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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Witchcraft on the Isle of Man

The Isle of Man has a rich history of associations with witchcraft. Ronald Hutton Professor of History at Bristol said “At one point the Isle of Man was regarded by everybody else in the British Isles as a hotbed of sorcery.”

There is even cases of England sending witches to the Isle of Man. In 1441 Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester - (Wife of Humphrey), along with Margery Jourdemaine and two noted Oxford Scholars - (one an astrologer and one a doctor), was accused of using sorcery to seek the death of King Henry VI. Her punishment was to be banished for life to the Isle of Man.

Whilst in England hundreds of people lost their lives in witch trials, the Isle of Man was far more tolerant. There were only two people to be executed for witchcraft on the Isle of Man. These were Margaret Ine Quane and her young son. Margaret was accused of using witchcraft to secure a good crop by working a fertility spell. When she was found guilty, it meant her son was automatically guilty of having 'witches blood'. They were burnt at the stake in Castletown in 1617. The incident is mentioned in Gerald Gardner's book 'The Meaning of Witchcraft'.

Gerald Gardner was also a resident of the Isle of Man when he moved there with his wife Donna in 1952, where he became owner of the Museum of Witchcraft.

The Museum of Witchcraft was originally founded by Cecil Williamson. Cecil worked with MI6 during the second world war. He was employed to investigate the Nazi's occult interests, and formed the Witchcraft Research Centre. In 1947 he decided to open a museum dedicated to witchcraft. He originally planned to do this in Stratford Upon-Avon, but local opposition prevented this from ever actually happening. It was in 1948 that he purchased the near derelict 'Witches' Mill' in Castletown on the Isle of Man. The museum – (then called the Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft) – opened in 1949. He turned to Gardner, who he'd met a few years earlier at a talk he was giving in London, to become 'resident witch'. A few years later Williamson decided he wanted to return to England, and move his collection to a new museum in Windsor. In 1952 he sold the museum to Gardner who installed his own collection of artefacts.

Williams original collection remained in Windsor for a year, before a brief spell in Gloucestershire, before ending up in Boscastle in 1960, where it remains today.

The Isle of Man still embraces its occult history and Manx National Heritage have held a number of events and talks.

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