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Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford


This exhibition investigates the cultural history of magic, from the spiritual practices of medieval societies to the continued invocation of the supernatural in contemporary life. It features 180 objects, ranging from charms (including a unicorn’s horn) to fortune-telling objects and voodoo dolls, while specially commissioned contemporary artworks will underline the questions these objects raise about the viewer’s own beliefs.

The show begins by exploring the importance of the supernatural in the medieval worldview and proceeds through sections which explore the importance through the centuries of magical intervention in the search for love and in the protection of one’s home against threats. It concludes with dramatic accounts of witch trials, from the terrible punishments meted out upon women suspected of witchcraft in the 17th century, to the farcical case of the Scottish medium Helen Duncan: the last person to be prosecuted for witchcraft in Britain, in 1944. Find out more about ‘Spellbound’ from the Ashmolean’s website.

Preview the exhibition below | See Apollo’s Picks of the Week here

Human heart in heart-shaped lead and silver case (12th or 13th century), Cork. Photo: © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Contemporary ‘love lock’ on Leeds Centenary Bridge

Contemporary ‘love lock’ on Leeds Centenary Bridge (2016). Photo: Ceri Houlbrook

Magic mirror of Floren

The Magic mirror of Floren (16th century). © Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden

‘Poppet’ of stuffed fabric in Edwardian-style black dress with stiletto through face (1909–13), South Devon. © The Museum of Wtchcraft and Magic, Boscastle

A witch trapped in a bottle (c. 1850), England. Photo: © Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

Event website