The Folklore Friends Promo: Gwithti An Pystri Museum of Magic & Folklore

Welcome to our third feature of The Folklore Friends Promo: spreading the word about lovely projects from other members of the Folklore community from Twitter and elsewhere! This week, we would like to introduce you to the Gwithti An Pystri: a new Museum of Magic and Folklore recently opened in Cornwall.

Looking for something to do this Halloween? How about a spooky-themed trip with us to the new witchcraft museum in the South West? Inaugurated in late July of this year, the Gwithti An Pystri is the latest incarnation of the “Museum of Magic and Folklore – West Cornwall”: a well-received temporary exhibit assembled in the Summer of 2021, that showcased the myriad of arcane objects collected by folklorist Steve Patterson throughout his life. Held deep in the vaults of the old Cornish Bank in Falmouth, the popular exhibition received visitors from far and wide – who must certainly be pleased to hear that the Gwithti An Pystri has now moved into permanent premises, just a little up the road in town, to 37 High Street!

Patterson, who has self-described as a “meta-antiquarian and artificer of strange and wonderful things”, is – besides a folklorist – the former host of the famed guided walks around Boscastle and the Museum of Witchcraft; the author of various books of magic and Cornish lore; the creator of the podcast Antiquarian Adventures in Meta-Reality; and among many other traditional crafts, a proficient woodcarver, as seen by the looks of the sign hanging above the entrance to the Museum, handcarved by the owner himself.

Sign above the entrance to “The Museum of Magic + Folklore”,
handcarved by Steve Patterson.

The premises, which used to be a lively bar, are comprised of two floors. Just outside the Museum, visitors are greeted by a large window display, before heading inside onto the top floor. On your left is the ticket office; with entrance fees selling for an affordable £3,50 for adults, £1,50 for under 15’s, and the added bonus that all piskies and familiars get to go in for free! If you have one… But before you begin, you might want to take a look at the small shop located to the right and think about what to get later. It is stocked with folky postcards made especially for the museum, as well as the official soundtrack of the tour, a selection of occult books published by local authors – such as the exquisite hardbacks from Troy Books – and jewellery made by the “witch of Bodmin Moor”, Gemma Gary. Finally, don’t forget to look up, or you will miss the blessings of the inconspicuous homage to Cecil Williamson, original owner of the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, and inspiration for this location.

Memorial to Cecil Williamson (founder of the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle), watching over the entrance to the Gwithti An Pystri.

Once you step beyond the barrier, you will have a chance to look at all the mystical objects curated by Patterson, spread across multiple cabinets or displayed on the walls. There are hagstones, banshee bowls and paintings. Snakestones, mermaids and sculptures. See for yourself! Now take heed, as guarding the stairs is the fabled Kasek Nos – the horse headed Oss of Cornish lore that makes its appearance at midwinter in and around Cornwall! Ask it to grant you passage, if you will, then head down, into a deceptively open space with plenty more witchy items to see. As above so below, says the sign! Don’t miss the secret cupboard under the steps, complete with pesky piskies and sinister sprites; or “The Sorcerer’s Den” either – a concealed dark room presenting a cloaked figure bent low above its spells and altar, reminiscent of the “Joan’s Cottage” feature in the classical Boscastle museum. In fact, dear Old Joan makes an appearence in one of Steve’s books: Spells from the Wise Woman’s Cottage, available from the upstairs shop! Finally, turn around and behold “The Witch’s Cradle” – a contraption that was once displayed in Boscastle in the 1960’s, now restored to all its worth.

Are you ready to leave yet? At this point, you may or may not have felt the presence of the Gwithti An Pystri‘s resident ghost, willing you to remain a while longer. It is said that he used to be an old sailor, and a patron at this once local pub. Be not afraid, as it seems that all he has ever done is turn the light on again after the museum shuts for the day – perhaps he is lonely, though certainly not very helpful towards the electrical bill. Or who knows, perhaps he is scared at the contents that now surround him, and looking for something to drink! If you were scared too, this notice found at the exit of the Museum is just for you.

Sign says:

"If you have found your visit to the Gwithti An Pystri Cabinet of Folklore and Magic in any way disturbing or unsettling, I recommend that you go down the road for a strong cup of chamomile tea and recite to yourself the old Cornish charm: 'May the good lord protect me from ghoulies and ghosties and long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night.'"
Exit sign at the Museum.

The future is indeed bright for the Gwithti An Pystri, as Steve Patterson hopes to organise talks related to the Museum and engage with the community. The coming months will be seeing further works on the premises, for which the Museum will be temporarily closed this Winter as it undergoes more improvements. Until then, visit its current website here, its Instagram here, or in person at:

37 High Street, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 2AF

OPEN – Tuesday to Saturday, 11am – 5 pm

On behalf of the Gwithti An Pystri and curator Steve Patterson, thank you for reading!