“Major Arcana: Portraits of Witches in America,” photographs by Frances F. Denny will be on display until April 17 at Southeast Museum of Photography, 1200 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach.
The collection of portraits is of women from across the United States who identify as witches.
As early as 15th century Europe, people condemned as witches faced an agonizing fate. Those unfortunate enough to be accused of witchcraft were thought to be allied with the devil, and were demonized, tortured and, in many cases, put to death based on the scantest of evidence. Yet despite its deplorable history, recent decades have seen a reclaiming of the word “witch.” In the mid-20th century, emerging Pagan communities in the U.S. and Europe began embracing the term, and since then, “witch” has been adopted by a diverse group of people, from practicing Wiccans to feminist activists.
Major Arcana explores the various ways the notion of witch-ness belongs to those who claim it, representing the witch as a singularly self-sought identity that both empowers and politicizes its bearer.
Each person photographed for Major Arcana, including genderfluid and trans individuals, pursues a form of witchcraft, whether aligned with a religion (like Wicca, Santeria or Voudou) or a self-defined practice. No two individuals inhabit the term “witch” in quite the same way, but many consider themselves Pagan, and engage in a diversity of traditions, including mysticism, engagement with the occult, politically-oriented activism, polytheism, ritualized "spell-work," and plant-based healing.
Among those included in the series are self-proclaimed green witches, white witches, kitchen witches, hedge witches, sex witches and cosmic witches. “Witch” is a mutable term, belonging to and embodying a wide spectrum of people. Ultimately Major Arcana aims to fully reflect that spectrum, re-framing the witch as a feminist archetype as well as the contemporary embodiment of a defiant, unsanctioned femininity.
Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call (386) 506-3894 or visit smponline.org.