198 – Skull with pentacle

Physical description:
Human skull strapped to a red metal stand in the form of a pentacle.
Museum classification:
Spells & charms
Size:
200 mm
Information:

Cecil Williamson claimed that this skull was from 'Old Granny Mann' of North Bovey area. Witches and magicians use the skull as a symbol of death and rebirth and to aid communication with the ancestors.

Original text by Cecil Williamson: 'This iron strapped human skull, secure on its star shaped stand, has been with me for over forty years. It came from a witch or wise woman. Living in the north Bovey area, and she kept "her friend" as she called this relic in a secret place upon Easdon Tor. Old Granny Mann always used to say when presented with a problem or a situation by her clients, "well me dear, I don't rightly knows what I a do - till I have asked me friend. I'll let thee know later."'

Mentioned in Doreen Valiente's description of the exhibits at Cecil Williamson's 'House of Spells' at Polperro (Transcripts from Doreen Valiente's Diaries 1959-1966, in the museum library (133.43 VAL), pp.29-34).

 

In 2018, this skull featured in the Museum's exhibition "Dew of Heaven: Objects of Ritual Magic."  The following text accompanied it.

“LIKE HAMLET EVERY SORCERER MUST HAVE A SKULL.” CECIL WILLIAMSON

This skull seems like it would have been used in some elaborate act of Ritual Magic in centuries past.  However, Cecil Williamson informs us that this skull was used by a witch who must have been alive in the early 1900s.  She lived about fifty miles from here on Dartmoor.  One can’t imagine that she created wands based on Ancient Egyptian deities, studied Hebrew or entered the Vault of the Adepts (although she may have) She certainly isn’t as famous as John Dee or Aleister Crowley but she did work her magic just as they did.

The crossovers between ritual magic and witchcraft are too big a topic for this exhibition space but we hope that you have noticed that similarities between the two do exist.  In the belief in ancient Gods and Goddesses and their wisdom; in the need for secret societies into which one is initiated and through which wisdom is passed; in the use of specially made ritual tools and in the symbolism of the pentacle. 

One of the key aspects of all magic is working with spirits, Old Granny Mann did it with her “friend” i.e. the skull above and all of the other people mentioned in this exhibition did it too: John Dee in the 1580s, Aleister Crowley in the 1900s and Alex Sanders and Cecil Williamson in the mid to late twentieth century. 

Whether the method of communication is direct like Granny Mann or complicated like much Ritual Magic, the purpose and process is remarkably akin despite the seeming difference in just about everything else!

The image below shows the original typed interpretation card written by Cecil Williamson about this object, the original document is in the Museum's archive.

This object was displayed along with several other objects in the exhibition on ritual magic to demonstrate how ritual magic affected so called folk magic practices.

The other objects were: egg wand (object number 77) and witch's wand with hexagram (object number 1425).

Another way to think about this object is that it represents the quintessence or fifth element.  In ritual magic, the pentacle represents the microcosm.  Scholars have dwelt on the magical significance of the number 5: five senses, five limbs etc. The fifth element is spirit.  See object numbers 3660 and 941 for other representations of this idea.

 

 

 

 

 

Resource:
Object
Materials:
Bone, metal
Copyright ownership:
Copyright to The Museum of Witchcraft Ltd.

Cecil Williamson claimed that this skull was from 'Old Granny Mann' of North Bovey area. Witches and magicians use the skull as a symbol of death and rebirth and to aid communication with the ancestors.

Original text by Cecil Williamson: 'This iron strapped human skull, secure on its star shaped stand, has been with me for over forty years. It came from a witch or wise woman. Living in the north Bovey area, and she kept "her friend" as she called this relic in a secret place upon Easdon Tor. Old Granny Mann always used to say when presented with a problem or a situation by her clients, "well me dear, I don't rightly knows what I a do - till I have asked me friend. I'll let thee know later."'

Mentioned in Doreen Valiente's description of the exhibits at Cecil Williamson's 'House of Spells' at Polperro (Transcripts from Doreen Valiente's Diaries 1959-1966, in the museum library (133.43 VAL), pp.29-34).

 

In 2018, this skull featured in the Museum's exhibition "Dew of Heaven: Objects of Ritual Magic."  The following text accompanied it.

“LIKE HAMLET EVERY SORCERER MUST HAVE A SKULL.” CECIL WILLIAMSON

This skull seems like it would have been used in some elaborate act of Ritual Magic in centuries past.  However, Cecil Williamson informs us that this skull was used by a witch who must have been alive in the early 1900s.  She lived about fifty miles from here on Dartmoor.  One can’t imagine that she created wands based on Ancient Egyptian deities, studied Hebrew or entered the Vault of the Adepts (although she may have) She certainly isn’t as famous as John Dee or Aleister Crowley but she did work her magic just as they did.

The crossovers between ritual magic and witchcraft are too big a topic for this exhibition space but we hope that you have noticed that similarities between the two do exist.  In the belief in ancient Gods and Goddesses and their wisdom; in the need for secret societies into which one is initiated and through which wisdom is passed; in the use of specially made ritual tools and in the symbolism of the pentacle. 

One of the key aspects of all magic is working with spirits, Old Granny Mann did it with her “friend” i.e. the skull above and all of the other people mentioned in this exhibition did it too: John Dee in the 1580s, Aleister Crowley in the 1900s and Alex Sanders and Cecil Williamson in the mid to late twentieth century. 

Whether the method of communication is direct like Granny Mann or complicated like much Ritual Magic, the purpose and process is remarkably akin despite the seeming difference in just about everything else!

The image below shows the original typed interpretation card written by Cecil Williamson about this object, the original document is in the Museum's archive.

This object was displayed along with several other objects in the exhibition on ritual magic to demonstrate how ritual magic affected so called folk magic practices.

The other objects were: egg wand (object number 77) and witch's wand with hexagram (object number 1425).

Another way to think about this object is that it represents the quintessence or fifth element.  In ritual magic, the pentacle represents the microcosm.  Scholars have dwelt on the magical significance of the number 5: five senses, five limbs etc. The fifth element is spirit.  See object numbers 3660 and 941 for other representations of this idea.