‘It's still taboo, it's still dangerous': How modern day witches are reclaiming a dark history for feminism

Asia's Tech News Daily

Frances F Denny at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts (Courtesy PEM / Photo by Kathy Tarantola)

At a recent women’s march protesting Texas’s near total abortion ban, a protester held aloft a sign that read, in furious red letters: “We are the great granddaughters of the witches you didn’t burn.”

Other messages referencing witch-hunts, and ancestral witches, have appeared at rallies across America as part of the post #metoo protests against a perceived war on women’s rights.

“It’s not a coincidence that there’s been a huge rise in the resurgence of interest in witchcraft among young people, at the same time as the resurgence in feminism,” says Frances F Denny, a photographer, whose book Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America was published in 2020, is the subject of a current exhibit at Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, the town of the 1692 witch trials.

“If you look at the history of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s and the history of modern witchcraft, they’re moving in tandem. The waves are happening at the same time.”

While researching her first book in 2014, Denny discovered that one of her ancestors had been a judge during the Salem witch trials. The trials marked one of the darkest, and still pored-over periods of life in the settler colonies. Puritan panic in Massachusetts, fuelled by a year of bleak conditions – a smallpox outbreak, a brutally cold winter and local political instability – led to the accusation of witchcraft against 200 people, followed by the execution of 20 of them: 14 women and six men.

Frances F Denny. M. Nightmare, (San Geronimo, California), 2016, from Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America series, archival pigment print (Courtesy of the artist and ClampArt, New York, N.Y.)

One of the accused, Mary Bliss Parsons, was also a relative of Denny. While Parsons was found not guilty, the accusation of witchcraft shadowed the rest of her life. Denny’s family discovery led her on a journey across America from New York, to San Francisco, to Maine to New Orleans, against the backdrop of New England witch hysteria, photographing 75 modern-day witches, aged 20 to 85. Her odyssey took three years to complete.

The portraits, a diverse, eclectic photographic coven, now form part of the finale in a three-part exhibition in Salem – “back where I belong,” Denny says – at the Peabody Essex Museum. Alongside relics from the 17th century trials, is a dress by designer Alexander McQueen – made in 2007 to honour his own executed Salem ancestor, Elizabeth How. The museum houses original documents from the period, displayed in the first part of the exhibit entitled “No one was safe”; arrest warrants and testimony of Salem villagers under interrogation and letters both against and in support of the accused. Elizabeth How’s testimony, on display, replies to the accusations of cursing villagers and livestock: “If it was the last moment I was to live, God knows I am innocent of any[ ]thing in this nature… You would not have me confess that which I know not. ”

The events were immortalised in Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible. The museum also holds the letters reversing all charges in 1711 and ordering payments of damages to a list of the executed.

Several studies, one conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2014, suggest now that formal identification with witchcraft is rising steeply in the US, with close to one-and-a half million practicing witches. The Christian Post reported in 2018 that Wiccans, one of the larger sects within witchcraft, outnumbered Presbyterians. The ways in which witchcraft is being practised are as diverse as America itself: “You have Wiccan high priestesses. You have voodoo practitioners. You have kitchen witches, green witches, hedge witches, sex witches, space witches, and all of them are interpreting this idea of witchcraft and magic in an individualised way,” says Denny.

Frances F Denny. Karen, (Brooklyn, New York), 2016 from Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America series, archival pigment print (Courtesy of the artist and ClampArt, New York, N.Y.)

Each of the 75 witches Denny photographed has their own personalised belief system and practice. While witchcraft is also practised by non binary, trans individuals and men, it is impossible to unravel the traditional idea of witchcraft from female identity. Historically, witches were associated with women existing outside mainstream societal boundaries: the medical establishment, the church, patriarchy, or in the Afro-Caribbean traditions of hoodoo and voodoo a way of retaining traditional identities in the face of colonisation and enslavement.

Pam Grossman is one of the most prominent witches in America currently. She is the author of two books, Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic and Power (2019) and Witchcraft. The Library of Esoterica, published later this month, and the host of the podcast, The Witch Wave. She appears as a subject in Major Arcana, and writing in the book’s introduction, says: “The image of the witch is one of the earliest examples of widespread propaganda against women.”

“[Some] told me that they had their identity as a witch used by ex-spouses against them in divorce and family court proceedings,” says Denny. “That was a real wake-up call for me to realise that there’s still a lot at stake with this project, with this word. It’s still taboo. It’s still dangerous.”

Witchcraft – or at least divination – was punishable by law in some states as recently as the 1970s. Zsuzsanna Budapest – featured in Denny’s book – was arrested in California, for reading tarot cards in 1975 after a woman police officer posed as a client in her shop, “Feminist Wicca”. She was found guilty of fortune telling, against the state law at the time, and, after posting bail, spent nine years appealing the conviction (Gloria Steinem contributed to her legal fees), which was reversed by the California Supreme Court on the grounds of religious freedom in 1985.

Shine Blackhawk is another of the witches featured in Denny’s book and in the gallery space at Peabody Essex. She grew up in Los Angeles and learned witchcraft from her grandmother, a woman called Carlyn The Great. When we speak she is being overlooked by a large picture of the Hindu goddess Kali, usually depicted painted blue, holding aloft a severed head. Blackhawk has two candles lit in front of her, one of them flickering through red glass. On her right forearm, is a tattoo of a winding serpent, fanged mouth open.

Her mother was from New Orleans, and her father, a devout Muslim. Both her grandmother, and her great aunt, Bettye, identified as white witches. They ran an apothecary and were highly skilled, traditional botanists. As a child, the Imam of the local mosque told Blackhawk’s father: “You’re going to have a hard time with that one.”

Frances F Denny. Pam, (Brooklyn, New York), 2016, from Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America series, archival pigment print (Courtesy of the artist and ClampArt, New York, N.Y.)

“I asked too many questions, I was always raising my hand, I knew how to recite the Adhan (the call to prayer), which is never meant to be spoken by a woman; that is shameful, that is a sin.”

In her early 20s Blackhawk came to peace with her “wild child” witchcraft, which she describes now as eclectic; part shamanism, part hoodoo but essentially a vivid form of healing. “I knew that I had this power since I was a child,” she says. “Even though I didn’t use the word ‘witch’ at that time, I just knew that I belonged to something different, another world. And I spent a lot of time in that different world.” She lost friends – mostly devout Christian and Muslim friends.

She currently lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and alongside work as an artist and musician she makes plant-based remedies for all manner of ailments. She works with the kinds of roots and herbs readily available now at Whole Foods, she says, and more acceptably packaged as “homeopathy.”

“For me, my church is in the woods, that’s my sanctuary, that’s where I feel most alive, and where I do most of my work is in nature. When you talk about spells and curses and hexes, that is how we pray.”

The basis of her work focuses almost entirely on women, healing and supporting survivors of sexual assault and rape.

“Everyone has a calling, and that’s mine. To work with women. I am a solitary witch. I don’t believe in hierarchy, I don’t belong to a coven. I don’t believe in following rules outside of myself.” She appears in the exhibition of Ms Denny’s portraits in Salem, she says, proud to stand alongside a group of other witches, there alongside relics from the 1692 trials.

What makes an exhibition about witches so salient now? “To have these so-called modern day witches there for all the women whose voices were stolen from them 300 years ago is one of the most important things that I’ve been a part of,” says Blackhawk. “The trials were a very gnarly part of our history, but to be interwoven and connected together: it’s as if those women are still breathing, living, dancing and moving through us. It’s epic to be a part of that.”

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Government's Nervtag advisers ‘can't rule out' omicron causing biggest wave yet of Covid infections

The omicron variant could see a surge in new Covid-19 infections across Britain even bigger than previous waves, a key group of government advisers has warned. © Getty Images UK ... Read more »

CSGO Operation Riptide week 11 mission guide

Operation Riptide week 11: Water, Water, Everywhere will have you surf between four different game modes.  Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s Operation Riptide is in the final stretch, and week 11 is ... Read more »

Why London's tallest building The Shard was deliberately made to look like it hasn't been finished

Piercing above the London skyline is the unmistakable tip of The Shard. The 300m-high building made up of 11,000 glass panels is the tallest in the capital and contains 44 ... Read more »

Can You Still Play Rebirth Island in Warzone Pacific?

Players might be keen to know if Rebirth Island is still playable when Warzone Pacific’s new map, Caldera, arrives. Some big changes are on the horizon for Call of Duty: ... Read more »

8 people in hospital after car crashes into pedestrians at busy London, Ont., intersection

© Kate Dubinski/CBC Tire tracks indicated the vehicle veered across traffic on Riverside Drive, before it jumped the curb into McKillop Park on the south side of the street. Police ... Read more »

Heathrow and Gatwick: Latest travel advice and entry rules for Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria

The rise of the Omicron variant has once again put holidays abroad at risk. There are currently 13 confirmed cases of the Covid strain in the UK, leading to the ... Read more »

Competition Bureau challenging GFL purchase of Terrapure Environmental

OTTAWA — The Competition Bureau is challenging GFL Environmental Inc.’s purchase of Terrapure Environmental Inc. © Provided by The Canadian Press The regulator says Terrapure was GFL’s closest competitor for ... Read more »

Omicron variant was in Nigeria weeks before South Africa raised alarm

Omicron was in Nigeria in October – before the variant was identified and disclosed to the world last week. Meanwhile Dutch health officials said the new variant had already reached ... Read more »

'Getting away with it', 'Part of the problem' - Many Everton fans fume over journalist's claim

Many Everton fans have been left fuming over an opinion piece on the Goodison Park faithful by Dominic King. © Provided by Transfer Tavern Bill Kenwright Everton The journalist wrote ... Read more »

Ghana says it has detected omicron variant in at airport

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Ghana says that its scientists have detected cases of the omicron coronavirus variant in passengers who arrived in the country on Nov. 21. The cases were ... Read more »

GVB must unleash "exemplary" £6.3m-rated Rangers beast, it's his time to shine - opinion

© Provided by Football FanCast lundstram-van-bronckhorst-premiership-rangers Rangers have the chance to make it three wins in a row under Gio van Bronckhorst as they prepare for Premiership action on Wednesday ... Read more »

Amid 'feeding frenzy' of retail theft, there are some changes you'll see in stores and some you won't

LOS ANGELES — When it comes to fending off an attack from a flash mob of smash-and-grab thieves, the Citadel Outlets believes it can live up to its name. The ... Read more »

Key accuser at Ghislaine Maxwell trial resumes testimony

In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell is seated at the defense table while watching testimony of witnesses during her trial, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in New York. (Elizabeth Williams via ... Read more »

Rock Every Part of Your Core With This Kettlebell Flow

Yes, you can do situps, and leg lifts and crunches and planks to train your abs. But your core muscles are meant for far more complex movement than those ideas ... Read more »

Jaguar Won't Launch Any New Cars Until 2025

Auto Rotation On Jaguar XJ Electric Sedan Spy Shots Jaguar XJ Electric Sedan Spy Shots Jaguar XJ Electric Sedan Spy Shots Jaguar XJ Electric Sedan Spy Shots Jaguar XJ Electric ... Read more »

10 College Football Playoff scenarios, from chalk to complete two-loss chaos

The final College Football Playoff rankings will be announced Sunday.  The 2021 college football season has been filled with unexpected upsets and coaching moves, but the playoff picture has come ... Read more »

Louisville man shot neighbor following argument over trash on sidewalk, police say

UPDATE: Jefferson Circuit Judge Annie O'Connell ordered Hornbeak in November 2021 to serve two years of probation and avoid committing any new offenses during that time or face 12 months ... Read more »

Why You Shouldn't Put a Soaked Phone In Rice (And What to Do Instead)

Your phone slips out of your hand and lands in a big rain puddle. You impulsively jump in the pool, forgetting your phone is in your pocket. A bathroom mishap ... Read more »

Tunnel work detonates WWII-era bomb near Munich train station

BERLIN — Four people were injured when an old aircraft bomb exploded at a bridge near Munich’s busy main train station on Wednesday, police said on Twitter, raising the number ... Read more »

Test für neues MotoGP-Warnsystem: Rücklichter auch bei Sonnenschein

© Motorsport Images In Portimao wurden im ersten Training die Regenlichter bei Sonnenschein getestet Der Motorradweltverband FIM verfolgt das Ziel, nachfolgende Fahrer mit einem automatischen System vor einem gestürzten Fahrer ... Read more »

Opel Rocks-e im Test: Kann das günstigste E-Auto Deutschlands überzeugen?

© Alexander Bonn / Opel Von allen Seiten starren Menschen aus ihren SUVs in unsere Richtung und fahren die Scheiben herunter. Der Opel Rocks-e ist ein Aufmerksamkeitsmagnet. Auch vorbeilaufende Menschen ... Read more »

Boris Johnson weist Bericht über verbotene Lockdown-Partys zurück

© Keystone/PA Wire/Stefan Rousseau Der britische Premierminister Boris Johnson hat einen Bericht über verbotene Lockdown-Partys in seinem Amtssitz in der Downing Street zurückgewiesen. “Alle Richtlinien sind von [Downing Street] Nummer ... Read more »

Schon jetzt sind Österreichs Krankenhäuser überfüllt – Triage nötig

Die Corona-Lage in Österreich verschärft sich weiter und Kliniken drohen zu überlasten. Es müssten bereits Entscheidungen darüber getroffen werden, welcher Patient mehr Überlebenschancen habe, warnt der Gesundheitsminister. © dpa/Sebastian Gollnow ... Read more »

Why is Bwipo returning to top lane for Team Liquid in 2022?

Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau has been a part of likely the most exciting roster move in North American League of Legends this year, joining Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Steven “Hans Sama” ... Read more »

COVID-19: What the supermarkets are doing over rule changes to face masks

Only people who can show they are medically exempt should shop without a mask with the rules also being extended to other smaller outlets and public transport services. Read more »

NATO on guard against Chinese, Russian missiles that can hit allies

© Reuters/INTS KALNINS NATO Foreign Ministers summit in Riga LONDON (Reuters) – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that the Western alliance was working closely to protect allies against ... Read more »

Norway wealth fund calls on companies to act on climate

© Reuters/Gwladys Fouche FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Norwegian central bank, where Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is situated, in Oslo By Gwladys Fouche OSLO (Reuters) -Norway’s $1.3 trillion ... Read more »

Match Will Pay $441 Million to Settle Suit Over Tinder Valuation

© Photographer: Gaia Squarci/Bloomberg Match Tinder (Bloomberg) — Match Group Inc. said it will pay $441 million to resolve a hard-fought legal battle with Tinder’s founders over the valuation of the ... Read more »

Clint Frazier's fiancée ‘swoons' over the future amid Cubs signing

The future Mrs. Clint Frazier is ready for the couple’s next chapter. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Kaylee 🩺🌱 (@kalechiphealth) On Tuesday, Kaylee Gambadoro shared a ... Read more »

Save over $100 on this stress-relieving exercise machine

If checking the news and doom scrolling every day has you in desperate need of relaxation, it might be time to upgrade your self-care routine. If you’ve been trying to find a ... Read more »

Examining college football title games from betting perspective

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh leads the Wolverines’ celebration of their win over Ohio State. Aaron Josefczyk/UPI/Shutterstock VSiN’s college football expert offers up his betting angles for some featured games ... Read more »

Mum left in hysterics after her young daughter asks for a fake MOON BOOT for Christmas - as other parents share the weirdest requests they've had

Parents have revealed the strangest gift requests they have had from their kidsFrom medical equipment to real-life fairies and even their favourite food Have your kids ever made weird requests? Email belinda.cleary@mailonline.com  Read more »

The ONE thing bosses are doing to cause staff to leave as the Great Resignation turns into a mass movement - and why pay rises alone won't keep them

Atlassian work futurist Dom Price said bosses who didn't listen would lose staffHe said staff valued flexibility of working from home than getting a pay increaseAtlassian, Australian College of Applied Professions highlighted leader flaws Read more »

Prepare for 'stay at home December': Big businesses tell staff to WFH until JANUARY, Christmas parties are cancelled and SAGE pushes for FIVE-DAY travel quarantine amid fury at No10's 'mixed messaging' on Omicron rules - but is it all part of Boris's plan?

Ministers have said that new Covid rules to stop spread of Omicron will be reviewed in three weeks' time But the new rule on self-isolation after contact with an Omicron case is enshrined in law until March next yearThat has spooked anti-lockdown Tory MPs who fear the curbs could be in place for longer than expectedThey have warned the new self-isolation rule could prompt a return to the 'pingdemic' if case numbers spikeBut Health Secretary Sajid Javid dismissed those concerns as he insisted that Omicron case numbers are lowThe Government stressed new rules will be reviewed after three weeks and will be axed as soon as possible Read more »

Couple who forgave the drunk driver who mowed down three of their children as they walked to buy ice cream are expecting another child after their remaining kids prayed for a brother or sister

Danny and Leila Abdallah have announced they are expecting a baby in March They said they are determined to bring hope and joy to their family  Couple's three children were killed by drunk ute driver in 2020 Oatlands crashThey have recently launched 'i4give Day' in honour of their children  Read more »

REVEALED: BT Sport's Ashes coverage will use commentary from Australia's Fox Sports but could switch to a SEPARATE team of pundits when Michael Vaughan is on air after he was named in Azeem Rafiq's racism claims

BT Sport will be using commentary from Australia's Fox Sports during the Ashes But they could use a different team of pundits when Michael Vaughan is on airIt comes after he was named in Azeem Rafiq's allegations of racism at YorkshireVaughan was removed from the BBC's Ashes punditry team over the allegations    Read more »

Fears, suspicion cloud vaccine takeup in Cameroon

© Daniel Beloumou Olomo Just 4.1 percent of over-18s in Cameroon are vaccinated Under a leaden sky, two health workers outside a hospital in the Cameroonian capital Yaounde are doing ... Read more »

Vanilla Ice shares his secrets for never going out of style

Stop, collaborate and listen: Vanilla Ice reveals his favorite finds. NY Post photo composite Long before Eminem, Post Malone and Drake, Vanilla Ice became the first rapper to top the ... Read more »

I'm A Celeb SPOILER: Naughty Boy is left raging as Adam and Simon mess up quiz questions about show history... leading to an avalanche of crickets being poured on the bound star

I’m A Celebrity star Naughty Boy has made his disdain for challenges and trials abundantly clear for all to see. And Wednesday night’s show is no different for the music ... Read more »

You Can Now Get A Tarot Reading From Paul Of S Club 7 Fame

© Provided by Grazia Paul Cattermole tarot The pandemic really shifted our attitudes to work and careers over the last 18 months – helping make the leap into the unknown ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic