Ashmolean Museum Spellbound Exhibition – Magic Ritual Witchcraft – a review


The ‘Spellbound’ exhibition takes its visitors into the inner lives of our ancestors and takes them on a journey through the magical practises driven by fear, love and rage.  This is an excellent exhibition and you should visit it.


I came away from this exhibition with sense of unease.  I think it comes down to the fact that the whole notion of magical cannot be properly explained.  Yet magical can be felt, smelt, touched, seen and tasted.  I know it when I feel it; that tingle; that shiver down my spine; that sense of dejavous; my mind is transported elsewhere.

Maybe understanding the origin word from which magical is derived from might help.  Magic is the ‘art and science of causing changes in consciousness in accordance with will’.  Whose ‘will’ and whose ‘consciousness’ perhaps is pertinent to why practitioners or suspected-practioners of this art, were treated with fear and suspicion.

Consciousness has a surface and a depth.  I do wonder if the rituals, artefacts and superstitions of the past were a means of working the depths of the subconscious to manifest change.  But are the mage of the past really that different from today’s psychologists, nlp practitioners, hypnotists, advertisers, politicians, bankers, teachers?  

Isn’t it the intent of say a politician to change our consciousness to manifest his will of getting elected?  How spellbound have we been by politicians promises of a future where things would be better, safer, healthy and more prosperous.  Aren’t these professions the modern day black magicians, witches and wizards?  We had witch-hunts and executions in the past when societies were in turmoil.  Would we see bankers, politicians or advertisers rounded-up to meet a similar fate today?  

The notion that ‘will’ can cause changes in ‘consciousness’ or even in the wider sense upon consensus-reality might seem far fetched in an era where science is so ingrained in our lives.  Einstein is reputed to have said that ‘reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one’.   If reality really is an illusion, then whose illusion is it? 

Maybe we don’t realise that we are already spellbound.



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