Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Boscastle, Cornwall, the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, and a Hagstone

We left Ilfracombe and headed to one of the places I was most curious to visit: Boscastle and the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.

Our way took us along the coast. What an incredible trip, with beauty around every curve.





And then we were in Boscastle. The online pictures I had seen were so beautiful, but would the place measure up?

Absolutely.





There is a coastal trail that goes from Boscastle to Tintagel, We are not up to that level of walking (yet-maybe one day) but it looks breathtaking. I found this video of the hike after we got home, and now I want to go back again!



I am not a believer in witchcraft--I am a folklorist and storyteller, and folk beliefs of all kinds interest me. I will admit, however to being just that little bit superstitious! I toss salt over my shoulder when I spill it, don't walk under ladders and the like. It is the history of the thing that attracts me, and leaves me wondering why people came to such beliefs. So, in we went.


The museum is much larger than it looks from the exterior. We wound through halls and passages, up steps and into room after room, all filled with fascinating items and documentation explaining the origins and customs surrounding each. The museum is largely built on the collection of one man,
Cecil Williamson, who moved the museum to Cornwall in the 1960's after having established it in several over location previously. the museum changed hands a couple of times, and is now run by Simon Costin, Director of the Museum of British Folklore.

Here is just a taste of the museum's contents. To truly explore its offerings would take days, if not weeks.


This display traces some of the persecution and trials of witches in Britain--an extensive and sobering reminder of how superstition and fear can lead to sometimes disastrous results.
Snap Apple, a popular game at Hallowe'en, is expained in detail in the display. We used to play this at Halloween when I was a child, but usually there was just one apple on a string, which we had to try to bite with our hands behind our backs. We also bobbed for apples in a tub of water, another old custom harking back to British roots.

 An apple garland, or the Garland of Knowledge, was believed to contain powers to help in divination and meditation. I have also read that it an apple wreath brings good fortune and fertility to a household.
Room after room contained displays like the ones below. Herbs, potions, charms, chants, symbols, talismans...you name it, this museum has it covered.




When we stopped at Abraeron a few days before, Larry picked up this stone. We thought it was interesting and unique, but little did we know its value.



In the museum we learned that a stone with a natural hole through it, like this one, is called a hagstone. People hung them outside their doors or stables to ward off evil. So maybe Larry's stone will be hung up outside our door, just in case. Oh, it has to be a natural stone, and found be accident. Not nearly so lucky it you drill the hole, or go looking for a hagstone on purpose.


The museum was damaged by a bad flash flood that struck Boscastle in 2004, but fortunately enough forewarning allowed many of the artifacts to be saved. Volunteers came to help in the cleanup effort, and there was a great alarm when a dead body was found in the flood debris--a body that turned out to be a wax model from the museum! You can read much more about the museum on their website.

Boscastle is still a working fishing village despite the influx of tourists today, as lobster traps stacked along the harbor show.

Umm, these smell...bad! Very fishy! I had to find out, to my dismay.


We ended our time in Boscastle at a pub for a quick cup of tea for me and a Guinness for Larry.
Lovely stonework, old beams, hanging mugs and pitchers, warm wood floors made this a comfortable, homey place to stop and rest. Because as we were to find out soon enough, "everywhere you want to go in Cornwall is up."



If you haven't noticed, Larry was loving the pubs and having his Guinness here and there! It was a treat for him, something that he cannot get at home except in bottles. And I loved being about to get a good HOT pot of tea anywhere we went. That is something we truly lack here in the states, except at fancy places that charge a fortune for the privilege.


We had our bread and cheese in the car, so we picnicked on that and some fruit before leaving this lovely place to continue to our next b&b, far up on Bodmin Moor.


Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

4 comments:

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Glad you got down to the Cornish coast, Sue, the Coastal Path is really something special. I've walked all of the northern part from Land's End up to Minehead in Somerset, in three separate holidays, and it's all superb (except when the fog rolls in!).

Mac n' Janet said...

Really enjoyed your post. To me Cornwall is one of the most magical places in the world. We've visited many of the places you went to.

Deb Del said...


I absolutely love your blog! I have always wanted to visit England and especially Wales, but the more I read and the more pictures I see makes me really want to live here!

Michelle said...

I would have gone the museum as well. The history of it all is very interesting to me.

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