Some “Spare” Links and the “Witchcraft Aesthetic”

¶ The University of Heidelberg has scanned and put online a 1916 issue of Form, a small British art magazine containing numerous illustrations by Austin Osman Spare, noted English occultist and artist. Here is a sample.

¶ If I were visiting Milan, I would visit this Tarot painter’s studio and drop a few euros. Maybe I could afford one card.

His shop boasts an endless variety of cards, making it a treasure trove for lovers of the occult in the Italian North. Some decks depict the major and minor arcana (tarot’s “face card” and “number card” equivalents) in Cubist shapes. Others portray them as animals or even flowers, inspired by vintage science books. One deck reimagines traditional iconography with old maps that Menegazzi finds at Milanese flea markets. 

¶ First, I am always suspicious when a news article introduces someone as “controversial,” as in this case: “the controversial Azealia Banks.” It’s like a way of saying, “We don’t like her, but we are pretending to be objective.”

According to the article, the performer outed herself as a  Brujeria practitioner, in other words, folk witchcraft.

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, the Internet 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.

But then the writer, one Samantha Mercado, gets off onto the subtlties of the “witchcraft aesthetic” and female empowerment.

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.

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.

Oh shit, the secret is out. Witches don’t go door to door asking if you have heard the word of Cernunnos. No, we let the “aesthetic” reel in the innocent seekers. We’re happy to see young ladies dressed up in “sexy witch” costumes. Next thing, Pandemonaeon albums, festivals, polyamory, and arguments over “traditional.” (With the guys, it’s tricker. But not much.)

Really, art beats dogma every time.

3 Comments

  1. Medeina Ragana says:

    Thank you for the links! I have bookmarked the one for Spare since, as a student of art and art history, I found his artwork to be strangely fascinating. I also loved the link to the tarot artist. Strangely enough, the local SCA group just finished creating a fundraising calendar with Tarot as its theme. I purchased a number of them to send to former SCAdians who also work with Tarot.

  2. Medeina Ragana says:

    Regarding the idea of sacrifice in Voudon, Santaria, Brujeria etc. People obviously haven’t read the old testament which is awash in sacrifices, including, if folks remember, the attempted sacrifice of a human by his father, yet no one bats an eyelash at that. Even Jesus’ death is considered to be the ultimate human sacrifice by Christians. The sacrificial food is later consumed by the participants in the ritual, and that includes Christians who take communion. In Catholicism, that bread and wine is considered to be the actual body and blood of Christ, while most Protestants consider it to be “symbolic”.

  3. Pitch313 says:

    I guess that a witchcraft aesthetic of some sort attracted me to Western Paganism and to West Coast Craft. But this Bohemian and Underground aesthetic was and remains markedly different from the rising one. Change goes on.