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465px Azealia Banks 2012 NME Awards cropped

The controversial Azealia Banks is once again in the social media spotlight for a video she posted on Instagram. The video shows Banks getting ready to clean out her closet in which she has practiced Brujeria for the past three years. After seeing the closet caked in chicken blood, feathers, and some black stuff we can’t figure out, theVinternet of course went wild. But why was everyone so shocked to learn that Banks had been sacrificing chickens? The artist, as problematic as she may be, has admitted to practicing — specifically Brujeria —in the past. Some branches of witchcraft, like Brujeria and Voodoo, include animal sacrifice, while others, like Wicca, do not. Perhaps the masses are too used to the watered down version of witchcraft that pop culture has been pushing, but it is time to set things straight: Witchcraft goes beyond aesthetics.

There are plenty of pop culture trends that feed feminism, but the mainstreaming of witchcraft has proved both empowering and problematic. The word and idea of a witch were traditionally associated with demonizing women — images of an ugly outcast cackling over a cauldron or a green Margaret Hamilton come to mind. But recently, the image and connotation associated with witches has become more and more empowering — witches are being portrayed as heroines instead of demons.

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With this new, all-empowering image of a witch comes a slew of trends pandering to a "witch aesthetic." From blogs to high-end clothing lines, it seems like everyone is trying to cash in on the witch trend, and while the increased popularity of witchcraft has helped the practice grow, it makes you wonder if everyone appropriating it understands its origins. As trendy and "cute" as it may seem now, it should be noted that it is a legitimate practice — a belief system for millions of people that should not be belittled into a passing fad. Educate yourself and others about the history and legacy of witchcraft. With so many branches of witchcraft crossing over several other religions and cultures, it would be a shame to generalize what witchcraft and witches look like because of a trend. 

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Azealia Bank’s video is a reminder that witchcraft goes beyond candles and celestial pendants and that some branches have a dark side. Practices like Brujeria (which Banks was practicing) can get particularly dark when blood and animal sacrifices come into play. It is important to remember that just as it is wrong to generalize witches under a "Tumblr aesthetic," you also can't assume they're all sacrificing chickens in their closet. Different and specific sects of witchcraft call for different things, most not calling for sacrifices and blood letting. Like any religion or belief system, there are multiple sides to witchcraft, and not all of them are aesthetic and pretty.

Witchcraft is real — and it's not all black hats and broomsticks.

Top photo via Wikimedia Commons, all others via Flickr Creative Commons.

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