SPELLBOUND

SPELLBOUND - magic, ritual and witchcraftImage courtesy of SPELLBOUND – Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft, ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford

SPELLBOUND – Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft
31st August 2018 – 6th January 2019
ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford

Well… Believe or not, but magic is all around you. And you are, subconsciously or not, directly injected into it. No, don’t tell me that you never thought something bad will wait for you when a black cat crosses your road.  Or you never crossed fingers for luck. Knock in wood? Never open an umbrella indoors? Wear something red for New Eve? Avoid number 13? What about 666? Tried something 3 times for luck? Skip squared manhole covers? Kept onion on doors? Knock in wood? Wore reversed sock to avoid “evil eye”? Your granny never told you: “Do not drink or eat from broken dish” or “Do not look back when you go on an important event”? What about the power of words? You ever tried? Did you lock your love on some bridge? Saw fortune in a cup of coffee? … I am sure you have a piece of clothes that brings you luck. Or an object you carry on with yourself for special occasions.

Witches ladder_Pitt Rivers Museum_University of OxfordImage courtesy of SPELLBOUND, ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum

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In fact, all over the world, you can find strong traditions and implanted believes that brought tiny rituals we all follow from time to time, or daily. Even more, besides rituals taken from cultures, in our brain is installed a piece of superstition. Do not even try to tell: “Not my brain”, or “Oh no I am not the one of that kind”. It doesn’t have anything with education, IQ or traditional roots. Biologically, our brains love predicted happenings and circumstances. We could say that anticipation and prevision are favorite sports of this little organs.  Doubtless, you have in your head, not rarely, all the conversation of an incoming happening, dialog that includes images as well. And then this spooky thing comes: If I do “this” – “that” will happen. Simply because instead to be used as a tool, sometimes, you just become a toy for your own brain.

…When people let it develop itself…it’s where a strong “magic” could step on a stage.

Ghirlanda_made of feathers, bones and hair_Italy,19th centuryImage courtesy of Ghirlanda, SPELLBOUND, ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology

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Nescience. Uncertainty. Unexplained occasions. Unknown circumstances. A leak of self-confidence. Longing. Desires. Passions. Uncontrolled emotions. Fears. A strong wish to find an explanation… It is what gave a birth to some magic. Through ages, magic was a consolation. And hope.  

Inner Lives_A witch trapped in a bottle_Pitt Rivers Museum_and_Oxford UniversityImage courtesy of SPELLBOUND, ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology, Pitt Rivers Museum

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Starting with rough stories about Gods, explanations of happenings and justifications through someone’s else miracles, over antic objects and myths, sacrifices, over middle-age magicians, Merlin, witches, voodoo dolls, to emblems, amulets and lucky charms, dream catchers, “blue eye” jewelry, red threads bracelets and daily tiny rituals… Magic is following us from our very beginnings. And, witchcraft is indeed pretty developed occupation. Especially in the past, when it made world understandable and controllable, what was all the one would wish for. But even nowadays it kept own assuredness, successors, and followers, for what a good proof is the official Senora witch market in Mexico.

SPELLBOUND_ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology_University of Oxford Image courtesy of SPELLBOUND, ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Oxford

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Are you willing to know more about the history of this fascinating cultural phenomenon? ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archeology, University of Oxford, is taking you on SPELLBOUND, adventure through the history of magic until 6th of January 2019. More than eight centuries will provoke your current mindset and picture about reality. It will ask you to investigate own rituals and beliefs. It will show you how, skeptical moments of nowadays and humanity struggles, are still holding tight magical thinking, and an illuminated link between present and past by works of contemporary artists who provide dramatic responses to the topic. You would be able to meet famous witches such are Margaret Moor and Helen Duncan, but also contemporary artists Ackroyd & Harvey, Katharine Dowson, Annie Cattrell, and to remind yourself about an existence of magic in art and life through ages, what is visible in artworks of Mike Kelley since 1978 in “Ectoplasm Photographs”, Tai Shani’s “Dark Continent” and Marina Abramovic’s crystals and trance states…

Helen Duncan_Electoplasm_Cambridge University_LibraryImage courtesy of Helen Duncan, Ectoplasm, SPELLBOUND, ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology, Cambridge University library

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SPELLBOUND exposed 180 objects from the 12th century to nowadays, that will show you how our ancestors cope with unpredictable and unexplained world around them, and what is changed until today. The range includes stories from fantastical, mysterious, over dire, terrific, beautiful and supporting ones to the deeply moving confessions of people accused of witchcraft. The exhibition is a peek in the inner lives of ancients, and of your own self, as an observer.

Poppet_Museum of Witchcraft and Magic_ BoscastleImage courtesy of Puppet, SPELLBOUND, ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology, Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Boscastle

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Visitors will be on six tasks, including walking under a ladder and the museum will monitor how many are happy to tempt fate. Yes, despite risks. The exposition will provide you a sight to magical medieval cosmos, supernatural currents, connection with spirits, and particular stories.

Amazing organisation of ASHMOLEAN Museum improves connections and sharing of stories. You wanna share your magical beliefs? Check this link. You wanna tell everyone your magical story? Dare to do it here.

SPELLBOUND snoop inside the exhibition in this video.

After all, everything is about beliefs, and what your brain accepts as a truth, or a reality that it could control. Anyway, magic is closer to our hearts than you think. We all need a beet of magic in our lives, right?

Human Heart_Pitt Rivers Museum_University of OxfordImage courtesy of SPELLBOUND, Human Heart, ASHMOLEAN Museum of Art and Archaeology, Pitt Rivers Museum

more. www.ashmolean.org

Words by: Maria Bramasole

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