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Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College
87 North Main Street, Oberlin, OH 44074


Wednesday — Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Monday, Tuesday, Sunday Closed

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What’s in a Spell? Love Magic, Healing, and Punishment in the Early Modern Hispanic World

August 19 - December 12, 2023
In Ripin Gallery

What’s in a Spell? Love Magic, Healing, and Punishment in the Early Modern Hispanic World

August 19 - December 12, 2023
In Ripin Gallery

Virtual Tour

Between 1470 and 1800 in Europe and the Americas, spells were a resource for those in despair. Spellcasting was a practice that was often part magia amorosa (love magic) and brujería (witchcraft). It offered solutions to spiritual, economic, and physical hardships. But spells also allowed people to deceive and transform others, disrupting the imposed order to achieve one’s desired goals. In response, the Spanish Inquisition (1478–1834) used surveillance and punishing mechanisms to maintain and restore the spiritual and political health of the empire.

Collaboratively curated by 33 students studying witchcraft in Spain and colonial Latin America, What’s in a Spell? visually explores the subversive opportunities spells offered and the oppressive tactics used to suppress them. In the colonial context, spells drew on local and foreign knowledge about botany and the human body, reason, and emotions to challenge the hierarchies imposed by European colonizers. In this exhibition, we read European prints against the grain to understand the cultural anxieties about deception and transformation that were part of early modern European consciousness and further amplified in the hybrid cultures of its colonies. The works of contemporary artists remind us that the power of spellcasting persists today.

Organized by

Ana María Díaz Burgos

Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies

Hannah Wirta Kinney

Curator of Academic Programs

Students in HISP 417 Saints, Sinners and Other Cursed Women and HISP 341 Inquisitorial Practices: Heretics, Torture, and Fear


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