When I was 10 years old, we visited a small fishing village called Boscastle, that would later become ‘famous’ for the devastating floods of 2004.
At this time it was known only as a windy, quaint natural harbour on North Cornish coast, favoured by coach parties and walkers.
As it was October it was raining, so as we walked back into the village from the coast path and saw “Museum of Witchcraft” on the side of a house set into the Cliffside, Mum and I, being proud of our dubious Romany Gypsy heritage (my great Nan had ‘the sight’ apparently) were immediately keen to go in!
The museum is now, as of midnight on Halloween 2013, under the same ownership as the people who started the excellent Museum of British Folklore project.
Attitudes have changed too; at one time I was the only 5 star reviewer on Tripadvisor; in 2013 it received the Tripadvisor ‘Certificate of excellence’.
What is inside the Museum has also changed since our first visit 16 years ago (goodness I’m old).
Joan Wytte’s skeleton is no longer on display, being buried in the nearby woods just outside of the Minster Church – she was known as the Fighting Fairy Woman of Bodmin and died in Bodmin Gaol, incarcerated as a witch, in 1813.
The 2004 flood damaged many items, but it also allowed them to redesign the museum, open upstairs, and add numerous displays of artefacts there had not been room for before, including the slightly overwhelming ‘Richel collection’ of sex magic artefacts, and many recent ritual artefacts from covens around the country.
However The Museum of Witchcraft is not just about witchcraft, it’s a capsule of social history, a time when people would go to the local Wise Woman for a good luck charm for their new house, to heal their cattle or find out if their lover was faithful to them.
In some cases that time was not so long ago – people would visit Charlie Bennett in Local Tintagel to ‘charm away’ warts and ringworm well into the 1980’s.
I remember being surprised to see, pinned up on a beam, the same rhyme I said each night to wish on a star.