Monday 8 May 2017

A Weekend of Cursing at the Museum of Witchcraft

I've spent the weekend at a cursing conference and it was brilliant!

Mind you, when I told people what I was going to, quite a few of them looked askance at me. I think they were worried I was turning to the dark side or channelling my inner Bellatrix Lestrange. But really it wasn't like that at all - it wasn't a practical cursing workshop or even an encouragement to start wishing anyone ill.

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic’s annual conference, Poppets, Pins and Power: The Craft of Cursing, was a weekend of talks by academics and practitioners of various magical traditions worldwide on the history of cursing and attitudes towards it. Practical techniques were explained, but not with any encouragement to try them out. Mind you, I've always been of the opinion that a witch should understand how to curse even if she never does it.

I took lots of notes during the talks and I do intend to blog in depth about several of them in more detail in the future, but to give you an idea of what was discussed, here is the list of speakers and their subjects:
  • Mogg Morgan: Apophis and the mother of all curses
  • Demetrius Lacroix: Ekspedisyon, Dispatch, ak pelene: The Art of Haitian Vodou Cursing
  • Steve Patterson: The Strange Tale of a Discovery of a Curse in West Cornwall
  • Alexander Cummins: The Devil’s Bath – Curse-craft and Humoural Theory in Early Modern England
  • Camilla Schroeder: Animalising the male and silencing the female: Cursing in Grimms’ Fairy Tales
  • Judith Noble: Cecil Williamson and the Spider’s Web
  • Yvonne Knop: 'Marked by the Lord with a Darker Skin' – Curses and Racist Apologetics
  • Mireille Fauchon: Blessed Land: Legacy and Loss within Lowestoft’s Narrative Landscape
  • Peter Hewitt: A Field in Cornwall – the curse of Old Mother Ivey
  • Simon Costin: Poppets within popular culture and mass dissemination in film and TV
  • Paula McBride: Cursing in the Early Modern Midlands
  • Jesse Hathaway Diaz Cursing in Colonial Mexico
  • James Riley: Playback Hex: William Burroughs and the Fall of the Moka Bar
  • Jon Kaneko-James: This is the Curse: Licit Curses in Everyday Life During the Witch Trials
  • Jonathan Hughes Cursing and Ill Wishing: witchcraft, the illness of a King and the death of a Prince
  • Louise Fenton: The Cultural Confusion between Witchcraft and Voodoo
There was also a market of stalls, a Saturday night performance by Folklore Tapes and an ongoing account of a counter-curse performed by Cecil Williamson, related during the intervals between speakers by Judith Hewitt. The theme tied in with an exhibition of poppets that is on at the museum this summer, which is fascinating.

I had a fantastic time, learnt lots and had a chance to meet up with some old friends as well as make a few new acquaintances. Boscastle, in Cornwall - where the museum is located - might be a long way from London, but it was well worth the trip. I am staying down in Cornwall for a few more days and will be visiting other sites and blogging about them too.

The photos show a slide from Jon Kaneko-James talk, Museum director Simon Costin and folklorist Mark Norman in the conference market.

Links and previous related posts


Rebecca Bird said...

And what a conference it was! Fact after fact and so well put together on every level. It was lovely to catch up with you too :)

Badwitch said...

It was lovely to catch up with you too!