Do you believe in magic? Even if you don’t, you probably ‘think magically’ sometimes. We touch wood to stop bad things happening, or take a lucky object to a job interview or exam in an irrational attempt to influence the outcome.
This is the first exhibition to examine how magical thinking has been practised over the centuries. With exquisitely engraved rings to bind a lover, enchanted animal hearts pierced with nails, mummified cats concealed in walls and many other intriguing objects, this exhibition shows that the need to use magic is driven by our strongest emotions: the need to be loved, our fear of evil and the desire to protect our homes. While belief in magic and rituals can be comforting, it has also led to the persecution of women as witches. This exhibition examines both the idea of the witch and the reality of how women were accused of witchcraft.
Even today, our tendency to think magically has not changed as much as we might think. To illuminate the links between past and present, contemporary artists have created new works inspired by the exhibition’s themes.
This exhibition is ticketed. Entry is free for the Ashmolean Members.
VISITING AND TICKETS
Timed tickets will be in operation.
Entry is FREE for children under 12 years, University of Oxford students and Members of the Ashmolean.
Tickets are discounted at 50% for children aged 12–17 years and Art Fund Members.
Concession tickets are available for senior citizens, students, 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 essential.
The Spellbound Magic Circle: Philip & Jude Pullman; Dasha Shenkman OBE, HonRCM; and others who wish to remain anonymous
The Patrons of the Ashmolean
The research on this subject under the title “Inner Lives: Emotions, Identity and the Supernatural, 1300 -1900” was generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the University of East Anglia. Click here to find out more about the research.
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
We thank the artists who have worked with the curatorial team on developing new installations:
Ackroyd & Harvey
Want to view more Ashmolean exhibitions and displays?