Friday 21 February 2020


The cimaruta is an ancient charm, most commonly found in Italian folklore tradition, dating back at least to Roman times, if not further. It is steeped in fascinating symbolism and speaks strongly of a superstitious and incredibly rich culture.

If you have visited any museum containing magical or folklore related artifacts the chances are you’ve seen a Cimaruta and maybe not even realised. Pitt Rivers has a huge collection of them, which is where I first encountered these curious objects. They can also be seen at Frederic Mares Museum in Barcelona, the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Cornwall and many other places.

Typically the Cimaruta resembles a Rue sprig, which is a plant with an absolutely fascinating history and symbolism. Rue has been used since ancient times in cooking, herbal remedies and as a popular ingredient in spells and witchcraft. During the Middle Ages rue was used as a way for witches to recognise each other. As ever the church attempted to hijack this herb by calling it the ‘herb of grace’ and using it to sprinkle holy water on subjects.

There are also some fascinating folklore tales which feature rue. In Classical mythology it was believed that the basilisk could kill all plants with its breath, except rue. Weasels bitten by the Basilisk would eat rue to recover from their injuries and fight back. This may relate to beliefs that rue could help to cure poisoning. In other examples rue represents virginity, or regret.

The imagery of the Cimaruta itself is complex. With the herb closely associated to Diana and the three branches displayed are connected her Triformis nature. In addition, the small charms at the end of the branches each have their own meaning. The result of this is that each different Cimaruta’s symbolism is unique.
Commonly featured charms are the moon, a hand, a fish, a key, a serpent, a heart, a flower. The piece can often be dated by what charms it features, as later charms imagery is more influenced by Christianity.

Different interpretations of the use of these protective charms only serves to increase the mystery (and for me intrigue) surrounding them. It is generally thought that they were a charm against the evil eye and witchcraft. The overtly pagan imagery of the charms is argued as being valid as a weapon ‘against’ witchcraft as Christian elements on later examples balance out and defeat these heathen elements, thus protecting from witchcraft. I have to say this does sound rather illogical to me, and I’m far more inclined to believe the idea that these were worn by followers of the cult of Diana. The majority of the various symbols all represent and connect with Diana in some way, suggesting to me that this was more about the worship of this particular goddess, before being changed and bastardised later by the church. The fact that rue was used for practicing pagans to recognise each other is another major point for me in this. I can appreciate that for hundreds of years the Cimaruta has probably been a talisman against witchcraft, but I can’t help but think that it has a much deeper history than that statement suggests.

Cimaruta have been a great source of fascination since I first laid eyes on them quite a few years ago now. Since then I have delved into their fascinating symbolism and history, but because of the lack of knowledge surrounding them and conflicting information available I have only gotten so far. I fully intend to continue my quest to learn all there is to know about these beautiful relics of superstition and magic and shed light of their true and I believe very ancient history.

Saturday 8 February 2020

Museum of the Moon

One day by complete chance I saw an image on Instagram from a good friend which was utterly captivating and intriguing. I recognised the setting immediately having visited a number of times previously; it was Derby Cathedral. But I couldn’t quite understand why there was a huge moon suspended from the ceiling! But one thing was not in doubt; it was glorious!!

I immediately went and researched exactly what I was looking at, which turned out to be an art installation by Luke Jerram called ‘The Museum of the Moon’. The seven metre sphere is inflated, covered with high resolution NASA images of the moon and internally lit to mimic moonlight. It certainly has a huge presence even in a space as grand as a cathedral!

The installation is designed to evoke the thoughts and feelings we get when looking up at the moon and what it means to us. The cultural and historical importance of the moon is evident across the world, through this the installation aims to connect us all and get us thinking more deeply about the moon and what it means to us.

I have never been shy about the fact I have an inexplicable adoration of the moon and love it wholly. For me it has always evoked so much mystery, beauty and is the light in the darkness. As a teenager I had a map of the dark side of the moon (no I’m not talking about anything Pink Floyd related) on my wall for years and would spend many a hour looking at it in wonder. And as a keen child astronomer I would often sit inspecting each crater in depth through my telescope, secretly hoping I’d see something move or another unexpected turn of events.

Of course I had to go and pay the moon a visit while it was so close by! And while the boards of folk flocking to take a selfie with the moon was abhorrent, the installation itself and all its glorious lighting was fantastic.

Visiting the museum of the moon got me wondering when my obsession with the moon first happened and exactly how it came about. After wracking my brains the only possible  thing which I can think of is a strange one indeed (other than my lifelong obsession with space and stargazing - I still have my sky maps and some astronomy books and we’ve lost a planet since those were published!). Even as a child I had my strange morbid nature I still possess today, and I loved Halloween. I was told at around the age of 5 or 6 that on Halloween if I watched the moon long enough I’d see a witch fly by it on her broom. I can still remember sitting watching for hours waiting to see her. And suspect during this time formed my fascination with that wonderful lunar presence.

If you get chance to visit the Museum of the Moon in a city near you its an experience you shouldn't pass up!