Accepted paper:

Enchanted encounters: reaffirming a magical heritage.

Author:

Sara Hannant (City, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

As artist in residence at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, I photographed one hundred magical objects. This material evidence eloquently speaks to a broad range of magical activity and, by extension, addresses the diverse histories of formerly forbidden rites or everyday worship.

Paper long abstract:

As artist in residence at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, I photographed one hundred magical objects ranging from spells, charms and curses to ceremonial artefacts and the tools of wayside witches. This remarkable selection presents material evidence that eloquently speaks to a broad range of magical activity and, by extension, addresses the diverse histories of formerly forbidden rites or everyday worship. The museum first opened in 1951, the year in which the Fraudulent Mediums Act repealed the Witchcraft Act of 1735 (a punitive measure intent on criminalizing practitioners of witchcraft). Many of the items displayed in this museum, therefore, embody prohibited and persecuted belief systems. Depicting the artifacts emerging from the darkness allowed me to research how these objects enduringly manifest and convey their potency. Dramatic lighting bestows a power to each image that evokes the significance the object might have had for its owner or maker. Because it is the nature of photography to seize and preserve, images are inevitably associated with history while my approach explores the creative and magical potentials of representing the past to the present. The stories that accompany the photographs intertwine narratives allied to esoteric traditions and folklore with social, political, and cultural conditions. Encounters with this material at art, anthropological and occult events in New York, Oxford, and London have awakened audiences to reconsider their understanding and use of similar objects and to share previously silenced narrations, which reaffirm a magical heritage.

panel P105
Museums and Anthropology: Colonial and post-colonial collections seen through museums, art and history