Exposition Magique


Temporary exhibition

From 15 April 2022 to 05 March 2023

From the witch’s brews to the witch-doctor’s rituals, from the shaman’s incantations to the conjuror’s spectacular illusions, all magical practices seek to influence the course of events. They are responses to desires to cure, succeed, be loved, and communicate with the great beyond…as well as to take revenge and cast spells on others.

Throughout the exhibition, specimens from the natural sciences dialogue with archaeological and ethnographical objects, showing us how omnipresent magic is in our lives.

Who has never put a “magical” object in their pocket to bring them luck?

© Musée des Confluences


Wolves used to be feared in the Europe of old. They were believed to possess so-called powers to “stun”: seeing one could leave you rooted to the spot and inhaling its breath could leave you speechless. Across many parts of the world, legend had it that practitioners of witchcraft could turn into wolves, thus fuelling the stories of werewolves.

The exhibition route


Western magic, between belief and knowledge

Magic emerged at the same time as human societies. It has evolved over thousands of years and plays a part in existential questions. In the West, magic is steeped in a turbulent history. Disparaged and admired, discredited and celebrated anew, magic has become an ambivalent notion, one that is always multifaceted and never neutral.

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Exposition Magique

Magical practices

Although Western magic has an altogether unique history, it is nevertheless part of a universal context. What all magical practices around the world try to do is influence our reality. A different ritual repertoire underpins them depending on the social group and culture, and yet they share common principles. These include the attribution of a “symbolic effectiveness” to certain acts or the handling of objects invested with special powers.

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Exposition Magique

Embodying magic

The gift of magic tends to be reserved for specialists who go by different names depending on the community they live in. Soothsayer-healer, shaman, witch doctor, magician… it is difficult to categorise the many players operating in this field. Each has their own style and attributes, breaking new ground or borrowing certain elements from a fellow practitioner, developing their knowledge and harnessing new resources from their environment.

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Exposition Magique

Contemporary magic

Magic is constantly being reinvented, including in Western societies. Amidst globalisation, magical practices are being co-opted and re-embraced. But behind the popularity of different forms of magic, the desire to decipher the world and change the course of events endures, alongside the joy of keeping the mystery alive.

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Exposition Magique