My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Saturday, 17 January 2015

My Thoughts On The 'Occult' Trend

I am a Neo-Pagan, and came into Paganism via Wiccan and follow a path that can, in many ways, be called Witchcraft, although I prefer other terms in most company because most non-Pagans get the wrong idea about the word 'witch

In many ways I quite like the 'witch' or 'occult' trend in Goth, Nu-Goth and hipster fashion at the moment; I think the aesthetic of long black skirts, ethereal fabrics, layers of long cardigans and shawls and chunky boots and big hats is quite pretty, and as long as it doesn't stray into using my religious symbols, I enjoy how those sorts of things have become trendy, especially as it means more readily available clothes for us Goths! I also find items with pentacles, triple moon symbols, triquetra symbols and similar more easily now, which is nice as it allows me to represent my faith. 

Conflation with Anti-Christian 'Satanism' 
I don't like the way the current trends are often associating Neo-Pagan and Wiccan symbols such as the pentagram with anti-Christian Satanism, and I do wonder how the LaVeyan Satanists and others feel about this trend, too. I don't like seeing my religious symbols distorted into childish "ooooo, look how daring I am wearing this occult/Satanic stuff!", as I think that it's a form of desecration. I get especially grumpy when stuff that is NOT actually to do with any kind of anti-Christian evil is depicted as such, and unfortunately a lot of it is. 

I see inverse pentacles, I see pentagrams and pentacles (point up) being depicted alongside slogans such as "hail Satan" when point-up pentagrams are primarily associated with Wicca, and were once used in Christianity (see ::this:: primer I wrote about pentacles and pentagrams). I also commonly see the 'Goat of Mendes' inverted pentagram with a goat's head and hebrew writing in the circle surrounding used, commonly in contexts trying to appear Satanic. This 'Baphomet head' symbol known as the 'Goat of Mendes' is nothing to do with my religion, or Satanism, but is from the Cabalistic and Goetic works of Stanislas de Guaita and Eliphas Lévi, with de Guaita being responsible for the artwork, and Lévi for the rites associating Baphomet as the Goat of Mendes and positing that there were links to the witchcraft the Church deemed 'satanic' in earlier times, with the goat symbolism theoretically being a carry-over from earlier Pre-Christian Pagan ritual, and in either case, is not really used in the branches of Neo-Paganism that spring from Druidry or Wicca, but sometimes in those that have closer ties to late 19thC Occultism. People just see the goat and the pentagram and see 'Satanism' - and not even one related to LaVey's Church of Satan, but one based in countless horror movies and novels, and a tradition of 'evil witches' older than the Malleus Maleficarem

It fuels the fires of a hatred for an almost non-existent version of witchcraft that has burnt for centuries. In some places, people accused of witchcraft are still killed for it, and a few centuries ago, one of my ancestors in Britain was hung for it. Witchcraft was only made legal in the UK in 1951, when the legislation banning it was replaced with the Fraudulent Mediums Act, and in 2008, more up-to-date consumer protection legislation. Have a look at ::this::.  

The groups of female witches who gathered under the full moon to copulate with the devil, sacrifice children, work curses on behalf of the devil and kept demons disguised as animals never existed, not any other local variation on that theme. They are part of a Christian nightmare, not part of any current or historical witchcraft or Neo-Pagan practice. I am sure that terming groups of Wiccans and Neo-Pagan witches 'covens' has come from these types of historical envisaging of witches, as has the use of the 'besom' or traditional broom in ritual (it's used for sweeping the area in ritual purification; it doesn't fly), as does some of the iconography of depicting part of the dualistic divine as 'The Horned God' (although there's plenty of pre-Christian symbolism and iconography in there too. He usually appears like a version of Pan, but with antlers) and a few other things were found inspiring, but we are by no means anti-Christian satanists who stay up late at night to sacrifice goats and people to our dark master and blight the lives of others. 

Our Symbols are sacred, and should be given that respect
To me it is blatant appropriation of sacred and religious symbols. I have been devoted to my faith for 13 years. I often use pentagrams, triple moon symbols, and similar as an identification of my faith to others, as part of my rituals. There are pentagrams on my altar cloth, on the carved wooden one that sits as altar centre piece, there are pentagrams on my rings (one for each hand) on the two oil burners on my altar which are only used for rituals. I know the pentagram has uses in other religions and traditions (I wrote a whole article on the symbol ::here::) but the context of this trend is 'occult' and in that case it is a symbol that is not just an icon meaning our faith, but a magical sigil that is has power in the very act of being drawn (I use it in spells), protection in its wearing, and very specific meanings that tie in very deeply with the cosmology of our faith. It's not just a pretty design. My faith is not here to be dragged into mass-market consumer capitalism. 

The way that the "ironic" wear of these symbols works plays on the idea that they're not really threatening because they're symbols of stuff that is bunk, and I don't like that. To me, it's making a mockery of my religion and turning it into a cheap commercial trend, and that feels really awful; it is taking someone's religion and reducing it to a statement of irony (to paraphrase something Fee of ::An Honest Drug:: said to me in discussion of this topic.) and that to me, as a Neo-Pagan, makes me very sad and a bit angry. 

Modern Witches and Pagans face discrimination, both privately and on an institutionalised level
I wear my pentacles every day in public, in varying levels of obviousness depending on situation. I have to think about where I am going, about whether or not I am going to get intrusive and judgemental questions about my faith, especially when combined with my obviously being a Goth. I get asked "are you a witch?" a LOT, and answering that can be tricky when the answer is technically "yes" but more often than not, not in the ways assumed and not for the reasons that assumption was made. When I was a teenager, I had to really battle to be allowed to wear my pentacle at school, when other girls were freely allowed to wear headscarves, Stars of David and crosses, and was theoretically only allowed to wear mine under my blouse, out of sight. There is a school photo where I am staring defiantly into the camera wearing a silver pentacle in plain sight, and my earrings are a pair of pentagram studs; defiance I was punished for.

I wear a pentacle at work, but in a small and discrete way, but in my own time I wear more obvious ones. I have two bags with larger and thus more visible pentacles on; a black one with a purple pentacle that is now purposed primarily for carting religious items to and from the groups I'm part of (I am now part of more working and discussion groups - part of my resolutions for this solar year), or when going to places like Clava Cairns or Craig Phadraig. The other one is a black velvet bag with a smaller pentagram on it, which is just my handbag and where the pentagram is more to identify me to other Pagans (Neo-. reconstructionist or otherwise). I like being visible in my own time; I feel like it is a reassurance and a way of silently but visibly in solidarity with other Pagans, a reminder that there is a community of us, that other Pagans are not alone, not invisible, not all hiding.

When I was new to my faith, and did not know when it was better to keep silence over my faith, and when I was at boarding school and therefore had no place that was really my own to keep my books, etc. I got horrible harassment and some pretty awful reactions from various people, institutions etc. and I still tend to keep it as something I don't mention because the reactions I usually get are either people thinking that I am crazy or that I am evil. There are sadly still people who believe that Neo-Pagans are anti-Christians that abuse children in rituals, (some paedophiles have used it as a disguise and form of intimidation, but that does not make paedophilia part of our faith, just that the cloud of misinformation about Paganism and sense of threat that has been pasted onto our faith by those who do not know or understand us makes it useful to those who would commit evil)  and that's not a good stereotype to exist when you're a Neo-Pagan that works with children. There's also the assumption amongst the more judgemental atheist types that anyone involved with the Occult is easily fooled at best and seriously mentally ill at worst, which is pretty insulting, too. 

Being Neo-Pagan cost me friends I previously trusted telling me they were now afraid of me, cost me having my own family tell me that I am going to Hell, costs me street harassment (even before I was dressing Goth, and even when I'm not) from strangers telling me I'm in league with the Devil, evil, or not welcome around their parts, and it is not something I feel I can safely mention in earshot of the pupils at the school where I work, (but my Christian, Muslim and Buddhist teachers in the past were able to mention this to their pupils without backlash), and very few of my coworkers know. There are still people who I am friends with, but around whom I don't mention my faith because they are made uncomfortable by it. 

I would suggest reading about the suicide of Tempest Smith, and about how the family of Patrick Stewart (a soldier and Wiccan, not the actor) who died in battle in Afghanistan had to fight the Department of Veterans Affairs in America to have a pentacle on his gravestone. There are plenty of other examples, but these two are probably the easiest to find articles on. 

If you are a fashionable young person wearing occult symbols as part of your trendy outfit, on your leggings, say, or on a t-shirt saying "trust no witch" (Available from Black Sails. I'm a witch, and I don't like people wearing t-shirts saying I shouldn't be trusted, perhaps more so if it's in the guise of the wearer playing the 'witch' character making veiled 'threats' as fashion statement.)  and while some very fundamentalist or strict members of other faiths (primarily the Abrahamic ones) may object, most people will assume you are doing it as part of an 'edgy trend'. People are not too likely to assume you are actually one of us, and even if they do, you can quickly tell them that they're mistaken - without lying, without denouncing your own faith. We do not have such privilege.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Craig Dunain Cemetery

Yesterday I walked up out of the city up to the old Craig Dunain Hospital buildings, being guided by some friends. Craig Dunain Hospital initially opened in Victorian times as Inverness District Lunatic Asylum, and remained a psychiatric hospital right into the '90s when they transferred all of that to the New Craigs buildings just down the road. Craig Dunain hospital has a long, and fairly well documented history. I have lost several hours to trawling the web and reading about it, and looking at photographs of the hospital at different points in its history. Anyone who has an interest in Victorian 'Lunatic Asylums' should look it up, because its history is also one of the transition from the Victorian style institutions (of which Craig Dunain was apparently relatively progressive, especially in the promotion of eating for health and the use of time in the parkland and gardens surrounding for its therapeutic qualities - something that is once again being seen as valuable to mental health recovery) to modern mental healthcare, as the site was used until relatively recently, and was more shifted along the road to newer buildings than really closed. 

Photographed through the wire fence. Photo by Housecat
I have been up to that part of the city before, but not all the way to to the old hospital complex, and I was amazed by how huge it was, and what a beautiful old building it had initially been before time, neglect and several fires took their toll. Having seen old photographs of the interior, it apparently initially had quite lovely Victorian details, some of which were in a Gothic Revival style. Having looked at more recent photographs by an urban explorer at ::this:: page, it looked like some of the interior survived until 2003, but having been heavily altered over the years. Now it looks like it was entirely gutted, presumably by the fires, and parts of the roofs have collapsed, and looking from the outside through some windows, it looks like there's nothing left of the interior and it's just a shell. Either way, it now gives me the creeps, despite being the kind of architecture I quite like - maybe it's just all the fire-damage and scaffold reinforcements that tell me it's now an obviously dangerous and unstable ruin, or maybe it's the local stories about the place, some of which are quite grim, or maybe it's because other people have told me they've been in it and it's definitely haunted by some rather restless spirits, but it certainly had a sense of great foreboding. I stayed at the roadside, outside the perimeter fence - and even that felt too close sometimes.

As the photographs show, it was a cold, frosted and snowy day, with lots of icy paths for me to slip on, and a pale and wan sun. It was, at least, not too cloudy a day, just one where the sun never rose particularly high, and rapidly dipped low again behind the hill. There was settled snow on exposed surfaces, but underneath the tree cover, it was just cold, with a slight mist or low cloud. 

Snowy Ground. Photograph by Housecat

Beyond it, it what was once part of the hospital's parkland, beyond some woodland, is a small cemetery. Beside it is a plaque explaining a bit about its history, and a proper military memorial for one person interred within the cemetery who earned the Victoria Cross in Victorian times, but was left severely injured and suffering from what would probably be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder today, and ended up institutionalised in the old Craig Dunain and buried somewhere within the graveyard in a pauper's grave. 

Looking over the graveyard wall. Photo by Housecat

There only appear to be two grave-markers still standing in the graveyard itself, but there's mossy mounds that look like broken graves rather than tree stumps, and my friend assures me that there used to be more grave markers. According to a quote on the plaque from when the cemetery was new, it was built "for the interment of patients not removed by their friends" - it seems so sad that there were enough people who died at that hospital and were not collected for burial by friends and family, and instead were interred here. There seems to have only ever been a handful of stone markers - indicating that some at leat did not have pauper's graves, as stone memorials have always been expensive - but I guess the majority had simple wooden crosses that have long since rotted away. Apparently much was done to make the graveyard a pretty floral garden with nice trees, but the trees rapidly over-took the garden, especially as much of the trees are yew, and yew kills whatever is beneath it. There are two enclosures, one with an external gate, that I presume was the initial cemetery, and another of equal size beside it, which I presume was an extension, and is accessed internally. The cemetery was closed in 1895, when they ran out of space. I don't know what happened to people who died at Craig Dunain after 1895.  

A remaining marker, a stone cross. Photo by HouseCat

Nearby in the woods are three small crosses, lanterns and floral tributes that seem to be from the last year or two, and perhaps are markers for scattered ashes, or as there is a pet cemetery for the pets of patients and residents of Craig Dunain, and of what appeared to be 'ward' pets, maybe the crosses mark further pet burials. I didn't take any photographs of the crosses, or of the pet cemetery. 

The dividing wall between the two enclosures.

It seems sad to me that these people seemed almost forgotten at the time of their deaths, at least by people outside of the hospital, and that now there is little to remember them by except for the wall and some trees - only two markers, most graves without anything recording the names of those buried within. It is not that they are from so long ago that time has forgotten them - there are plenty of markers in the cemeteries within the city that still have names from before 1864 when the hospital was first opened. I have read that in times past, families would basically abandon relatives deemed insane, and carry on as if they had never existed, bound by the stigma around mental illness and behaviours then not socially acceptable. I wish someone would go through the old hospital records, because there must have been some record, even if it was just for the expense of hiring someone to dig a grave, and to place a plaque by the cemetery listing all those buried within, so that they don't remain forgotten. 

I apologise for photo quality; they were taken on my smartphone rather than my proper camera. Photographs edited in a combination of GIMP, which I am just learning to use, and PicMonkey. 

Friday, 26 December 2014

Inverness Churches, Dark Skies and Winter Weather

These were taken before the Christmas holidays, when I was on my lunch-break from work, having taken the bus into town. I have a later lunch than most, so it was mid afternoon when I went for my break, and the weather was rolling in to get dark early - earlier than the roughly 3:30 time the sunsets seem to start in the depth of winter here. Inverness is surrounded by hills and mountains that significantly raise the horizon, meaning that the sun has far less distance to go to set, plus, for American readers, we're a wee bit further North than Sitka in Alaska (for comparison's sake) and to European readers, we're similar to Yaroslavl in Russia and a bit south of Gothenburg in Sweden! Anyway, the general result of the cloud and latitude and season was to create some rather atmospheric lighting and I took the opportunity to take these photographs in the city. 

Photograph by me. 

This is the Free Church of Scotland on Bank Street, as seen across the graveyard of the neighbouring Old High Church. I think this is the first photograph I have taken of it from this angle. The clouds rolling in are pretty dramatic in this photograph, and I think it best captures the weather. 

Photograph by me

I took a few photographs of the church tower from very similar angles that day. I read in the papers recently (I think it was the Inverness Courier...)  that the congregation can no longer afford the insurance, and that it may have to close. I think that would be a vey sad fate for what is a very beautiful and very old building. I hope that their fundraising goes well. 

Here is the same building again, this time in colour, and from an almost identical angle. I think in colour the low sun is more visible, and the warm reds of the masonry. It's a lovely, lovely old church and has been a city landmark for centuries - I really do hope it manages to get funding both to remain open and keep the building in good repair. I am not Christian, but I do appreciate good architecture, and I do appreciate the role the various churches have in the community locally (I know that they run a lot of local charitable ventures, and are linked to the food-bank, etc.), so things like the possible closure of this church make me sad. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Last Night I Led My First Group Ritual

Last night, I and a group of close Pagan friends celebrated Solstice together. It is not the first time I've been in a group ritual, or involved in the planning of one, but it is the first time the entire ritual was my responsibility.  

A big responsibility. 

I take my faith quite seriously, I take the Divine seriously, and I feel like that leading a ritual involves some big things to be responsible for - I am responsible for being suitably respectful to the Divine, for leading a spiritually fulfilling ritual, for making sure there's no fire hazards and basic and simple risk assessment. 

The last is the most practical and the most easy; place pointy things on the altar where people aren't liable to accidentally cut themselves, check for allergies to incense, make sure the ritual space is free of trip hazards, and remind those participating who have long hair that I once set part of my then-long hair on fire accidentally because it caught in the flame of a candle, and make sure said candles and incense aren't liable to incinerate either my flat or my friends! I personally have co-ordination, proprioception and spacial awareness difficulties for neurological reasons, so I have to be extremely careful around fire and sharp implements. 

The first two were a bit more difficult, and required a lot more thought and research. I didn't really want to do a ritual that was from a book (although I have quite the library of Pagan texts) or copy someone else's ritual. I wanted our ritual to be personal to us, but I also wanted it to be respectful and successful as a spiritual experience and a seasonal marker. I watched a lot of videos of rituals on YouTube, and thought about each one very carefully, analysing what worked and what did not, and realised that a lot of rituals seem a bit like amateur dramatics done by the less talented, and started feeling like a clergy role in any religion requires certain talents and learnt skills, and that perhaps even for an adhoc role leading an informal event, I am not the best person for this. The established religions have centuries of ritual tradition, set liturgy and thorough training for their clergy - Pagans don't; we mostly have a few decades of tradition-building, a bit longer for groups derived from Druid-revival groups from the 18th and 19thC, and also those from the older Occult orders, but dedicated Pagan seminaries are small and rare, and people who become Pagan clergy from a more 'home-grown' background very common. There's a distinct dearth of legally recognised Pagan clergy, too, but that is another issue for another day. 

My background before Paganism is a mixture of Anglican and Catholic Christianity, and that sets a very high benchmark in terms of ritual expectation! As a Pagan, most of the rituals I have attended have either been as part of a teenage coven that was more of a learning experience than a ritual group, and at public rituals hosted by experienced leaders of working groups, and mostly Druids, whom I respect greatly, but are not the same on the path ( not the same 'denomination' to non-Pagans) as mine. 

The structure for Neo-Pagan ritual often has its roots in Gardenerian tradition and early-to-mid twentieth century Wicca. It's the ritual structure I am comfortable and familiar with, so it is the ritual structure I chose to follow. Filling in that structure with my own words, altering it to fit the season and the group and our resources was my challenge. I also wanted the ritual to have a natural sense of both structure and flow, and to be a conduit for personal spiritual experience, rather than an artistic performance of Pagan symbolism. 

I did not want the medium through which we performed ritual to get in the way of the sacredness that is ritual, I did not want the focus to be on my in the role of 'acting High Priestess' or  the poetry (or lack thereof) of the words I spoke or the clumsiness of my movements around the ritual space, or on people needing to remember their lines, I wanted the focus to be on immanent Divine, on the personal connection to the solar cycles, on the personal connection to the shifting seasons, on the metaphors and parallels we can draw between seasonal change and personal change, and on a connective and spiritual ritual. I did not want the invocation of the elements to just be detached nature poetry; I wanted people to think about the elements as present around them, in them, and invoked less as a summoning, but more as an acknowledgement of their power and presence, the same for the invocations of the Divine.

I also had a lot of time pressures, and I ended up rushing the scripting, which meant that while I wrote a lot of it myself, in the end I had to do what I really did not want to do, and in places use the words someone else's ritual. I used the least I could, but read out from one of Scott Cunningham's Yule ritual - excerpts from the Yule ritual in 'Wicca For The Solitary Practitioner' - for a few sections.

I think the most successful part was when we were free to meditate quietly on what the Solstice meant to each of us, and we all got to contribute our views. I think it being a small group helped those who are a bit more quiet and more reticent to speak up to participate. It also gave me time to stop focusing on whether I was doing a good job of leading the ritual, and connect myself. I don't know how well the ritual worked for the others who participated yet, as I haven't really done a full after-ritual debriefing, but feedback so far seems positive.

Ritual leadership is difficult, and takes works and practice, and I didn't expect a perfect ritual for my first one. I tried my best, and in future I know to be more organised and to script the ritual fully days in advance, not write a rough outline and then fill it in earlier that day, and I am considering doing things like getting a little book stand so I can both keep an eye on whatever ritual text I am working from, whether from my own Book of Shadows, my own script or from someone else's, and hold the Ritual Tools to perform actions. I am also thinking that memorising certain sections, like the circle casting chant, would be a good idea, and help keep the focus on the Divine rather than on enacting the ritual. I need to work on being confident when leading ritual, and letting things flow through me, rather than feeling like I have to be a source. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

International Winter Lolita Day

There are two International Lolita days, one in the summer on the first Saturday in June, and one on the first Saturday in September.  Personally, I am more of a dabbler in Lolita and prefer dressing in Romantic Goth as there's more variety of anachronistic fashion to choose from, but I certainly rather like wearing Lolita fashion, so I thought I'd put together a co-ord (outfit) for International Lolita Day. 

International Lolita Day was founded back in 2005 as a day to wear Lolita in public, raise awareness of the fashion/hobby/lifestyle that Lolita is, and to try and meet up with other Lolitas. Lolita is not a well known fashion style amongst the mainstream - its more Gothic incarnations often get confused with Goth (understandable, as Gothic Lolita is a hybrid of Goth and Lolita fashion) and the other variants are often assumed to be some sort of costume. I've heard a lot of Sweet Lolitas have people assume that their fashion is some sort of age-play fetish - while I guess it is for a minority, that's certainly not what it is for most sweet Lolitas! Thankfully Lolita does not have the same 'Satanic' and 'evil' reputation as Goth has been ascribed by the ignorant, but it's still not fun when people assume things about wanting to be a 'living doll' or that it is some kind of fetish when it isn't. 

Outfit run-down: ♕ Wig: Coscraft ♕ Headdress: handmade by me ♕ Capelet: Fan + Friend ♕ Chiffon long-sleeve blouse: off-brand ♕ Small necklace & matching earrings: eBay ♕ Large cameo necklace: Rock & Roar ♕ JSK: Baby, The Stars Shine Bright ♕ Tights: offbrand Shoes: TUK

My outfit was deliberately quite Old School and while there were certainly Gothic touches (the skeletal maidens on the cameos, the skulls on my shoes) most of it was of a more "bows and ruffles" sort of style. I wanted to make this co-ord distinct from the very Goth stuff I normally wear. I think my Lolita outfits are improving with both practice and an expanded Lolita wardrobe. The eye-swirls are not typical of Lolita, but they're sort of a signature make-up style for me, so I was not going to leave it out! Any constructive criticism is welcome. I apologise for the photo quality - usually I would get my partner to take pictures, but he was on night-shift and I didn't want to wake him up during the (very short hours of daylight) day just for some outfit picturess! As such, really bad quality selfies will have to do, and there's no full-body shot, only what I could get in the half-length mirror.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Gothic Dublin

My official Domesticated Goth e-mail inbox gets a lot of requests. Half the time, they get buried under all the chaos of my life. One thing that popped up was a request on behalf of ::Visit Dublin:: about a promotion of the Gothic aspects of the city. As my blog shows, I am quite a fan of Gothic tourism, especially when it comes to cities with beautiful buildings and fascinating history. Most of my travels since starting this blog have been confined to Scotland, but I have been to Ireland in the past, briefly staying in Dublin, visiting Glendalough as a teen, and having a more extended stay in Cork with Raven's family (his aunt is lovely and let us stay at her place). 

Graphic used with permission

This is from the ::Gothic Heart of Dublin:: guide to Gothic culture in Dublin.  I'm quite a fan of the graphic; I'd probably buy one if I went there and could get them as souvenirs. 

I only stayed in Dublin for a night, and I got there late and left early; I did not get to see much of the city. It's certainly somewhere I would love to visit properly, so when I got the e-mail, I had a good look to think of places to put on the itinerary if I went again. I saw that the Dominion club night was not on the flier, and in looking it up found out that it is on indefinite hiatus. I have no idea what happened to it, but I had heard good things about it and was looking forward to some good clubbing if I ever got there! The gargoyles and Gothic architecture sound like exactly the sort of thing I would go to a city to see! 

This was aimed at the Bram Stoker festival that has just passed (did any of my Irish readers go to that? Any of my readers travel to Ireland for it?) but I presume that most of the sights and entertainment are fairly permanent fixtures. Where else would any readers who are familiar with Dublin recommend? Who has already been to Dublin? Maybe next year, or the year after, or whenever we next travel to Ireland (and with Raven's family being there, there will probably be a next time, eventually...) I will go to Dublin, take in a few of the sights and sites mentioned and return with some more photographs for the blog. 

Acceptance, Defiance and Difference

Is mainstream acceptance a blessing, or does it mean that we can no longer engage in sartorial protest against the failings of the mainstream?

This post was inspired by my musings after watching the section on not wanting to be acceptable in ::this:: video by Jwlhyfer de Winter.

Personally, most of the long-term Goths I've met have been more about keeping true to their selves, their unusual fascination with the dark, the macabre, the sinister, in the face of opposition of a society that feared and loathed those things than engaging in an active rebellion; wanting to shock and 'be a rebel' always seemed the realm of teenagers for whom Goth was a means to express teenage angst and rail against the world as it is revealed to be deeply unfair, rather than a core motivation of the subculture. I've often argued that no, we're not in it to shock, we're not in it for the attention, we're just here to enjoy our own thing, that it is purely motivated by a desire to express ourselves, our interests and passions and our creativity. 

But Goth evolved from Punk, and Punk involved fashion as a political statement, and Goth as well - it was a deliberate embracing of imagery and symbolism that was provocative; it was making a statement, yet I was not even born yet when people declared "punk is dead", and while the subculture and values will probably never die, I think Punk's viability as a counterculture rather than subculture has wained.  

Partly, times have simply moved on, and actions and fashions that were once capable of being a viable statement of more than just one's sartorial proclivities are now seen as simply being shocking for attention, and possibly ticket and music sales - a publicity stunt, either personal or as an entertainer. Marilyn Manson's criticisms of the church and society are largely ignored as his shock rock is seen as a way to titillate, provoke and make him an awful lot of money. That sort of thing is nothing new! I think it was Paganini who helped propagate rumours that he had sold his soul to the devil for his talents, because it boosted concert attendance - people wanted to hear the devil play - and Marilyn Manson, the "antichrist superstar" can be seen as not that different. This is not to say I don't like Marilyn Manson (or Paganini), but that their very attempts to shock us with a message can get cynically dismissed, and the message becomes lost.

Fashion as a means to shock is loosing it's power too - even Lady GaGa's most ridiculous outfits, while they initially were discussed by the media as so daring, or making a mockery, or even disgusting (the infamous "meat dress"), discussion of her clothes has been relegated to the gossip papers, and she no longer shocks, if she ever really did. Discussions as to whether her whole stage persona was an elaborately self-parodying send-up of the pop-industry became discussion of her as just another pop-star. She's probably one of the few pop musicians whose output I like (at least her earlier tracks) and I appreciated the dark aesthetic of many of her videos, but the question of whether she was really creating a tapestry of thickly woven satire, parody and irony behind her 'poker face' or whether she was simply another person looking for fame and stardom by being as dramatic and weird and shocking as possible is as yet to be resolved - personally, I think the lyric content of her songs points that she is in fact creating her own artistic of protest of the very establishment of popular entertainment that sustains her. 

Neither of the two artists above are Goth, though, and although I think that they have definitely been influenced by the Gothic aesthetic, if not the subculture, and have then themselves, in their prominence in the parent cultural mainstream, fed back into the subculture. This is mostly because the bands and musicians who became famous enough to make a visible musical and political statement and who fit as Punks or Goths (or whom were labeled as such) did so either before I was born, or before I was old enough to understand what was going on, and that contemporary bands are working within an established genre and subculture rather than breaking new ground in terms of their ethos - even if people are certainly continuing to be original musically. 

It does not seem to me that shock tactics are really going to work in a world that has had decades to get used to Punks and Goths, and the only people who will be shocked are those who are comparatively conservative by the standards of the mainstream, and more is being done to change them by time and progress and by their ideology being challenged than by us dressing in the most morbid black and proclaiming our love for what they will find outrageous - that tends to get us vilified more than achieve actual change.

As a teen, I adopted Goth as a means to annoy those around me who tried to force me to conform to a set of values that did not suit me - those who were homophobic, religiously intolerant, those who tried to stifle my creativity, deny my differences, and force me to be something they would accept but was alien to my self. My sartorial defiance of the rules  as a teenager, brought upon me a whole heap of erroneous assumptions, and my power to shock was far outweighed by the power of others to make my life miserable - it only made my immediate situation worse. I might have been defiant and I will still never change who I am to suit others - but I also did not change those around me; I simply outlasted them and moved away and moved on. It taught me a lesson in resilience, but it did nothing to alter those who already disliked me, rather it provoked some into actually despising me and it was confrontational enough to simply further entrench them. All I can be is living proof that the were wrong. 

With the shock value taken away, it means that instead of reacting to something provocative, those who come across us have the emotional distance to listen more carefully to the statements we want to make; I think we can deliver a sartorial message that is more subtle, but no less potent. Our clothes speak of embracing our own mortality, looking unflinchingly at that which can terrify us, of embodying our demons to overcome them, of drawing power from the symbolism of witches, vampires and zombies and using those symbols and concepts as lenses and metaphors for the world around us, we can walk around as dark reversal of the bright colours of the old aristocracy; we can be the portraits of Dorian Grey, and as we are not trying to shout in the face of the world, we can do all this and be listened to - Jillian Venters is onto something with her "subversion through politeness". 

I prefer our being accepted, or at least tolerated by the mainstream, because it's frankly a lot better than the constant harassment and threats of violence (often escalating to actual violence ) that I, and other Goths used to face (and depending on location, still face), and how I got treated as if I was genuinely an evil degenerate, the revulsion, the way people looked down on me. I don't want others to be bullied, harassed or attacked - I don't want them to suffer the same ire and disrespect as I did, that's part of why I write this blog; to educate people and promote a more tolerant atmosphere.

In my consideration, the burgeoning acceptance of Goths also signifies how Gothic values, especially those from the pre-subculture, literary/art movement meaning of the word - the Gothic in terms of the sublime, the dark, the morbid, etc. are being embraced by more people. I think we've had a positive affect in getting people to appreciate the dark! It is becoming mainstream, it is being embraced by the establishment - something of a double-edged sword! What I  really don't like is when the Gothic becomes another trend to latch onto in the eyes of the corporate, consumerist machine - when it becomes just another "fashion" detached from its symbolism, from its roots, from the subculture that spawned it, and its longer past (which the British Library and the BBC have done a valiant and educational effort to avoid in a recent exhibition and documentary - the documentary I will review soon, and the exhibition as soon as I go to England and visit it!).

Let it be clear that I am not advocating our changing to become more acceptable; we are doing nothing wrong, nothing that needs to change - it is those that come at us with hatred, with insults, with judgements and debasement. We do not need to become acceptable; the world needs to become accepting, and at least in my experience over the last 10+ years I've been Goth, the world slowly is, and my thanks goes towards groups like the ::Sophie Lancaster Foundation:: for helping to make it so.