Witchcraft Museum

Witchcraft Museum

Boscastle Cornwall

News – Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

Although the weather wasn’t great the Midsummer Celebration was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance.  Merv and Alison Davey led circular and serpent dances in the harbour, around the Midsummer …

Although the weather wasn’t great the Midsummer Celebration was thoroughly enjoyed by all in attendance.  Merv and Alison Davey led circular and serpent dances in the harbour, around the Midsummer Birch decorated with a Golden Cockerel as well as ribbons and charms brought by participants.  People also dressed the wishing well outside the Museum with cut flowers from their gardens.  Towards the end, a procession into the Valency stream led to the dunking of St. John the Baptist – John of the Water or the Oak King – to give thanks for the summer rain that was nourishing Boscastle (at that very moment!).

Thanks to everyone who attended and especially Merv and Alison and Gillian Nott (who made St. John).  See you next year!

 

Author: peter
Posted: June 26, 2017, 4:25 pm
A reporter from BBC Radio Cornwall dropped in to the Museum on Thursday morning to conduct an interview about the Museum, its collection and events we have coming up.  It …

A reporter from BBC Radio Cornwall dropped in to the Museum on Thursday morning to conduct an interview about the Museum, its collection and events we have coming up.  It is due to air sometime this weekend.  Here is Judith Hewitt, the Museum Manager with the reporter outside the Museum.

Author: judith
Posted: June 24, 2017, 10:00 am
Tomorrow, Saturday June 24th, the Museum will be holding an event to celebrate Midsummer. Flowers at Midsummer Flowers are made into garlands, thrown into holy wells and springs and cast …

Tomorrow, Saturday June 24th, the Museum will be holding an event to celebrate Midsummer.

Flowers at Midsummer

Flowers are made into garlands, thrown into holy wells and springs and cast into fires at Midsummer.

Yellow flowers, symbols of the Sun, are most common.

Roses are symbols of the sun and the Goddess (they are said to have sprung from the blood of Venus).

Midsummer is a good time to collect herbs: they are the bounty of the Sun God, patron of healing and medicine.

Herbs particularly associated with Midsummer:

St John’s Wort

Mugwort

Vervain

Fennel

White lilies

Join us outside the Museum from 3pm for music and dancing and some interesting seasonal customs!

 

Midsummer Fires

This seems like a very ancient custom.  It was first written about in England in 1200s.

At one time, it is believed that every village had a Midsummer Fire.  They were normally lit near a holy site: a well, a hilltop or a border between two places (between two villages or where land and water meet for example).  They were usually lit after sundown to ward off evil spirits.

Fire customs: people jumping across fires for protection, throwing pebbles into the flames after saying a prayer, taking ashes home to sprinkle on fields for fertility, burning herbs and wildflowers for purification.

In some parts of Europe, large cartwheels were set fire to and rolled down hills.  It was said that if these midsummer wheels rolled to the bottom without going out then it would be a good harvest that year.

In Devon, flaming wheels were rolled into the stream at sunset.  If it rolled in still alight, then this was a symbol of good luck for the coming year.

 

 

 

 

Author: judith
Posted: June 23, 2017, 4:12 pm
On Saturday June 24th, the Museum will be holding an event to celebrate Midsummer.  In the next few blogs, we will tell you a little of what you can expect …

On Saturday June 24th, the Museum will be holding an event to celebrate Midsummer.  In the next few blogs, we will tell you a little of what you can expect and preview a few of the things involved.

The Midsummer Tree

A tradition found in Wales, England and Sweden.

Sometimes called “raising the birch” “the summer branch” “the dance of the birch” or “the summer birch”.

Decorated with wreaths, ribbons, shiny objects and pictures.

Said to represent the vitality of life in spring and summer.

They also represent the phallic, fertilising power of the God, thrust into the womb of the Earth Mother. 

The tree or pole also functions as an axis mundi joining the worlds of the Gods (above) with our world (below).

Dances take place around Midsummer trees: sunwise and antisunwise: dancing will take place at the Museum from 3pm on Saturday June 24th.

The Golden Cockrel

Traditionally, the Midsummer Tree was crowned with a Golden Cockrel.

The cock or rooster is a bird of a sun.

The cry of the cockrel at sunrise indicates the end of the darkness and the start of the day.

This Golden Cockrel will form part of our Midsummer Celebration on Saturday June 24th as it sits on top of the Midsummer Tree.

 

 

Author: judith
Posted: June 22, 2017, 9:37 am
On Saturday June 24th, the Museum will be holding an event to celebrate Midsummer.  In the next few blogs, we will tell you a little of what you can expect …

On Saturday June 24th, the Museum will be holding an event to celebrate Midsummer.  In the next few blogs, we will tell you a little of what you can expect and preview a few of the things involved.

Above: our wishing well with some Midsummer decorations (more will be put on it nearer the date).

Water and wells at Midsummer

People make pilgrimages to holy wells at Midsummer to ask for cures and to make offerings of coins, pins or flowers.

Wells and springs represent the life force of Mother Earth: the womb of the earth.  They are often sacred to the Goddess.

Some wells are thought to have guardian deities or spirits living in them and Midsummer is a good time to show them respect.

Midsummer is the time of the festival of Sul Minerva, the Goddess of the famous springs at Bath.

As the sun becomes more intense, water is of more vital importance and essential for the success of crops.  It should not be forgotten on this day of celebrating the sun. 

Figure to represent St John the Baptist

The birth of Jesus is celebrated at Christmas around the time of the Winter Solstice.  The birth of St John the Baptist is celebrated around the time of the Summer Solstice.  They can be said to represent the two sides of the year: the light and the dark.

Historically, St John the Baptist has sometimes been represented with horns, furry legs and cloven hooves. 

He was known for wandering in the wilderness and has sometimes been shown as a wild man of the woods. 

Jesus called John, “a burning and shining light” and Midsummer Fires are often called “St John’s Fires.”

In Russia, women would make a figure of St John from grass, herbs and branches and dip it in the river to help bring the rain to nourish the crops. 

This figure (to the left of the wishing well above and made for the Museum by Gillian Nott) is inspired by this tradition and will be “dunked” in the stream outside the Museum on Saturday June 24th

 

 

 

Author: judith
Posted: June 21, 2017, 2:37 pm
A nice feature on the Boscastle and Tintagel area in the current edition of Days Out South West (a free magazine that has a wide distribution in this region).  The …

A nice feature on the Boscastle and Tintagel area in the current edition of Days Out South West (a free magazine that has a wide distribution in this region).  The Museum features quite prominently as you can see.  

Author: judith
Posted: June 18, 2017, 12:05 pm
The Museum library has a large (and growing) collection of information available in different mediums.  We have CDs and cassette tapes with music on them, DVDS and VHS with documentaries …

The Museum library has a large (and growing) collection of information available in different mediums.  We have CDs and cassette tapes with music on them, DVDS and VHS with documentaries and movies on them, CDS and cassette tapes with interviews and other audio recordings on them, CD roms, CDS with pictures or files on them and also vinyl records.  These items have been collected over many years, some are mass produced items and some are very rare.  As you probably know, the Museum library is not a lending library and there hasn’t been an ability to listen to or view these items in the library…until now!

We are very happy to report that the Museum library now has a Media section where visitors can listen to audio, watch audio and browse other data types such as CD Roms.  This has taken quite a bit of work to set up and credit must go to Joann Varanda, a recent intern here at the Museum who catalogued and sorted all the audio recordings and also to Jeff Goodwin, intern, who researched and installed the different players needed and put them together into one section of the library.

Thanks also to the Friends of the Museum organisation for funding this venture and helping to make these things available to the public. 

The library is free to access and open to the public.  It has over 80000 titles in it.  Appointments are necessary and at least 24 hours notice is needed for library access.  To make an appointment email: museumwitchcraft@aol.com.

 

Author: judith
Posted: June 17, 2017, 1:16 pm
Lots of work was done at the Museum over the winter months to keep things looking fresh and to enable us to get more objects on display.  Here is an …

Lots of work was done at the Museum over the winter months to keep things looking fresh and to enable us to get more objects on display.  Here is an update of what has been happening (see if you can spot the changes when you next visit)…

In the top gallery, we moved Lionel Miskin’s Hare statue into the centre of the gallery where it looks rather amazing.

She really gets the prominence she deserves and you can see her from the front and back really clearly.

We created a new display specifically looking at the Goddess and the Moon.  It also includes objects relating to the stars and the Sun.

We moved some of the piskies around a bit to include the terracotta sculpture on the third shelf down.  The Museum’s founder Cecil Williamson wrote of this vessel, “To describe in detail the method of Susan Shaw’s ritual working with the terracotta figures etc. would take too long. But good practical person that she was, she used her Green Magic to work good for people and that of course was with the help of her conjured nature spirits.”

We also added a picture of the Wild Hunt to this display with the fox mask (The mask represents the fox, the bear, the lone hunter, the masculine and Hern.)

The major change was that we created a large cabinet so we could display more objects in this gallery.

The top shelf looks at the Goddess and the Seasons/Wheel of the Year.  On the left are objects associated with Lammas and made for Beltane.  In the centre is the Bed of Bride with offerings made for the Museum by Gillian Nott for our “Almost Imbolc” celebrations in February 2017.  To the right are objects used in rituals at Imbolc.

The central shelf explores the Goddess as Mother and the Goddess Isis specifically.  To the right are objects relating to the connection between Goddesses and feathers.  This display includes a feather mask of which Cecil Williamson wrote “In witchcraft one constantly finds reports of witches turning into or taking on animal forms. Hence the Devil’s masks, Padstow hobby horse, and countless other examples…This West Country witch’s face mask formed from chicken feathers and surmounted with a peacock’s feather is brimful of magical symbolism. Presented to the Witchcraft Research Centre [the Museum] by a Cornish witch living and working in the Praze-An-Beeble area of Cornwall.”  

The next shelf has images of the Goddesses from Crete, Ancient Babylon and representations of Lilith.  To the right is a section on Goddesses specifically associated with magic such as Hekate and Serqet/Selqet/Serket.  

The bottom shelf is mainly donations from Ralph Harvey, several of which he has made recently.  This section explores the connection between the Horned God and the Goddess and the ritual regalia associated with them.  

We are really pleased to have been able to get so many of these objects out on display for our visitors to enjoy.

Part Six (the final part) of What’s been happening at the Museum coming soon…

Author: judith
Posted: June 16, 2017, 10:24 am
In the past year or two, Jo Lovelock has visited the Museum a number of times to research the collection, use the library and attend events.  She gave a talk …

In the past year or two, Jo Lovelock has visited the Museum a number of times to research the collection, use the library and attend events.  She gave a talk last year in Japan about her research (and included some Museum objects in her talk).  

Museum objects travel to Japan

Jo gave another talk this year at the Textile Society’s Research Symposium in London.  Here she tells us about her talk and a little bit about her research too:

The Textile Society promotes the study of textile disciplines and celebrates the history and culture of both traditional and contemporary textiles. On the 27th May they held the New Research Strategies IV Symposium at the Wellcome Trust in London. This provided an opportunity for curators, historians, artists, academics and PhD students to get together and present papers outlining the research they are doing around the world in a wide range of textile fields.

As a first year part-time practice based PhD student, studying textiles at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham Surrey, I gave a 20 minute presentation outlining the research I am undertaking into the relationship between transitional and talismanic objects in the context of magical thinking and through textile art practice.

A key area of this research is the use of textiles in operative magic and witchcraft in the British Isles since the repeal of the 1735 Witchcraft Act in 1951. I explained in the presentation that I had become interested in the subject after visiting the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in 2016. I outlined the fact that I intend to establish a historic context for my research by analysing museum collections of talismanic objects found in the British Isles and I gave an overview of my preliminary research, showing a number of charms and talismanic objects predominately from the Museum of Witchcraft collection, to highlight the role that textile plays in the making of magical artefacts.

I explained that as a textile practitioner I synthesize my research through making and that as my PhD is practice based I will translate my finding into artwork for exhibition as well as through a written thesis.

The presentation was very well received and a number of people came up to me afterward to say that they thought it was a very interesting area of study.

I hope in the long term my research will raise awareness of the use of textile related talismanic objects in magical practices in the British Isles today.

For more on Jo’s work see: http://www.jolovelock.com/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

 

Author: peter
Posted: June 15, 2017, 3:57 pm
We were lucky enough to have Levannah Morgan at the Museum on Saturday.  She hosted a workshop in the library on the subject of the Mabinogion.  As a Welsh speaker …

We were lucky enough to have Levannah Morgan at the Museum on Saturday.  She hosted a workshop in the library on the subject of the Mabinogion.  As a Welsh speaker with a deep attachment to this literary work she offered us a real insight into the world of the Mabinogion.

The day started with an exploration of the history of the texts and how they came to be collected together by monks in Wales in the Middle Ages and written in Welsh (not Latin as one might expect).  We then heard about the different versions which are held in different collections today: the Red, White and Black Book.  Mabinogion roughly translates as Branches which can also mean genealogies and it contains great mythic tales and Arthurian romances.  The works were made available to the public thanks to the work of Lady Charlotte Guest in the 19th century.  There are now many different versions available and the text is a source of inspiration to many artists, poets, musicians, witches, Pagans, Druids (and many, many others!)

Above: Levannah in the library with the group.  

In the afternoon, we listened to several of the stories with our eyes closed, “making a picture in our mind” as Levannah said.  We heard about Alwen “she of the white track” or the Milky Way and the mad, bad, Cornish boar.  The Story of the Oldest Animals: the blackbird, stag, eagle and salmon was particularly remarkable as was a section of the Mabinogion describing black sheep on one side of the river and white sheep on the other and a tree half of which was aflame and the other half of which was in leaf.  We heard about Bran and his cauldron and the burial of his head, Rhiannon and “the birds of Rhiannon” and the place names in Wales derived from tales from the Mabinogion.  These mysterious stories led to some interesting discussions amongst the group about their meanings, significance and resonance with us today.

Levannah told us about each of the Four Branches of the Mabinogion and summed up the contents of each.  The First Branch exploring a hero’s right to be King, the Second Branch which features Brannwen and Bran, the Third Branch with Pryderi and the Fourth Branch (which we later dwelt upon) which includes Arianrhod.  

Levannah then spoke to us about her connection with Arianrhod and shared with us her experiences as a child, through to her reading of the White Goddess by Robert Graves and a powerful dream/vision she had about a place in Wales near Anglesey.  She has written a booklet on this subject and generously gave a copy of it to each of the course attendees.  It was a privilege to hear Levannah’s experiences and insights and the Museum are so grateful to her for giving us her time and expertise.  

The next workshop will be on the Qabalah on September 16th.  For more details see: http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/event/workshops-on-the-mabinogion-june-10th-and-qabalah-september-16th/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss 

Author: judith
Posted: June 12, 2017, 12:09 pm

Seo wordpress plugin by www.seowizard.org.