Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft, Ashmolean Museum

31 August 2018 – 6 January 2019

Bagri Foundation supported the Ashmolean Museum’s autumn 2018 exhibition exploring the history of a fascinating cultural phenomenon – magic. SPELLBOUND displayed 180 objects from 12th-century Europe to newly commissioned contemporary artworks. They ranged from the beautiful and mysterious (crystal balls, books of spells), the bizarre and macabre (a unicorn’s horn, a human heart encased in lead), to the profoundly touching (the testimony of women accused of witchcraft, the lovers’ padlocks cut from Leeds Centenary Bridge). The exhibition creatively explored the inner lives of our ancestors, offering an insight into how people in the past actually felt and what they did to cope with the world they lived in.

Looking at human hopes, fears, passions and asking visitors questions about their own beliefs and rituals, the exhibition showed how, even in this sceptical age, we still use magical thinking and why we might need a bit of magic in our lives.

Dr Xa Sturgis (AKA Magician, The Great Xa), Director of the Ashmolean, said: ‘Magic has always been a subject close to my heart and I’m thrilled that this exhibition takes such an imaginative and impactful approach to the subject. We may think that we’ve grown out of the magical belief of our forebears but SPELLBOUND makes clear that we still think magically.’

The exhibition was also supported by The Wellcome Trust and the University of East Anglia.

About The Ashmolean Museum

The Ashmolean Museum is Oxford University’s museum of art and archaeology. Opened in 1683, it is the oldest public Museum in the world. The Museum has incredibly rich and diverse collections from around the globe, ranging from Egyptian mummies and classical sculpture, to the Pre Raphaelites and modern art.