There’s something about Cornwall that is slightly Otherworldly in my mind, making it the perfect home for England’s very own Museum of Witchcraft. This museum was first opened by Cecil Williamson on the Isle of Man in 1951 and has been housed in Boscastle since 1960. Today, the Museum of Witchcraft houses the world’s largest collection of witchcraft related artefacts.
In 1951, the first Museum of Witchcraft was opened on the Isle of Man by Cecil Williamson. He had tried previously to open it at Stratford-upon-Avon but was not allowed to do so.
Williamson purchased the Witches Mill on the Isle of Man in 1948 and set about refurbishing it. In 1951, the museum was opened and Williamson’s friend, Gerald Gardner, was employed to run it.
Unfortunately, this business arangement spelled the end to their friendship and in 1954 Cecil Williamson moved his collection to Windsor. The Witches Mill was sold to Gardner and he continued to run it as a museum.
At Royal Windsor, the Royal Family objected to his presence and he was made to move again. This time, he moved his collection to the Cotswold village of Bourton-on-the-Water.
Again though, Williamson found that he ran into opposition from the local Christian community. “Villagers held protests outside the museum and ranted about evil and Satanism. Cecil received death threats, fire bombs, and found dead cats hung from trees in the garden; eventually an arson attack burned out one wing of the museum.” *
*Quote from History of the Museum of Witchcraft
Williamson moved once again, this time back to the West Country of his birth. In 1961 the Museum of Witchcraft relocated to its present location in Boscastle.
He continued to run the museum into 31 October 1996 when at the stroke of midnight he sold it to the current owners.
In October, 2013 the Simon Costin has been appointed as the new Director of the Museum of Witchcraft and the management of the museum will now come under the umbrella of the Museum of British Folklore. The entire contents of the museum and library were donated to the MoBF to ensure its survival as a single collection. Information from Museum of Witchcraft Announcement
Williamson was born in Paignton, Devon. His father was in the military and posted abroad and he was looked after by a nanny. He
was also sent to stay with relatives quite a bit and spent some holidays with his uncle, the vicar of North Bovey in Devon.
It was while staying with his uncle that Williamson had his first encounter with witchcraft. He intervened when seeing a group of thugs harrassing an elderly woman and stopped them. The woman, who it turns out was a witch, befriended young Williamson.
Later in school, Williamson states that he met a local Wise Woman living on the school grounds who taught him how to create simple spells.
He continued his education after moving to Rhodesia, where he had moved to raise tobacco. It was in Rhodesia that he realised the ways of witchcraft are universal. African witchdcoctors were using techniques very similar to English witches.
He returned to Britain in 1930 where his study of the occult was becoming well known. He met with and exchanged letter with some of the countries leading experts on the occult: including Wallis Budge of the British Museum, anthropologist Margaret Murray, and historian Montague Summers.
A few years later, Williamson was approached by MI6 and asked to work undercover, collecting information on the occult interests of leading military personnel in Nazi Germany.
His involvement with MI6 continued throughout WW2 and it is said that it was occult information provided by Cecil Williamson that was used to lure Rudolph Hess to Scotland.
Cecil Williamson died in 1996, at 90 years of age, after selling the Museum of Witchcraft to its current owner.
Many of his ritual tools and items from his private collection of artefacts remain on display at the museum.
Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft
In 1996 an independent group formed “The Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft“. They raise money by subscription and donation to help fund the purchase of new display items, conservation tools, and equipment. They also co-ordinate volunteers, and assist students and researchers in accessing the large and unique collection of artefacts, papers, and books housed within the Museum and its library.
When Boscastle was inundated by flooding in 2004,it was the Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft who co-ordinated fundraising efforts and organised volunteers to get the museum opened again just one year after the ground level of the museum was completely covered over with water.
The Friends of the Museum of Witchcraft are a registered charity.
The Museum today houses a wide range of items related to witchcraft and magic. While some objects may offend, their purpose and goal is to display a variety of artefacts that can explain witchcraft in the present and in the past in as unbiased manner.
The museum displays are grouped into the follow categories:
* Images of Witchcraft
* Devil Worship and Satanism
* The Wheel of the Year
* Stone Circles and Sacred Sites
* Scrying and Divination
* The Wise Woman
* The Mandrake
* Curses and Cursing
* Persecution of Witches
* The Richel Collection
* Ritual Magic
* The Horned God
* The Goddess
* The Hare and ‘Shape shifting’
* Charms and Spells
* Sea Witchcraft
* Tools Witches Use
* Modern Witchcraft
The Richel Collection
The Richel Collection was given to the Museum of Witchcraft in 2000 by Dutch collector Bob Richel. He inherited much of the collection from his father-in-law, Mr Eldermans.
This collection is one of the best on ritual/sex magic artefacts.
Eldermans had been a Magister of the Ars Amatoria, one of many Ceremonial Magick groups that had sprung up over time along with Argenteum Astrum, a group that Aliester Crowley belonged to. The Richel Collection contains artefacts from both organisations.
It is believed that Richel and Eldermans also belonged to a group called M M based in The Hague and Leiden.