In deepest darkest Cornwall, within the enchanting fishing harbour of Boscastle you’ll find a museum with a difference—the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. This museum explores magical practice, making comparisons with other systems of belief, from ancient times to the present day and is home to the world’s oldest and largest collection of items relating to witchcraft, magic and the occult.
In 2021, the museum will celebrate its 70th anniversary and Rough Trade Books are working with the museum’s director who also happens to be fashion’s leading set designer, Simon Costin, on a celebratory publication for the occasion.
If you can’t wait until next year, fear not. As a warm-up to this special anniversary publication, our latest series of Rough Trade Editions—published in association with the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic—seek dialogue with the culture and folklore of magical practice. Through hallucinatory fiction, illustration, a deeply personal essay and the fates, a range of artists have collaborated to create new works that take their shape from the fascinating, alternative history of the museum. And the good news is, you can pre-order these titles now.
Below is a short excerpt from each of the titles in this very magickal series…
Empty Aphrodite: An Encyclopaedia of Fates by David Keenan and Sophy Hollington
I have never met my friend, Atom, though arrangements are under way, should I take the train there, or a bicycle on a sunny day, I should make my way on foot, I think, and rest along the way, along the way that Atoms go, Atoms this glorious day, and thank, while go, these fair old trees, these rooms, lit up, thru dark, and this flight, at night, this hive of light, in glory, and in woe, seems a gory price, no sacrifice, in the cauling of its role, and all of process, I hold dear, the choirs of tears, made up as years, the little Atoms dancing round, and something something something shroud, I thank thee Atom, night and day, that you should deign to light my way.
A teenager in France rescues his dog from a pit of upturned tree and foliage beneath his dog cushioning its fall is a dead donkey beneath the dead donkey like so many elephants a tunnel a tunnel into the ground. He returns the next day with his friend and the pair of them excavate twenty feet of tunnel with nothing but a penknife until the ground gives way and they topple into a subterranean cave. This is the Lascaux cave paintings. This is the Birth of art motherfucker.
Have you ever experienced Blood, as a doubling, Blood, on Blood. Blood is accumulating, abacus in the game is a war-wound, stymied. What is stemmed. What is rising. Pressure. Blood moves in Stem, blinded. Stym is the original river before it was crossed with an X. The flaming sword in the heart. Blood must pass. Ark. Blasket. Blood black plool. Blood plulls, haemorrhages, Blood sighs off letters, blords, names. What is the date. With Blood, tonight, best blind date. Blood is coursing through the cities’ night. Blood spells Night in its very depths. Blood is vampire. To expose Blood to the day is to turn him to a corpse. Only but he needs no more, Blood. Blood is present at the end, as it was in the beginning, drinks its own Blood, Blood.
Who gives a fuck about Justice without Vengeance? Vengeance is the eternal adjustment necessary to staying still, the juggler is its counterpart, Justice. Justice is keeping all the balls in play, Vengeance demands it. What a pair. They are walking down the mainstreet in floor-length white leather jackets. Their favourite bass player is Dickie Peterson. She is wearing black bikini briefs that you can see above the waist of her leather trousers. He is drunk and wearing shades. They have one-syllable names for each other. Urk. Kank. Kim. Now he is passed-out on a bar-top. Justice & Vengeance sound like deaf people with no sense of rhythm playing Black Sabbath. Their new record is their best. They expect the police to bust in and shut down the show any minute. In fact they’re banking on it. They hope someone will stop them before they have to write a message in the blood of their victims asking to please please stop them. Vengeance fell out with Courage long ago but is still best buds with Immortality.
Satan is Real: Two Short Stories by Wendy Erskine and Steph von Reiswitz
One time I found myself with Furfur on eBay buying lots of clothes: prairie dresses in sprigged prints and white broderie anglaise skirts down to the ground, blouses that fastened with big bows, shirts with lace collars. They arrived in padded envelopes from all over the world. Everything was shapeless but felt so good when I put it on. The scissors in the kitchen were shiny and the points when I looked at them seemed to twitch. It made sense to cut my hair which had started to feel thick and weighty. I cut it really short around my ears, leaving a long lock at each side. Then I chopped at the back of it.
In work they said, Wow Christine. That new do is something else. I mean the clothes, they were different but the hair too! You are really embracing a new look.
But the boss called me in about the food. Christine, he said, I don’t know what’s going on but that is just not healthy to be eating that kind of thing. We are worried about you.
What I wanted to eat were cubes of stewing steak, raw. I found it satisfying, chewing them. I loved the different textures of the fat and the meat. I brought them in a lunch box and to eat afterwards a packet of fizzy chewy coke bottles. I would eat one after the other at the computer. My screensaver at work was Sam and then it suddenly wasn’t. It was something that looked like that thing that turkeys have, a wattle, blotchy, hanging skin. What in the name of god is that? somebody asked. It’s art, I said. From a gallery. I changed it back to Sam but it went back to the wattle again.
I remember saying that I didn’t think the raw meat was different to sushi.
Christine, believe me, it’s different, the boss said. You need to take time off. Seriously. We’ve appreciated you trying to keep on going after what happened. His voice trailed off. But yeah, we want you to take time off.
I didn’t argue. I hadn’t been feeling so well. I got headaches within ten minutes of getting up and there was always a taste in my mouth that I couldn’t get rid of at all. I’d clean my teeth but it wouldn’t matter. I started brushing them with the kitchen disinfectant squirter, the apple scented thing, and although it stung at times and was harsh if swallowed, it did help a bit. My skin had got to be always itchy. I tried to find some of Sam’s old creams but they were gone, dumped with the rest of his stuff in a skip a street away.
I saw Jacqui in the street one day before I stopped going out. She came up and hugged me.
Christine! she said. She looked scared.
I’ve tried to call round to see you. Have you not got any of my messages?
Furfur, who used to jump on and off tables, used to fizz with energy, had grown kind of sluggish and fat. The light had started to bother him and I had covered the windows with newspapers so that the house could be in a state of perpetual twilight. I liked to hear Furfur’s breathing. It would fill the whole place, a slow inhalation and exhalation. It calmed me. At night Furfur surrounded me, inside and out. I felt held. But I couldn’t move. It was like cloud with muscle. I could get panicked if I thought about it, if I thought, I want to move my arm, but if I accepted it, it was nice.
The Cult of Water by David Bramwell and Pete Fowler
It was the Don that, in 43AD, led the Romans to build a settlement at the lowest crossing of the river, a fort to divide north and south, and to keep out the fearsome Brigantes.
But the Don’s legacy is older than the Romans.
Once she would have been venerated as a goddess.
To our ancestors, wells and springs were entrances to other worlds.
Rivers, lakes, lochs—each had their own guardians, deities, goddesses and nymphs.
The Romans named their new town Danum after Danu—Celtic goddess of rivers, Hindu goddess of primordial waters.
Danu—the divine creator who birthed all things into being.
For those with the courage to sleep by her side she may divine the future in her swirling eddies.
Danu, who gave her name to the Danube, the Duna, the Dane, the Dunn, the Don.
Danu became Danum became Doncaster, a town built on a river that has since forgotten its river.
An inconvenience it was shunted to the far side of the town, neglected and unloved.
A river I grew up never knowing.
What happened to the Don, to Danu our river goddess?
What did we do to her?
Was there some mysterious connection between water and the feminine?
Seeking answers, I paid a visit to England’s greatest living wizard, Alan Moore.
Over tea in his terraced Northampton home—‘Sea View’—the hirsute author and magician shared his thoughts on the symbolism of water.
‘There’s a fertility—a fecundity—to rivers, they bring life to the landscape. In the East, undulant and natural lines like rivers are seen as the vectors of good energy; straight lines are demonic. For the Chinese the dragon is an auspicious symbol; it follows the shape of rivers and mountains. Here, since the rise of Christianity at least, dragons are considered to be malevolent. And, curiously, largely seen as female. It says something about the image of St George spearing a dragon with his big, shiny lance. Throughout the world, water is largely seen as a female element. In the Tarot deck its corresponding suit is cups, which symbolises compassion. Of course male and female energies are both necessary for the creation of anything, whether that be an idea or whether that be a universe. If one of them is dominating however, that will lead to problems.’
One thing struck me after visiting the wizard, if male and female need to be in balance, didn’t I need to see a witch?
As you know, the North boasts more than its fair share of wise women.
I went to visit Anwen, a witch I knew living in the Peaks.
She ran a shop, Airy Fairy, in Sheffield city centre and was unpacking a large box of scented candles when I arrived.
Goblins by Jen Calleja & Rachel Louise Hodgson
Goblin at the wrong time for the wrong reasons
On the later tours, I started to become unapproachable. I spat on stage. I hated any man coming near me, either before or during a show. I took a man’s camera off of him while he filmed us. I told men to stop or blocked them with my body when they were moshing too violently. We played a floor show in Bordeaux or Marseille where a man stood about two foot from my face waggling his tongue at me for most of the show. The next day Sauna Youth played in a bar in Rennes. Right before the gig a photographer wanted to take our picture out the back. ‘Let’s have the girl at the front,’ he said, not even looking at me. I refused to move, ‘No thanks, you’re alright’. Eventually I gave up and stood and smiled to get it over with for the others. There was a tiny, low stage. We were crammed onto it with the drumkit and amps. I was standing at the front. The small bar was rammed, a man was standing basically inches from me, just lower down than me. I was pissed off that he was so close to me. It gave me flashbacks of the night before. Looking down at this man I wanted to teach him who the goblin was. For the entirety of one of the songs I hunched down and shout-sang in his face, staring into his eyes. He looked uncomfortable, and I was pleased. Then I heard him quietly say, in an embarrassed way, ‘Please, stop. Please.’ I stood up straight, and I felt ashamed, and knew I didn’t want to be that kind of goblin.
I feel like I’m in a labyrinth and just when I think I’ve found my way out I fall into a trap.
Rough Trade Books x Museum of Witchcraft and Magic series is available to pre-order now.