On August 16th 2004, a terrifying flood threatened to wipe Boscastle off the map. It is to the inhabitants' great credit that they showed indomitable spirit in the loving restoration that has seen the reincarnation of the village into the picturesque place we see today.
One of the casualties was the fascinating Museum of Witchcraft, right by the harbour. Over two metres of sewage and water knocked down walls and engulfed the ground floor. Maybe the many charms and good spells it housed watched over it that day because, amazingly, most of the artefacts survived. While renovation took place, books and paintings were sent to museums in Truro and Falmouth to protect them from further damp.
Today, it stands as a unique record of witchcraft through the ages, in all its many forms and manifestations. Aleister Crowley and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn rub shoulders with Baphomet, the Green Man (found in many churches) and Sea Witchcraft. Here is coral, worn to ward off curses and illness while Mermaids' purses, washed up by the sea, were treasured and preserved as symbols of good luck. (They are actually egg sacks possibly containing a baby ray or dogfish).
A copy of Daemonologie - King James I's savage treatise on the evils of witchcraft - is displayed here, along with accounts of the torture and persecution of mostly innocent women that took place over centuries.
Here too are charms, witch's tools, fortune telling and divination, mandrakes and protection magic, including two mummified cats found walled up as a protection against rats and mice and/or evil spirits. As a cat lover, I was relieved to discover that these animals weren't sacrificed or walled up alive!
This little museum is an education in itself, although for the serious student, there is also an extensive library. Some of the exhibits are quite scary, others quite sexual, so it really isn't suitable for young children, but for everyone else, it's a great experience, to be topped off by a wander down the harbour past the shallow, peaceful river. Hard to imagine how violent it became just nine years ago...
Nearby is the magnificence of Tintagel, steeped in Arthurian legend but, for me, Boscastle with its simple, understated beauty and charm, captivated me and kept me in its warm embrace the whole day.
For more information, please visit Museum of Witchcraft
To watch footage of the devastating flood: