A new exhibition called Witches and Wicked Bodies is due to go on show at the British Museum this September - and it has prompted an angry comment from one reader of my blog.
Mary Josefina Cade left her comment on my post about the British Museum's Viking Exhibition, saying: "Not too happy about the British Museum's new exhibition. Witchcraft is 'evil'??: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/witches_and_wicked_bodies.aspx"
I had to go and have a look at the link myself, because this was the first I had heard about this exhibition in London. The description of Witchcraft and Wicked Bodies on the British Museum Website says:
"This exhibition will examine the portrayal of witches and witchcraft in art from the Renaissance to the end of the 19th century. It will feature prints and drawings by artists including Dürer, Goya, Delacroix, Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, alongside classical Greek vessels and Renaissance maiolica.I thanked Mary for pointing out that this exhibition is coming to the British Museum, but I would certainly agree wording in the the description that says "Witchcraft concerns the practice of evil" could be considered offensive to modern witches. Perhaps that description might have been better phrased as: "In history, witchcraft was seen to concern the practice of evil."
"Witchcraft concerns the practice of evil. Efforts to understand and interpret seemingly malevolent deeds – as well apportion blame for them and elicit confessions through hideous acts of torture – have had a place in society since classical antiquity and Biblical times. Men, women and children have all been accused of sorcery. The magus, or wise practitioner of ‘natural magic’ or occult ‘sciences’, has traditionally been male, but the majority of those accused and punished for witchcraft, especially since the Reformation, have been women. They are shown as monstrous hags with devil-worshipping followers. They represent an inversion of a well-ordered society and the natural world."
What do you think? Do leave a comment below.
I also don't know if this exhibition is the same as the one also called Witches and Wicked Bodies that was on in Scotland last year, which I missed. If so, I'm pleased it has come to London - and I'll certainly be visiting the exhibition to have a look for myself.
The picture shows Agostino Veneziano (fl. 1509–1536), The Witches’ Rout (The Carcass). Engraving, c. 1520. and has been copied from the image on the British Museum Website used to promote the exhibition.
19/8/14 UPDATE: Following complaints, the British Museum has removed from its website the line: "Witchcraft concerns the practice of evil".
For full details of the exhibition, visit: http://www.britishmuseum.org/whats_on/exhibitions/witches_and_wicked_bodies.aspx
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