Boscastle, Cornwall, UK. 23rd June 2018.
The Midsummer went off in a traditional manner at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall, UK, with a celebration that marked the fire festival in a beautiful way. Nestled on the horn of land which is Cornwall, tucked away in the North Cornish coast and hidden in the valley by the craggy, rolling scoops of hills, Boscastle is a place where two rivers conjoin before winding out into the harbour to meet the sea where the mighty Atlantic beats against the shore. Perhaps it is the natural, raw, elemental nature of the area, or perhaps it is the presence of pockets of witchcraft that persevered into the modern world, or maybe it is the popularity of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. For me, it is the special character of liminality which is embodied by Boscastle, where land meets sea so dramatically, where sea meets sky in glorious splendour, and sky, in turn, descends to clothe the land in its ethereal mists. During my first visit, many years ago, I was entranced by the eddying, swirling, fascinating space where the river and sea met and mingled their fresh and salt water elements in an alchemical process. North Cornwall has held a place in my heart since our first encounter, and Boscastle was no exception at Midsummer, 2018.
To celebrate the midsummer, the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic hosted the wonderful Victoria Musson, who was also one of the speakers at the first Welsh Occult Conference the previous month. Hailing from the Midlands, Victoria is one of those people who exudes natural magic imbued through her connectedness with landscape and nature. It is clear that Victoria has the natural world, the very earth, instilled within her soul and it is in working with nature that the Midsummer spirit was crafted so beautifully in the form of the God and Goddess.
Commencing with the onset of the Summer Solstice on Thursday, 21st, Victoria honoured the festival by decorating the exterior of the Museum. With exquisite craftsmanship, Victoria brought together the spirit of the season in the most natural and sympathetic manner, creating sun wheels and decorating the Museum’s wishing well, as well as erecting four solar cross figures across the bridge which spans the river. Representing each of the elements, each decoration was accompanied with a description and it was a joy to see, and hear, visitors and children reading aloud the significances of the elements, the meanings behind the symbols, and the general embracing of this most natural of festivals.
With some glorious summer weather, azure skies and the scorching rays of Helios beating down, it could not have proved a more auspicious celebration. Kicking off at noon with dancing from River Moor Coven this was followed by the raising of the Golden Cockerel and dancing around the midsummer tree.
The main feature, however, was the God and Goddess figures who were lovingly fashioned from straw and hay by Victoria, emerging from the natural materials as true representatives of those forces which interplay at this time and embody the year’s growth, the promise of harvest; the boon and sacrifice at this time. As the solar ‘king’ rises in his zenith, reaching peak prowess and vigour, raining down fecund rays, yet punishing as darts of war, the solar ‘head’ is offered up for the promise of that to come in its due turn. These, then, were the sacrificial pair who would carry to the baptismal fire our hopes and wishes. Pertinently, the figures were made with cavities in which wishes had been placed over an eight day period outside the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic. Safely bestowed in the empty space of the Gods, these hopes were duly offered up. The night king would now draw close and show is dark face, as the Lord of the Dead takes sovereignty for the final half of the year leading ever onwards toward the mound, gathering up all in his Wild Raid.
The many visitors who had gathered for this wonderful culmination of the day gradually converged upon the river and the Gods, while the mighty Helios made his way towards his underworld home. There was a pause in proceedings, the tension and atmosphere rising, before dancers entered the now cooling waters and began lithely moving with flames. The fire dancers did a tremendous job and the temperature plummeted as the sun began to hide His face, the ‘head’ now bowed for the final sacrifice and baptism by fire.
As the Gods vanished and sank to ash, washed away out to sea and the most remarkable sky, people began dissipating. The dancers carried on their dance, however, and those few who remained, including Victoria Musson, enjoyed the most wonderful performances.
In all, it was a wonderful event and a tremendously beautiful weekend. It is great to see the Museum marking the fire festival and it is heartwarming to see such a good turn out, especially to appreciate the work of the wonderful Victoria Musson.
With thanks to Victoria and the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic.