Cornell University is currently hosting two exhibits from its collection that showcase the more mystical side of magic history. “The World Bewitch’d” exhibit opened on Halloween, and it includes books and documents chronicling the origin and spread of witchcraft in Europe. “Enchanted Asia” is the counterpart, focusing on depictions of sorcery from all over the neighboring continent.
“Bewitching often means casting spells on people so bad things happen,” said Carole Atkinson, from Cornell University Library’s Southeast Asia Collection. “The belief that you can cause evil things to happen to people and that there are means of protection against evil is common to many cultures.”
The amulets to ward off the evil eye, oracle bones, and witch-hunting manuals are a far cry from the illusions and stage magic we’re more familiar with today, but the history of this more spiritual angle is still a fascinating glimpse into how much the field has changed.
The announcement for the opening reception of The World Bewitch’d promises an online exhibit to come, but nothing is up on the university’s rare books library yet. Both run late into 2018, though, so history buffs will have to stay tuned for online availability.