Archiving: days 3 & 4

Archiving: days 3 & 4

As you know, our archivists have been avidly excavating nuggets of collections history from our Cecil Williamson Object Label Collection this week…

Toads, skulls, herbs and London lead divination

Jeff found some exciting information on Object 138, the enigmatic ‘toad with hanging contraption’, which is part of the original collection from the 1960s.  Whilst one of Cecil’s texts refers to this contraption hanging up high in a chimney in Axminster in the 1930s, Jeff found out that Cecil also interpreted this “nasty” black magic object as being part of a larger ritual involving herbs in a white dish and a skull.  Jeff also discovered that the copper pan used for lead divination was used in the Bethnal Green area of London in the 1950s.  Proper job Jeff!

138 – Hanging device with toad

52 – Copper pan

Soiled trunk[s]

Julie made the remarkable discovery that any self-respecting sorcerers’ trunk must be moistened with urine for it be effective:


A sorcerer in his work makes use of a wide range of material objects and substances. But of all his possessions the ones he most highly values are his collection of [MAGICAL] books and manuscripts.

These he does not leave lying about for idle eyes to pry into. So from the earliest of times it has been the sorcerers custom to [provide?] himself with a Box or Trunk in which he may safely keep his treasures safe under lock and key. But that is not enough. The magical forces are enlisted to play their part. To that end it became the custom to use Hide Bound Boxes. Twice a year the hide is soaked by a washing with the sorcerers urine–after which [*WHEN DRY*] it is polished with Bee’s wax–Both operations being done to a recital of Ritual commands to the spirits forces charged with the protection of the Sorcerers Box and Books.

This Box held the Books manuscripts and hand written note Books of [Harold?] BOLITHO SORCERER and person practiced in the Magical arts. Trading at Highgate Hill London in 1915. That it was treated in the above manner one is unable to say. But the leather does have an aroma. Be it caused by MILDEW or MAN.”

“Be it caused by MILDEW or MAN.”  I am seeing a new design for a t-shirt…

Trouble on the farm

Anna discovered some interesting info on the cursing poppets (subject of a new MWM exhibition in 2017), especially that one of the poppets indicated “TROUBLE DOWN ON THE FARM ” FIGURE MADE FROM DYED BINDER TWINE AND SENT TO A SUSSEX FARMER BY ONE OF HIS FARM HANDS WHO HE HAD DISCHARGED.”


Nick had a slow day today bless him but did find a lovely pencil drawing (see above).

Very bad…for moles

Rebecca L. was surprised to find that a Hare’s Foot:

“Nailed to mast or a part of a boat
Very bad Magic”

…whilst Rachel S. was relieved to discover that Staffordshire folk had a readily available cure for toothache:

“An old Staffordshire remedy [] for toothache, … take the two fore paws and one of the hind paws of a mole, and put them into a bag. Wear it round your neck, you will then never have the toothache.”

Witch of Santon Hill

Becca found some important new information on Sarah Killier.  Sarah has been on our radar for a few weeks now – Cecil devoted a whole room to her and her magical objects in his Witches’ Mill in the 1950s, and we suspect that we still have some of her objects.  She was, as this text suggests, a fearful character, known as the Witch of Santon or Santon Hill, near Port Soderick.

“Sarah’s reputation as a witch was such that when she died her iron kettle, three legged cooking pot, fire irons and this plate were buried in the garden of the cottage.  No one would touch them at any price. The while collection has since been recovered and is now in the possession of the Witchcraft Research Centre.”

“Man, the vibes are real strong”

Rachel W., being of the younger generation, was grateful for Cecil’s ability to transcend the generation gap and reveal that Vixen Tor was a “good PULSE spot for working magic.”  He continues:

“Not one witch but a whole Long Line of witches down through the centuries have and still do use this strange magical place. As the youngest generation would describe it today. MAN. THE. VIBES. ARE. REAL. STRONG.”

Unfortunately for us, Vixen Tor home of the witch Vixana (commander of earth gnomes) is now closed because the landowner has had enough of people wandering about all over the place.  Were people attracted to this spot because it is steeped in pisky-lore, or is it because they hope to find a magic ring that bestows invisibility?*   (

Either way, Cecil’s South West as revealed in his writings and collections is certainly proving to be a very magical place…

*And you thought we were joking about ‘the Shire’

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