a review by Alex Langstone
I recently took time to visit a brand new pop up exhibition. Titled the Museum of Magic and Folklore, this latest project by folklorist and antiquarian Steve Patterson can be found deep within the old vaults of Falmouth's Cornish Bank in Church Street.
As you enter this mysterious subterranean world, you are greeted with images and idols of Cornish folklore: Crying the Neck, Midsummer fires, Penglaz, Kasek Nos, Helston Furry and Padstow Obby Oss all vie for your attention, as they creep and sidle up to you.
However, as you become accustomed to the rich and thick atmospheres of this folkloric world of wonder, an even more unusual item draws you inwards. For here sits Tim Shaw's fascinating and unexpected sculpture of The Obby Oss in front of the Crucifixion. Inspired by the artist's observation in 2011, which saw the Oss dancing before the high altar in St Petroc's parish church. This deeply inspired Shaw, and led to the creation of this strange and somewhat unusual bronze sculpture of the iconic Padstow Oss.
As you enter the main vault, the lighting changes and a deliciously eerie ambient soundtrack entices you to enter into a world of sea monsters, witches and magic. Here is a world of mystery and enchantment, illustrated with artefacts from practitioners of witchery old and new, including Cecil Williamson's Witch's Cradle, many items from the art of the sea witch, a tableau of the sorcerers lair and many other artefacts of Cornish and west-country traditional practice.
As you leave the museum, you may notice a cabinet of pisky lore and magic. Piskies are the Cornish branch of the faery tribe of the Isle of Britain. Containing charms and idols of the Cornish little folk, including a four leaved clover, a hag stone charm and brass images of Joan the Wad and Jack O Lantern.
It is difficult not to compare this small and intimate collection with the larger and established Museum of Witchcraft & Magic in Boscastle. But this would be unfair and unjust. This collection, under the streets of the bustling maritime port of Falmouth, is an intimate glimpse into the world of folklore and it feels like it may have grown from the sea and the soil that surrounds it's underground lair.
These vaults below the old Cornish Bank lie close to the waterfront, and contain a mysterious tunnel. What a perfect space to house these esoteric and folkloric items of magic and sorcery. This collection is an interesting glimpse into the world of enchantment, and one I would highly recommend.
The pop up exhibition runs until 8th September, please check Steve's website for all the details here:
www.stevepattersonantiquarian.com or click the images below
For more information about the curator of this museum, Steve Patterson, see the ArtCornwall interview here by Rupert White
© Alex Langstone