[It should be pointed out that this museum closed in the early 1970's and the exhibits dispersed - after many years during which the mill and its outbuildings deteriorated it was developed as a high quality housing being finally completed in 1999 when the mill itself was finished.

Entrance Witches mill c.1972
Entrance 1972
All rights reserved - Katie Anagnostopoulou

The Museum opened in mid 1951 - set up by Cecil Hugh Williamson, who described himself as Film Company Director (see IoM Examiner 20 April 1951) - he sold it in 1954, half to his wife Gwendolyne, the other section to Gerald Brosseau Gardiner (on the sale Williamson was described as 'showman') - Gardner (several writers/sources have his name as Gardiner) had been associated with the museum for a year or so prior. Gardner renamed it 'Witches Mill' (it was never known by this name), fabricated a history - eg that it was used by witches post 1848 when in fact it had been occupied at least until 1873 when John Cain, the miller at the time of the 1848 fire died and his wife sold it to her step-daughter. Gardner died in 1964 and ownership of the Mill and museum passed to Monique Wilson (described as covern High Priestess) who together with husband Campbell 'Scotty' Wilson (a retired pilot with Singapore Airlines) - they ran it for several years though apparently it was not a popular tourist location - the contents were sold to Ripley's 'Believe it or not' organisation; following the growth of the Wicca cult in the USA many artefacts with Gardner connections were sold online.

Display + exhibit in Museum
Display and exhibit in Museum c.1972
All rights reserved - Katie Anagnostopoulou

My own opinion on the subject is that it is utter nonsense - however I was receiving so many queries I felt it useful to include this book - just goes to prove what some people will believe!]

The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft




Published for C. C. Wilson The Witches Mill, Castletown Isle of Man by The Castletown Press, Arbory Street, Castletown


THE exact age of the old windmill at Castletown, Isle of Man, known as "The Witches Mill," is uncertain; but we know that it was there in 1611, as it is mentioned in a court record of that date. [this is incorrect - the mill so mentioned is the water mill - the windmill was an early 19th century innovation]

The Mill got its name because the famous Arbory witches lived close there, and the story goes that when the old mill was burned out in 1848 they used the ruins as a dancing-ground, for which, as visitors may see, it was eminently suited; being round inside to accommodate the witches' circle, while the remains of the stone walls screened them from the wind and from prying eyes [again nonsense - 1848 saw the mill rebuilt].

After being abandoned for many years, the large barns of the Mill were taken in 1950 to house the only Museum in the world devoted to Magic and Witchcraft. The attractive grey stone walls of the Museum and the old mill stand in four acres of ground, thus providing a large car park, and there is an excellent restaurant on the ground floor of the building, where visitors may enjoy modern service in picturesque, old-world surroundings.

As the Museum is only a mile and a half from the Airport (5 minutes by taxi), many visitors fly over from the mainland to see the Museum only, and return the same day.

The policy of the Museum is to show what people have believed in the past, and still do believe, about magic and witchcraft, and what they have done, and still do, as a result of these beliefs. It contains a unique collection of authentic material, some of which has been given by witches who are still living or only recently dead. It shows how witchcraft, instead of being extinct, or merely legendary, is in fact still a living religion, and the possessor of traditions of great interest to scholars, anthropologists, and students of comparative religion and folklore. Witchcraft is actually the remains of the oldest religious traditions of Western Europe, some of which seem to have come from the Stone Age.

Apart from the other material, the Museum also possesses a large collection of Manx bygones, including what is said to be the only known specimen of a Manx Dirk, of the type which made the Manx Dirk Dance famous; the dance still exists, but is now performed with wooden weapons. [This dance is most likely a 20th invention by Mona Douglas ! which might go so way to explaining the rarity of the dirkes]

From time immemorial the people of the isle of Man have been believers in fairies and witches. The celebrated "Fairies' Bridge" is only six miles away from the Museum. There have been a number of witch trials in the Island; but it appears from the records that the favourite verdict of a Manx jury in cases of alleged witchcraft was "Not Guilty, but don't do it again.". [Such cases are in fact extremely rare in Manx history, however Manx Juries were well known for refusing to find any one guilty for any crime that carried the death penalty - however it is true that Manx belief in fairies etc was widespread (see folklore) - the celebrated fairy bridge is however an invention of the 19th C tourist industry, the original is an old arched bridge on a pack-horse trail that was not developed as a road, the current 'Fairy Bridge' is actually the second such as the first was found to be at a dangerous location for tourists - the 'original' bridge on that road being so designated for touristic purposes]

The only recorded execution of a witch in the Isle of Man took place within a short distance of the old Mill, when in 1617 Margaret Ine Quane and her young son were burned alive at the stake near the Market Cross in Castletown. She had been caught trying to work a fertility rite to get good crops; and as this was in the time when the Lordship of Man was temporarily in the hands of the witch-hunting King James I, she suffered the extreme penalty [not true that in hands of James I - by then re-acquired by Stanley family]. A memorial to Margaret Ine Quane, and to the victims of the witch persecutions in Western Europe, whose total numbers have been estimated at nine millions, is in the Museum.

One cannot understand history without some knowledge of our ancestors' beliefs, and what they did because of those beliefs. What manner of people were these magicians and witches ? What went on in their minds ? What was the difference between them ? These are some of the questions this Museum sets out to answer.

Ceremonial magic gave its rites a Christian form; whereas witches were pagans, and followed the Old Gods. Hence the witch cult was fiercely persecuted, while ceremonial magic was sometimes studied and practised by churchmen. The idea behind ceremonial magic is that of commanding spirits, good or evil, in the names of God and His Angels, and thus making the spirits do your will; and the proof that this is how magicians' minds worked is to be found in the old magical books called Grimoires, of which the Museum has a large number, both printed and in manuscript. The procedure laid down in them is complicated, and required a certain amount of education, often involving a knowledge of Latin and Hebrew, to understand it. Also, the rites they specify needed costly equipment, such as swords, wands, magical robes, pentacles of silver and gold, etc. Hence it was only members of the upper classes, or of the learned professions, who could work such rites.

The witch cult, on the other hand, was something much closer to the soil, its practitioners could be, and probably most often were, completely illiterate. It is the remains of the original pre-Christian religion of Western Europe, and its followers possessed traditional knowledge and beliefs which had been handed down by word of mouth for generations. In spite of the great persecutions (some grim relics of which, in the form of instruments of torture and execution, are preserved in the Museum), the cult has never died. Some remnants of it still exist to this day and the Director of this Museum has been initiated into a British witch coven.

Magic is the art of attempting to influence the course of events by using the lesser-known forces of nature, or by obtaining the help of supernatural beings. Doing anything for luck, or to avert bad luck, is a form of magic.

Throughout history, magic has exercised a great influence on human thought. Stone Age cave paintings and statuettes show that the ancient people of Europe practised magical rites. They made images of animals on the walls of their caves, and depicted them with spears or arrows thrust into them; it is thought that this was intended as a spell in order to gain power over the animals in real life. The same principle is at work in the old spell of making a wax image of someone and sticking pins into it, in order to do them some harm, which is practised to this day.

Fertility magic became increasingly important with the discovery of farming. Magic then was chiefly to ensure good crops, increase in flocks and herds, good fishing, and many babies, in order to keep the tribe strong. From the days of the first rites in the caves, there is evidence that dancing, magic circles, and fires, were part of magical practice. Later, people began to learn the use of herbal remedies, drugs, and poisons (the latter being useful for killing wolves). Each tribe would have its "wise man" or "wise woman," probably people with natural psychic powers. This is the origin of the word "witch"; it is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word Wica, meaning "The Wise Ones." The earliest magic was for the benefit of the whole tribe; later "private magic," such as love charms, or spells to obtain personal desires, began to develop. [The OED gives wicca for male witches from c.800]

SORCERY originally meant "to cast lots." The word comes from the late Latin sortiare. It is an ancient and universal practice to gather a number of objects, such as marked stones, or bones, assign different meanings to each, cast them on the ground, and "tell fortunes" from the way in which they fall. However, the word "sorcery" has come to mean almost any sort of magic.

RITUAL MAGIC, Art Magic, or Cabalistic Magic, seems to have evolved from Egyptian and Babylonian magical beliefs that there were many great spirits, minor gods, angels and demons, who could be bribed or Impelled to cause events to occur, by means of long rites and conjurations, with or without blood sacrifices. A very important branch of this magic was to know the Names of Power, by which such beings could be summoned and controlled. When used for good purposes, these practices were called White Magic; but if for evil purposes, they were called Black Magic. This last term is nowadays much abused, being often applied to anything occult. We have illustrations, by means of books, pictures, and actual instruments and objects, of all of these types of magic in the Museum.

ASTROLOGY aimed at discovering what the future was likely to be from studying the stars. Its basis is the old Hermetic axiom,"As above, so below." It is still widely believed in, and is the mother of Astronomy. We have some examples of the tools, books, etc., used by astrologers.

ALCHEMY aimed at finding the Philosophers' Stone, which would turn all other metals into gold, and the Elixir of Life, which would cure all diseases and prolong life indefinitely. It was the mother of modern Chemistry; though alchemists expressed their art in a curious mystical jargon, to prevent their secrets being stolen. We have some objects and manuscripts relating to Alchemy, but regret we have no Philosophers' Stone or Elixir of Life to show you.

NECROMANCY was attempting to compel the spirits of the dead to return and give information. It was usually performed with the corpse of a person recently dead. Spiritualism has been attacked as being Necromancy, but this is false, as there is no attempt to Impel the spirits to communicate, and no dead bodies are used. We have some pictures of the practice of Necromancy.

PACTS WITH THE DEVIL. We have copies of what are alleged to be pacts with the devil, and other diabolical papers, including the alleged signatures of various devils, from the French National Archives and other sources; but we think the originals were either forgeries or cheats to deceive the simple-minded.

DEVIL WORSHIP is usually regarded as meaning the worship of Satan. We have some relics which are said to have been used in such rites; but we have no real evidence that the people who used them were more than jokers in rather bad taste. Witches have been accused of "devil-worship"; but the Old Horned God of witchcraft is pre-Christian, and "the devil" is a concept of Christian times.

THE BLACK MASS. Many practices which may or may not have taken place have been denounced by this name; but there is little convincing evidence of its real existence. However, we are always willing to receive proof, and the Museum has some objects alleged to be associated with it.

We have in this Museum the following Exhibits:

On the first floor are two rooms. One represents a Magician's Study, of the period circa 1630, with everything set out for performing what is variously called Ritual Magic, Cabalistic Magic, Ceremonial Magic, or Art Magic; these terms mean very much the same thing, though some writers use one and some another. There is a large and complicated circle drawn on the floor, and an altar made to certain Cabalistic proportions. Beside it is the magician's consecrated sword, and behind it two columns, with a light upon each. If used for good purposes only, this kind of magic was called White Magic; but if used for evil or selfish purposes, it was called Black Magic. The latter might involve the use of blood, and the summoning of demons, who were kept at bay by the Divine Names written around the circle, and were only permitted to manifest in the Triangle of Art drawn outside the circle, where they could be commanded to do the magician's will.

The other room represents a Witch's Cottage, with furnishings of about the same date as the above, and with the witch's magical implements set out for use, with the circle, the altar, etc. It will be seen that these are much less elaborate than those of the magician. The room is an ordinary living-room, with a bed in the background, and a few domestic articles scattered about; the altar is a chest; the circle is a simple chalk line. At an alarm of danger, everything could quickly be made to look quite normal.

[It is likely that this was the stage-set for a short-lived theatre group (led by Dorothy Clutterbuck) which aimed to present mysticism to the general public via theatre - Maxwell-Stuart describes it as fictional based on Clutterbuck's own cottage (or rather house)]

The witch's altar is set out as if for an initiation ceremony. One of the objects upon it is a necklace, the only "ceremonial garment" a witch needed; whereas the magician might wear elaborate robes.

In the First Gallery starts the famous collection of objects connected with Magic and Witchcraft.

Case No. 1. A large number of objects belonging to a witch who died in 1951 given by her relatives, who wish to remain anonymous. These are mostly things which had been used m the family for generations. Most of them are for making herbal cures. The herbs required to make charms or medicines had to be cut at the rime when the moon or the planets were in the particular part of the Zodiac "under the right astrological aspects," as a practitioner of the art would say; and the curved sickle or "baleen" was used for this purpose. She had a very fine ritual sword, which for many years was lent to the Druid Order which holds the annual Midsummer ceremony at Stonehenge, because it fitted exactly into the cleft in the Hele Stone.

[Modern Druids are a 18th century invention - Stonehenge was already 1000 years old by the time the original druids appeared on the scene!]

Case into. 2. A large collection of magical rings and other jewelry, used for the purpose of protection and as luck bringers, and for various other magical purposes. This case contains exhibits illustrating the development of present-day amulets from primitive pagan symbols. There are a large number of "Lucky Pieces," ranging from the crudely mounted "Badger's Paw" to intricate and costly astrological jewelry made according to the wearer's horoscope. Among these is the mediaeval magic ring formerly belonging to the Earls of Lonsdale, set with the fossil tooth of an animal, and surrounded by precious stones. It is a thumb ring made large enough to be worn outside a glove, and was supposed to have a mystic power over its possessor.

Case No. 3. A large number of objects used to ward off the "Evil Eye," dating from Ancient Egyptian and Phoenician to modern times. The "Evil Eye" is the supposed power to cast a spell upon another simply by looking at them, ant these mascots were thought to be able in various ways to deflect this dangerous glance. This is probably one of the oldest occult beliefs in the world.

Case No. 4. A representative collection of objects used by witches in their rituals, including a witch's riding staff, which gave rise to the "broomstick" legend. Its actual use was like that of a hobby-horse, in a kind of leaping dance that was part of a fertility ritual. There are several gazing crystals, and a black concave mirror made by a witch in modem times and consecrated at the full moon in accordance with an ancient formula; all of these are used for "skrying," as crystal-gazing used to be called the idea being that visions could be seen in them. There is a flask of witches' anointing oil in a silver case. The case also contains objects used in the witch persecutions, and some relics of Matthew Hopkins, the notorious "Witch-Finder General." Among the instruments of torture used on witches, shown in this case, are thumbscrews, pincers which were used red hot, and a three-inch-long hand-made pin of the type used to prick for the so-called "Devil's Mark," which was supposed to be a spot which would not bleed and was insensitive to pain; also instruments used when witches were burned alive.

Case No. 5. A collection of objects used by witches, given by an existing coven of witches. Naturally, they have only lent articles which they are not using, hence the collection consists chiefly of implements for the making of herbal cures and charms; there is, however, one very fine ritual wand, and a curious old desk containing seven secret drawers, in which they used to hide some of their possessions.

Case No. 6. A large collection of talismans engraved on metal, prepared according to the formulas of the "Key of Solomon" and various other Grimoires. These talismans were consecrated with magical rituals, and had to be made and consecrated under the correct astrological aspects for the object they were to achieve, e.g., to gain someone's love, to obtain money, success in a struggle, or the cure of sickness, and for many other purposes. The person who wished to achieve some such aim by means of a talisman, after it was made and consecrated, had then usually to wear it next to the skin.

This case also contains a collection of charms used against the "Evil Eye," mainly Arabic and Italian, and examples of the "Medusa's Head" charm, which was used to avert evil, and the "Mermaid" and "Sea Horse" charms for the same purposes.


Case No. 7. A complete collection of the secret manuscripts of the Order of the Golden Dawn, a famous magical fraternity to which Aleister Crowley, W. B. Yeats, and many other well-known people at one time belonged. It was founded by the late Dr Wynn Westcott and S. L. MacGregor Mathers, and claimed descent from the original Rosicrucians. Aleister Crowley quarrelled with the Order and broke away to found his own fraternity. The magical working of the Order of the Golden Dawn is founded upon the Hebrew Cabala, and its Cabalistic knowledge was kept very secret, though some of it has now found its way into print; but most of the contents of this case have never before been available to the public.

The case also contains a number of documents from various sources, pertaining to other Orders which claim descent from the Rosicrucians.

Case No. 8. A collection of objects used for divination and fortune-telling, and a number of ancient and modern books upon the subject. Also a number of ancient and modem packs of Tarot cards. These cards are the forerunners of our modern playing-cards, but consist of 78 cards instead of only 52, as in the modern pack. They were (and are) much used for fortune-telling, especially by Continental gypsies. The Trump cards have many curious figures upon them, an of which have an occult meaning. Their origin is unknown, and some authorities have postulated that they came from Ancient Egypt. They certainly date back in Europe to 1392, and there are possible earlier references.

Case No. 9. A large collection of pictures showing what people have thought witches looked like, from prehistoric times to the present day; together with pictures of the practice of necromancy, and illustrations of sorcery and dealings with the devil. Reproductions of various pacts said to have been made with the devil some bearing the alleged signatures of demons.

Also some copies of the court records of Manx witchcraft trials, some being of cases which occurred in the close vicinity of this Museum. The latter illustrate the old Manx belief, "If a person is a witch, why shouldn't they do a bit of witchcraft if they want to ?". [a strange reading of court records!]

Case No. 10. A very large collection of books on magic and witchcraft, including a number of ancient manuscripts, ranging from the latter part of the Middle Ages to the present day.

Case No. 11. Types of "killing magic," including the "Pointing Bone" of the Australian aborigines, and the Malayan "Keris Majapight." Both of these instruments were used in more or less the same way, namely they were symbolically pointed at an enemy to cast a spell upon him whereby he would sicken and die.

Also some stone implements used as charms for protection against lightning.

Some modern instruments said to enable one to see the human aura, and to gain clairvoyance; together with some instruments used in water divining or "dowsing" of various kinds (the modern term for this being "radiesthesia").

Also a baby's caul, used as in amulet to enable lawyers to win cases, and as a charm against drowning. (Charles Dickens mentions this belief in "David Copperfield"). The caul is a membrane sometimes found upon the head of a new-born baby, and sailors in olden times would pay a good price for one, and carry it to preserve them from the perils of the sea.

The case also includes a charm compounded in Naples in 1954, to enable a guilty man to be acquired when tried!


Case No. 12. A collection of magical objects from Africa and Tibet.

Case No. 13. Books, letters and personal relics of Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), a famous and controversial figure in the world of occultism; called by some "The Wickedest Man in the World," and by others "The Logos of the Aeon of Horus." The collection includes a Charter granted by Aleister Crowley to G. B. Gardner (the Founder of this Museum) to operate a Lodge of Crowley's fraternity the Ordo Templi Orientis. (The Director used to point out, however, that he had never used this Charter and had no intention of doing so, although to the best of his belief he was the only person in Britain possessing such a Charter from Crowley himself; Crowley was a personal friend of his, and gave him the Charter because he liked him.)

Case No. 14. Various articles illustrating the derivation of the present Arms of the Isle of Man (which are three legs) from the Celtic trisula and similar forms, such as the "Cross of St. Bride," which were charms for luck and protection, being the signs of ancient gods. (Note: exactly the same device as the present Manx Arms, the "Three Legs," has been found on a coin from Thrace, dating probably from circa 500 B.C., and upon another coin from Pamphylia, dating probably from circa 480-400 B.C. The Greek name for this device is the "Triskeles" [ie 3 legs!]).

This case also contains another collection of objects given by another coven of witches. This includes a horned helmet as used by the male leader in certain rites. Also two most interesting examples of the "Green Man" symbol, sometimes called the Foliate Mask. This was a favourite form of decoration in ancient churches but it actually represents the Old God of the witch cult, the "King of the Woods." He was called the "Green Man" because he was depicted with leaves-often oak-leaves, -springing from his mouth, or with his face partly made up of leaves, or as if peering through a leafy garland. Some of the oldest examples of the Foliate Mask are horned. The explanation is that the craftsmen who built ancient churches and cathedrals sometimes belonged to the witch cult. They could build no shrines to their private beliefs, everyone being compelled by law to attend the Christian church, but they introduced the Old God into the fabric of the church under this guise, and he became one of the most popular figures for church decoration.

Case No. 15. A number of objects connected with what has been alleged to be "Devil-worship," Black Magic and the Black Mass; including the form of service used at the funeral service of the late Alaister Crowley when his body was cremated at Brighton on the 5th December, 1947. This was fiercely denounced as being "the Black Mass;" if so, it must surely be the only Black Mass in history to which the Press was invited, and which was fully witnessed and reported by representatives of the local paper!

The case also contains a number of articles lent to the Museum by a magical fraternity, including a chalice used by them in performing Form of Mass for magical purposes. (This fraternity insists, however that this was White Magic and not Black).

Also a magical death-spell, or curse, prepared by the late Austin Osman Spare in 1954. Spare boasted that he could kill anyone by Black Magic (he actually said this in the course of an interview he once gave on radio!). He was an artist, famous for his fantastic paintings

Also a number of other objects used in curious forms of magic, which, if not Black, were certainly extremely Grey. These include a magical lamp which was once the property of the notorious Hell-Fire Club founded by Sir Francis Dashwood in the 18th century. This started as "The Monks of Medmenham," and was a parody of a monastic brotherhood; but the "Monks" were alleged to worship the devil and indulge in all kinds of licence as their "rule." Later Sir Francis took his association to his palatial home at West Wycombe, where they carried out their rites in a labyrinth of mysterious chalk caves, now known as the "Hell-Fire Caves," which may still be seen. The "Hell-Fire Club" was one of the scandals of its day, as many men of wealth and consequence were alleged to belong to it; Sir Francis Dashwood himself was at one time Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Case No. 16. A collection of modern charms and talismans, which people still pay good money for and wear for protection or good luck.

Case No. 17. A few articles used by astrologers and alchemists, and a number of boom upon these subjects.

Case No. 18. A number of books on the subject of magic, and some magical articles.

NOTE: Upon the wall of the Upper Gallery is a large round mirror. This is a Magical Mirror, which has evidently been used by a practising magician or a magical fraternity. It is convex, and backed with a dark substance instead of the usual silvering. Around the frame are the names "Michael," "Gabriel," "Uriel," and "Raphael," the four great Archangels who are said to rule the four quarters of the universe. Such mirrors as these have been used for many centuries to summon up magical visions

illus1 illus2 illus3 illus4

Some additional information on Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) is available in Maxwell-Stuart's book in which he states that Gardner invented (or 're-discovered') what is now known as Wicca, based on the discredited theories of Margaret Murray (1862-1963, who as a nonagenarian provided a strange introduction to Gardner's Witchcraft Today). Gardiner, keen on naturism, had established a covern in the early 1950's,supposedly including nude dancing and copulation as part of the ritual - this may go somewhat is explaining the rather discreditable reputation he left behind in Castletown.

In his book Witchcraft Today Gardner makes a number of claims re Manx Witches - if the rest of the book is as inaccurate as these Manx references, it must be treated as a demonstration of incompetent research.


P.G.Maxwell-Stuart Witchcraft a History Stroud: Tempus Publishing (ISBN 0-7524-1786-X) 2000

Gerald B.Gardner Witchcraft Today London: Rider & Co. 1954

J. Davis The Witches Mill Today IoM Family History Soc vol XXII no 1 Feb 2000 p30/33

 [Castletown Index]


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000