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The Famous Witches Mill, a Pillar to the Craft

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

The history of the Witches Mill and the Witchcraft Museum that shared it's grounds played an important role in the development and survival of Wica, or Wicca. The museum was originally the brain child of Cecil Williamson, but would eventually be sold to Gerald Gardner who supported the museum from the beginning. The Mill has stood majestically in my mind as a pillar to the Craft. Cecil Williamson had much difficulty in England finding a suitable site, as there was much standing in the way of a Witchcraft Museum. He was later attracted to a site on the Isle of Man, where he sidestepped the objections to such a museum by calling the project "The Folklore Centre of Superstition." Hence the broken down mill found in Castletown.

Williamson moved to Castletown with his family in 1951 to renovate the outbuildings on the property into the museum he had desired for so long. Gerald Gardner, a friend at the time, followed soon after with his wife Donna, and bought the home where he would live out the rest of his life. Early on, Gardner shared collections of Witch artifacts with the museum in hopes of educating visitors on Witchcraft as he knew it.

It wasn't until 1954 after disagreements between Gardner and Williamson that the museum was turned over to Gardner and was revamped as "The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft". Gardner created a bit of fantasy with the history of the mill, according to the booklet that was published for visitors to the museum:

“The Mill got its name because the famous Arbory witches lived close there, and the story goes that when the old mill was burned out in 1848 they used the ruins as a dancing-ground, for which, as visitors may see, it was eminently suited; being round inside to accommodate the witches’ circle, while the remains of the stone walls screened them from the wind and from prying eyes.”

I guess if you want to attract people to a site such as this, a bit of embellishment would be needed… I believe Gardner’s motivations were to create a sense of awe and mystery however there is some serious stretching found in the booklet (which you can download and read here.)

Picture of the Double-Eyed Man sitting in what is described as Gerald Gardner's Throne in Ripley's Believe It Or Not
Picture of the Double-Eyed Man sitting in what is described as Gerald Gardner's Throne in Ripley's Believe It Or Not