' stall).

The day ended with a candlelit evening at the Museum (photos below).  It was a great day, watch this space for future events!

Above: Museum manager Peter welcoming visitors.

Above: Binky, Friend of the Museum in the lower gallery.

Above: Museum Director Simon Costin with Helen Cornish.

Above: Simon with Ralph Harvey.

Above: Mark Norman of Circle of Spears productions. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Watch a video about the "Dark Gathering" at the Museum

For the past two years, the Museum has played host to a "Dark Gathering" on October 31st (Samhain or Halloween).  This year's event promises to be bigger and better than ever and will be held on Saturday October 29th (more details to come).

You can watch a video of last year's event here:

It was truly amazing and we cannot thank-you enough to everyone involved (special thanks go to Cassandra Latham-Jones).

Friday, May 20, 2016

Victoria & Albert Museum Loans

After many months of behind the scenes form filling, we are very pleased to be lending some objects to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s new show So you want a Revolution?:  Records and Rebels 1966-70.   When Simon met the curators last year and told them about the fantastic collection here in Boscastle they were really keen for the MWM collection to be part of the exhibition.

Records and Rebels opens on Saturday 10 September 2016 in London, and will tour extensively across Europe and North America.  The exhibition will focus on the social, political, and cultural changes of the latter half of the 1960s and the search for a better world.  A section of the exhibition will consider Wicca and a revived interest in the Occult as part of this.  One of the objects on loan is this fabulous recent donation from Patricia Crowther (photographed in 1968):


MWM objects will mingle with other fascinating collections charting revolutionary new ways of living: underground magazines from Oz to the International Times; a shopping list written behind barricades during the 1968 Paris student riots; a moon rock on loan from NASA alongside the space suit worn by William Anders, who took the defining ‘Earthrise’ photograph on the Apollo 8 mission; a rare Apple 1 computer; an Ossie Clark costume for Mick Jagger; original artworks by Richard Hamilton; shards from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar; the suits worn by John Lennon and George Harrison on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and handwritten lyrics for ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by the Beatles.

I am sure you will agree that this is not only great publicity for MWM, but it also demonstrates the strength and depth of the collections and their continued relevance today.

Halloween conference October 15th more detail on speakers

The tickets for our day of talks on October 15th are selling well.  The theme is Halloween and we have some fascinating talks lined up.  An evening of poems, prose and music (complete with wine and nibbles) is also included in the ticket price.  The event is being held at the Wellington Hotel in Boscastle.

Here is a preview of Judith Noble's talk.  Judith is a Senior Lecturer in Film Production at the Arts University, Bournemouth. She researches and publishes on avant-garde and experimental film and the occult and esoteric.  She is the author of “A Witch’s Mirror: The Art of Making Magic.”

Beyond Halloween
This paper traces the evolution of a Samhain ritual in one Wiccan coven in Devon over a period of nearly 25 years, beginning in 1991. The coven is not hierarchical, and its rituals are actively developed by all its members. It was founded within the Gardnerian tradition but over many years has developed a strong commitment to the forms practices of what might be termed Traditional Witchcraft.
When this writer first became involved with the coven, its Samhain ritual was broadly similar to that of other Gardnerian groups, marking the passing of the year into darkness, a journey inwards to the world of spirit and a point of contact with loved ones who have passed into spirit. However, over the years it has evolved into a very deep and intense ritual of spirit contact and inner vision, which demands a concentrated degree of engagement and commitment and which has profound and sometimes very unexpected effects on the participants. It works profound changes in all those who experience it, and makes the world of spirit a very present reality for them.
In this paper I examine how this ritual has grown and changed and consider its form and its meanings. Contained within the structure of a Wiccan ritual are practices which have much in common with some forms of Shamanism, with the possession states experienced in some African Diaspora spiritualities and with deep trance. I also consider the effects of the ritual on its practitioners.
This paper is written from personal experience and with the consent of the members of the coven.

Tickets are £25 per person
Pre-payment essential
Ways to pay
By card: phone the Museum on 01840250111 and complete the transaction using a credit or debit card
By cash: pop into the Museum and pay at the counter
By cheque: send a cheque made payable to Museum of Witchcraft to our address: the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, the Harbour, Boscastle, PL35 0HD

Any issues, email the Museum:

A Feeling for Magic edited by Ronald Hutton

The Museum recently acquired this book for the library.  We're really impressed by it, the scholarship is first rate.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Review of the British Book of Spells and Charms by Graham King

A word we are all familiar with from childhood, but is it really used in magic? Well yes it is.
Graham King,  who's ownership of this museum spanned 2 millenia (1996-2013) has woven together a fascinating collection of charms, spells and songs from the British Isles, gathered over the years from publications, visitors, friends,  local folk and personal experience.
 'The British Book of Spells and Charms' give an insight into the uses of folk magic for a variety of purposes - luck, love, hate, health and practical use - an example shows how to bless a child with the gift of song - simply  bury their first nail pairings under an ash tree.

Beautifully crafted by Troy Books, this hardback  publication is sheer pleasure just to thumb through, with glossy pages and colour photos and a 7.5 x 4.5" size that's reminiscent of an old fashioned chapbook, well worth the £32 price tag this treasure is available from the Museum shop and Troy Books.

Many thanks to Hannah Fox for this thoughtful review.

Above: a photo of Graham with the Museum's divination display.

The Museum and local history associations

The Museum was visited yesterday by representatives of St Breward Local History Society.  They really enjoyed their visit and have arranged for a talk to be given to their society in January by Judith and Peter Hewitt (the Museum managers).

Judith and Peter delivered a talk on Witchcraft and the Weather at the AGM of the Cornwall Association of Local Historians.  The substance of that talk is featured in the new journal of that organisation.

Local school group visits the Museum

Yesterday the Museum was visited by a group of GCSE students from Budehaven school.  They visited as part of their Religious Studies course and were particularly interested in representations of religions in the media.  The group had a guided tour (led by Judith) and spent a lot of time looking at the top gallery and the Modern Witchcraft display in particular.  The students asked many thought provoking questions and took a real interest in the Museum.  Their teacher is keen to come again!

Educational visits to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic can be tailored to your needs and your programme of study.  We have had students visit who were studying Macbeth, students studying History (specifically the history of Cornwall and its magical associations) and most recently this group studying philosophy and religion.  To discuss a possible visit please contact Judith at the Museum ( or 01840250111).

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ralph Harvey, High Priest of the Order of Artemis, donates the Dashwood Cup

This past weekend, the museum was honored to receive a very generous donation from a long time supporter of the museum, Ralph Harvey. Simon, who has been friends with Ralph and his late wife, Audrey for many years, was delighted when Ralph announced that he would like to donate a very ornate chalice to the museum. The chalice is thought to have belonged to the notorious rake and politician, Francis Dashwood. A photograph of the cup is on display in the Hellfire Caves in West Wycombe, the location of a private club that Dashwood established around 1775. 'Dashwood, the most profane of that blasphemous crew, acted as a sort of high priest, and used a communion cup to pour out libations to heathen deities'. The cup was bought by Ralph from an antique dealer in 1980 as a Silver Wedding anniversary present for his wife. It was consequently used by his coven for more than thirty years. The cup is an 18th century replica of a silver Kantharos, found in an excavation at Pompeii. Should anyone have any further information on these Kantharos cups, please let us know.

The cup will be on show soon in the Modern Witchcraft gallery at the museum.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Gift basket donation

We had a lovely surprise at the Museum this week - someone gave us a gift basket full of goodies!  Many thanks, people can be so nice.

Outside the Museum

The sun has been shining here a lot and the outside of the Museum is looking good.  Our plants are blooming and we recently changed our window display, tripadvisor review board and visitor comments board.  Here are some photos.

Above: the visitor comments board is changed every couple of months to include new comments and also to remove sun bleached cards!  
Below: some recent comments.

Below: our Tripadvisor window display.

Below: pretty flowers outside the Museum and a curious dog!

Above: we planted a broom (how appropriate!).

Friday, May 13, 2016

Donation of antique books

The Museum received an intriguing parcel in the post last week.  On opening, it was found to be two antique books sent from America by a supporter of the Museum.  The books are Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft by Sir Walter Scott (dated 1831) and also Witchcraft by Charles Williams (dated 1941).

We're very grateful to Billy Crowe Staver for these donations which will be added to the library (which now contains over 7000 works and is free for visitors to use by appointment).