Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft 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 catalogue shows that the use of magic is driven by our strongest emotions: the need to be loved, our fear of evil and the desire to protect our homes. Authors explore the practice of magic in the medieval universe, the early modern community and the modern home. While belief in magic and rituals can be comforting, it also led to the persecution of women as witches. This book 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. This book also discusses contemporary ideas about magical thinking and the artworks produced specifically for the exhibition to make connections between the ideas and experience of magic in the past and in the present.
Dr Sophie Page is a Senior Lecturer at UCL and recently worked on the three-year Leverhulme project 'Inner Lives: Emotions, Identity and the Supernatural, 1300-1900'. Professor Marina Wallace is the Director of Artakt: http://www.artakt.co.uk and former Professor at Central Saint Martins, College of Art and Design and University of the Arts, London.
‘Spellbound is one of the Ashmolean's most intriguing and unusual exhibitions. The idea of magic, of enchantment, of wielding a power that has no basis in fact or reason, continues to fascinate long after most of us have ceased to believe in it. Magic has ancient roots, and it speaks from a time when the entire natural world was felt to be animated by spirits that might be benevolent or malign, but that could, with the right rituals and magical objects, be controlled for human purposes. The question of whether it really works, or has ever worked, is irrelevant: it's really about how we perceive the universe. Is it alive or dead? Magic asks the same questions as art and philosophy, and offers profoundly interesting answers, which tell us as much about ourselves as they do about the world around us.’ — Philip Pullman