News – Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
For the past few years, we have been delighted to have dramatic performances at the Museum created and performed by our friends at Circle of Spears productions (a Devon based theatre company).
They have created two different performances for the Museum and both are available to experience here this year.
Tickets can be purchased here: http://www.circleofspears.com/store/c6/Tickets.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
WITCH was the first ever play to be performed at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. It centres on one case from the early modern period and looks at the perspectives of the accused, the accuser and the judge/Justice of the Peace. It is intense and unexpected as well as historically accurate and moving. It has gone on tour, featured in academic conferences on the use of theatre in presenting the past and also been booked by audience members to be shown to their students in schools and universities. It is highly recommended. There are only three performances of it this year (each performance starts at 7.30pm) and the dates are:
July 21st (only 12 tickets remaining)
We received a letter in the post which included a much older letter. A visitor to the Museum had written to Cecil Williamson (Museum founder) in 1985 about labyrinths and received an interesting reply which has been copied for us so we can keep it in our archives.
We have a labyrinth stone in the Museum collection: http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/object/labyrinth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
This object seems to have sparked the correspondence and to have lead Cecil to write a little history of the labyrinth stones and their use in magic.
Our thanks go to Jeff Saward of Labyrinthos for providing us with this intriguing addition to our archive. See www.labyrinthos.net?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss for more on his work.
As you may know, there are labyrinths carved into a slate cliff face at Rocky Valley (about three miles from the Museum). A document in our archive (an interpretation card that used to be on display with an object, written by Cecil) seems to suggest that their existence was one of the reasons the Museum ended up being located in Boscastle.
Here is some of Cecil’s letter from 1985 which says that labyrinth stones are called snake or serpent stones, moon stones, Troy Stones and brain stones. As always, the key thing for Cecil was that magic worked and that if it worked, witches used it. If it didn’t work, they just didn’t do it.
Thanks so much to the person who shared this letter with us.
We are pleased to say that a guidebook is now available for our 2018 exhibition “Dew of Heaven: Objects of Ritual Magic.” The guidebook is available for just £3 and can be purchased from the Museum or from our online shop: http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/shop/dew-of-heaven-objects-of-ritual-magic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
If you haven’t visited the exhibition yet, this is a good chance to find out more about it as it explores each of the sections and includes images of many of the objects on display. If you have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) the exhibition then this guidebook gives you more detail than was provided in the displays including more contextual and background information. It is also a great keepsake as the exhibition will only be on display in 2018.
Above: the front cover showing a cubic altar made to instructions written by Aleister Crowley in Book 4, Part 2.
Below: the contents page.
Below: the back cover features an image of Baphomet from the Museum’s collection.
Above, a painting by David Teniers the younger of a witch and a bat-headed demon.
Pursuing my quest of archiving documents written by Cecil Williamson, I came across few documents related to bats. Bats are very often associated with witches. Just a look at any Halloween decorations can prove it to you.
Bats are both the only mammals that can fly and the only one that can feed on blood. Due to the latter fact, bats are often misunderstood and feared. However, out of a thousand of different species of bats, only three of them are classified as vampire bats, none of them live in the UK. Eighteen species of bats in total can be found in the United Kingdom and are fortunately protected species. You can spot several of them in Cornwall, including the common pipistrelle, the Natterer’s bat and the greater horseshoe bat.
Below you will find the transcription of one of the documents (number 7459) discussing bats in witchcraft:
“Bats, like the cat and the owl, are creatures of the night and so are held in high regard by those who practise witchcraft. Their formulas call for the use of bats’ blood, bats’ wings, eyes, heart etc.”
Document Number 9620 also refers to the use of bat’s blood:
“Formulae for “Flying Ointment
Water of Parsnip
Above, a reproduction of a woodcut of a greater horseshoe bat from R. A. Sterndale, 1884
Our thanks to Andy Bailey for generously donating several copies of the new book “Martin Dayton” to the Museum. With his permission, we plan to keep one in the library and to sell the others to raise funds for the Museum. Hannah Fox, Office Manager at the Museum, took a copy home to have a read. Here is her review.
Martin Dayton by Andy Bailey. Published by Bonja Books Ltd 2018
The Museum library has over 8000 titles in it. This includes DVDs, VHS, audio, magazines, journals and books, books, books! You are very welcome to book some time in the library. It is free to use for everyone but is available by prior appointment only. You can search all our titles here to prepare for your visit: http://museumofwitchcraftandmagic.co.uk/search/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss Simply enter a word, tick the library button and click on “go”.
We are always receiving donations and purchasing books for research and based on recommendations. Here are a couple of recent additions which we will be cataloguing in the next few days…
This book of essays on early modern England includes a chapter on Anne Jeffries, a young woman who was accused of witchcraft after communicating with fairies. She came from St Teath in Cornwall which is less than ten miles from the Museum.
The book below was recommended to us by a visitor from New Zealand. There is a house in New Zealand which has a complete Golden Dawn Vault of the Adepts in it. The visitor saw our current exhibition (which includes a sketch drawn by Steffi Grant of the ceiling and floor of the Vault according) and told us about this house and book. Fascinating that one still exists!
Lastly, the Museum library now has a copy of John Hope’s new book on sabbatic circle casting titled The Circle of the Quiet Night.
The Circle and the Self………………………………………….19
Deities at the Boundary………………………………………….36
Fear & Self Defence………………………………………….39
Sweeping the Circle………………………………………….42
So whether it is tales of Cornish witchcraft and fairies, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in New Zealand or the use of circles in sabbatic work, the Museum library really does have something for everyone! We are always expanding our collection to reflect the variety of magical practices both historical and contemporary.
On Wednesday 18th July, Dr. Peter Hewitt of the Museum will give a talk at 8pm at Whitehough Educational Centre in Barley, near Pendle Hill, Lancashire. The talk is titled, ‘The Archaeology of Witchcraft: Findings from the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, Boscastle, Cornwall’, and will be an analysis of various archaeological items in the MWM collection in light of new research. The talk is hosted by Professor. Charles Orser, who is leading excavations of a new site thought to be the famous Malkin Tower.
The talk is being delivered to the archaeologists and students who are working the dig, but they have very kindly opened it up to all and it is free to attend. So come along if you are in the area!
If you aren’t able to visit the Museum in Cornwall, a selection of our objects will be on display in York’s Barley Hall run by the York Archaeological Trust. Their exhibition is entitled “Magic and Mystery” and will run throughout 2018.
More details about the exhibition can be found here: https://barleyhall.co.uk/about/magic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
The exhibition trailer can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qyfi9DEgGk&feature=youtu.be&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss
Here are some photos of the exhibition too. Thanks to Skye McAlpine Walker for these images and for involving the Museum in this exhibition.
Our Midsummer event on June 23rd has received a lot of attention online and is now also in a couple of our local papers.
This is from this week’s Cornish Guardian:
And the following is from the Camelford and Delabole Post (we believe it is also in the Bude and Stratton Post):
And this article isn’t about the Midsummer event specifically, it is from Boscastle’s own magazine the Blowhole. A nice feature on what’s been happening at the Museum and what events people can participate in this year too.
We are really pleased to have Rob Sherman’s innovative interactive project with us in the Museum library this week. Here Rob writes about his first day:
“There’s a cloying, candlelit darkness up in the Museum’s Library this week, made all the thicker by a very large, and very hot, computer merrily puntering away all day. Despite the heat, I’m delighted that many visitors have been drawn up the narrow stairs to see what is going on: enticed by the strange grunts, barks and guttural calls drifting down through the open windows.
For the middle three days of this week, a pilot version of my PhD project is visiting the Library, with free entry for anybody visiting the Museum’s main exhibits downstairs. The work consists of a digital interactive installation, an artificially-intelligent simulation of a familiar spirit: the supernatural animal companion of a fictional Yorkshire cunning woman. With this piece, I’m trying to understand how complex computer systems, used to create fictional characters in this way, combine with an audience’s own imaginative powers to create a personal, and sometimes very visceral, experience. The opportunity kindly afforded me here in Boscastle allows me to show off my work so far to a receptive audience, and see how they respond. There are some very interesting parallels to be drawn between such imaginative relationships with computer programs and the relationships that cunning folk had with the supernatural in earlier centuries: their own powerful imaginations interacting with the world around them to conjure devils, demons, witches and sprites from thin air.
The first day of the exhibition yesterday was a great success: nearly fifty visitors passed through, meeting the familiar spirit and attempting to commune with it in a variety of surprising ways. Using motion detection, emotion recognition and voice recognition, the spirit responds and reacts to the actions of the visitor: from a gentle stroke of its nose using a touchscreen, to an imperious command to ‘BEGONE!’, banishing it into the darkness. One man sat in front of it and meditated, timing his breathing with that of the spirit. Some felt sorry for the creature, and spoke to it in hushed tones: others became annoyed when it refused to do what it was told. People ascribed all sorts of emotions, desires and thoughts to it: some of which were actually present in the underlying code, and many of which were entirely in their own minds, but none the less powerful for it. Some merely stood and watched, or read the fictional documents that I have written to help frame the life and times of Anne Latch, the cunning woman who originally discovered, and used, this little demon.
As with any pilot study for a piece of interactive art, there is no ‘wrong response’ to the work: every visitor is instrumental in pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of the piece. It’s a testament to the diversity of the museum’s visitors that the feedback has been so varied. I already have reams of notes, and spent most of the last hour of the day sat cross-legged in front of the creature myself, updating the underlying code to implement the tips, recommendations and critiques of visitors. I’m looking forward to seeing what today’s new batch of curious attendees will bring to bear.
The project is only in Boscastle until tomorrow, and today promises to be slightly cooler, with even a hint of rain. A perfect opportunity perhaps to come and meet the spirit for yourself, and bring your own imaginations to bear upon it.”
These photos (taken with the permission of the visitors involved) show people interacting with the familiar.