Once in awhile a book comes along that speaks to me so deeply that I have to tell everyone about it. Recently I read a book that inspired me so much that I decided to do a series of self-portraits as the three main characters. That book was The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow (out today!)
The novel follows three sisters as they navigate a world that wants to deny their access to both magic and equal rights. As a pagan woman – and the third of a powerful trio of sisters myself – I felt like this book was written for me. It is an extraordinary novel and I knew that I wanted to do a photoshoot based on the three Eastwood sisters. Ideally, I would have photographed my own sisters in these roles alongside myself. However, due to the ongoing pandemic (and the fact that they live over a thousand miles away) meant that I was my only model for this series.
It’s funny, when I started in photography nearly two decades ago, I constantly took self-portraits. In recent years I had moved away from that, until I took another series of self-portraits earlier in the year. I never suspected that I would be my only model for the remainder of 2020. But here we are.
For each sister I attempted to draw in details from the book. Juniper’s walking stick, and her golden apple. The mother’s milk of Agnes, and her fierce warrior strength. Bella’s notebook, and her glowing wand. I also wanted to recreate each pagan archetype that the sisters mirror: Maiden, Mother, and Crone – these are the faces of the triple goddess in paganism. I also wanted to bring in some elements of the Tarot, and the symbols of each sister worked well as a suit: Staves, Swords, Wands. I photographed myself against a starry backdrop, in homage to some of the other witches in the book who utilize the stars in their spellcraft.
This was a challenging photoshoot and edit for numerous reasons. I’m not very comfortable staring at my own face for too long, and I didn’t want these characters to look like me. I wanted to become them, and show the shifting faces of the goddess through them.
So here is my self-portrait series of the Eastwood sisters from the new novel The Once and Future Witches, out now from Orbit Books. You can also check out my review over at Comic Years (featuring another little photoshoot of the book on my Mabon altar!)
First up is Juniper. The Maiden. The youngest of the three sisters, Juniper is the wild one, the fey one. She is most comfortable roaming the forest and the lush green lands of her birth. She is the one who has tasted the darkness and craves destruction with righteous anger. But she is also lost, searching for her place and for the bonds of sisterhood that have been broken.
Next is Agnes. The Mother. The middle sister who is the strongest one. She struggles to keep herself apart from others, but her fierce love and loyalty gives her a natural protective instinct. She is the nurturing mother, but she is also the fierce warrior who will fight for what is right and to protect those she loves.
Finally there is Bella. The Crone. She is the oldest sister, the one who has seen the true face of the world and all of its beauty and horror. The Crone gets a bad rap in paganism, but she has the wisdom and knowledge that is essential. She is the voice of reason, the eyes of clarity, the power of all three culminated.
The archetypes of Maiden, Mother, and Crone are representative of the periods of a woman’s life. But they are also not beholden to linear time. We all contain elements of each one, our faces shifting from one moment to the next. May we all have the ferocity of the Maiden, the love of the Mother, and the wisdom of the Crone in the turbulent weeks to come. Blessed Be.