Initial I with Witch by Eric Gill

Spellbinding new exhibition opens at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Do you believe in magic?
19th October –  19 April 2020
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Bristol Museum & Art Gallery’s major winter exhibition, Do you believe in magic? features over 200 fascinating objects and stories that reveal how magic has been used to heal, hunt and harm across the world. From ancient uses of witchcraft, to belief in the power of gods and ancestors, this exhibition explores the complex intersection between magic, science and religion. Extraordinary artefacts have been carefully selected from the museum’s collections including European works of art, North American shamanic artefacts, magical animals, delicately preserved plants, beautiful clothing and spiritual figurines. From Ancient Egyptian amulets and Mexican charms, to items collected from the altar of a practising witch, Do you believe in magic? uncovers new ways of understanding worlds beyond our own.

Councillor Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor of Bristol, said “The more we investigate our world, the more questions arise. This exhibition looks at how people use magic to make sense of the world and attempt to influence what happens in it. Bristol’s collection is incredibly rich with objects that show how different cultures have viewed the supernatural throughout time’.

Highlights within the exhibition include a spell wall with incantations, charms and stories from the local community. A circular table showcases the huge breadth of amulets that people have kept with them over time, including totems carried by soldiers for luck and protection during the First World War. Digital content brings the exhibition to life through animation, film and UV interactives.  One of the most infamous objects on display is ‘Little Mannie’.

Discovered in the early 1970’s in the cellar of a Conservative Club near Glossop in North West England, Little Mannie is a West African sculpture – later given to Manchester Museum. Remains of a circle of candles, animal bones and ivory counters were also found. After Little Mannie was discovered, unexplained things began to happen to those that came into contact with it – from car and bicycle accidents to trousers falling down without reason.

A.J.N.W. Prag, Honorary Professor and Professor Emeritus of Classics, Manchester Museum, University of Manchester, has said of the figurine: “‘Little Mannie’ may not be the most beautiful piece that I acquired in my thirty-six years as Keeper of Archaeology at Manchester Museum, but his story certainly makes him the most memorable. You may scoff – but even now, long after I have officially retired, no-one in the museum really wants to handle him.”

At the end of the exhibition, visitors are asked to decide where they stand on the spectrum of magic, science and religion. The points are then mapped onto the floor to give an overall insight into what Bristol believes.

Exhibition entry is pay what you think.

For more information, visit

Photo by Eric Gill.


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