A Visit To The Museum Of Witchcraft And Magic, Boscastle

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Boscastle is a picturesque village on the north coast of Cornwall. But behind the harbour, the stone cottages and the tearooms is a curiosity. Here you will find the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic, crammed full of information and artefacts telling the story of European witchcraft, past and present.

Why Visit The Museum Of Witchcraft And Magic?

Cornwall has a rich folklore, full of myths, legends and ancient stone circles. So it seems appropriate that it should be home to what is perhaps the world’s largest collection of items relating to witchcraft and magic. It covers all things occult and magical, ranging from folk magic to Freemasonry to historic witch trials.

The museum is small but well organised and compelling. It is a must for anyone with an interest in witchcraft and an invaluable resource for serious researchers. But it is also a fascinating place for visitors of all ages to discover the history of magic and – perhaps – to overturn a few misconceptions about those who have practised it.

Outside of museum, with silhouette of a witch painted on the door. The garden is full of colourful flowers.
The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

A Private Collection

The museum is based on a private collection that once belonged to the English folk magician Cecil Williamson. Williamson’s first museum of magic was established in the town of Castletown on the Isle of Man in 1951. It featured a variety of magical objects and even had a “resident witch”. Attempts to move the collection to the mainland led to local opposition in a number of places, but a permanent home was found in Boscastle in 1960.

The museum was later sold to Graham King, who reorganised the collection and added many items of his own. It is now owned by Simon Costin, who is also a director of the Museum of British Folklore. As well as being a visitor attraction, the museum’s collections, together with its large library, are regarded as a vital research facility for the British occult community.

Figure with the head of a goat standing beside a painting of winged figures and demons
One of the museum’s more esoteric displays

Exploring The Museum Of Witchcraft And Magic

The museum is arranged over two floors with a variety of permanent displays. The ground floor covers a number of themes, including herbs and healing, fortune telling, and a “wise woman’s cottage”. The upper floor is more whimsical, with explorations of curses, mythical beings and magical practice.

It all adds up to a comprehensive coverage of the subject, including historical perspectives; treatment of magic and witchcraft in contemporary culture; spells and curses; and different magical traditions. Altogether there are more than 3,000 items, from crystal balls to Ouija boards to voodoo dolls. Some of these items once belonged to prominent magical practitioners such as Aleister Crowley.

Model of a witch sitting at a table with a cat and a bowl of apples.
The wise woman’s cottage

Historical Witch Trials

For me the most interesting part of the museum was the coverage of the persecution of witches and the notorious witch trials. There were explorations of the images of witches in popular culture, and of the way that innocent people (usually, but not always, women) were denounced as witches.

The museum tries to dispel some of the myths surrounding witches and witchcraft in the past. It shows how the witch hunters whipped up fear and antagonism against the accused, and how the subject was later sensationalised for entertainment.

Display cabinet with a variety of children's books featuring stories of witches
A display shows how witchcraft has been treated in popular culture

At the same time there is a serious exploration of modern paganism and Wiccan practice, very different from the supposed activities of witches in past times!

Visiting Boscastle And The Museum

  • Boscastle is 6 km from Tintagel and 24 km from Bude.
  • There is a public car park at the centre of Boscastle.
  • Note that the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic does not have toilets and is not wheelchair friendly.
  • There is a National Trust café and shop next door to the museum.
The picturesque village of Boscastle
  • The town of Boscastle is small but has a stunning natural setting. You can explore the town and the harbour and walk along the coastal path (the long distance South West Coast Path passes through the town).
  • For accommodation in the Bude area have a look at the recommendations on booking.com.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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