Last week we were on our family holiday in Cornwall and although we were staying on the South coast we could not resist a visit to the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, which is roughly 2-3 miles away from Tintagel. We picked Wednesday to visit which ended up being a misty, rainy day, it really was pretty dismal. This did not however take anything away from the beautiful little village of Boscastle that sits nestled in a cornish valley, dissected by one of the prettiest little rivers I have ever seen. The swirling mist and driving rain actually added to the overall magical feel of the place.
The Museum itself is privately owned and has been in existence since 1951 when it first opened on The Isle of Man. It moved to Boscastle in 1961 and display’s a large collection of witchcraft related artefacts dating from prehistory to today – largely donated items from some very famous witches and private collections. It has a large library with around 5,000 books which are used by researchers from the UK and around the world. The Museum was very busy on the day we visitied and as a result of this we did end up walking around it from the end to the beginning, I don’t think this really took anything away from the experience, it just meant we started with the ‘tools of modern witchcraft’ and worked our way through. Stand out items for me were the following;
- The Corn Dolly’s – A personal fascination of mine, as they are so evocative of the turning of the seasons and our agricultural history. The museum has a couple of very beautiful, old Corn Dolly’s.
- Witch Mirror’s – I had never seen one of these in person and they are spooky! You know how some objects just feel alive, well it is true of this collection of mirrors. Here is how Cecil Williamson described them in the original text and taken from the Museums website ‘There are witch mirrors, and there are witch mirrors, but of all the mirrors used by witches this one is the top. This type of mirror was turned out in some quantity for one comes across examples up and down the country. To date I know of seven others exactly the same. Of course, a familiar spirit has been conjured and coaxed into making the mirror its home. When you use these mirrors you gaze into them then suddenly you will see in the mirror some one standing behind you. Whatever you do, do not turn around. Remember that, never never turn around. What happens next? Good gracious, you just talk quietly to the figure or face in the mirror, close your eyes if you cannot bear it, but never, ever turn around’
- Poppet’s – Another very spooky little collection of artefacts. Everyone knows what a voodoo doll is right? In fact we have a much richer history of making and using ‘Poppet’s’ for curses and cure’s – the work that has gone into some of these dolls is outstanding, and proof of the intent of the witch, however for me the Poppet that really got under my skin was one that was just a piece of knotted string – horrific in its simplicity.
All of the above mainly feature in the divination, manifestation and spell making side of the witchcraft, but the museum also does its part in dismissing the long held and incorrect beliefs about Witch’s – namely that we worship the devil and kidnap children etc. It show’s the traditional role of the village wise woman and healer in a very positive light with a lovely installation ‘Joan’s Cottage’. There is also a display with a tribute to some of the victims of the 14th – 18th Century long Witch-hunts. I was very moved to see several people listed there that share the same surname as me and surprised to see one of them was part of the famous Salem Witch ‘Trials’.
All in all, we all really enjoyed the day and my daughter left the proud owner of a broomstick fridge magnet and with lots of questions about ‘Sea Witch’s’ – another lovely collection of items.