Edinburgh Museum of Magic, Fortune Telling and Witchcraft opens in Chalmers Close
New tourist attraction opens off Edinburgh’s High Street
The Museum of Magic, Fortune Telling and Witchcraft opened its doors at the weekend, taking visitors back to one of the darkest periods in Scotland’s history.
The museum at Chalmers Close off the High Street held a jam-packed opening event last Saturday before opening to the public the following day. Museum curator Ash William Mills, who studied Scottish ethanology and history at the University of Edinburgh and is a published author on magic and witchcraft, has been interested in the subjects since he was 12.
Ash said: "It’s going brilliant so far. We have had quite a lot of visitors, with a lot of them saying ‘why have we not had this museum before?’ One of our main focuses is witchcraft, and in particular the witch trials from 1590-1662 when Scotland had the third highest death rate for witches in Europe, only behind Switzerland and Germany, when 4000 people were executed here for witchcraft. So you can see the extent of how bleak it was during that period.
"That’s quite a lot of deaths for a country like Scotland as the population was lower back then compared to now, and much lower than England. From the reformation onwards that’s when the big craze started. The North Berwick witch trials started things off in 1590 when King James VI blamed witches for storms he faced returning by ship from Denmark.
"We focus on three main categories in magic. It starts with the witch trials and the history that was involved, along with some replica torture devices, then moves into folk magic like charms and spells that still persist today. We also focus on protection magic, which was quite popular until the 20th century. We have a mummified cat and a mummified rat, which would have been used to protect properties. Particularly cats, as they were seen as not only having nine lives but also possessing a sixth sense.”
Ash wants people to see the real history of magic and witchcraft in Scotland and believes he has the perfect location to showcase his collection. He said: "I hope to bring awareness. Last year there was the witches’ pardon by the Scottish Government and the Church of Scotland also apologised. I want to bring understanding and raise awareness of Scotland’s rich heritage of magic that still goes on today and bring that unique world to Edinburgh.
"With Harry Potter being so big in Edinburgh, if someone wants to see the reality of witchcraft and magic they should come here. The museum is not a spook fest. It’s a respectable museum with artefacts from over the centuries about magic and witch hunting in Scotland.
"My partner and I set-up this place by ourselves. It took two and a half months to set-up with my own personal collection I have built up over the past 15 years, so my flat is cleared out! And I have picked up some more stuff recently donated. It’s nice to share it all with the public and not keep it to myself.
"I want visitors here to have an experience like they are stepping back in time and our location in an old close in Edinburgh’s Old Town is perfect. I instantly fell in love with this place. The foundations were built in the 17th century and the rest is late Victorian, so the look and feel of the place goes well with the story, which starts in the 17th century with the witch hunts. It’s perfect.”
The museum is open Tuesday to Friday 11am-7pm, 7am-7pm on Saturdays and 11am-7pm on Sundays, and is closed on Mondays.