Spellbinding stories, fascinating objects...
from crystal balls and magic mirrors to witch bottles and curse poppets
Explore the history of magic over eight centuries in this immersive and thought-provoking exhibition. The intriguing objects on display show how our ancestors used magical thinking to cope with the unpredictable world around them. They range from the fantastical and macabre (a unicorn’s horn, a human heart encased in lead), the beautiful and mysterious (exquisitely engraved rings to bind a lover and medieval books of ritual magic), to the deeply moving confessions of women accused of witchcraft.
The exhibition asks us to examine our own beliefs and rituals, and aims to show how, even in this sceptical age, we still use magical thinking and why we might need a bit of magic in our lives.
To illuminate the links between past and present, specially commissioned works by contemporary artists provide dramatic responses to the themes of the show, conjuring demons, flames and the scuttling of malignant spirits.
This exhibition is ticketed. Entry is free for Ashmolean Members.
‘Spellbound promises to be one of the Ashmolean’s most intriguing and unusual exhibitions’
Human heart in a lead & silver case, 12th or 13th century
The Discovery of Witches, Matthew Hopkins, 1647
'Poppet' of stuffed fabric with stiletto through face, South Devon, 1909–13
Disease of the eyes caused by witchcraft, from Opthalmodouleia , Germany, 1583
Love Ring inscribed 'Vng temps viandra’ (a time will come), c. 1500
'Witches' ladder', found in the roof of a house in Somerset, 19th century
Prognosticator, used to calculate bloodletting times, France, c.1500
John Dee’s purple crystal, Europe, 1582
Apprehension & Confession of 3 notorious Witches, London, 1589
Microcosmic Man, Germany c. 1420
Helen Duncan's 'Ectoplasm', c. 1939
VISITING AND TICKETS
Timed tickets will be in operation. Full price adult tickets are £12.25 each.
Entry is FREE, and no booking is required, for: children under 12 years; University of Oxford students; and Members of the Ashmolean.
Tickets are discounted at 50% for: those under 25; students; children aged 12–17 years; and Art Fund Members.
Concession tickets are available for: senior citizens: those who are unemployed; and University of Oxford staff & alumni.
UK school groups can visit our temporary exhibitions free of charge. We offer teachers a previsit complimentary exhibition ticket. Booking is essential.
Dr Sophie Page, University College London
Professor Marina Wallace, Director, Artakt Associate
Owen Davies, Professor of Social History, University of Hertfordshire
Malcolm Gaskill, Professor of Early Modern History, University of East Anglia
Ceri Houlbrook MA PhD, University of Hertfordshire