From Frances F. Denny’s article for Revolver:
The seed of “Major Arcana: Witches in America” was planted six years ago while I was researching an earlier body of work that examined my family ancestry in New England. I discovered that my 10th great-grandfather presided as one of the central judges in the infamous Salem witch trials. Coincidentally, my eighth great-grandmother, a woman named Mary Bliss Parsons, had been tried for witchcraft in Northampton, Massachusetts, only a few decades prior.
Several years later, I was reminded of this strange ancestral coincidence while reading historian Stacy Schiff’s account of the Salem witch trials [The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem], in which my ancestor, Justice Samuel Sewall, plays a prominent role. I began thinking about the witch as an archetypal figure — one that has persistently captured imaginations (and haunted nightmares) for centuries. From the 17th century witch hunts in Europe, to the Salem trials, to the ways in which the witch seems to populate movies and television decade after decade (like The Wizard of Oz, Bewitched, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), it’s clear that the witch evokes a distinctly female power. It wasn’t long before I began wondering about the contemporary individuals in the neo-pagan community (and beyond) who have reclaimed the word “witch” for themselves.