A Venture Into the Occult: My Internship With the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic
Hi! My name is Aleksandra and I have spent the last month working here at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. I study liberal arts with a major in history at the University of Exeter. With the history of witchcraft being a special interest of mine, I was very excited to hear I would be able to spend an entire month surrounded by books and objects related to this topic.
During my time here, I have completed a variety of tasks which have expanded my knowledge and understanding of the history of witchcraft and magic, and the various aspects of working at a museum. One of the tasks was cataloguing typed interpretation cards made by Cecil Williamson, which contain various details and anecdotes about the museum’s objects. A lot of them were enlightening, a little strange, and rather entertaining. One of my favourites was document 8362, pictured below.
Another task I was responsible for was cataloguing items from the current Dew of Heaven exhibition, as well as the Alpha et Omega (A. O.) tracing board diagrams and documents. The items in this collection contain information about the occult order of Alpha et Omega, initially named the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. All beautifully hand-made by the members of the order, the boards and manuscripts feature mysterious designs and secret (well, not anymore) magical knowledge which the members were tested on.
The most fascinating object I came across was the membership initiation record book which you can read about in more detail here: document 3920. The records revealed that many members of the order had rather ordinary jobs that did not exactly fit in with what you’d imagine a typical member of an occult order would be like. For example, one of the members, pictured below, was a doctor and has his own Wikipedia entry.
Dr John Frederick Halls Dally, also known by his Latin motto “Hodie Non Cras”, initiated on 10/01/1917. “John Frederick Halls Dally (died 1944) was a British physician and president of the History of Medicine Society of the Royal Society of Medicine from 1941 to 1942 and in 1944.” Another member, George Edwin Bance, was the author of most if not all the items from the Alpha et Omega collection. He signed his work with his Latin motto “Fide et Amore”, and was initiated into the order on 20/09/1919.
One of the highlights of my time here was the candlelit evening. I helped out with setting up the atmosphere which involved lighting candles and incense, before the museum re-opened at 8pm. And I got to listen to some eerie ghost stories!
What made this internship truly wonderful were the incredible people I worked with. Anna – another student intern like myself, and the tight-knit museum team: Joyce, Gypsy, Hannah, and Judith and Peter who made this internship happen. Their advice and help extended far beyond what I expected, and they really wanted Anna and me to get the most out of our time at the museum. They gave us lots of valuable advice regarding future work experience and our dissertations. They also gave us plenty of book ideas and tips for research, a lot of which I have managed to do here by taking advantage of the library’s extensive collection of books.
It’s been a truly wonderful month, I’ve enjoyed my time at the museum and I’m sad to be leaving so soon, but I’m sure I’ll be back (the Halloween events look tempting)! It’s time for me to return to university and utilise what I’ve learned here, before I set out for further witchy adventures.
Thank you for the lovely experience, until next time!