Witchcraft Museums - and what it
means to own one
C. H. Williamson (1976)
To start with one has to be equipped with four things - namely the
collection to be displayed - a building within which to show the
collection - a largish sum of hard cash - and finally, most important of
all "Town and Country Planning Permission" to open a Museum. This
question of Planning Permission may come as a surprise to many people
but I can assure you that as soon as "Local Government Authority"
discovers that someone intends to open a Museum of Witchcraft in their
area then one is in for a fight.
Twenty six years have passed since I opened my first Museum of
Witchcraft at Arbory Road, Castletown in the Isle of Man. Since that
time I have opened six other Museums of Witchcraft in various locations
in the United Kingdom. At certain periods I had two Witchcraft Museums
open at one and the same time. In each instance I experienced a tussle
with the Powers that Be.
As all old time Witches teach -"There is a Reason for Everything" so in
my own interests I set to work to discover 'why the opposition?' This is
what I found. By and large the officers employed by Local Authorities
are decent enough persons and are too busy to be fussed about Satan,
Devil worship or even young females frolicking in the nude, they have
their hands full trying to provide decent housing for the workers. The
trouble starts at the Committee Stage, that is when the "Establishment"
has their say. They it is who load the guns and pass them back for
Authority to fire!
One eventually learns from
experience, and so it was that I discovered that the string pullers are
few in numbers and that one could develop counter measures and learn to
live with the opposition. But the fact remains that not a year passes
but that the Museum of Witchcraft is reported to the Authorities! After
26 years of this one can instantly type the complainant - and know how
to trump their complaint with an answer that demolishes their case.
In spite of what the Mass Media claims in respect of this being the
Permissive Age in which anything goes I can assure you that such beliefs
in so far as Witchcraft goes, are very far wide of the mark. There is
still plenty of acceptance among people about in 1976 that "Thou shalt
not suffer a Witch to live..", none the less the above facts have to be
borne in mind when presenting the collection.
Straight away let me say that the collections are not presented for the
benefit or pleasure of living Witches, they know it all, in any case,
and their numbers are so small that were one to rely upon their "Box
Office Take" one would starve. The collections are not teaching
collections like the majority of Municipal and National Museums who are
entirely dependent for finance from the taxpayer, both local and
National. The collections are single subject, i.e. Witchcraft and are in
the category known as 'Interest', and so located, for financial reasons,
in a 'Tourist Honeypot' area. They are aimed at the family unit. This of
course places a number of self-imposed restrictions upon one. In the
early years of my life as a Showman I did not take to this kindly. I
made mistakes by breaking my own rules, and showing things that were of
interest to myself or Witches. The great British Public soon made it
clear that they had no interest at all in my private fancies, so it is
that I learned to bow to Public taste, and by trial and error, to give
the Public a show which is of interest to them, and them alone, for
never as a Showman loose sight of the fact that it is their money. It is
theirs alone to give or to withhold. When I hear them say, as they leave
the exit, "Well that was very interesting," or "I thoroughly enjoyed
that." I am indeed a happy man.
Strange as it may sound to some persons, one is not in the business just
to make money. Money is important for it permitted a "Witchcraft
Research Centre" to be founded in 1940 to carry on its work in the
field. This behind the scenes work goes along unseen and unsung, and is
a work without financial profit, for it is devoted to making cont- act
with the Spirit focus which exists outside our material world.
As previously mentioned, I have drawn up a code of self imposed rules
relating to what to put on public display and that which is withheld.
This I regard as a Showman's duty, I am against all the secrets of the
Craft being exposed to the Public gaze. There are numerous "Things"
which could be shown but the latent power held within them would be a
danger to anyone without occult training in the disciplines of the
working of magick.
For what it is worth, I plead guilty to being advanced in years and a
strong believer in the old time, grass roots type of Witchcraft. Such
folk kept themselves to themselves and guarded their secret knowledge
well. Today ALL is revealed, in so far as the secrets of Witchcraft are
concerned. The books tumble off the Publishers presses, each one trying
to out bid the others in its revelations of what the world of Witchcraft
does, etc. This I find to be a sad state of affairs, for what indeed is
Witchcraft, or a Witch for that matter, without a touch of mystique.
Well, the old ones can give the answer in one word. As the spider says,
"Given the right wind, you are bound to catch something." So too with a
Museum of Witchcraft, as long as you keep the door open you are sure to
lure, over the years, a wide range of interesting people, within your
People are the life blood of a Museum, they are all important, they are
the reason in the first place for a Museum being brought into existence,
so it may be of interest for you to learn what the general public in the
United Kingdom think about witchcraft. First they believe that
Witchcraft does exist, but for the most part they think of it in terms
of of ILL WISHING - spells - and charms. The majority expect to find
their witch in a countryside background. They accept a Witch as being
female, but regard a male Witch as a bad joke. Country Wisemen,
Conjurers and Wizards they know to exist, and achieve their power over
animals. Covens are accepted as established fact, as are witch meetings
in field, forest or churchyard - always at night. Riding on and flight
by broomstick is regarded as a fairy tale from children's story books.
Free-for-all copulation in the nude with interchanging partners is
accepted as fact, being a necessary part of the fertility rites, left
over from Pagan times. The Black Mass, if accepted, is regarded as an
excuse for a sex orgy for the benefit of those addicted to voyeurism,
and so on, and so on ...In short, people in general, hold that
Witchcraft does exist, but for their part they do not want to have
anything to do with it.
As previously stated, many interesting people have visited my various
Witchcraft exhibitions over the years. One such was the late Dr. G B.
Gardner. In fact, he came - he saw - and he stayed with me, like Sinbad
the Sailor. I had him round my neck until such time as I found him a
house at 77 Malew Street, Castletown, Isle of Man, which he purchased,
and only then did he move out to sleep. He was back again each morning
for all the meals of the day for the rest of the summer season.
At that time he was trying to
sell his book "High Magic's Aid" which he had paid to be printed. No one
was interested. But I did manage to sell a fair number for him at the
Castletown Museum. Dr. Gardner knew that I had been, during the last
war, employed by H.M. Government on various projects against the enemy
in which witchcraft was used. As a member of M.I.6 I was bound by the
Official Secrets Act. Dr. Gardner was quite hurt to think that I would
not give him the names and addresses of the persons engaged with me in
those projects. Indeed, so cross did he become that he made a wax figure
representing my goodself and gave it the full treatment. All rather
stupid and childish. He was prone to outbursts of fury and bad temper if
things did not go his way, but just like a naughty, spoilt, bad little
boy, the tantrum soon wore off, and he would once more return to his
charming, likable self, all smiles and soft spoken.
It was during this period that Dr. Gardner worked up his version of
Witchcraft as a religion carried forward to the present day from a
bygone age. Oh, there was so much fun in the baking of this particular
cake! Big names in the Folklore Society, the fuss with the late Dr.
Margaret Murray, and much else beside. When all has been said and done,
let us be fair, Dr. Gardner has provided a large number of followers of
his version of Witchcraft with much comfort and satisfaction. He has
made many happy and for that he deserves a Thank You.
As a point of interest, I eventually sold the Witchcraft Museum in the
Isle of Man to Dr. Gardner. For him it was an unfortunate episode in as
much as he tried to hide the fact from me that he was the real
purchaser, while throughout the whole transaction I knew exactly what
the true facts were. To me it mattered nothing who the purchaser should
be or the use to which the property be put, however Gardner contrived to
dig a deep pit into which he fell and it cost him a lot of money to
climb back out of his own folly. All rather sad and quite unnecessary.
In conclusion let me pay homage to the History of Witchcraft. The bad
old ' Burning Days' - the Witch Trials and Tortures, the thunderings
from a thousand pulpits against those unfortunate women who, for one
reason or another, brought down upon themselves the wrath of the
Establishment. They paid the price in broken bones, torn flesh and
Sad to say, that is what the public pay their money to see, but hold for
one moment longer, there is more to it than that. A museum, to be worth
its salt, should carry a clear message for all to see, and to
understand. The Museum of Witchcraft's Message is: To the question -"Why
so much bloodshed, suffering and inhumanity?" The answer is in the age
old Witch's saying "Look up, look down, young man, there are other
places, other things."
In short, 26 years of Witchcraft Exhibition has taught me that there is
indeed a world of Spirit, and that the only question remaining for each
one of us to find an answer to is, "How do I get there?". For my money,
I will follow in the quiet steps of the unseen but ever present company
of Witches who have learned the art of coming to terms with Spirit
forces of this world, and who, in due time, will translate with them to
the NEW DIMENSION.
originally, without pictures, in 'Quest, a quarterly review of the
Occult' No.28 December 1976.
Uploaded to artcornwall.org 13.8.19