Event planning case study: Samhain celebration at the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

Planning an event to bring our community together

The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall held a fantastic series of events on October 31st 2015.

Preparations for the event began at a meeting of the Boscastle Chamber of Trade and Commerce. They generously offered to sponsor a pumpkin carving competition which would be run by the Museum. We put the call out around the village and were delighted with the number of carved pumpkins we received and the imagination demonstrated by the locals in carving faces and providing props and accessories (we received many entrants including a pirate and a cat!) These Jack O’Lanterns would form the basis of our Harbour parade and procession.

An afternoon of Morris dancing

From 2pm, the atmosphere in front of the Museum was transformed as drums banged, sticks were beaten and the morris dancers arrived. We were lucky enough to be visited by three talented groups, who danced for around two hours to the delight of visitors. The first group was Catseye Morris from Cornwall; then Shadow Hunters from Worcestershire (a group specially created for this event); and finally Beltane Border Morris from Devon.

The arrival of the osses

The crowds gathered and as it began to get dark, the Museum was visited by some amazing creatures – the osses! The Lands’ End Obby Oss Penkevyll was joined by Mari Lwyd (meaning “grey mare” in Welsh) from Wales, the Mari Celeste from Monmouth and the Mari Troellog, from Carmarthen.

Leading an oss towards the Museum, courtesy the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic

If you haven’t seen these before, there’s more information about the Mari Lwyd folk tradition here.

Pwnco ceremony 

The osses performed a pwnco ceremony outside the Museum (video courtesy of Angie Latham), then entered the building to bless it for the coming year. Whilst at the Museum, the osses and their minders were offered traditional Halloween soul cakes and ale by the Museum staff.

Fire dancing and a pumpkin parade

As it got truly dark, the pumpkins were lit in a line down the Harbour and Beltane Border Morris surprised everyone as they performed a fire dance! The crowds later dispersed: many went to the local pub where the party continued.

This 35-minute video from Kieran’s Events shows Boscastle’s Samhain celebration from day to night, showing how the music and dancing created a unique atmosphere.

The Museum by candlelight

The Museum closed for a few hours and then re-opened at 8pm by candlelight. Visitors love to see the Museum and its magical objects lit in this most magical way: the wise woman’s cottage looked particularly beautiful, and we welcomed over 200 people through our doors. We enjoyed our Museums at Night experience and have received such great feedback that we plan to do it again on an even larger scale next year.

What made the event so successful?

The reason for the success of our event was that we let it grow. People came to the Museum with ideas and enthusiasm and we let them roll with their ideas, providing logistical and organisational support when requested.

We are really happy to have brought Pagans and witches together with the local community and local businesses, and hope to continue this happy relationship into the future.

Judith Hewitt is the co-manager of the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall.

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