What is a witch today

11 portraits show real witches & how they live today

The American photographer Frances F. Denny remembers an encounter while working for her series of pictures Major Arcana: Witches in America: “I met a woman at a spiritual center in Massachusetts. It was summer and no one was there except us. It seemed to make her nervous that I wanted to take a picture of her. We drove to a field where we sat cross-legged across from one another. As an introduction she sang a Celtic song for me. I remember the sun blinded me and hurt my eyes. She then read to me from a document that listed all the tortures that women sentenced to death for 'witchcraft' had to endure. When she was done, she came very close to mine with her face and told me in a rather violent tone that she would agree to take part in my project on one condition: I am not allowed to either her or the other women, that I would photograph for my series, ridicule. I assured her that my intention was to treat all people who came before my lenses with dignity. However, I couldn't guarantee how the viewers would react later. It was important to me to be honest with her at this point. I think she liked that. In any case, she agreed to be photographed by me. "
Frances F. Denny had many such encounters. For her extensive project, she traveled all over the United States to capture the face of modern witchcraft. The idea came to the photographer, who grew up in a suburb of Boston after researching her own family history. One of her ancestors was Samuel Sewall, who had been one of the chief judges in the Salem witch trials. Twenty years earlier, an ancestral woman, Mary Bliss Parsons, had been charged with witchcraft in Northampton. “That coincidental match stuck in my mind. In 2015 I read the book by the contemporary biographer Stacy Schiff about the witchcraft trials in Salem, in which Samuel Sewall was also mentioned. This piqued my interest in the historical representation of witches. And from there it was only a small step to the question of what the word 'witch' actually means for modern women. I started to wonder who actually calls themselves a witch these days. ”In the years that followed, Denny toured the United States and met over seventy women who say they are witches. During the project she discovered that the women she portrayed all had two character traits that they shared in a certain way: strength and perseverance.
Denny showed Refinery29 her favorite photographs Major Arcana: Witches in America and told us what she experienced on her trip.