News – Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
It has been a long summer and Joan’s Garden in front of the Museum has looked great for most of the year. If you don’t know, this is a garden (paid for by the Friends of the Museum) where each plant has a sign next to it explaining its use in magic, herbalism or folkloric beliefs about it. After several windy days in Boscastle, it desperately needed a tidy up. The Museum Manager, Judith set to work this week with a little help from some very special people…
Above: the garden before after a long summer and some strong winds.
Above: the garden after, cut back and tidy for the winter ahead with around 100 daffodil bulbs planted for spring.
Above: some heathers planted for a little winter colour.
Above: the wishing well with the cauldron plant pot filled with cylamens.
Judith was “helped” by Tom, the Museum dog (above) and Agnes Emily Hewitt now four months old (below).
We have had lots of invitations to present talks this year – it seems like there is more interest in witchcraft and magic than ever. In 2017, we have spoken at Lifton History Group, St Breward History Group, St Tudy History Group, The Cornwall Association of Local Historians and the St Columb Probus Club.
On top of this, three different members of the Museum team presented talks at the end of October/beginning of November.
First up was Joyce Froome who spoke to around 50 A level students who visited the Museum on October 31st. They are studying the Witch hunts in early modern Europe. While half the group looked around the Museum, the other half enjoyed a talk by Joyce in the library on the Pendle Witch case (Joyce published a book on this subject called “Wicked Enchantments: the Pendle witches and their magic”).
Later that evening, Judith Hewitt travelled down to Falmouth to give a talk at a Halloween party at a yachting club. She spoke about the history of the holiday and the possible origins and meanings of some of the aspects of Halloween (such as pumpkins, the supernatural and costumes etc.). One of our best sellers on the online shop this year has been the guidebook we wrote on the topic of Halloween for 2016’s exhibition.
On November 1st, it was Peter Hewitt’s turn to present. He was invited to speak by the Women’s Institute near Exeter on the topic of Witchcraft in the West Country. Peter discussed notable witches such as Anne Jeffries and Joan Wytte but the majority of his talk revolved around the Cecil Williamson archive. Cecil founded the Museum and the documents in the archive include information on individual witches he met and the objects that they used and created. Below: a slide from Peter’s talk showing Cecil’s notes.
All talks were well received and we look forward to reaching out to more interested parties in the future! If you would like a member of the Museum team to speak to your organisation then please contact Judith Hewitt via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve had a great year at the Museum, we’ve been open every day from April 1st to October 31st. Now it is time to close our doors for the season.
The Museum will be open at the following times: this Saturday (November 4th 2017) for a candlelit evening 7pm-10.30pm. Last entry 10pm. This is open to the public, no need to book for the candlelit evening, just pay on the door and enjoy the Museum at night.
We will be open for a week during the holiday period. We will be open daily from December 26th to January 2nd (inclusive). The Museum will be open from 12pm-5pm on these days (last entry 4pm).
We have limited staff during our “closed” season so it may take us slightly longer to reply to emails or phone messages than usual.
It’s nearly here! Saturday 28th October our 4th Annual All Hallow’s Gathering
It is nearly here: our 4th Annual All Hallow’s Gathering. These videos capture some of the atmosphere but you have to experience it for yourself!
Come down to the Harbour (in fancy dress) bring a carved pumpkin to display in the Harbour when it gets dark!
There are lots of activities happening this year:
10am – 2.30pm – Workshop in Village Hall – come along and make your own miniature Mari Lwyd (a traditional Halloween ‘oss) (Free to attend, materials provided!)
3pm – Dancing of the Dark Morris outside the Museum, also featuring Boscastle Buoys and Mr. Fox (a stunning torch lit dance group)
4pm – Face-painting in the Harbour
4.30 – 5.45 – If you live on Dunn St or Old Rd., the Grey Mares will visit your home (let the museum know before Friday 27th Oct).
5.45 – Torch lit procession into Harbour
8pm – Spooky Candlelit Evening in the Museum (Free for locals!)
SEE YOU THERE!
The museum will close at close of business on the 31st of October – but we will reopen on Boxing Day till January 2nd 2018:
12-5 pm (last entry at 4pm) Tuesday December 26th to Tuesday January 2nd (inclusive)
Don’t forget that the Museum will also be open for a one-off Candlelit Evening on November 4th to celebrate the launch of John Callow’s new book. This candlelit evening is open to all (special admission price £4 each).
In May 2018 the Museum will host a conference on the subject of Ritual Magic to complement our 2018 exhibition. It will be held in the Wellington Hotel, Boscastle, Cornwall UK, on Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th May.
If you would like to present a paper please send an abstract of no more than 200 words together with a brief biographical note to: email@example.com
Deadline for abstracts is December 31 st 2017
The subject is vast so papers can be as broad or as specific as you wish! Themes to address include, but are not restricted to, the following:
Historical origins / current practice
Ritual magic, cunning traditions and witchcraft
Ritual magic groups
Hermeticism and the Hermetic tradition
Ritual magicians / practitioners
If you are not sure if your paper suits the topic, email us and we will happily discuss it with you.
The first edition of the Museum’s new journal – The Enquiring Eye – is finally here!
The journal is the first publication of the museum’s new publishing arm, The Witchcraft Research Centre; in homage to our founder Cecil Williamson who started publishing pamphlets under the WRC moniker in the 1950s.
The Enquiring Eye is a place for anyone to publish their research into witchcraft, magic, paganism, folklore and anything in between; it is also a platform for the Museum to publish original research about its collections.
Pick up your copy today from our online shop:
63 pages of research articles and Museum related info… including
The Mystery of the ‘Witchcraft Research Centre’ by Steve Patterson
This Charming Man: F.T. Nettleinghame and his Piskey-empire by Rupert White
A Neolithic Stone Idol Found in Cornwall by Graham E. Hill
Banishing, Binding and Cursing by the Chattering Magpie
The Mass Hexing of Donald Trump:A Brief History by Melanie Xulu
Reclaiming the Magician by Alan Jones
‘A Letter to Nathaniel Higginson’ by Samantha Southern
Reading Love Magic in Sixteenth-Century Italy by Joshua Rushton
A Journey into Paganism by Rebekah Elvidge
Collecting and Fashioning Magical Objects with Cecil Williamson by Peter Hewitt
‘Witch’, a play by Tracey Norman that had its debut in the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic Library last year will be performed in Bristol, at the Alma Tavern & Theatre this September, 8th & 9th September – 8pm
We would encourage everyone to make the trip for this play, which Tracey researched extensively using the Museum Library & Archives, and which draws upon the Museum’s collection of folk magic artefacts for inspiration. It is a fantastic piece of drama that will have you on the edge of your seat.
To book your tickets go to: http://www.almatavernandtheatre.co.uk/theatre/what-s-on.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
The description from the Alma website is as follows:
He and Margery have been brought before the local landowner/magistrate to give their side of the story. The magistrate must then decide how the case should proceed and whether Margery should be tried or if it is simply a neighbourly squabble.
Written to stimulate discussion, it asks more questions than it answers – there is no linear journey from A to B with a character whose innocence or guilt is clearly defined. In fact, all three characters have grey areas and each audience member must decide for themselves whether they believe Margery is guilty or not.
WITCH is a 50 minute 3-hander written in 2016 by company member Tracey Norman.
It recently received a 4-star review from Remotegoat and has just finished an extremely successful 3-performance run at the Fringe Theatrefest, where it was hailed as a “MUST SEE” of the festival.
Described by audiences as “powerful”, “thought-provoking”, “utterly compelling” and “immersive”.
The show is based entirely on historical records, so everything that happens in it has happened to a person living in the early modern era.
(to read an illustrated pdf of this article click here: Port eliot Witchwalk 2017 blog)
The night-time “Witch-walks”
At the Port Eliot Festival 28-30th July 2017
For the third year running the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic had a presence at The Port Eliot Festival in the form of the Night-time “Witch-Walk” around the site at 10-11pm on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, facilitated by myself (Steve Patterson) and Binky Andrews.
The festival is held on the port Eliot Estate at St Germans tucked away in a hidden corner of east Cornwall. The estate grounds are a perfect place for a festival; on one side bounded by the river Tiddy and the other a maze of woodland glades and tracks. In the middle is situated the old manor house, the ancient church of St Germans and the rolling gardens designed by Humphry Repton in the C19.
The Eliot family have been in possession of the estate for over 500 years from when they bought the lands after the dissolution of the monasteries for the princely sum of £500. It was however, the lord of the manor Peregrine St Germans, who started the festival. Although they were of an old aristocratic lineage they were by no means a ‘buttoned-up’ conservative family. His parents lived a jet set lifestyle between London and Monaco, hanging out in the Mediterranean with the likes of Edward and Mrs Simpson. Lord Peregrine himself was a colourful character and part of the Etonian bohemian counterculture set of the 1960s. In 1981 he started the now legendary Elephant Fayres, which ran for 6 years. They were very much part of the old school of Free Festivals; being an anarchic mix of music, theatre, radical politics, mind expansion and counter culture. Unfortunately they became too anarchic and came to an end. In 2004 it was reinvented as the Port Eliot Literary festival and it is still running today.
Unlike many festivals, at Port Eliot, the emphasis is not on the big named bands, but on hosting a bewildering array of talks, performances and workshops. The music and performances are always far removed from the mainstream. In short, it is an ideal place for spreading the word about the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. There are even areas dedicated to art, fashion, cookery, and literature. If you cast caution and expectation to the wind you can stumble upon any number of unexpected gems. I love it!
The old free festivals were on a much smaller scale than the festivals of today. There were no big bands or promoters and absolutely no press coverage. They were about as unfashionable as you could get and were entirely entrenched in the underground counter culture, but their influence was disproportionately huge. (And as with the sex Pistols first gig, everyone claims to have been there!) One went there to both ‘party’ and to expand your consciousness.
In them days there was no coverage of countercultural ideas in mainstream culture, festivals were one of the few places one could go to expand one’s mind. It was at the free festivals that I first came across Paganism and radical Green Politics. I feel proud that the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic has entered in to this tradition, passing it on to a new generation of festivals.
The Night “Witch-walks” involve about an hour’s walk around the festival site in which I share some folkloric tales connected with the place. I usually start with a short talk about the museum. When Cecil Williamson first landed in Cornwall in the 1950s, he lived not far from the festival site in Polperro and had museums in both Polperro and Looe. Presumably much of his early collection of folk magic from the old sea witches and the ‘aunty mays’ must have been in this area. It’s not hard to keep bringing the folkloric tales back to the museum.
As well as promoting the Museum I have always felt that Folkloric walks are an ideal way of putting folklore across. Folklore is primarily a spoken/enacted tradition; it can never fully come to life if it is just written upon a page. Speaking the old stories whilst walking through the landscapes from whence they were born somehow seems to conjure them in to being. In our society we have not only lost many of our story telling skills, but also our listening skills. Story walks are one of the few environments where one can tell the old stories and people remain engaged. I also strongly believe that when one marries the folk story with the landscape from whence it came a strange alchemy emerges; the spirit of place becomes more evident and we become more connected to the land. Folklore, myths and legends need not always be set in a dim and distant land; wherever we are there is always some folk tale or practice lurking around the corner.
My introduction to storytelling once again came from the old free festivals where there was always a storytelling tent. One of my great influences was Robin Williamson, I loved the way he would never tell a tale all the way through in one go, but he would jump around from one to the other, tying them all up at the end. I tend to mix up the stories with talks on the nature of folklore, the folklorists and nuggets of local history. When I first started story telling I used to script my talks, now I tend to memorise the key points and improvise as I go along. That is the beauty of walking and talking; it becomes a dialogue rather than a monologue as you begin to respond to the people and the landscape around you …and the universe is always ready to throw in a wild card in to the game just to shake things up!
When something crazy happens, I try to go with it and incorporate it in to the act. Last year the paraffin lamp I was using blew up in my hand. I told the group that it was a ghost detector set to do that if there was a spirit presence in the aria. This year, whilst recounting the tale of “Dando and the devil” (a folk tale collected in the 19C which was actual set in the grounds of the port Eliot estate),at the point in the tale that the bad friar Dando demands a drink from his companions and the devil steps forward disguised as a dark handsome member of his company, a young muscled gentleman, stripped to the waste, burst from the woods behind us and gave me a tin of cider saying “I heard you calling for a drink”. He had no idea that there was a story in progress but he was a great sport and played along, right up to the point where the devil galloped of with Dando’s soul down to the river, where he too galloped of in to the night. I solemnly warned the group that if you mess with folklore – folklore will mess with you! …and I was getting a little nervous about the next part of the walk where we start talking about piracy!
There is a certain element of performance in running talk/walks, but I am not an actor and I keep props to a minimum and never dress up. I personally have an aversion to “Living history” performances which often feel they tend towards the intrusive. I also feel that much of the power of the old folk tales lays in the irony of their extraordinary presence in our ordinary lives; the more theatrical one makes them, the less impact they have …and the less we use our imagination.
On the night “Witch-walk”, after talking about the museum, I then went on to speak of the Folklore of the surrounding landscape and of how Cornwall was once a separate country with its own Kings and Queens and own language. I told tales of the pirates, smugglers, ghosts, saints and fairy folk that once frequented the place. Every night I was fully booked, but as I walked, like the pied piper of Hamlyn I gathered as many as 40 people. Much of our root was ill lit and on rough ground, Binky followed up the rear; handing out leaflets, lighting the way, navigating hazards, rounding up stragglers and offering pastoral support. On Saturday the rain was persistent and much of the site turned to a sea of mud. In the afternoon we had to re-rout the walk twice to keep up with where was passable, but I thought no one in their right mind would come out and brave the elements in a night like this. Amazingly 13 brave souls came out and did the walk to its end. There was a real spirit of adventure amongst us and we had a great time.
At our journeys end by the river, I finish the walk with a talk about the magic and witchcraft in the area. We were lucky to have three collectors of folk magic in east Cornwall; Jonathan Couch, William Paynter and (of course!) Cecil Williamson. On Sunday the weather turned once again and we were blessed with a beautifully sunny day. On the final evening the sky cleared and behind us the starry heavens were reflected in the waters of the Tiddy. As I turned the Bull-Roared and conjured up the spirit of the land a shooting star fell from Cassiopeia. As everyone went their separate ways when the walk was done I felt as if a little piece of West Country magic had fallen in to our lives.
Everyone at the Museum would like to thank Steve and Binky for all their hard work promoting the Museum at Port Eliot. As Steve writes above, for many these festivals are a first glimpse into an entirely new and exciting world of history, magic and folklore and it’s great that the Museum is involved with this.
For those who can’t make it to Port Eliot, Steve has written an excellent booklet called:
“The folklore, Myth, and Magic around east Cornwall and port Eliot”; it is a limited edition produced especially for the event. If you are interested in purchasing one please contact the Museum.
We also have Steve’s cracking illustrated mini-book on Boscastle for sale too – THE FOLKLORE, GHOSTS AND MAGIC OF BOSCASTLE – it is well worth a read: http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/shop/the-folklore-ghosts-and-magic-of-boscastle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
We are excited to announce a new talk that will take place in the Museum Library this Saturday 5th August. Come down to the museum and meet the curator of the our 2017 exhibition “Poppets, pins and power: the Craft of Cursing”. The event will consist of an illustrated talk with Dr Louise Fenton of the University of Wolverhampton in the library at the Museum.
Find out more about the intriguing poppets now on display in the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, their stories, curious histories and how and why they were made. In addition Louise will talk about her travels to New Orleans and her work with the Museum of Voodoo.
Join us this Saturday, 5th August at 2pm!
It is a 45 minute talk with 15 minutes for questions.
£4 per person, prior booking essential, includes Free Entry to the Museum.
To book email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01840 250 111
The talk will be held in the Museum library.