Monday 10 June 2013

Boscastle - Where Witches Are Friendly and Broomsticks Optional!

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.

So sudden and violent was the torrent that whole buildings were swept away. People lost homes and businesses,150 had to be airlifted to safety. Yet, miraculously, only eight casualties were reported and, of these, the worst injury was a broken thumb. An estimated 100mm of rain fell in one hour, making it one of the worst floods in modern UK history.

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!

Then there's Joan, the Wise Woman, reminding us of the true origins of witchcraft. The Museum has created a tableau showing a benevolent old lady, her cat familiar on her lap, waiting for someone to tap on her door in need of her help. Jars and packets of herbs and healing remedies line a nearby wall, the efficacy and use of which would all have been known to someone like her.

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:


  1. fascinating as always and tell Steve to stop noticing himself there!

  2. Thanks, Shehanne. I don't think Steve was referring to himself. I can always tell. He gets this eerie green gleam in his eye, develops a demonic laugh and then...and then...Run for the Hills!!!!

  3. Thank you for sharing this, Celestial Elf. It's a lovely film