News – Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
Every year, we close the Museum for a period. This allows us to undertake a review of the exhibits, carry out conservation and cleaning. It is also the time when we start to install new exhibits and refresh existing ones. That time is now upon us. The Museum is closed until April 1st when we re-open for the summer season and remain open every day until October 31st. Hope to see you all during our open season.
We are now closed until April 1st 2018. There is a one-off opening on JANUARY 6th for an Old Christmas / Wassail Event (see our Events page).
CLOSED January 3rd-5th
OPEN January 6th 4-7pm
CLOSED January 7th-April 1st
OPEN every day April 1st-October 31st
As you may know, we change our main window display every couple of months so that its theme is in keeping with the Wheel of Year. We decorate the display with a different theme and we put a different Museum object in the window which links with the seasonal theme. We changed our display in November and we have just had some wonderful additions to it so we thought we’d tell you all about it!
These are the texts that appear in the window display:
Stag’s Head by Artist Marti Dean
Of the animals connected with witchcraft and magic, the stag is closely associated with the Horned God of Witchcraft. With roots set in the pagan histories and traditions of Europe, the symbolism of the stag has been represented in a variety of ways, from the Neolithic painting of the antlered ‘Sorcerer’ within the cave Trois-Frères in France, to the Gundestrup Cauldron, a piece of Iron Age silverwork depicting the Celtic antlered god Cernunnos.
For some modern witches, the stag–god Cernunnos is recognised as the horned god of nature and magic, and thus is celebrated in the rituals, art, and magic of modern witchcraft. This anthropomorphic sculpture of a green stag with branch-like antlers symbolises the magic of the regenerative force in nature. The objects hung on the antlers will be changed throughout the coming year.
For the Winter Solstice or Yule, the stag’s antlers have been decorated with snowflakes and white goose feathers in celebration of winter and Goddess Holda.
The Wheel of the Year
The Ancient Festivals
The year can be divided into eight major festivals which mark the passage of the Sun through the year and relate directly to the agricultural cycle. This is significant to many people (including witches)
The current festival is: Yule or Winter Solstice
On or about December 21st
The ancient festival of Yule celebrates the Winter Solstice when the sun has reached its lowest ebb. The days are short and the nights long but from now on we will notice the Sun returning.
The Sun child is reborn, a time to rejoice.
It is no coincidence that the Christian Church chose this time of the year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the bringer of light. Christmas festivities may be a continuation of a much more ancient pagan celebration
Decorate your home in the ancient way with sacred mistletoe and holly.
This is a time of promise, a time to look to the future, a time of preparation.
Museum object in the window: Mother Goose Statue
The origin of Mother Goose is almost certainly the Central European Goddess Holda. Night-flying wild geese were believed to be Holda and her spirit companions flying through the sky. In some legends her companions were the spirits of the dead, but it was also believed that living humans could join her. During the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries a number of accused witches confessed to taking part in these flights, specifically mentioning Holda by name. The term ‘Mother Goose story’ – which seems to mean ‘folktale’ – apparently originated about the same time.
Holda was a Nature Goddess, with many wild animals sacred to her. As well as taking the shape of a goose, she could appear as a beautiful young woman or a fearsome crone. She was a story-telling oracle, and also someone who tested people by setting them dangerous or misleading challenges. She is probably the prototype of many of the witch-figures who feature in fairy tales.
The Goddess Holda actually appears in one of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as Mother Holle, a mysterious old woman with magic powers who tests two young sisters, rewarding one and punishing the other. She was said to wear a cloak made of goose-down. Snow was supposed to be the down falling from her cloak (although another, perhaps more modern, version of the folklore had it that snow was Holda shaking out her goose-down quilt).
One rather charming legend tells how she was travelling through the countryside on a wagon when the axle suddenly broke. A local carpenter made her a new axle, and when Holda had gone on her way he went back into his workshop and found that all the wood-shavings had turned to gold.
The Mother Goose pantomime story is in many ways a classic example of a dark mythology transformed into a light-hearted morality tale, but the important thing is that the three crucial elements are still there: magical transformation, magical test, and magical animal.
New addition to the window display for the festive season: these wonderful Jolbocken goats (loaned to the Museum by Gillian Nott).
Many thanks to Gillian for this information and for the loan of the Yule goats! They look fantastic in the window, tie in with the Northern European theme it already has and our visitors will love them when we re-open for a week on December 26th.
Every year, the Museum receives a wonderful calendar as a donation and we also received a monetary donation which is raised from the sale of the Gerald Gardner calendar. Here is a little bit more about this project.
The GBG “Year and a Day” calendar has feast days from Pagan pantheons around the world, historic Craft photos, newsclippings, quotes, moons and more… Interesting info every day of the year.
The calendar also has a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GBGcalendar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
We were particularly interested to see the photo for October with Gardner standing in front of a Rosy Cross/Golden Dawn cross as we are currently researching the Museum’s displays on Golden Dawn and Rosicrucianism for our 2018 Ritual Magic exhibition. There seems to have been a large display when the Museum was on the Isle of Man.
One of the great parts of working at this Museum is the inventive and thoughtful ways that people find to support it. Thanks so much!
We received an intriguing inquiry the other day. Can anyone help to decipher the significance of the runes and feathers shown in the photos sent to us?
An old sign was removed and on the back they found carvings.
They also saw black feathers attached to the gateposts.
The black feathers were on two gate posts leading up into nearby woodland and on to a hill top enclosure (Neolithic). If anyone has any ideas about the significance of this, please email Judith at email@example.com.
In the words of Cecil Williamson, the founder of the Museum and creator of the sign below “And it still goes on today…”
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).