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The Ickeny Collection is a teaching collection of artefacts relating to magical practice and mythology that has been developing since the early 2000s. The collection covers the breadth of magical practice and explores the importance of mythology, with a particular focus on the East Anglian region and an emphasis on the alchemy of craft. It is curated by Chris Wood and closely related to Norwich Pagan Moot and Living Norfolk Magic, which is a contemporary collecting project.

The name, 'Ickeny', is a Norfolk dialect word for anything awkward or troublesome, particularly horses, and is thought to derive from the name used by the people of this part of the world 2000 years ago, the Iceni. It seems an appropriate link to the place for a collection dealing with magic and mythology - topics often seen as difficult in modern culture - and the image in our logo is inspired by those on the coins of the Iceni.

Signposting is important to us, so if you would like to investigate magical, ritual and mythologically symbolic artefacts further, then visits to the other museums listed on the resources page are to be recommended.

What is Magic?

Magic is explained in many ways. Magic is many things. The power of an effective spell is similar to that of a prayer answered. The agency is different, but the effect and objective process is comparable.

Magic has been defined in many ways. It is the making of change in accordance with will. It is the performance of an act with the intent to cause change – whether or not there is any physical connection between the act and the effect. It is causative influence beyond scientific explanation, or non-causative causation. It is meaningful coincidence or synchronicity, or things working out in accordance with a pattern not obvious to the mundane eye.

The will that patterns the change can be yours, or that of one or other deity, or of the Universe. The magician, shaman or priest may pray to, call upon, supplicate, appease or otherwise persuade – or sometimes command – a spiritual entity or subtle natural forces to perform some act or behave in a certain way. He or she may pull on the threads of the Web of Wyrd, journey to the Ancestors or the Otherworld to act out a mythopoetic reality, present suitable archetypal symbols to the subconscious mind, or set up the appropriate patterns in the memeplex we call reality to effect change.

The change can be in the outer world, or within yourself. The intent and outcome can be good or bad – magic is not black or white, but the magician’s motivations may be! And the outcome can be different to that expected – good intentions can pave roads to wrong destinations.

Magic has always been part of human life. Similar patterns of folk magic exist regardless of formal religion or belief system – whether Pagan, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or materialist agnostic. Religion itself uses magic, although it employs different terminology. All too often the magician is a saintly follower of the religion if they are a priest engaged in orthodox practices, but a ‘witch’ or ‘evil sorcerer’ if a lay practitioner, outside holy orders or using unorthodox practices.

Theoretical Archaeology Group: Climate

Image promoting the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference with a silhouette of UEA's famous ziggurat-style residences.

The Theoretical Archaeology Group's 2023 conference took place at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, in December! Your Curator, Chris Wood ran a session at the conference on 'Past Responses to Climate and Environmental Change Through the Lens of Mythology' - everything from the Exodus narrative to Doggerland!

Although the conference's main theme was climate and archaeology, there was also a session on Animism, in which Chris spoke on 'Ensouled Statues: A Reflection'.

"The University of East Anglia (Norwich) is hosting Theoretical Archaeology Group's annual conference (TAG 2023). Its theme is Climate archaeology: temporalities and ontologies. Sessions and presentations will explore the relationship between human beings and climate, from the materiality of climate change and the archaeology of the Anthropocene to heritage loss and the vulnerability of people to climate alteration."

Religion, Collections & Heritage Group

Chris Wood is currently Interim Chair of this 'subject specialist network' for collections involving religion. He presented at its inaugural conference in July 2022 and an extended version of his talk is on TouTube: 'The Magic of Objects and the Technology of Religion'. He ran this year's on-line conference in November 2023, speaking on the topic of 'Offerings in Museums'. A recording should hopefully be available soon! The RCHG's web-site can be found here.

Hidden Charms

The third Hidden Charms conference took place on Saturday 2nd October 2021 in Chester. It covered apotropaic marks, concealed objects and other methods of magical building protection - and the Ickeny Collection's Chris Wood spoke on the subject of X marks. The fourth Hidden Charms conference was in York on 15th April 2023, and Val Thomas spoke on on 'Inspiration and Adaptation: Old Charms in Modern Magical Practice'.

Val Thomas' wonderful books Of Chalk and Flint: A Way of Norfolk Magic and Bounded in a Nutshell: Lockdown, Magic and Infinite Space are available from Troy Books. Of Chalk and Flint is a celebration of the county of Norfolk and its Nameless Tradition of magic and witchcraft. The spiritual energy which informs and powers this magic wells up from the land itself and from the Chalk and Flint which have shaped the landscape, its flora, its fauna, its culture and its history. This book therefore weaves a rich tapestry of herbs and creatures, of gods, dragons, Fair Ones and merfolk, of spells, rituals and seasonal devotions. It retells some of the old stories which shape the work of the Tradition and honours the ancestors who inspire it. Yet it is a book for the present moment, and shows how working closely with the land can be an integral and vibrant part of modern life. While the book is focused on Norfolk, the principles of the magic explored here are applicable anywhere in in the world. Thus, this book provides a valuable resource, both for those with an interest in Norfolk, and also for anyone seeking insights into natural magic, witchcraft and working with the power of the land.

Bounded in a Nutshell: Lockdown, Magic and Infinite Space takes the reader on a journey through the recent pandemic as seen by a magical practitioner: a potent expression of the power of magic, community and hope. The Ickeny Collection gets a mention too!

And she has a new one out!

Image promoting Val's new book, with a witch's altar, a skull with wings and a pumpkin.

Val Thomas' new book, Hallowtide: A Dark Devotional, is available to order from Troy Books!

The book explores the sacred days between Hallowe’en and Martinmas, a moment of the year which offers a deep well of dark magic. It is illustrated by Alice Kerridge-Crick.

As the leaves yellow and fall, and pavements and forest tracks are covered in fairy gold, much that is strange and disturbing, yet exquisitely beautiful, emerges from the swirling mists. In the darkness, surrounded by the scent of decay, we feel keenly our own mortality and the presence of those who have died recently or long ago: family members, distant ancestors, friends and beloved animal companions. By indulging our emotions at this time, we embrace life with greater intensity.

The book casts its spell through personal memories and reflections on joy and loss, woven together with a little of the history and folklore of these holy days. It includes spells, recipes and pathworkings. There are also nine Dark Devotions, powerful, tried-and-tested rituals which can be adapted to suit the tastes of the various streams of witchcraft and magical practice. They are perfect for the dark times but most are suitable for working throughout the year.

This site and its contents, unless otherwise stated, are copyright © Chris Wood and Val Thomas, 2024.