Museum of Witchcraft


While I was in Cornwall last week I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to visit the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle.  When I started writing Beltane I borrowed an introductory book on witchcraft from York library (which did result in some interesting looks from the library staff). Four years on I now own a wide selection of books on witchcraft and druidism, subscribe to Pagan newsletters and have interviewed practising witches and druids as part of my research.  I’d heard really good things about the museum and I was pretty excited and intrigued as to what I’d find as I drove over to Boscastle.


The museum started originally in the Isle of Man in 1951 and moved to its present location in 1960.  The collection spans a wide range of objects connected to the history and practice of witchcraft.


 As I’m currently writing about a character who was a renowned healer, I found the section on healing and herbalism really interesting and it’s given me a lot of new ideas for my new book, Lughnasa.


While writing Beltane I became increasingly fascinated with earth energy and ley lines and I read ‘The Sun and the Serpent’ by Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller which is about dowsing the Saint Michael Line across the south of England.  The authors visited a number of places that I wrote about in Beltane including Glastonbury.  The museum has the dowsing rods and OS map used by the authors in their research.


I’d read about poppets (and I included some of these in Beltane) but I’d not actually seen any in real life.  Poppets are used in spells and can be used to harm or to heal. There’s a number in the museum and I found them a little freaky.  These were used in curses and the names of the person that the spell is directed at is written on the doll.


Witch bottles can be used as protection from curses and to drive the evil back to the perpetrator.  Traditionally they contained pins, hair and urine.  This confused me a bit as in my research I’d read about pins, needles and herbs being used for this purpose.  If anyone can explain the different contents then I’d be very grateful.


I learned a huge amount at the museum and it was hugely helpful to see objects that I’d previously only read about.  I came away with a whole load of new ideas for my writing and also some helpful advice should I ever get married!


7 thoughts on “Museum of Witchcraft

  1. That sounds brilliant, Alys, and I will definitely check it out next time I am down the way. Those poppets are scary, though, and it really brought back the tension I felt reading Beltane when they make their appearance! xx

  2. Ooh Alex, happy memories there! I’ve visited the Witchcraft Museum a couple of times now and it really is a fascinating place. The explanation I’ve read about for the witch bottle contents is this:

    Witch bottles have been used for centuries in various ways. Nowadays, as perhaps before, they are used primarily as decoys to attract, absorb, confuse and defuse negative psychic energy being sent to a target or victim, whether it be random ill will or malicious cursing.

    All it takes is a bottle or jar with a good watertight lid, and all sorts of bent pins or nails, broken glass or mirrors, cactus thorns, anything spiky, bent, or broken. Fill the jar or bottle with this stuff and then fill it a little more than halfway with one or a combo of: your own urine and/or a drop of blood or menstrual blood, and either plain water or vinegar, or for stronger effect, Four Thieves Vinegar. Cap the jar tightly.

    Then you bury the bottle somewhere near your house, preferably under the front porch or near your front door. This is best done during the dark moon or just before, at midnight, but really anytime will do.

    Here is the theory behind why the Witch Bottle works so well: Your urine or blood identifies it as “you,” and so then acts as a decoy for energy sent your way, the bent pins confuse the hex, the mirrors reflect the energy back to sender, the vinegar dissolves the curse, and the burying “buries the hatchet”.

    I must go back there one day. I have a chest in my office which contains all manner of interesting things, such as a chalice, altar cloth, tarot cards, a wand…I have quite a bit of research to do myself so I’ll be digging out my wiccan books and a trip back to Boscastle would be most useful! 🙂

    1. Hi Sharon
      Thanks for explaining that to me. It makes a lot more sense now and I’ve realised that I’ll need to make a few changes to one of the scenes in Beltane as I’ve not quite got it right yet. Visiting the museum helped me avoid a major faux pas with the new book which just goes to show that I shouldn’t take Orkney legends as the gospel truth. I’m fascinated by the contents of the chest in your office. Sounds like you’ve plans to use all of that in your writing quite soon so maybe we can compare notes sometime!

  3. Hi Alys, what an intriguing-sounding place to visit! I can remember when I was beta reading Beltane that I kept correcting “poppet” to “puppet” before I realised it maybe really was meant to be “poppet”,. Durr! Very interesting to see an actual picture of one!
    Jessica xx

    1. Hi Jessica
      Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. There’s a lot of witchcraft words that don’t seem to be in normal dictionaries like widdershins and deosil which mean clockwise and anticlockwise (although don’t ask me which is which!)

  4. Brilliant post Alys. I’ve been to that museum several times when I used to live in Devon. I’m fascinated by history and forces in the world that we can’t see. For a long time I was very active in Devon Dowsing group, a flourishing group on all things dowsing. It works, lots of people in Devon have stories about how they found water on their land by dowsing. I tried it once, I was at a party and there were some dowsing rods, I picked them up and gave it a go. Sure enough, with no prompting (either by humans or spirits of the liquid sort!) I picked up an underground stream! It still fascinates me as to how it works. I’ve lots of friends who are historians of one form or another and they all highly rate Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University as a foremost authority on all things about ancient folklore and practice. He even looks like he’s stepped into our time from a few hundred years ago!
    Google him and you’ll see what I mean plus a list of fascinating books to keep you going many years!

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