TWH – Around the world, there are artifacts and other pieces of history brought together to celebrate, honor, explore, and preserve the practice of magic in its many cultures forms. These museums and gallery collections are dedicated to showcasing regional folk magic, Witchcraft, and other forms of the occult. There are also dedicated museums that focus on the history of Witchcraft persecutions and mass hysteria. Some do both.Before we look at some of permanent museums and seasonal exhibitions, it is important to note that not all magic or occult museums have the same focus.
Often Witchcraft- and occult-themed displays are cross-pollinated with paranormal collections, such as is the case with the Warrens Occult Museum in Connecticut. In these collections, the subject matter is dedicated to paranormal-specific histories such as ghost hauntings. The Warrens Occult Museum, for example, is interested in the work of paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren of “Amityville Horror” fame. While there may be some interesting artifacts related to the practice of Witchcraft as known in the Pagan community, paranormal museums have a different focus than the celebration and preservation of spiritually-honored magical practice.
Similarly, most lists of magic-related museums don’t differentiate between magic, as practiced by Pagans, and magic as in Harry Houdini’s craft. There are many museums dedicated to the art of illusion, such as in the American Museum of Magic. However, this collection and other like it should be confused with the displays found in museums dedicated to Witchcraft and the occult.
Just as with the collections focusing on the paranormal or illusion-based magic, some museums are solely dedicated to fictional magic, as is the case in a small museum in Stratford-upon-Avon, located near Shakespeare’s birthplace. Magic Alley and the World of Wizard’s Thatch is a little-known tourist location that is often listed as a museum of magic. However, its focus is Dave Matthews’ fictional world in the Chonicles of the Wizard’s Thatch. It has its own draw, but its focus is strictly fictional magic.
Today we offer our own list of interesting museums and exhibitions around the world that do showcase, in some form, the practice of Witchcraft, the occult, or magic within a spiritual understanding. Some collections take up whole museums, and some are part of a smaller display buried in a storefront or on book shelves of libraries.
Regardless of the size and scope, for the Pagan, Heathen, or polytheist, these sites can offer a connection to history through a common spiritual understanding, answer questions, or even inspire news ones.
Museums and galleries
- Arguably the most famous museum is the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, at the southwestern corner of the isle of Britain. The museum has been a rich repository of artifacts and lore since 1960. Its collection has grown to more than 3,000 objects and some 7,000 books to cement it as a place of pilgrimage for Pagans of all stripes and a curious draw for tourists visiting the fishing village. A recent exhibition is “Poppets, Pins, and Power: the art of cursing.” The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is one of most extensive and dedicated museums on the occult, Witchcraft, and folk magical practice.
- Possibly just as famous is the Salem Witch Museum. However, the Massachusetts-based site has a very different in focus than the museum in Cornwall. The Salem Witch Museum chronicles the infamous moral panic and witch trials that the area endured in the late 1600s. The Salem Witch Museum is not focused on Witchcraft practice, but rather on the preserving the city’s famed history. Along with that museum are a number of other historical sites that explore early U.S. regional history.
- Similarily, in Zugarramurdi, Spain, the Museo de las Brujas shares the history of that region’s Witchcraft persecutions that occurred during the Inquisition. The museum was founded in 2007, the museums attempts to demonstrate both the reality of magical practice and the superstitions that were held throughout history.
- The curators at the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery and Witchcraft, located in Hólmavík, are seeking to preserve the history of magical practice found in that region of the world. According to the site, work on the exhibition has been on going since 1996. It includes Icelandic grimoires, runes, stones, and also catalogs the area’s Witchcraft persecution history.
- In New Orleans, visitors can explore the city’s Voodoo history. The New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum has been in operation since 1972, and is considered one of the most interesting small American museums. It is located in the city’s French Quarter, and offers a range of experiences and exhibitions, including readings, tours, and more.
- Italy boasts a tarot museum. Located in Bologna, the Museo dei Tarocchi says that it treats art and tarot with some respect, showcasing that particular intersection. It offers “an opportunity to all artists who have been working on this subject matter and will bring to light what is often at risk of remaining hidden and of being forgotten.”
- In Belgium, there is another tarot museum. Located in Mechelen and run by Guido Gillabel, this museum showcases “2500 contemporary and antique tarot decks, fortune-telling games, old etchings, funny tarot gadgets.“
- Owned and operated by Pagans, there is of course the new Buckland’s Gallery of Witchcraft and Magic. As we have reported in the past, Raymond Buckland originally set up his museum in the 1960s on Long Island. Over the decades and several moves, the museum is now located in Cleveland, Ohio. The collection includes the many items and books that Buckland had collected over many years of personal practice.
- Another Pagan-owned gallery is located across the U.S. in Santa Cruz, California. Operated by Oberon Zell, the Academy of Arcana boasts the collections of both Zell himself, and Morning Glory Zell, including her extensive collection of goddess figurines. After Morning Glory died in 2014, Oberon launched the Academy to showcase the many Pagan and magical items that the couple had collected since the start of their practice 50 years ago.
- Other similar museums located around the world include the Museum of Witchcraft Switzerland (Hexenmuseum Schweiz), and the Museum of Witchcraft and dark forces (Obscurum Thale) in Germany,
Collections and special exhibitions
- Cornell University Libraries boast an extensive collection of rare historic Witchcraft material, which also includes movie posters from Witch-related movies. The posters as well as the material are now on display in a special exhibition. The collection is called “the World Be’witched” and features “some of the earliest known writings on witches as well as 21st-century witchcraft movie posters to illustrate how popular views on witches have evolved over 500 years.” The exhibition is on display Oct. 31 through August 2018 at the Kroch Library’s Hirshland Gallery.
- The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the University of London also has a Witchcraft collection, and it is already on display. It includes the institute’s many books on Witchcraft, both academic texts and original source material. Curators of the exhibition, called “Accusations of Witchcraft,” highlight four specific cases of British Witchcraft to showcase the collection and inform visitors. The exhibition will be available through Oct. 31, and is located on the 3rd floor of IHR.
- Not to be outdone, the British Library located in London has opened a new exhibition called “Harry Pottery: a history of magic.” While the exhibition does include material from J.K. Rowling’s famous book series, the focus is not on that fictional world. Curators have brought together the libraries extensive material and artifacts on Witchcraft to explore the history inspiring the books. “We unveil rare books, manuscripts and magical objects from the British Library’s collection, capturing the traditions of folklore and magic which are at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.” They also included the “original drafts and drawings by J.K. Rowling and illustrator Jim Kay, both on display for the first time.”
- Connecticut’s Windham Textile & History Museum has staged a new exhibit called “Nightmare on Main” that features both Witchcraft history as well as fictional constructions. Located in Willimatic, the museum will run the Witch-themed exhibit through Nov, 17, 2017.
- Cardiff University Library, located in Wales, maintains a special Witchcraft historical collection similar to Cornell University and other large research institutions. Such libraries maintain historical documents used predominantly for research. Cardiff is not currently hosting an exhibition of its Witchcraft material.
- Owned and operated by Pagans, the New Alexandrian Library has been operated since 2014 in its own building. Located in Delaware, the NAL is “dedicated to the preservation of books, periodicals, newsletters, music, media, art works, artifacts, photographs, and digital media focused on the metaphysical aspects of all religions and traditions.” Where most large libraries might have Witchcraft collections, the NAL’s entire collection is Witchcraft- and Pagan-related.
- Across the country, the Adocyntyn Research Library provides the same service. Like NAL, Adocyntyn is operated by Pagans and its entire collection is devoted to the Pagan community. Adocyntyn has its own space located in Albany, California.
- As we reported, Frederick CUUPS has just acquired a Pagan library collection. It is not yet available. However, it will provide yet another Pagan-run collection of material focused on the occult, Witchcraft, and magic.
- Other examples of libraries that contain occult, magic, and Witchcraft related material include: the Ritman Library in the Netherlands and the University of Miami.