You can buy the former mill (built 1828) in Castletown, Isle of Man, that once housed housed Cecil Williamson and Gerald Gardner’s “Folklore Centre of Superstition and Witchcraft,” whose name went through various permutations, even as its little restaurant went from being “The Folklore Restaurant” to “The Witches’ Kitchen.”
Being near to the former residence of the Arbory witch, Elizabeth Kewin, who was in 1666 rumoured to have transformed into a hare and cast evil spells, the mill was soon associated with witchcraft.
By the 1950s, an Englishman named Cecil Williamson had bought the mill and planned to create a museum of folklore and witchcraft there. Later selling it to his friend Gerald Gardner, the mill was revamped as The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft.
After Gardner’s death in 1964, the museum ran for a short time under new owner Monique Wilson, who eventually sold it and its exhibits, but in its relatively short life, the museum was credited with helping to popularise Wicca as a religion.
I would go farther than that. I would say that this was more or less where Wicca was born. There ought at least to be a plaque. (Here is a Manx article about Ronald Hutton’s lecture there in 2010.)
To have a museum, you must have exhibits, and Phlip Heselton’s Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner
, vol. 2, shows Gardner scurrying around to find, borrow, or make witchy objects for the museum.
In the museum world, objects must have “provenance,” a detailed description of where they came from and a chain of ownership. Ideally. Think of it as a story with documentation — although the art and antiquities trades are full of examples of forged documentation
In Gardner’s case, he merely had to provide a story. This ritual sword belonged to . . . wait a moment, it’s on the tip of my tongue. . . “The Southern Coven of English Witches.” In other words, me and my fellow explorers of possible survivals of ancient Paganism, as described by Professor Murray.
“A collection of objects used by witches, lent by an existing coven of witches,” the witchcraft museum’s pamphlet read at one point.Philip Heselton, Witchfather: A Life of Gerald Gardner, vol. 2 (London: Thoth, 2012), 474.
And this Southern Coven, they are followers of an ancient religion, called Wicca! It’s been here all along! People still go back and forth about this.
There is a saying in the SF-writing world, which I have seen attributed in its original form to the paranormal researcher Charles Fort (1874–1932), that “It steam-engines when it’s steam engine time.”
The example given is that ancient Mediterranean people knew at a basic level how steam power worked. A few simple examples were built .Roman technology could have produced boilers and pistons, but it wasn’t “steam engine time” yet. There were no situations that required steam engines, no one willing to invest in them. Yet in the 18th-century, steam technology took off and dominated the next two centuries, still having some use today.
Even as Hero (or Heron) of Alexandria could conceptualize a steam engine two thousand years ago, so various people tried various Pagan revivals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some in the Baltic countries, for example, clung to life through Nazi and Communist persecution but did not go world-wide, beyond their own ethnic diasporas.
Wicca went world-wide in the late 20th century, becoming, as Ronald Hutton writes in The Triumph of the Moon, “the only religion which England has ever given the world.”Ronald Hutton The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), vii. Maybe we should just say that “It Wiccas when it’s Wicca time,” and that time was 1950–51. And one of the key locales was an old windmll on the Isle of Man.
In my fantasy, the old mill could be bought and turned into a museum again, complete with dioramas of its 1950s self — a meta-museum! — material on the history of Wicca as a worldwide religion since the 1950s, and of course a restaurant, selling “Home Baked Cakes in the old Manx farmhouse style” as did the original.Heselton., 429.