Do you walk under ladders? You'll have the chance to prove how superstitious you are (or aren't) on the way into the Ashmolean's Spellbound exhibition. The first room - more of an antechamber, really, easing you in to the three main rooms of the exhibit - has a specially set-up ladder that you can walk under, or around, to move forwards. But not before you've looked at a selection of artefacts that hint at what's to come. There's a cabinet full of protective objects, from a coral carving to a dried toad. There's also a small, silvery bottle, sealed with wax, that purportedly contains one of the figures at the very centre of this exhibition - a witch.
The Ashmolean's exploration into witchcraft, ritual and magic invites visitors not only to learn about supernatural traditions from medieval times onwards, but to think about how this kind of magical thinking influences our own choices and behaviours today - and it certainly succeeds. On the way round you're prompted to think about how magic still plays a part in the way we behave (would you stab a picture of a loved one? In this age of science, there's no reason to believe it would do them any harm - and yet...)
As you walk through Spellbound you see the shifting world of witchcraft, magic and superstition from a variety of perspectives. One room, full of books and manuscripts, gives you an insight into the ways medieval people used magical thinking to try to understand the world - with the occasional bit of demon-summoning to answer the really tricky questions. Another room is focused around ways that people have protected their homes from dark magic and evil influences - make sure you peer into all the nooks and crannies of the house-like structure in the middle, and don't forget to look up.
The Spellbound exhibition is dimly-lit, adding to the atmosphere of finding and uncovering this knowledge that has lingered in our cultural consciousness, out of sight but still present, like a protective talisman hidden in a wall. It's visceral and not afraid to show us the darker sides of superstition - if you're upset by the sight of dead animals, this may not be the exhibition for you. But if you're willing to look at the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of our superstitious past and present, you'll come away from Spellbound with a lot to think about. Do go along - and let us know whether you walk under the ladder.