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, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. 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.

Goth 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, the expression of that in Goth rock. It 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 (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, 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. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Friday 28 August 2020

Romantic Goth: My first love in Goth style

Aesthetically, Romantic Goth is my first and most constant love. Yes, my hair is a fantastical set of neon colours, but they owe more to the myth of mermaids drowning sailors than to the CyberGoth hybrid subculture - although I like that sort of more danceable industrial too! 

A woman with neon-green to royal blue gradient hair, neon green at the top, fading through emerald green and aqua to the deep blues of the ocean. She has pale skin, and dramatic make-up. She is wearing eyeshadow in neon green, emerald green and bright blue, with metalic violet and black eyeliner in a 'winged' style, and black mascara. She has vines in a swirling design drawn on the right side of her face. She is wearing green metallic lipstick outlined in metallic violet. She is wearing a high-necked velvet top with a v-neck style mesh insert, and with one arm across her body she is showing that the sleeves of the top are mesh, terminating in a point at her hand. She is wearing a pewter pendant of a winged Grim Reaper from Alchemy Gothic. Her hair is long, with a fringe and a thin braid either side of her face. She is in a room with dark purple walls.
This top from :Punk Rave: has inner mesh sleeves.
The outer sleeves are velvet and split all the way to the elbow

The first time I saw a Goth was probably 1993; my family had gone to Reading - a town in Berkshire - for some shopping, but this happened to coincide with the Reading Festival, one of the UK's largest rock festivals. I think The Cure were playing that year, and a lot of Goths turned up. The one I remember most clearly, was a woman in a deep red crushed velvet fantasy dress with bleached platinum hair back-combed; a more colourful variant on the usually black version of this look. I thought this was beautiful, the prettiest lady I had seen, and unfortunately, being a small child with no appreciation for - or understanding of -what was taboo in my household, I think I said something excited about this, and got sharply chastised by my mother who dragged me away and gave me a lecture on how these were bad and dangerous people I shouldn't associate with... but I think the seed was sown, and that aesthetic imprint stayed with me. 

A woman with hair that is a gradient from neon green through aqua to royal blue, wearing a velvet blouse with double sleeves, a faux-leather cincher (both black) and necklace of a winged grim reaper made from pewter stands infront of a silver and black damask pattern curtain
Me in my study: my aesthetics aren't limited to my clothes.
The velvet top I am wearing the Saphira top from :Punk Rave:

I've been a fan of the Romantic Gothic aesthetic ever since - that wonderful mix of the macabre, fantastical and historical, and this post is something of a paean to that.  

The Romantic Gothic aesthetic is certainly one that is enjoyed outside of the Goth musical subculture, and one that pre-dates it; it's that Hammer Horror, Elvira, and 'vampire' aesthetic of villains and supernatural creatures that has existed for centuries. It's not surprising that is has been adopted by fans of the Gothic in general as well as Goth, and being visually striking, it's also not surprising that a lot of people come to the aesthetic before the music (same with all Goth and Gothic styles).  I was one of those people, and although I came to the Goth subculture eventually, it was a path that went via lots of Symphonic Metal and bands like Evanesence, Nightwish, and Within Temptation where that aesthetic was prominent. There were plenty of films with gorgeous costumes, too, especially older horror films and a good few fantasy films with more 'Gothic' looking villains and villainesses. I saw all that and I wanted to look like them. It was magical, romantic, otherworldly, and while I knew it was a costume, but every now and again I would see someone, maybe online, maybe walking through the Queensgate shopping mall in Peterborough or past some Oxford colleges, or maybe in Shrinking Violets in Bristol, who dressed that way, in ordinary life, and I knew it was possible.

The first Goth shop I went into was actually a Hippie shop called Rod & Maureen's in Peterborough, that had a Gothic section in its upstairs. I was more into fantasy-inspired hippie clothes at the time, but I saw some gorgeous purple velvet dresses in there... The second was probably Mystic Rose in the Harris Arcade in Reading, where I wanted everything Raven and Alchemy Gothic made, but could barely afford a pair of earrings, then I went to the indoor market - St. Nick's - in Bristol - while I was in my Steampunk phase, and I bought my first ever made-for-Goth item, a black frock-coat, to wear with a white frilly shirt from a mainstream store, and green velvet trousers, and whatever brocade waistcoat I could find, a monocle and a cheap costume-shop 'top-hat', or with a high-necked blouse, and a floor-length purple velvet skirt from a hippie shop... I still have that coat, although I'm a now a bit too busty to fit it.

I wasn't allowed on eBay as a teen, and I didn't have PayPal, so I mostly relied on charity shops; mail-order catalogs and Goth shops were generally more than I could afford, and while my Dad didn't openly disapprove, he was hardly going to let me spend money on that sort of fashion.  I rapidly learned that I wasn't going to find exactly what I wanted in Oxfam, and that I would have to learn to modify things, and rapidly learned to apply lace and better buttons to things, and how to do other simple modifications. With a limited budget, basic sewing skills, and a general lack of time and resources, I was a long way from looking like an evil sorceress-queen or a vampire lord, or really looking like anything that was vaguely put-together, but with patience, improving my sewing skills, and finally getting access to the great secondhand resources of eBay and the like, well as becoming an adult and having a full-time job, I could finally start to build a wardrobe that I really like. 

A woman with hair that is neon green at the top, in a gradient to royal blue at the bottom. Her hair is long, down to her bust, and she has a small braid either side of her face and a fringe. She is wearing heavy dramatic makeup in colours matching her hair - neon green, emerald green and tropical blue eye-shadow with black and violet winged eyeliner, metallic green lips lined in metallic violet, and ornate swirling vines down the right side of her face. She is wearing a black velvet top with a high neckline and a mesh v-neck cut out. She is wearing a pewter Alchemy Gothic pendant of the Grim Reaper with wings
New hair-do required matching make-up

A decade and a half later and it literally is enough clothes for two wardrobes  and several boxes, because I'm something of a clothes collector now. I'm slowly scouring the internet for all the beautiful dresses I pined over as a teen but which were then far out of my price-range, and finding them secondhand on the internet for about £15 -£20, and then customising them with lace and trims. There's a meme on the internet 'be the Goth queen your 12 year old self dreamed of' and while 'queen' isn't always the aesthetic I'm going for ('prince', 'pirate', and 'terrifying bog-witch' sometimes), it's something I feel strongly about; it might have taken many years to get there, but I've actually achieved a (fairly minor) goal; I look like the kind of person my younger self admired. 

I went through a lot of style switches and hopped subcultures as a teen, but even when I was dabbling in Steampunk or a more 'Hippie' aesthetic, things with lace-up details, big bell sleeves, lots of lace, full skirts, brocade waistcoats, velvet trousers, etc. always ended up in my wardrobe. It appealed to my love of history and also to my love of fantasy - whether that was the graceful elves of Lord of the Rings or the decadent vampires of 'Interview with a Vampire' - it also always felt luxurious to be wearing this rich fabrics and fancy lace, and growing up very poor, I'd had very little luxury. At some point I would like to do an article on class dynamics and the 'fantasy aristocrat' aesthetic, but this isn't going to be it. 

I think there's an element of escapism, in that Romantic Goth clothes let you dress like something apart from the regular world, but I don't think it's necessarily a pretense; there's a little of that when it starts getting into painting yourself an undead grey/white, wearing contact lenses and fangs, latex ear prosthetics etc. deliberately looking like a fantasy creature, but that tends to be reserved for the sorts of festivals where taking on a persona is part of the fun, or for photoshoots - one step down from LARPing, but for most people involved, we don't think we're literally vampires, demons, sorceresses and fae, nor are we LARPing - what we're doing is expressing our fandom, our enjoyment of literature, film, comics and art depicting fantastical themes. I can't speak for others, but I'm not trying to take on a persona (sometimes I do as a bit of a joke, but it's several layers deep in irony and campiness), I'm expressing what I love in those things.It's not about being the villain, it's about having their  wardrobe; it's not about being someone else, it's about being enthusiastically and outrageously myself.

My decor is stereotypically Goth in black and silver

To me, Romantic Goth embracing all the decadence, drama and fanciful things that many people only allow to be expressed in the realms of fantasy; there is no reason other than social acceptability to NOT to dress like that. Building my identity positionally to 'the mainstream' is something I think is pretty pointless, and I don't dress differently as some act of defiance, but it's not like I'm oblivious to the fact I stand out, that even many other Goths dress a lot more casually than I do, especially with the popularity of the more minimalist Nu-Goth aesthetic at the moment. I turn heads, and not always in a good way; I don't like attention even if it's positive, and while I disregard the negative opinions of strangers as irrelevant, it's a lot harder (and stupider) to ignore when that escalates to outright aggression. However, as I've written about before, I will never trade expressing myself for blending in.

While a lot of Romantic Goth takes historical inspiration, primarily Medieval Europe, Baroque and Victorian, and more recently there's an increasing interest in the Norse cultures of the 8thC to 11thC, there's a wide variation from those who are interested in getting the historical attire correct for the period, with the right shoes, undergarments, and maybe some actual elements of antique dress, to those who are less interested in recreating history and more interested in being creative with the inspiration - I am certainly the latter; I love history (hence my second degree studies being in history & archaeology), and I also know how much time, effort and research it takes to do historical garb justice, and I don't have that time, sewing skill, or money to pay someone who does. I also love the creativity and aesthetics of the more fantasy orientated designs. I do like to borrow elements from historical dress, especially Edwardian and Victorian, sometimes a little 18thC stuff, but I don't want to recreate history, just use it for inspiration. 

I've noticed a slight decline in the Romantic Goth aesthetic - I think it was pretty popular in the '90s, and then with the explosion of Goth-specific manufacturers, became a lot more accessible in the '00s, but in recent years the Pastel Goth and Nu-Goth aesthetics have dominated, although the 'witchy' aesthetic that was previously characterised by white-on-black occult prints seems to be shifting to something involving more black dresses, with the same big black hats popularised by American Horror Story: Coven. There's also a lot of people into a Norse aesthetic at the moment - 'Vikings' 'Norsemen' 'Vinland Saga' and 'The Last Kingdom' probably contributing strongly to that! I think there's something perennial about Romantic Goth, and while which particular fantasy/supernatural icon or historical period dominate, it will continue. A lot of the older Romantic Goth brands seem to have dwindled, although some like Sinister and Dark*Star are still going strong, but new ones - like the sponsor of this post, ::Punk Rave:: are filling that niche. 

I accepted the ::Punk Rave:: sponsorship because I've bought quite a few clothes from them in the past, and I've always been impressed by both the attention to detail and the quality. They're at the pricier end of the scale, so I tend to buy new clothes from them once in a while, but even secondhand they are well worth checking out because the clothes are durable enough that they'll still be in good repair. These are definitely clothes worth the money. I really love their take on the Romantic Goth aesthetic, as there's a lot of influence from Gothic Lolita and Visual Kei aesthetics, which is refreshing compared the usual Western fare. Unlike many Goth brands, Punk Rave actually show their factory on their website and have their clothes made within the company rather than outsourced to a supplier; this allows for a lot more oversight in quality, and my guess is that the better fabric choices came when they opened their own factory, as their very early garments had lace that really wasn't as nice as it is now. Punk Rave's lace is often FAR nicer than I see on many other brands - no scratch raschel lace! A $50 coupon is wonderful, and I will be putting it towards ::a lovely cloak:: from them, but my opinion isn't bought - I will only ever recommend brands I genuinely trust. 

A Gothic woman standing. Behind her is a dark purple wall with a poster of the phases of the moon/moon calendar for 2020. To her left is a black wall with an assortment of ornate silver frames, and a dark-brown wooden cabinet with  glass front of several Gothic arches, on top of which is a silver and black damask table-runner and many ornate silver-coloured items. Behind her to the right is a stack of books on art, architecture and archaeology. She is wearing a close-fitting black velvet top with a v-neck mesh insert at the neck; the sleeves of the blouse have the outer velvet layer split from the wrist to the elbow so the droop down and reveal a mesh inner sleeve. She has an hourglass figure achieved with a corset. She is wearing a faux-lether waist-cincher over her clothes; it laces up at the front, but this is a false closure. She is wearing a black velvet skirt that is close fitting at the top, but flares at the bottom. It has mesh insert panels at the bottom and a 'hankerchief' hem
What is that expression I've got??

As a bonus for reading this far, have a 'blooper reel' picture of me in an awkwardly imperious pose - it's an out of context image from me trying to film a room decor tour, but at least you get to see the whole outfit with faux-leather cincher and mesh insert skirt. I will try again at filming a tour of my study decor, which is just as Romantic Goth as my clothes are - my love for the aesthetic goes far beyond just fashion. Check out my Instagram account of @domesticatedgoth for more decor pictures. I'm wearing a corset in the photo; those elasticated cinchers don't give an hourglass figure. 

Wednesday 1 April 2020

Study/Studio Re-Decoration Part 4: Worktop & Workspace

This is the part of this room that is most used for the purposes of studying and art. I've shared a lot of my Book Nook and meditation space because it's probably the part I feel is most finished and which I am happiest with, as well as being most relevant to the Witchcraft-related topics I've been writing about recently. However, that is not really the primary purpose of the room; literally it's just a corner in an alcove off my study, and my study's main purpose is to be where I study for university and where I do things relating to art.

A photograph looking along a faux-marble desk towards a window and corner. The window is so bright that it looks mostly white, with a purple pentagram lantern barely visible. There is a curly black wrought iron candle-stick on the window-ledge, with three small purple candles in sockets each slightly higher than the one before, and the purple candles are at slightly jaunty angles. There is a small purple vase on the window-ledge with incense sticks. Several wind-chimes hang in the window, indistinct in the bright light. The window-frame is off-white. Black moulded dado-rail runs from under the window-ledge and around to the adjoining wall. On the adjoining wall, into the corner, there are a set of shelves, three of which are visible; they are above the desk and dado-rail. The shelves are black on ornate Gothic style reproduction Victorian cast-iron brackets, and the front edges of the shelves have thin moulded trim along them. On the shelves are an assortment of tubs and boxes, ornate with predominantly black, grey, silver and purple as the colours. There are also several skull ornaments, and a lavender glasss orb hanging from the second bracket up, nearest the camera. In the corner is a black Lenovo computer, turned off; the monitor is obscuring most of the PC tower, and the keyboard and mouse are visible; the mouse has been left on the keyboard. The faux marble desk is mostly clear except a grey vintage-style desk-lamp, a tablet computer resting on a black swirly metal recipe book stand, and an object that looks like a book with an ornate purple and gold cover, but which is actually a Harry Potter theme lamp with the cover reading 'Liber Lux'; the Harry Potter book-lamp is on a silver recipe-book stand. The wall adjacent to the window, above the desk, is mostly a dark, rich purple. On the purle wall, nearer the camera, there is a mirror in the shape of a wide Gothic arch in a wooden frame; the mirror glass is subdivided horizontally into three thin Gothic arches, two shortm one tall one in the middle - with wire. At the bottom of the wooden mirror frame are three black metal hooks unused. Above the mirror, three purple glass hearts - two bright purple, almost fuchsia and one dark violet - are visible suspended, but what they are suspended from is cropped off at the top of the photograph. Under the dado rail that runs from under the window-ledge along both visible walls is a greyscale wallpaper of Gothic arches, a reproduction if an 1830's style, with a slightly crude wood-block effect. On top of the PC tower in the corner is a mostly wooden candle-holder; it is an ornately carved wooden Gothic arch with a mirror in, on a wooden base, with a purple taper-candle in a brass socket in front of the mirror; the candle-holder is at an oblique angle. Also in the foreground is a metal spice rack, in the same twisted metal tubing and spiral design style as the recipe-book stands; it is slightly thicker metal and powder-coated matte black. At the bottom of the spice-rack is a spindle supporting two visible rolls of tape, on the top shelf of the spice-rack, cropped from view, are art materials in shallow metal tray-tins. The re-purposed spice rack is in the fore-ground, at the far right of the image, and is partially cropped. The image is poorly lit as the room is dingy, and the window is much, much brighter than the room; the effect is dark, subdued and closed-in. The whole collection of visible objects gives a witchy, eclectic aesthetic, especially the purple walls and ornament on much that is visible. The photograph looks like it was taken in the afternoon.
Work-top and too-small window, computer and shelves
My computer is shoved in the corner by the window to minimise the glare on my screen and to maximise available worktop space, while simultaneously hiding the ugly PC tower as best as I could; modern electronics are completely out of keeping with my aesthetic. Eventually, probably after I upgrade my hardware, I would like to build a new case for the tower based off Gothic architectural aesthetics, and probably a matching screen for my monitor.  

My study is dingy because my window is overly small and my walls are dark. Most of the time I end up working there after dark anyway, so it is not much of a bother as I rely on artificial light anyway, but it does make trying to photograph the room in daylight sometimes a tad difficult, especially in the low sun of early spring. 

 On the far left is a window ingo brightly illuminated but also painted a lighter shade of purple, stenciled with tile patterns in silver and green. Part of a purple pentagram lantern, and three sets of windchimes. There is a black Lenovo PC tower with a wooden Gothic arch mirror that is also candle-holder for a purple dinner-style candle. Above the computer are black shelves with moulded fronts and ornate brackets, full of art materials. The shelves are on a dark purple wall, above a black dado rail with greyscale Gothic architecture design wallpaper beneath. The desk is black marble-effect, and there is a grey vintage style desk lamp upon it, and a tablet computer in a black metal stand. Some Gothic arch candle-holders are visible on the wall to the right of the shelves. The light is defuse but dingy. There is a cast iron bat hanger behind the computer. The art materials include a purple box with silver strapping and latches and a black rack of Spectrum Noir markers, colourful caps visible.
Desk and Computer
My desk is a worktop of MDF wrapped in the sort of self-adhesive vinyl for covering kitchen worktops, and it is pretty good as a wipe-down surface. Archimedes has scratched it in a couple of places, but that is fairly minor damage, however if anyone wants to build a desk like this and does crafts involving blades I would definitely recommend a cutting-mat. Raven built the desk/worktop and the legs are re-purposed from the banisters of a stair-rail.

Above the desk are shelves for the art-materials I use most often, so mostly pens of various types as well as my water-colours. The purple box is where I store technical drawing tools, the ivory drawers my stamping materials. For storage I like to try and find aesthetically pleasing containers as many craft items come in bright colours and garish modern packaging, so they get put in tubs and tins - especially vintage tins. On my desk I have used a spice-rack with a spindle for kitchen-towel as more art-material storage; things that come in shallow trays like paints and pencil-sets get put there, as they do not store easily on the main shelving. I use the spindle for tape (pictured) but also kitchen towel as intended. My tablet and my Harry Potter book-lamp are on recipe-book stands. Kitchenalia is useful for craft rooms!   

Black shelves with ornate (but difficult to see) brackets upon which are art materials; skull tub with purple and green dragon-scale paint brushes, vintage tins, ivory drawers, a purple box with silver strapping and latches. Next to the shelves are a variety of Gothic arch candle holders. On the left is a tall, slim dark brown one with gold trim and a mirror, it is also a sconce for a purple dinner-style candle. Central at the top is a black metal arch with some swirls and three candle holders, but the candle-holders are being used to suspend three purple glass hearts. Bottom centre is a dark brown wooden Gothic arch, short and squat, with three metal wire Gothic arches inside it, a mirror and a Highlands & Islands Scottish Green Party sticker. On the right is a crescent moon mirror of black metal, also with three candle-holders. The wall they are on is dark purple. To the right there is a black metal shelf with trays of pencils and charcoals. The computer monitor is on the left. In the middle of the desk are a grey vintage-style desk-lamp, a computer tablet in a black metal recipe book holder, and what looks like a gold and purple antique book but is actually a Harry Potter book lamp. The desk is black marble effect. Behind the monitor, lamps, tablet and bottom of the metal shelves is greyscale Gothic architecture patterned wallpaper under a black dado rail. You are very patient listening to this description, thank-you.
Shelves, art materials, Gothic arches & candlesticks
While storage is the primary concern, I do also like displaying ornaments on my shelves, and also sourcing ornamental containers, such as the skull tub. I have some of my Gothic arch candle-sconces on the wall next to my shelves, and the ones that are not too close to the ceiling do actually get used. All of them are secondhand; the two with wooden frames are from eBay, the metal Gothic arch was given to me by a colleague, and the moon sconce came from a candle-shop and is there by dint of being the wrong size for the Book Nook.

A large, black and white long-haired cat sitting on my desk. His front is white, his back is black, and he is very very fluffy. He is sitting and facing left, The Gothic arch mirror on top of the computer tower is visible. The Gothic architecture wallpaper and grey desk lamp are visible behind Archimedes the cat. He is sitting in front of a black switched-off flat-screen computer monitor. The cat has very long whiskers that catch the light. He has an adorable face.
Archimedes on my desk!
Archimedes is a cat, and therefore it is his prerogative to interrupt my work, so he spends a lot of time on my desk.

I have to at some point do an overview of the whole room, but I think that will wait until I have finished it. There's so much left to do on this room, but a lot of it hinges on getting contractors in; the ceiling is definitely something that requires a lot of that, and I can't afford it [at the time of publishing this article, which is approximately a month after actually writing it, we are now in 'lock-down' due to the Covid-19 pandemic, so even if I could afford it, it would not be possible to bring in contractors]. My ceiling requires first the attention of someone to replace the section that was put up incorrectly and has bowed and to patch the hole from the botched attempt at putting in a light fixture that was done for the previous owner by someone clearly not very good at that sort of thing, then it needs an electrician to put in two over-head lights in the long section, and one overhead light above the Book Nook, with new switches (and maybe a power-outlet inside my cubby), and not until then can I paint my ceiling, put up plaster stars, and add coving to my room. There's also little point in starting work on restoring the star-shaped ceiling lights I bought (very cheap) until I have something to mount them to when they are done.

I have some furniture customisation/up-cycling projects that I would like to share next, but each of those has come to a stumbling block, so are currently incomplete, but when they are done, there will be a book-case where I replaced the wicker shelves with MDF painted with acrylic pour technique, a drawer mounted underneath my desk with a hand-painted drawer-front and skull drawer-knob, a set of miniature drawers for my calligraphy things, my painting the inner-face of my door in violet and viridian, re-painting a set of shelves in with glass doors, and eventually, re-painting a Gothic arches book-case.

This blog will definitely return to some of its original purpose, looking at my Gothic home (hence it's name DOMESTICATED Goth) with more craft-projects, and maybe this year some spooky cooking! I have a back-log of photographs from trips to various spooky places from last year that I would like to share, as well. [Lock-down means no more spooky trips for the foreseeable future, but hopefully they will resume in a few months]. I also have some art of skulls, etc. that I would like to share, and I will be setting up some e-commerce in future so that I can sell my art online. 

Saturday 29 February 2020

Study/Studio Re-Decoration Part 3: Book Nook Update

My Book Nook is in a state of constant evolution, and I've made some minor updates. The first and most obvious is that I have re-organised my altar yet again. I do this relatively regularly, so this is unsurprising. The other is that I've been re-arranging the book-shelves (which I have not shared on this blog before, but it has turned up in my Instagram stories; I'm @domesticatedgoth on Instagram too), where I've actually come to a bit of a sticking point. What I would like is to have a lovely book-case of books arrange into one of those beautiful rainbows I've seen on Pintrest and Instagram, but I tried this, very unsuccessfully, as most of my books are neutral colours: black, white, grey or brown. Currently they're organised by descending height from tallest to shortest, and in order of subject. Eventually I will be getting a larger book-case, with Gothic arches, and my book collection is always growing, so I suspect that I might be able to have this book-case eventually dedicated to colourful books arranged into a rainbow, and the larger bookcase for the majority of books which are black, white, grey or brown. Currently it just looks messy and the mismatch effect offends my aesthetic sensibilities. 

A two-handed claymore sword is mounted on an ornate metal two-pronged mount screwed into a wall clad with black reptile-skin effect wallpaper. The image is looking into a corner. The wall on the right is a dark purple and is stencilled with silver and gold stars. There are three moon-design mirrors in a folk style from Indonesia on the wall, in varying shades of purple with black and gold accents. In the corner there is a three-tier black-painted glossy shelf with various witchy items on it including two resin figures of wizards, several ornate boxes and a statue of Bast. There is a book-case standing from the floor; it is gloss black, and it has a berry purple altar-cloth along the top of it. There is a Neo-Pagan altar set up with a black cast-iron cauldron, an incense censer in the shape of the Moon Goddess, a glass crescent moon candle-holder, several crystals, even more purple glass candle-holders, and a purple incense burner for joss sticks. There are two rolled beeswax candles, purple. The lighting is daylight, the image is relatively bright considering the dark space. Sunlight glints on the faux-reptile wallpaper. There are books on the book-case, disorganised and mis-matched, they are about architecture and include modern books and 19thC volumes
Book Nook does actually contain books
I am still seeking more of these purple fair-trade moon mirrors. I nearly found a new one on Instagram, but it was out of stock. I prefer shopping second-hand, anyway, so I am still keeping an eye out for some on eBay or for one turning up in a charity shop. I would need to re-arrange the mirrors to open up a space for the next mirror. I can see myself in the large round one at the bottom; the others are just there for reflecting light around a rather dingy and dark corner. I really like the painting style, and the 'man in the moon' is one of my favourite artistic motifs. Speaking of which, if you look carefully on the corner shelves, there's a print of one of my drawings (the original is in my sketchbook, and I had it made into a print partly because I intend to get a tattoo of it). I's a crescent moon with stars, and I drew it for Inktober last year. You can see it properly on my Instagram. 

An oval mirror is on the right flank of a black-gloss book-case. The mirror frame depicts a lavender-coloured crescent 'man-in-the-moon' design with a black section with three stars painted on it. It matches the circular mirrors depicted in the picture above. There is a berry-purple tassel hanging partly over it from the altar cloth above, adorned with two clear crystal-effect beads. To the right of the image, the wall behind the book-case is visible, and a little of some greyscale wall-paper depciting Gothic architecture, it is a reproduction of an 1830's design and is in a block-print style.
Moon mirror on book-case
One of the moon-mirrors that is rarely appreciated because it's not on the wall with the others, and is often partially obscured by the portiere curtains is this oval one depicted above. It looked a bit odd next to all the circular ones, so I decided to put it elsewhere. Initially I intended on putting it on a window ingo, but I didn't want the UV radiation in sunlight fading the paint, so it's in this obscure place in the Book Nook instead. The tassel hanging in front is from my altar-cloth, which is too long for my altar (I should either cut it down myself, or get it done professionally by someone neater than me). 

Three purple and black moon-mirrors mounted on a rich, deep purple wall. The wall has some gold and silver stars stencilled on it visible in the top left. The top-most mirror is bright purple and depicts a man-in the moon with a halo of purple rays tipped with gold. There is a black section on the right of the crescent with three stars. It is medium sized. The middle mirror is to the right; it is a blueish purple and is the same crescent moon with halo of rays design, but much smaller and a bluer colour, again with three stars. Hanging off the small moon mirror is a filigree silver moon-pendant with simulated circular stone. The lower mirror is a large light purple mirror of just a crescent moon on a circular background, and there are three stars; the background is black. There is less gold. To the left there is a black gloss corner unit of shelves; on the bottom shelf is visible a black stone box with Celtic knotwork supporting a brass Nepalese singing bowl with wooden striker. On the middle shelf is visible a resin figure of a wizard wearing a blue robe with purple and gold and holding a staff; the wizard has long white hair, a beard and a hat. Next to the wizard, on the far left, a snowglobe is partiall in view, half of it cropped at the edge of the image. The snow-globe is a clear globe on a black turned pedestal and inside is a graveyard scene made of metal. The items on the top-most shelf are obscured, but part of a metallic foil print of a unicorn is visible - just the lower hooves and some of a purple night sky. A dark purple glittery skull, very small, is also just about visible but obscured by shadow. In the foreground there are two purple rolled-beeswax candles in silver old-fashioned Classical candle-sticks. The photograph is taken in daylight, and the lighting is neutral.
Three moon mirrors
I have re-organised the corner shelves, tweaking the display. It isn't a major change, but it's a change nonetheless. I actually feel like this corner needs to be more Gothic. I submitted these pictures to the Gothic Home Decor Enthusiasts group on FaceBook, and they gave some good advice about incorporating candle-sticks, and maybe some skull moons. I know some lovely creepy 'skull moon' design varients on the man-in-the-moon were available in the US last Hallowe'en, but I didn't see them in the UK. If I do include something like that, I'd not put it right near the altar as that's a sacred space, but I might put things like that on the black wall next to my sword, or hanging from the brackets of the shelf opposite (not pictured). 

The same corner of the room as in previous photographs. On the left there is a wall with black faux-reptile textured wallpaper. Mounted in the corner, which is to the left of centre of the image, is a black gloss corner shelving unit with three tiers. The bottom shelf has a small carved wooden box, a medium sized black stone box supporting a Nepalese singing bowl with wooden striker. There is also a print in a glass clip-frame of a black and white image of the man-in-the-moon within a circle, with a field of stars on a black bacground, and a large ten-pointed star with an eye, all drawn in fine-liner. The second tier has two wizards figurines, one on each side; the one on the left is wearing purple and gold robes, the one on the right is wearing blue robes with purple and gold, both have gold staffs; the blue-robed wizard has a crescent moon staff, the purple robed wizard has a staff with a white sphere like the full moon. There is a snow-globe with a black pedestal and clear glass displaying a graveyard scene in silvery metal. A small brown oval stone box is between the wizards, in front of the snow-globe. The items on the top tier of the shelf are partially cropped out of the image, but three small skulls each painted purple in nail-varnish with different finishes - glittery, metallic and iridescent - are visible. A small black and gold statue of Bast is visible, the bottom half of a foil print of a white unicorn against a purple sky, in a black wooden frame, is also visible; the unicorn's hind legs are visible only. The legs of a figure of the character Sebastian from the anime Black Butler are also visible. On the right two thirds of the image the purple wall is visible. Two of the three moon mirrors are in the photograph; they are both round, one is light purple and has a crescent moon and three stars, the other is bright purple with gold accents and has a crescent moon, three stars and a halo of purple rays. Gold and silver stars are stencilled on the rich purple wall. In the fore-ground two rolled bees-wax candles in classical silver candle-sticks, a purple glass goblet, the lid of the cast-iron cauldron, a miniature treasure chest in brass over purple-stained wood, and the black and white decorated box for my witch's Black Book are visible.
Corner shelf unit
I wanted to put two Gothic arch candle-sconces, a matching pair, either side of the sword. I was bidding on two tall, then almost lancet style ones being auctioned on eBay, but with faux-stone moulding of architectural details and a matching grey faux-stone paint effect. I am not keen on faux-stone paint effects, and would have painted them gloss black to match my furniture, but unfortunately I lost out on the bidding at the last minute. I am now trying to buy another pair of slightly plainer Gothic arch candle sconces, and I intend to keep looking until I can find ones the right size and style for this corner of the room. I like that it is witchy, and that it has been described as 'magical' but I would like to add more elements of the overtly Gothic into the decor, not just in the architectural sense, especially to tie it in with the rest of my study, which is more Gothic (especially in the architectural sense). 

The altar is in the foreground, slightly out of focus; it is on a berry purple altar cloth with a crinkle texture that is on a diagonal to the plane of view. Two silver candle-sticks are upon it, in a classical style, with rolled beeswax purple candles. On the left of the altar is a black plaque displaying a purple pentagram, a small cast iron cauldron with a pentacle on the front, and a partially visible purple glass goblet, cropped out of frame. In the centre is a clear glass candle-holder with a crescent man-in-the-moon and star design moulded into the glass. On the left is an incense censer in the shape of a stylised goddess. Behind the altar and above it is the round crescent moon mirror, it is quite large with a purple crescent moon occupying most of the left of the frame, the right being black with three small stars; the mirrored glass itself is round. The mirror is in focus. To the left of the image the black corner shelving unit is partially visible; the bottom tier has a black stone box with celtic knotwork, a brass Nepalese singing bowl with wooden striker, and partially visible fine-liner print; the print is cropped at the edge of the photograph so the image of the print is not apparent. The second tier is partially visible, with the bottom of the figurine of a wizard in blue, gold and purple robes visible. The shelving unit is slightly out of focus, but the items are identifiable. On the right of the image, a small round moon mirror with a frame consisting of a blueish purple crescent moon and a halo of purple rays is visible, as is a filigree moon pendant with synthetic round stone hanging from it. At the top of the image the halo of rays from the bright purple medium mirror is partially visible. Only the large crescent moon mirror in the centre of the image is in focus, and deliberately so. The photograph is taken in daylight and the shine on metallic objects is quite visible; the black wall is visible in the central mirror, but the wall looks grey in bright direct sunlight.
Large moon mirror
I would really appreciate both suggestions on how to better organise my books to be more aesthetically pleasing, and on how to make my Book Nook as Gothic (in all senses of the word) as the rest of my study, while maintaining the altar as a meditation space that is about religious practice rather than displaying my spooky stuff. 

Wednesday 25 December 2019

Gothic Christmas

I decorated my study with Gothic-aesthetic Christmas decorations. As has been explained in this blog already, I don't celebrate Christmas as a religious thing, more an honouring of family traditions. It's very much a secular Christmas in our household, with the big religious celebration being Midwinter's Day on the 21st of December instead. The decorations in my study centre around the 'Gothmas' Tree - something that's part in-joke, part household 'tradition'. The 'Gothmas' Tree started when Raven and I first moved in together, nearly 10 years ago. His family are quite traditional about Christmas, and so Raven wanted to continue that. At that point, I wasn't really into Christmas very much as I came from a home where it wasn't really celebrated because it held too many painful memories and too much anxiety, it was a very simple occasion with no turkey, a very briefly apparent Christmas tree, and usually a lot of sorrow. I went to Christian schools, so Christmas was a big thing there, and I sang with church choirs when I was younger, so I'd performed in many carol concerts, and so it wasn't a completely bleak and sombre affair (and even the worst Christmas of my life ended up with me falling asleep in glittering lights of the basilica in Rennes) but it just wasn't something I felt a deep connection to, at least not a positive one. 

A photograph of Christmas decorations. The wall behind is purple, there is a black dado rail, and greyscale wallpaper of Gothic arches. There are three shelves on the right holding art materials, and the upper two shelves are garlanded with tinsel, grey at the top, iridescent green and purple in the middle. There is a 2 and a half foot tall black Christmas tree densely decorated, with a glittery snowflake on the top that is too large and leans slightly to the right. The tree is on a desk with a fake black marble work-surface. The bottom of the tree is wrapped in a Hallowe'en table-cloth of black lace. The tree is decorated in a purple and silver colour-scheme, with skulls and stars as the primary motifs; it has lots of tinsel. Behind the tree is an ornate black metal stand for a tablet computer.  There is a grey vintage-style desk-lamp on the desk.
The 'Gothmas' tree & my tinsel on my desk. The snowflake is too big, so leans
I wanted to go for a Gothic 'Christmas' that was just a second Hallowe'en (my favourite holiday, of course) so I could still be celebrating something when surrounded by the huge cultural pressure to do Christmas, but my partner is very much into a traditional Christmas. The compromise was that we'd do both; I could have my own Gothic tree, and we would have a big traditional tree in the living room, and I could watch 'Nightmare Before Christmas' and he could play old-time Christmas songs from the '40s and '50s, and we'd get together for roast dinner with the fancy black-handled ornate cutlery reserved for special occasions I brought back from Ireland. It was said in jest that my Gothic tree was so I wouldn't 'ruin' the Yule tree with skulls and bats when Raven wasn't looking because I kept trying to 'sneak' black baubles onto the Yule tree, especially when I found baubles that were very pretty but too big for my little black tree, and they are now permanent fixtures on the Yule tree (which has a lot of more unusual decorations).

A bauble in the shape of a jaggedly pointed star with many points, made of clear plastic with an iridescent rainbow finish that tends towards green and purple. The bail for suspending the bauble is two silver beads It is infront of the black Christmas tree and a dark purple wall. Bright purple tinsel is visible
Spiky iridescent bauble, I think from B&M or Tesco, on the 'Gothmas' tree

I couldn't afford a second full-size tree on that first Christmas because I'd recently been made redundant when the shop I was assistant manageress of shut down for good a couple of months previous, so I bought a small tree, to bring a spark of spooky joy into what I feared would be a very bleak Christmas in a new country where I knew virtually nobody except my partner, hundreds of miles from my family, jobless, broke, and celebrating that festival that I usually hated. Christmas that year actually wasn't too bad, and I think I managed to even continue the pattern from our first Christmas where I bought Raven a hamper of unusual ingredients and favourite foods! Ever since then, there has been the Gothmas tree - in our old apartment it used to be in the bedroom, and now it is in my study, where being purple and black it matches everything else in there as the whole room is purple and black. 

In the upper left corner is a white foil stylised skull with a crack in its temple, it is attached to black tinsel. The whole thing is ensconced in black synthetic Christmas tree branches, but only the skull is in focus
Skull tinsel - cracked skull tinsel, to be precise, from Poundland
Apart from being very short, my little black tree is quite weedy, so I fill it with tinsel - purple, black, silver, and one that's purple and black with black cats, and another that's black and white with skulls. It looks a lot bushier once I've wound it around with all that tinsel - full length tinsel meant for full size trees, too! It's about all I can do to make it a passable Christmas tree and not a sad Christmas branch instead.

A black gilltery tombstone-shape cut from acrylic, with a transfer in white stylised spindly letters saying 'Festive Fears', suspended in a black Christmas tree, with a white star bauble in the foreground, and a grey six-pointed star bauble to the left. There is skull tinsel in the background
'Festive Fears' tombstone decoration from SpookyBoxCo
Some of the decorations like the glittery stars and black baubles are just ordinary Christmas decorations - it's quite common to find purple and black decorations these days, and silver is a traditional festive decoration for anything snowy. I quite like the spiky glittery stars, and there iridescent star shown at the top. I've also got decorations from SpookyBoxCo from when I used to be subscribed. Some are black tomb-stones with spooky mottos, and some are white skulls (pictured bellow).  There's also glittery purple skulls tucked into the boughs, but all the photographs that I tried to take turned out blurry, unfortunately. 

A cartoonish white acrylic skull, very glossy, hanging in the black Christmas tree, with a clear bat-shaped LED string light, silver bead garland, purple tinsel, and black tinsel with white skulls. The shelve and lantern-styled string lights are visible in the background, out of focus, in the upper left
Cute skull decoration from SpookyBoxCo
As you can see in the background of the photograph above, the lights on the tree are bats. They glow a blue-ish violet, but all the photographs I've taken of them look purely blue. I promise they aren't entirely blue. They're Hallowe'en lights, I think probably from Poundland, but I can't be certain of that. I don't have many Hallowe'en specific string-lights in my house any more - I used to have several in my study when it had the more kitschy aesthetic, but I've now rehomed them to people who have more of that sort of aesthetic. I still have two strings of skull lights, one with small clear resin skulls, and one with blown mercury glass large skulls, but they are in our bedroom. I bought some purple bat miniature LED lights, which are on the edge of my shelves. 

The black Christmas tree is illuminated by a light that appears blue; in the centre is a lit bat LED light, it is brightest in the middle, so bright it is almost white in the photograph. The rest of the tree is very dark, much is black. In real life, the bat glows a more purple-y colour.
A purple bat that looks blue. 
The rest of the string-lights in the picture below are all permanent fixtures in my study, except for the ones on the tree. The festive period is probably the only time of the year when I have all of the string-lights turned on, although I do sometimes put a few one for things like ambience while gaming at my PC or mood-lighting for D&D. I also like to put a few on when I'm meditating, and don't want the bright over-head light or stand light. I think my study possibly has far too many lighting options, and I'm saving up to get an electrician in to give me even more lighting options, hopefully in summer, so maybe I'm just overly finnicky about lighting adjustability... The lantern string lights were originally clear plastic with brown frames and I used glass-paint to make them purple and green and nail-polish to re-paint the brown plastic frames black. The skull, lanterns and purple orb lights were all from Poundland. They run off batteries. 

The small black Christmas-tree is just right of centre in the picture. The camera looks diagonally towards the shelves. There is a Gothic arch mirror behind the Christmas tree. There is also a lamp, turned off, in the shape of a book, with a Harry Potter themed cover that says Liber Lux behind the tree. The tree is on a shiny simulated marble worktop. A computer screen is just visible on the far left, but it is turned off. There is a grey vintage-style desk-lamp underneath the shelves. The shelves are black with ornate Victorian brackets. Hanging from the lowest shelf is a string of lantern-shaped string lights, quite small - the panes are green and purple. On the first shelf there are ornate boxed of art materials and a glass skull filled with small white LED lights. The second shelf is farlanded with iridescent tinsel that seems to be glimmering in the low light. On the second self there is a string of tiny purple bat-shaped lights reaching upwards and a rack with coloured markers. The small black Christmas tree has bat-shaped lights that seme very blue in the photograph. There is a row of round purple lights running under some black dado rail; it illuminates grey wallpaper depicting Gothic arches so it loos purple, and reflects off the glossy worktop.The image is dark, it is taken at night to maximise the effect of the string-lights. The wall is visible in the upper right and it is a very dark purple. There is a Highlands and Islands region sticker for the Scottish Green Party on the Gothic mirror behind the Christmas tree.
Lanterns, a skull, tiny bats, & glowing orbs are the tip of the lighting iceberg
In both the first photograph and the one above you can see there's tinsel on my shelf. I think they're both from B&M, although one might be from The Range, I can't remember. I've got two more photographs of tinsel and I'm not writing two more paragraphs on the topic of tinsel; one is iridescent green and purple/pink, and the other is petrol grey, and they're thick with long fronds - that is all there is to say about tinsel. I think the iridescent one looks quite magical. 

Iridiscent green and purple tinsel with almost transparent fronds, against the background of a dark purple wall. The image is very busy, and the tinsel takes up most of the image
Iridescent tinsel
I think next year I will get two more strands of tinsel, so each shelf has one, as just two shelves looks a bit awkward. I'd like to get some really chunky black tinsel, and maybe some purple or some silver tinsel. 

Grey tinsel above a blurred purple bauble and against the background of a dark purple wall. The fronds of the tinsel are quite chunky, the tinsel is dark grey and metallic
Grey tinsel
Another element of Christmas decorations in my study are foil garlands, spider garlands, and a foil star. They are the sort that come flat, and you fold them out to expand them. I know a lot of people think these decorations are quite tacky, but I like them, and they remind me of Christmas at my grandmother's house back in the early '90s, maybe even the late '80s. I liked Christmas at my English grandmother's house, but she passed away when I was a child. I tried really hard to photograph the garlands, but I could not get a good angle. I did get a good couple of photographs of the star that hangs from my ceiling however. 

A star with alternating purple, silver and blue points, made of thin coloured foil, suspended in front of a dark purple wall
A foil star with silver, purple and blue
There's a spider garland that has a pretty similar concept - it's purple (six legged???) spiders made of tissue-paper strung along a cord - but I didn't get a photograph of that either. 

A foil star of alternating purple, silver and blue sections viewed from the upper right, looking down onto it, with a dark purple wall in the background and on the purple wall is the black metal frame of a former-mirror missing its glass - it is a black Gothic arch with swirling spirals and three candle-sconces on the bottom. Three glass hearts are hanging from the candle-sconces. The foil star is in focus, the black mirror frame isn't
My glass-less Gothic arch former-mirror for scale and position.
That was my Christmas decorations for 2019. If by next Christmas, I have my cornice up and sort out my ceiling (maybe with two new lights...) then you might get a half-decent photo of the garlands, too. 

Sunday 22 December 2019

Neo-Pagan Solstice Part 2: The Tree

Photographs by Raven, 2018
We have a Yule Tree. Calling it that is a good compromise between calling it a Christmas Tree and calling it a Solstice tree, seeing as variations on the name 'Yule' are used to refer to Christmas in many languages, and Yule is also what a lot of Neo-Pagans call the Winter Solstice. As I mentioned before, our household does Solstice out of faith, and Christmas out of tradition. The decorations are mostly gold for the returning light, red for the kinds of food that last into winter, and white/clear for the snow and ice of winter. For the most part, it is like the average Christmas tree, as Christmas trees are themselves of Pagan origin - the only difference with ours is that it has a few more deliberately solar decorations. Most people these days put up a tree as an entirely secular festive ornament, an element of tradition that may be divorced from its roots in some ways (much like the average 'live' tree in that respect...) but I think it is a beautiful thing that we keep doing them, and I love how many people use their trees to express themselves, or as a creative medium on which family traditions are built. As such, I would like to share with you all our tree. It's possibly a bit self-indulgent, but as the tree is probably one of my favourite things about the festive season, and this is my blog, here we are!

2011 Yule Tree, 
not sure who took the photos
We have had our Yule Tree since Raven and I have lived together, always topped with the radiant sun. I think I made a post about our Yule Tree in 2011, or at least intended to, because I found an old collage of the Yule Tree from when we still lived in the apartment! Raven and I have been together for a decade now, and I like how we have formed our own mini-traditions for our mini-family. Every year we have celebrated Christmas day with found-family, some of whom have strained family relationships and painful memories of the festive period like myself. Solstice has often been celebrated with the broad group of friends met through the Highland Open Circle. The Yule tree has glittered through all of that, a symbol of both festivals, and of Raven and I merging our ideas. 

2011 Solstice decorations. I think I took these photos
I have a second, smaller tree in my study, known as the 'Gothmas' tree or the 'Cryptmas' tree which is black, purple and silver with sklls, bones, black cats and tomb-stones, but it will get its own post as it is an entirely secular festive decoration - and very much an aesthetic suited to the main Gothic theme of this blog rather than a Pagan thing. 

The Yule Tree, 2017. My photo
The main difference between our tree and the average Christmas tree are the solar decorations. As well as gilded plaster decorations of the sun and moon, there is a large sun on the top of the tree instead of a star. I think it was actually manufactured as a starburst, but being gold and amber, and with so many radiating points, it certainly looks very solar.

Sun-burst tree-topper with gold & amber sparkles. 2017, by me

Glowing sun bauble, 2017, by me.
I am on the look out for more sun-themed decorations for our tree, especially gold ones. It is not, as is to be expected, the most popular motif among mainstream sellers of decorations, however gold decorations in general are pretty popular.Plain gold baubles can look pretty solar, as can translucent ones if they are the right texture and carefully illuminated - I think they are the most 'realistic' solar depictions on our tree. We also have the other kind of solar decoration, the sun-face design reminiscent of Sol made popular in medieval heraldry.  It's an image that hangs on our tree, but is also in the Solstice decorations around our house and on our altar, as visible on the altar post. 

Sun decoration. Photographed 2017

Sun bauble 2018, my photo.
I bought the sun, and it's twin - a gilded moon - secondhand on eBay. I buy a LOT of things secondhand, online on eBay, in charity shops, from Facebook sales groups, etc. mostly because it is cheaper, but also because it seems you find more unusual things, especially older things, if you shop in those sorts of places. I know folk are probably tired of hearing me yammer on about the environment, but it is very important to re-use the stuff we have already made, or recycle where possible, rather than constantly use up more and more of our natural resources to make new things by energy-intensive and polluting processes (it's also worth noting that some forms of recycling are high energy, too). If you are feeling crafty, there are plenty of craft projects for tree decorations that are also recycling projects; maybe next year I'll put some on my blog.

 Moon bauble, 2018? My photo.
We have a moon bauble as well as a sun one, because while we celebrate the returning sun and coming of warmer weather, we also celebrate the longest night and those cosy evenings indoors, the snow on the hills and importance of winter in the cycle of things. The balance is important, and although there are a lot of harsh things about winter weather, that harsh weather kills off harmful pests and parasites, the frost can be what triggers some plants to grow, and snow-sports are a big part of the local economy in some regions of the Highlands. Winter is not inherently a bad thing, just as summer is not inherently a good thing; they both have their benefits and also bring problems (eg. summer can bring drought, wild-fires, sunburn, heat exhaustion etc.). In my form of Paganism I try and celebrate the seasons as they come, and while there is always something hopeful about the returning light in darkness, sometimes it's important to appreciate that darkness too (a familiar mentality for Goths!). 

Star decoration chosen for the pentagram of ribbons and sunburst centre 
Our Yule Tree has decorations that aren't solar, like owls (getting a new owl each year has become a tradition in our household, too), a blown-glass witch, some skulls, lots of tartan and deer, a fuzzy wolf to represent our friend 'Sarge' and a lot of pine-cones, some glass, some real, as well as snowflakes and snowy things of various designs; it's a seasonal tree at its heart; the ever-green pine (in our case because it's plastic and thus literally can't die) decorated with symbols of winter, much like most festive trees... and unlike my Gothmas tree, which is more a touch of Hallowe'en in midwinter! But the Gothmas tree will get its own post next!