News – Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
‘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.
This year we have a limited run of T-shirts designed by acclaimed designer Rob Flowers:
The t-shirt has been described as “colourful and slightly mad” and takes a humorous look at some of the Museum’s best-loved objects, including poppets, the Witch Mirror, a mandrake, a witch bottle and Baphomet…
The Museum’s twig-wand logo is on the back.
You can order your today here: http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/shop/museum-objects-t-shirt/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss (available in a variety of sizes)
We also have a more brooding t-shirt in black based upon a design in the Museum collection (this one is not by Rob) with an Ouroboros / Skull design – this is “Uncompromisingly Occult”!!! http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/shop/skull-and-serpent-t-shirt/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
Both designs are limited – splash your cash today! Only £12 each…
(both designs are modelled by Boscastle gentleman Steve S.; see order page!)
We were very pleased to have Jamie Littlejohns from Camelford with us last week. He did his Year 10 work experience placement at the Museum and had a great time. You can read Jamie’s blog about his experience below.
Thanks for all your hard work Jamie!
Jamie Littlejohns Work Experience Blog
I arrived at the museum at 9:58am where I helped sweep and brush the floors because it was going to open up in a few minutes time, I also met one of my supervisors called Peter who was very glad to see me because of the short staff. But there was a problem I hadn’t been in the museum before so everything was new to me, luckily Peter asked me to take a tour around the museum which is where I met Steven who worked at the museum as well. The museum had a vast diversity of artefacts such as bones, dolls even shark teeth! This certainly caught my eye as I was walking around it probably took me a good 30-40 minutes to walk around but I didn’t mind because it was amusing with all the different displays the museum had with different objects.
Straight after the tour around the museum I was asked to do archiving in the library which intrigued me because I kind of didn’t know what it was. Thankfully Peter showed me what to do which made it easier, all I had to do was take photos of the newspaper samples which all contained witches or strange mysteries and store them as a PDF file. Sadly I soon ran out of time because I finished at 5:00pm.
The next day I started at 9:30am which I didn’t mind because I had been in Boscastle since 9:00am. But on Tuesday I had a different supervisor which did surprise me the supervisors name was Hannah she was nice and showed me how to light the candles on the shrine, however when she was showing me she had realised Steven had plunked the wrong candles in and made the task harder. On the other hand Hannah and I soon ignited the candles and the shrine was back to its former self with the right candles.
I then helped clean the glass on the displays which had numerous ice cream finger marks scattered on certain displays, this didn’t take long to do and the museum was spotless when we finished this meant we could finally open up and allow people to enter because we could see them waiting patiently (well kind of patient) to come in. This must have been around 10:00am which is normally when the museum opens up so we were right on time. This was also around the time Joyce came in who greeted me and introduced herself then she positioned herself behind the counter in the reception or as they like to call it a “booth,” I simply didn’t mind what it was called because I considered it a place of breaks and cups of tea. Later on in the day I went into the library with Hannah where we had a discussion on spread sheets and school which was very intriguing and I learnt how businesses used these programs to make it easier for finding what makes the most profit and how much stock they have. I then started to clean the shelves in the library which had small amounts of dirt and muck, I didn’t mind after all I had experience with cleaning shelves so I did what I could to make them immaculate. Of course they wanted me to have new experiences so I went back down to aid Joyce with taking photographs of the artefacts and that was fun because each artefact had a different meaning and was incredibly different to others, for instance the obsidian necklace which was a charismatic sort of object and was very enchanting you could feel the magical power being emitted from it. That was a very fun day and I was sad it had to come to an end.
On Wednesday I arrived at the museum at 9:30am which may have been earlier than normal but I didn’t mind because I was enthusiastic due to the photos we took yesterday because on Wednesday I was told I was editing the photos on the computer in the library but first I had to help with lightning the candles because gypsy had already done the brushing and had cleaned the glass on the cabinets, so I grabbed the matches and the grabber (which we used to grab the candles at the back) and started igniting them one by one until the shrine was fully lit.
Then I proceeded up into the library to do the editing with Joyce who showed me how to upload the photos onto the museum’s website I rather enjoyed editing the photos because it showed me how far I’ve come during the week like my nerves were they had vanished and this new confidence emerged. This took me right up to 1:00pm which was my lunch break where I had a whole hour since I was going on a walk with Steve Patterson up to the lookout tower.
So at 2:00pm I went back to the museum and grabbed my coat because the weather couldn’t make up its mind on what it was doing, then I waited outside with Steve who was getting himself ready for the hike up to the lookout tower. We waited roughly 5 minutes so then people could join us then we despatched on our tour. First Steve took us to the far end of the harbour and explained its history with witches and sailors then we started wondering up the path towards the lookout tower which was very steep and we had to keep stopping so then we didn’t lose anyone on the way up, although it was hard to do a head count when it started raining and people started putting their hoods up we couldn’t tell who was who.
It was exhausting trying to advance to the lookout tower due to the steps being so steep I could barely get my knees as high as them, but it was worth the effort because it was spectacular and the history of the tower was hysterical I couldn’t believe it and the view was mind blowing. We then stayed there for a while then made our way down towards the church which was not as much of a challenge because it was all downhill so we used less effort.
We managed to get back to the museum at 4:00pm or thereabouts where me and Steve had a nice cup of tea which I can’t thank enough and we hanged out in the booth with gypsy and Joyce. I then stayed in the booth until 5:00pm because I was shattered.
Thursday was a half a day for me which I didn’t mind but I had to crack on and Joyce wasn’t in on Thursday nor was she on Friday so I had Hannah and Gypsy who were my joint supervisors.
it all started well, helped at 10:00am got things sorted then my governor came in which did surprise me because I was having a cup of tea in the booth with my colleges so we quickly looked busy and said I was going to take pictures later on so we went into the workshop, it was me and Hannah (who was my supervisor for the day) and the governor. We discussed what I’ve done over the week were I explained my progress and that I have completed most of my targets in the booklet which were to basically gain confidence even though everyone else put that on theirs as well so the governor just said that I had “accomplished” those targets and soon went leaving me and Hannah chuckling at the fact I had written in the booklet only a few moments before hand so I was lucky to not get caught.
The museum had quite a lot of shirts to fold and I had helped them discover that they had far fewer black shirts compared to white shirts which was useful because now they know what is selling well, it was one of those tasks that needed to be done and I happened to have been free at the time so I volunteered to sort the stock out. This must have been have been around 11:30am where I started folding the shirts and I made it half way through the stockpile till I departed at 12:30pm.
Friday was my last day which I was sad about because I enjoyed the museum where everyday something new would emerge either by people or objects which came in, for instance Rory I believe was his name he sculpted a fabulous statue and brought it in the museum on Friday to show Hannah and Gypsy.
I had arrived at the museum normal time and lit the shrine as normal which started to become natural to me then Peter came in the museum where he gave me the tasks to do for the day and I handed over my booklet so then I could get feedback. This was probably one of the fastest days after all I finished folding the shirts and then I uploaded nearly 100 photos to the website and honestly couldn’t keep track of time and then I saw Peter again where he had filled in the feedback section and I got an astounding review this was literally a surprise to me and I had no idea what the time was because I was overwhelmed so I couldn’t record it in my booklet. So basically the entire week I did something new and each minute was amazing I couldn’t thank the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic enough they allowed me to go there and I think for work experience the museum is the best place to go if you’re into history and are enthusiastic about learning. So around 4:00pm I started writing this blog and I couldn’t believe they wanted me to do this it was a honour, I then went down at 4:55pm which Peter reminded me otherwise I’d still be there and said my goodbyes and thanked them for all that they’ve done for me. That’s where I left the museum feeling proud of myself and that I tried my full 100% to fulfil my tasks. As I was wandering along the harbour I was thinking to myself and that in my head I knew I could use this experience now in the future and I felt more confident this made me happier because I used this week well and went to where I wanted to go and met some inspirational people who guided me when I was stuck and gave clear instructions so then I could follow them.
Due to the birth of Agnes Emily Hewitt, the museum’s Candlelit Evening is cancelled tomorrow due to shortage of staff.
We apologize for the inconvenience and look forward to seeing you at our next Candlelit Evening on Saturday August 5th.
We change our window display as the Wheel of the Year rolls forward. The next seasonal festival is: 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.
For Lammas, the stag’s antlers (in the main window display) have been decorated with straw art and corn dollies made for the Museum by Gillian Nott.
We cannot thank Gillian enough for this wonderful window display which is a complete joy to look at!
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.
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!
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.
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
Join us outside the Museum from 3pm for music and dancing and some interesting seasonal customs!
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.