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..

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.  

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Remembering Summer In Autumn

Outside a gale is howling and leaden clouds scud across a pale, wan and grey sky. Everything is damp; there's not enough warmth between the rain showers for anything to dry. Autumn is here, rapidly turning into winter. Snow was reported on the mountains to the south, and it has been too hazy for me to see whether or not there is snow on the mountains to the north. Summer seems like it was a century ago. Currently I am wearing a scarf indoors and I am getting good use out of my trench-coat and wellies when outdoors, but right now, I'm not even thinking about being outdoors; I am indoors in the warm and more importantly to me, the dry. I love the colours of autumn- leaves of copper, gold, bronze and burgundy, skies of silver, steel and lead, an ocean like mercury - but I am not at all fond of the weather, as it seems to mostly be driven rain that comes when the wind sweeps off the ocean and across the foothills and drags the rain anywhere from diagonal to almost sideways. 

Relaxing in the garden after some summer rain.
Photograph by Raven of Chance Photography

As such, I cast my mind back to summer, when it was warmer (sometimes too warm!) and I could spend time outdoors without the wind relentlessly trying to drive water into the space between my coat and my neck (hence scarves, scarves all the time!) and I even sometimes went around bare legged. Back in July I showcased ::this:: make-up, and here is the outfit that went with it, summoned out of the depths of the external hard-drive and finally on my laptop and now my blog. 

I look grumpy when made to pose for photos!
Photograph by Raven of Chance Photography

This is probably my favourite dress - it is the 'Adare' dress by Hell Bunny, a black and white print of haunted houses, skulls, graves and ravens. Adare is a village in Ireland - near it stands one of the Desmond castles, and in it stands the Gothic Revival building of reportedly haunted Adare Manor, but the print has no castle, and the house featured looks nothing like Adare Manor, so I am not sure why it is named such. Some of the faces on the dress appear to be zombified version of Edgar Allan Poe. I love the feathers, as I am a fan of bird motifs in general. In this print they are white on black, but the dress comes in a red-on-black colour-way, and the feathers looked bloodied in that version.

Cropped by me(hence grainy)
Photo by Raven of Chance Photography

It might be raining outside, but summer can live on. Autumn will come and go then Winter, but after the Winter Solstice, the days will grow longer and summer will, eventually, return.

Many thanks to Raven, who always makes me look lovelier than I am!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Casually Romantic Goth

After 7 of my fanciest outfits, I thought I would share some of what I look like on just an ordinary weekend.

As readers may know, I love fancy things - whether that is clothes, architecture, artwork or really anything - but that does not mean I think everything should be as fancy as possible all the time. Firstly, I feel that if I wore my fanciest clothes everyday, that they would start to loose their specialness to me; with time becoming ordinary, and secondly, it just would not be practical, and my nice things would get ruined as I snag lace, get ruffles mucky and long coats and hems get trapped in doors. There are already so many jackets I have waiting to have buttons sewn back on because I've managed to catch them on something! 

That said, I do not want to abandon my personal aesthetic completely, and so a lot of my casual outfits are still a bit more fancy than more mainstream casual clothes, but they include cuffs that are less likely to get snagged, often trousers rather than skirts. Accessories, my unnatural hair colours (whether dyed or wigs) and choices in fabric all help to keep things within the aesthetic I prefer. 

One outfit photo, and three trying to show the make-up!

This is a summer outfit I wore to a friend's 50th birthday party. It was a summer's day, a casual garden party, and they are not Goth, so I didn't go for one of my more elaborate outfits, and instead went for just a weekend's summer outfit - my casual is still fancy enough for a mainstream garden party!

I picked floaty top that sits somewhere between hippie and Goth in its semi-sheer fabric and Medieval fantasy inspiration, a plain maxi skirt, and a belt to add interest and pull the top in at the waist, as it is quite loose. It was Gothic, but without overt morbid symbols - no skulls, no zombies, no coffins - just plain black crystal stud earrings, a silver bracelet of studs-as-beads, and a black metal laser-cut effect foliate necklace from eBay. It is hard to make out on the photographs, but I painted my nails an iridescent lavender-grey, with black tips. I wore make-up that was pretty natural-looking for my face and lips, but dramatic around the eyes, and while it's hard to make out, I had green eyeshadow to match my hair, and little leafy scrolls in the corners to match my necklace. The sleeves end short of my wrists, so even with their long drapes, they rarely get caught in anything. The lace detail around the square neckline (I love square necklines!) and the design of the sleeves make this a top that is fancy enough for my tastes, without being oodles of brocade and velvet and suchlike. 

This picture is dark! Details more visible if you click to enlarge.

The above outfit was just what I would wear on any Saturday. I have brocade trousers (I think the brocade is actually visible on this photo, for a change!) a lace-up crop top, and a cardigan with lace panels. What you can't see is that I'm wearing it with New Rock boots, because my mirror isn't long enough to show boots. This was quite a bit later in summer (you can see my hair has grown out a bit and faded) and the weather was a bit cooler, but it was still warm enough to warrant a thin cardigan and a light blouse. The blouse, hard as it is to see, is of a synthetic satin with deliberate crumples, and laces up the front with ribbons - a design that is quite Gothic even if the top was originally from a mainstream shop, and bought in a charity shop years ago. The cardigan has ties at the neck, which are not visible in any of these photographs, and the lace panels give a square neckline effect without actually having that much neck and upper chest uncovered if it gets cold enough for me to want to do the whole thing up (it didn't, so it is just tied at the neck here). I saw no need to bother with make-up, and just wore a studded cuff on one wrist, and a skull bead on some black ribbon on the other, along with my usual rings.

The brocade of the trousers, lace on the cardigan, and materials of the blouse, along with the New Rock Boots, all combine to make it an outfit a bit fancier and the studded cuff, boots and green hair, as well as the all-black outfit, keep the outfit firmly in the Goth aesthetic. The outfit is pretty practical, with comfortable boots, trousers, and a top that has little to catch on things and is warm once buttoned up. 

I like that I look a bit androgynous in this outfit. 
This outfit has taken a bit of inspiration from Japanese Goth and Visual Kei fashion and is a step up in fanciness. Again, it is based around trousers for practicality's sake. I'm wearing slim-fit black jeans from H&M with rather ornate embroidery down the sides. (I really need to get a good photo of them!), my favourite blouse that I have ever owned (and which thus turns up in a lot of my outfit photos) and is from Zanzea, and more accessories than in the other outfits. I remember that I wore boots, but I can't actually remember which pair! I'd guess probably my army boots, as I love them and wear them as much as I can due to them being very, very comfortable!

I am wearing lace fingerless gloves, which something I almost constantly do if it is not too hot out! I actually feel weird going out without some kind of gloves on. Around my hips is a belt with mesh and  lace over-skirt style panels from Gothic Lolita and Punk, and instead of my real hair, which was actually at a pretty similar length, I went with the black and red wig as it is much easier to style into that Visual Kei style with individual locks of hair coming to points, and volume at the back. The crescent moon earrings were a gift from Raven and bought for me in Wales. 

Again, I am wearing very minimal make-up, just some concealer, tinted lip-balm (to actually make my lips less pink) and a bit of shimmery eye-shadow in a natural colour. The minimal make-up was more to enhance my natural features than to do anything artistic like I would normally do - quite a different ethos than I normally have when it comes to make-up!

Altogether, this outfit is more androgynous than my usual outfits, which are often what would be traditionally regarded as feminine. Personally, I think clothes are for whomever they fit, and dislike the gendering of clothes. 

Finally, a very fancy outfit, and quite an old set of photos that people who read this blog will have seen before. This is about how fancy my "just going out" outfits get; this one was for lunch with friends.

When I write this blog, I tend to showcase my fanciest outfits because they often feel the nicest, the most special, but I sometimes feel like I'm unwittingly contributing to a sense that Goths need to be at their fanciest at all times, or perhaps that I am fancy all the time - neither of which are true. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

7 Days, 7 Corset Outfits!

Initially, this was supposed to be a 14 day corset challenge, but I pretty much failed that half-way through. Putting together a corset-centred outfit is time consuming, especially the getting dressed and getting laced up part, and even with Raven helping me I decided it just was not practical to wear every day. While my corsets are comfortable, they do restrict mobility to a degree (especially bending over) and when I have practical things to do, I'd rather not be wearing one. I was on October holiday, as I work at a school, and thus had two weeks where my outfit choices where not dictated by what was work appropriate, and I wanted to see if I could wear corset-based outfits for the whole duration. I know some people do wear corsetry every day, but I have discovered that it is not for me. Part of it is that my corsets are all really outerwear corsets, rather than underwear corsets, and for an outfit to incorporate a corset and seem fitting, to me at least, it needs to match the corset for fanciness, and I just do not feel like I can carry that level of fanciness on a day-to-day basis. 

Firstly, I'd like to apologise for the photo quality; most of these were taken either on my smartphone or my webcam and neither of those have particularly amazing cameras, although the smartphone is considerably better than the webcam. My laptop's camera is actually relatively good in daylight, but really struggles with artificial light. All photos were edited at ::PicMonkey:: which is a free online photo editor, aimed at making selfies and similar funky and fun.

Day 1 Outfit Rundown:
My natural waist here 29 inches and my corseted waist here is 25 inches here, in a 24 inch corset. While I can lace them all the way, I don't wear corsets frequently enough to find lacing myself down to 24 inches very comfortable, so I tend to leave a bit of breathing space.
⚰ Corset: Corset Story UK (secondhand, eBay)
⚰ Blouse: Zara (secondhand, charity shop)
⚰ Cameo necklace: Rock & Roar
⚰ Wig: Coscraft
⚰ Shrug: Tesco (secondhand, charity shop)

The Coscraft wig tends to end up a bit spidery, and the ends of the fibres were a bit frizzy when I got it, and have only got frizzier. I have noticed this is a common problem with synthetic black wigs, that the fibres have a tendency to frazzle at the ends more so than other colours, and I wonder if this is something to do with whatever is commonly used as a black pigment altering the synthetic hair plastic somehow. That's not to say my other wigs do not frazzle - they do - it just seems something that black wigs are predisposed to do so much faster, and I've had black wigs from four different quality brands, and the only one that has been silky and stayed silky was really cheap on eBay from China, which then proceeded to moult rapidly and thin much faster than the more expensive ones. If anyone knows a brand that sells black wigs that stay as silky as their more brightly coloured wigs, then would love to hear recommendations.

I am a sky-pirate, just for one day... 

Day 2 Outfit Rundown 
I had this corset fully laced to 26 inches for this outfit. 

⚰ Brocade trousers: Primark
⚰ Blouse: Gothic Lolita & Punk 
⚰ Corset: Leatherotics 
⚰ Frock-coat: Hearts & Roses London 
 Wing pins: eBay 
⚰ Wig: Borrowed from Raven 
⚰ Goggles (barely visible): modified by me, originally bought on eBay.

For my second outfit I was inspired by the buckled corset to create an outfit with distinct Steampunk influences, yet not one that is truly Steampunk, just Romantic Goth making a nod towards the Steampunk aesthetic. I love the 'sky pirate' character that often turn up in Steampunk fiction - it appeals to me in the same way as Firefly and Serenity do. Unfortunately all of these photographs have the goggles I was wearing cut off (but those who follow the ::Domesticated Goth Facebook Page:: will have seen the full body pictures, and some of these photos, already!). I chose the wings double-brooch (which I wore as collar pins) as a symbol of flight. I have some pleather gloves that I think would have suited this outfit, with straps and studs, but I can't find both of the pair right now.

This outfits seems quite androgynous for one involving an under-bust corset which is very specifically designed to both cinch my waist and emphasise my bust! Partly this is because the combination of frock coat, frills and trousers is traditionally considered male, and partly this is because the wig and that specific make-up (with its heavier brows and contouring on the cheeks, but lack of blush or lipstick) seems more akin to that from masculine Visual Kei artists than my usual styles, and take some of the softness away from my features. I liked the combination of 'effeminate' and 'masculine' elements in this outfit, as it feels like a way to incorporate my 'tomboy' side with still loving all the ruffles and lace of Romantic Goth. I'd quite like to do another version of this  outfit with a waistcoat rather than a corset.

An almost monochrome aesthetic.
Day 3 Outfit Rundown 
This is the same corset as in the first outfit, and laced about the same amount. I feel that even when it is not fully laced, it gives me quite defined curves.

⚰ Blouse: G:21 (secondhand, bought in a charity shop)
⚰ Corset: Corset Story UK (secondhand, bought on eBay)
⚰ Lace mitts: Accessorise 
⚰ Overskirt: Don't know! (secondhand, labels removed before I bought it, so I don't know)
⚰ Skirt: Marks & Spencer (secondhand, bought in a charity shop)
⚰ Wig: Coscraft
⚰ Necklace
: Restyle

This is a very classically Romantic Goth outfit, with make-up and clothing choices that put me very much in the greyscale. I am not naturally that desaturated and pale; I used white foundation (and remembered to apply it to most exposed skin) to take the rosiness out of my skin tone (I'm already very pale) and used grey and silver as shading on my face, in order to aim for something akin to being a black and white photograph of a person but alive in the polychromatic world. Having naturally grey eyes helped! The entire outfit was built around matching the aesthetic of the pewter raven necklace with its black 'stones' (which I think are either plastic or glass) which was both wonderfully detailed and very Gothic, and made me think of old black and white horror movies.

One thing I would improve is choosing a top with a different line of frills the nest time; I feel like the line of the corset and the line of ruffles should match, as with the ruffles across the top of my bust, this looks a little strange. 

Day 4 Outfit Rundown
The same corset as the second outfit, but with a dramatically different outfit. 
⚰ Jacket: Dark Star, (via Far Fetched, Inverness) 
⚰ Blouse: Zanzea (Christmas present from Raven) 
⚰ Corset: Leatherotics
⚰ Cat handbag: H&M 
⚰ Lace Mitts: Accessorise

I tried for a more casual outfit, but as corsets seem fairly fancy to me, the rest of the outfit ended up fancy anyway. It's hard to tell in the photographs, but I'm wearing a skirt with it - if I had a longer mirror I'd show that it's floor-length. I love pairing purple up with the blueish green of my hair, so I picked this rather fabulously patterned cropped jacket from Dark Star. Far Fetched were very accommodating, and as I am a regular customer (they sell incense... ) I was able to pay for it in instalments, and therefore buy a much fancier jacket than I could normally afford.  One of the reasons to support independent retailers is that it is far more likely that they will allow payment plans for items that aren't expensive electronics! 

I don't take myself too seriously, especially when doing a 'duck-face' pout!

Day 5 Outfit Rundown
This is probably my favourite outfit from the week! 
Corset is a 24 inch corset, again laced a bit loosely, somewhere between 25 and 26 inches at a guess. 
♛ Wig: Coscraft 
♛ Necklace: eBay 
♛ Shawl/chiffon cardigan thing: New York Laundry (modified by me, bought secondhand, charity shop)
♛ Blouse: H&M (secondhand, eBay)
♛ Corset: Corset Story 

♛ Skirt: Marks & Spencers (secondhand, charity shop) 
♛ Lace Mitts: Accessorise

This outfit was all about the lovely sleeves off this cape/shrug/over-shirt/cardigan thing... It's loose, floaty, sheer and light synthetic chiffon with vast bell sleeves that end in ruffles, and it swishes delightfully. I bought it for £1.99 in a charity shop and decided that the neckline was too plain, so hand-stitched that crochet-lace (venise lace?) collar onto it, and the collar was cheap on eBay. Originally the collar was for another project entirely, and I bought somewhere around a year ago, but it was too big for the blouse I wanted to sew it to, so it just lurked in my sewing supplies until I figured it would go well with this item. I also changed the black buttons on the top for silver-tone metallic ones, and instead of doing the bottom buttons up at the front, I like doing them up behind me when I am wearing a corset, to emphasise the curves of the corset.

This many selfies of the same outfit is probably a sign of narcissism... 

I really like how this outfit turned out (probably a bit too proud of it, actually!) and it is certainly an outfit I'd wear again, especially that top! I just love the big, floaty sleeves. I'm a bit annoyed with the photographs, though; on the whole they're a bit hazy, and a mixture of washed out and strangely dark. I think I over-lightened my face in the third picture down, in order to try and make it visible - at least I look ghostly, which seems apt in the run-up to Halloween! 

Spiky! Now, which supernatural foe am I supposed to slay? 
Day 6 Outfit Rundown
Same corset as before, laces to 26 inch waist. ⚰ Spikes: (an assortment of places, mostly market stalls in Camden, Reading and Bristol; I've had them so long that I don't remember where I got them all) 
⚰ Upper set of choker spikes are from a wholesaler on eBay, Phoenix1900 
⚰ Blouse: Zanzea (Christmas present from Raven) 
⚰ Corset: Leatherotics
⚰ Belt with overskirt: Gothic, Lolita & Punk
⚰ Mesh gloves: (secondhand on eBay, unbranded)
⚰ Skinny trousers: H&M

This outfit is far more modern in its Goth. I picked buckled accessories with spikes and studs and obvious eyelets to co-ordinate with the studs and buckles on the corset. The last two outfits with this corset were based more on anachronistic ruffles - this one is far slicker. I am wearing skinny black trousers with it, and picked a fitted shirt and stretch mesh gloves. I guess this sort of fashion style is rooted more in Underworld and Resident Evil than the usual period horror inspirations! I felt rather badass wearing this outfit (although I don't think my martial arts skills and weaponry are quite up to par with those of my pop-geek culture heroines!). I finished it with my eternally comfortable army boots.

My make-up isn't actually as pale as it appears in this photograph; that's a byproduct of my tinkering with the contrasts and such to make the detail apparent in what was quite a dingy and poorly lit pair of photographs. As you can see, I have been given a new smartphone, but it is 'only' a cheap one, and the camera is not a significant improvement upon the last smartphone camera, so I am afraid that the photograph quality is still lacking. I have noticed that the flash on my new smartphone isn't very powerful. At least it's still better than the webcam! 

These photographs officially suck
Day 7 Outfit Rundown
This is a new corset I ordered cheaply on eBay. It is supposed to be a 26 inch waist and suitable for tight-lacing, but with its use of spiral steel bones throughout, rather than rigid steel bones, I am reluctant to lace it all the way in case it warps. 
⚰ Dress: Tic Toc
⚰ Shrug: Tesco (secondhand in a charity shop!)
⚰ Corset: eBay
⚰ Belt: (unknown, secondand, charity shop)
⚰ Necklace: Phoenix1900 on ebay. 

I am really disappointed with how the photographs came out for this, but I really don't think either my smartphone or my webcam deal with electric lighting indoors very well. My older smartphone coped much better, as is evident in fourth set of selfies. The dress is stretch lace, and very slinky, and the shrug is woven lace and a nice pattern. I tried to highlight the belt, but the swirling plant designs on the metal are lost, as is the intricate lace of the choker. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Gradient Green Hair

This time, on updating my green dye (it fades after a month or two, and the roots start to really show), I decided to do something different. 

I usually use a combination of Stargazer UV Green or African Green for the highlights and Stargazer UV Turquoise or Tropical Green for the lowlights, and thus get green hair with some dimension to it. This time, I decided to do something a lot more dramatic and give myself gradient hair. I've heard gradient hair called "ombre" but I'm pretty sure that only applies to where you've bleached the lower half of your hair and then maybe applied colour over that - a bit like how my hair dye goes after really growing it out! 

This was done by bleaching out my roots first. I hate trying to bleach my roots as they never quite bleach as pale as the neighbouring pre-bleached hair because it's almost impossible to not get bleach on the neighbouring sections, so the already-bleached hair becomes double-bleached, and the roots only once bleached, and then it still doesn't quite match... argh. I am generally not the best at bleaching my own hair. I have to bleach all my hair twice to get it from nearly black to blonde, too, so the second time I have to try and be extra-careful not to re-bleach what was bleached the previous time, because otherwise my hair will get all brittle at that point and is liable to snap, and while I quite like my hair short, an inch and a half long is shorter than I'm prepared to have right now. Sometimes this means I get a narrow stripe of slightly darker hair where I've strayed too far from the previously bleached hair and only double-bleached parts of my roots. If anyone knows how to make this an easier and less frustrating process, I'd LOVE the advice! 

(As long as the advice isn't "go to a hairdresser's salon" because I can't, due to aerosol allergies and cost issues.)

Once all my hair was as blonde as it was going to get, and I'd done my very best to not frazzle it, I started applying the dye. I love Stargazer because it's very cheap and very vibrant and stays quite vibrant for a while, and I used the UV Green for the top section. One of my friends suggested mixing conditioner in with my hair-dye to get softer hair and to help it after bleaching, so I did that, and combed a mixture of UV Green dye and conditioner down about four inches from my roots. The next section was a mixture of UV Green and UV Turquoise and conditioner, down another couple inches, and then UV Turquoise and conditioner for the rest down to the tips. Once I had washed out all the stargazer dye and conditioner, and dried my hair, I put another coat of UV Green over my roots for an extra vibrant neon green, and then got some Renbow Crazy Colour in Pine Green and rubbed it on the very tips of my hair. 

Of course, I can't have this for work, really. As I have had two weeks off from work on holiday, and this week coming is the Halloween week, and work are being quite permissive in the run up to Halloween (I work at a school, so they really get into the Halloween spirit for the children), it can stay until the weekend. After that, I am using up the remaining Pine Green and having dark green hair, but for now, I get to enjoy my fabulously bright gradient hair. At sunset, it literally glows in the UV twilight. 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Developing Personal Style

3 Tips for all styles (not just Goth) on how to improve your wardrobe and find your own personal style. 

☠ Purge and Replenish 
At the moment I am tidying my wardrobe and came to that moment of "I either need more hangers or fewer clothes" and when this happens, I tend to chose having fewer clothes. Partly, this is because it saves me buying more hangers, partly because it stops me ending up with more clothes than space for clothes (I have limited wardrobe space, as my wardrobe gets used as a store cupboard for other things, like swords and roller-skates), and partly because it helps me develop my own style. 

I end up sorting through all my clothes and assessing what I want to keep, and what I want to get rid of. This can be quite brutal if I've happened to find several bargains in charity shops, been gifted nice things, or been particularly lucky on eBay, as I often end up throwing something out for every new thing I have added. By doing this, I end up with a slowly growing core of clothes that I really love and never decide to throw away (as long as they still fit) and end up giving away or selling things that either do not fit, or which I am just not that fond of. 

Through gradual and constant repetition of this process, I get a better idea of my own personal style, which items fit within that. Items that are an experimental addition to my wardrobe may stay if I like how the experiment turns out, or will be discarded the next time I find something nice, so there is a constantly evolving collection. Over time I have come to know what cuts I like, which things I wear frequently, which things are flattering, and which things are likely to compliment other items, and I credit a lot of this to constantly re-assessing my wardrobe.

This does not necessarily have to be a rapid or expensive process, just one done with thought and consideration.

☠ Take Selfies
This may sound vain, but it can actually be helpful and constructive. The idea here is not necessarily share them with others, but to take pictures to view yourself, as sometimes seeing your image in a photograph gives a slightly different viewpoint or the camera 'sees' things differently to the way your eyes do, and then this fresh image can help you re-asses your outfit. 

Sometimes sharing can help, but I suggest sharing your selfies to a group or forum that is a constructive criticism group (for Lolita fashion, I suggest joining the ::Lolita Fashion Mentoring:: group on Facebook for newbies, and asking for constructive criticism in ::Closet of Frills::, also on Facebook) rather than to your Facebook feed or Instragram or Tumblr, because it is easy to start posing and lighting pictures to make present a nice image rather than to take an image that is there to give a clear image of how your outfit looks, flaws and all, for criticism. Also, look at other people's images in these groups, and read their feedback, and learn from that too. 

If you are going to post an outfit image for review, I think it is important to get a clear whole-body photograph, with lighting that gives clear visibility of details, drape, etc. (difficult with black clothes!) and to also include detail shots if there are specific details you feel contribute to the outfit but are not necessarily visible on a whole-body photograph.

Remember that constructive criticism is a mixture of tips that genuinely work and personal opinion; for example, a lot of Lolitas think that fingerless lace gloves are not suited to Lolita, but I think that as long as the lace is good quality, that they do as I cannot see a good reason for them to not fit in the Lolita aesthetic. If you really love something, wear it, but also do listen to those who give reasons with their constructive criticism. 

☠ Test Outfits Before Wearing
If you have a dress-maker's dummy this is probably the best way of doing this, but if not, there's plenty of ways of constructing make-shift mannequins to fulfil this. One thing I do is take two coat-hangers, one being my 'shoulders' and the other suspended below to be my 'hips' and hang my clothes from the pair as if I were dressing them; that way I get an idea of what the clothes look like together before I actually put them on. I tend to only do this with outfits for special occasions, especially as I can get four (or more) coat-hangers, and put together two outfits next to each other for comparison. This does not replace testing an outfit on at home before an occasion, but it does help the process. 

Another option is to do a 'flat lay' - this is laying out an outfit on a bed or (clean!) floor to get a two-dimensional representation of how an outfit might work. Layer clothes carefully so you get some idea of how layering when worn will look like, and remember that details can be lost in layering, so if you have a nice print, embroidery or other detail in an item that you wish to showcase, do check to see if they're still visible once worn.

Whichever option you choose, this is a good way if assessing how items combine. You can also note down which items go well together, but just do not suit a specific outfit (or 'co-ord' short for 'co-ordinated' in Lolita parlance) and which items just don't seem to fit any outfit (even if they're nice on their own) and mark them as something to either replace, or build an outfit around that does work (depending on whether you are trying to expand or reduce your wardrobe). 

I hope people find these tips useful in developing their own personal style and and in improving their outfits. Developing your own style is based around what you personally like (rather than what is trendy, or what is popular with others) and on what sort of things look aesthetically pleasing together (including deliberately clashing, if that is your thing) and learning over time what suits you, in your own estimation. 

Don't rely too much on others; it is useful initially (especially in a fashion like Lolita that is built around a framework of 'rules' or 'guidelines' that are based in what is tried and tested to work to create a certain aesthetic) but in the end, for something to be your own personal style, you need to develop it yourself. You can learn from others and imitate to a certain degree (but outright copying people's style is considered a bit weird and rude) but remember, that your style is something that should come out of your aesthetics, not someone else's. 

Be patient, especially if you are a teen; you probably won't settle into something that is your groove, your style, your own way of doing things until you're in your late 20s or even early 30s, and it is perfectly fine to experiment. I went through several different subcultural styles and variations on Goth before I settled on Romantic Goth, and even now, my style is evolving (just more slowly) as I evolve. We all change over time, and it is important not to stagnate. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Being Neo-Pagan AND Goth

The problem with being a 'Witch' and vaguely resembling a fantasy witch is that people assume that I'm a witch based on how I look. The problem with that is that their version of 'witch' is often an assumption quite far from what I actually am, and that Goth and 'witch' are not synonyms.

There's several versions of this, and it comes from different mindsets and different assumptions, so I don't want to tackle this as if it is all the same thing. 

The first and most obvious is when non-Pagan strangers ask me if I'm a witch. There are two general versions of this; the one where the asker does not sincerely believe that I am a witch and is asking me it as a mocking question, and the one where the stranger has correlated my outfit with the idea of the fantasy sorceress and genuinely thinks that I might be a practitioner of the occult; and the rarest sort is that some have a vague idea about Wicca and modern Witchcraft and have spotted a pentacle or moon symbol somewhere upon my person, but most of those that ask are of the first two sorts, and of the second sort, they seem to think that I spend my Saturdays sacrificing goats on windswept hillsides or something with the look of fear they give me, and there's a subset of this group who are very intent on saving my soul from the Devil. 

Goth is not a religion, it does not require being a member of any religion, and you get Goths of all religions (Go look at ::Priestly Goth:: and its sister site, ::Priestly Goth Blog:: - the pages of a Pastor, painter of icons, Goth and political blogger. Not the only person who has chosen a Christian religious life that I know that also has a Goth streak!) and of none. I do think that as Goth has a Romantic aspect to it, that it tends to attract people who have a spiritual nature about them, and while yes, there are higher percentage of Goths who are on mystical and occult paths than in the general population (and I include in that Goths who follow the more mystic aspects of mainstream religions, too), it is by no means that all Goths are Pagans. 

I always find it hard to deal with these situations; I usually start with "that's an unusual question" - after all, how many other people has this person asked this question to? Probably not many, if any - and then try and figure things out from there. I don't use the word "witch" very much anyway, as I have explained in ::this:: earlier post, but my answer is going to be very different between someone who says "I noticed your pentacle ring and thought you might be Wiccan" and someone who says "Don't you Gothics (An aside: Gothic is an adjective, not a noun! People need to learn this!) worship the Devil?" I never lie, but I tend to word things carefully to neither confirm nor deny and to steer things away from me, personally. If people are ignorant but genuine curious, then I try to politely explain that they've been misinformed, if they're judgemental and going on a religious tirade, then I extricate myself from the situation. Whatever I do, I'm conscious that it will reflect on Goths as a whole, and therefore try and be as polite (but sometimes firm) as possible and make sure I do not let things devolve into an argument. 

Those who think I am some kind of crazy person and that my clothes and religion are both signs of this probably are not going to listen to any protestations otherwise, so I feel the only answer is to be a calm person and let my actions, and for those who are more than just a judgemental stranger, my life demonstrate that I am not some person wildly disconnected from reality and trying to live some delusion that they are in fact Morgan La Fey or something (there's nothing wrong with the occasional bit of dressing up as long as you're fully aware it is only a costume.) and that I am no crazier or more deluded than any other religious person may be, as there will always be the more militant atheists who try and make an issue of any religion, especially fringe religions. I am of the opinion that as long as a person is not hurting others or themselves through their religious choice, it is of no concern to others and that if you wish to engage in religious debate, it ought to be a polite discourse and not a personal attack. 

Prejudgement from Other Pagans
The Curious Professor Z wrote ::this:: very well-written, researched and thoughtful article on this topic already, and I encourage you to read it.

The most frustrating is probably when other Neo-Pagans think that Goths who are involved in Neo-Pagan spirituality, the Occult and Witchcraft are not sincere about their beliefs or, are coming at it because it is 'spooky' rather than because it connects with them on a deep and spiritual level. I find it frustrating because both Goths and Neo-Pagans are groups who have made choices that have separated them from the mainstream and opened themselves up to the assumptions, prejudice and bigotry of the ignorant, and so I'd hope that from the experience of having been judged and assumed about, that Neo-Pagans who are not Goth would be more inclined to ask questions and judge the sincerity of a person's belief on their actions, not on what subculture they are part of.

I am certainly not into Neo-Paganism as a way to deeper entrench myself in the 'spooky woman' role; this is not some blurring of the lines between everyday life and L.A.R.P. I was pagan before I was Goth, by about three years, although I definitely had Pagan attitudes and ideas that aligned with Neo-Paganism long before that, right from when I was a small child, although I did not know what Neo-Paganism was then.

To be fair, the Neo-Pagans I am currently involved with in my local area seemed pretty open and willing to give me a chance when I joined groups and starting getting involved with the Neo-Pagan community here, and I think that's partly because as the Alternative community in general is small here, people who stand out because they act and dress differently and their thoughts do not align with those of the majority, stick together, whether they're hippies, Neo-Pagans and Witches and other people who practice Alternative spiritualities, Metalheads, Goths, or any combination of the above or people who I haven't mentioned yet. My encounters with Neo-Pagans who have been judgemental have primarily been online. I think the internet is a medium through which some people forget their manners, as there is a distance in typing at a screen that can make people fail to realise there is still another human somewhere reading a different screen at a different keyboard, but not that unlike them.

The other assumption about being a Goth and a Neo-Pagan is that there are other Neo-Pagans who think that we practice curses and magic for evil purposes, that we sacrifice living things and are liable to commit some kind of sacrilegious practice or whatnot, and I think that comes from the same misinformed place as the non-Pagans that think this; they think Goth is somehow linked to 'black magic' (side note: magic does not come in 'black' and 'white'; a growth spell or a love spell can be just as destructive as a diminishment spell or separation spell, and the latter two can actually be used helpfully) and evil practices, and it just is not! It is a common misconception, but it just is not true. Goth does not have any religious affiliation, and does not involve a deliberate desire to be purposefully immoral in any spiritual or more mundane way.

As per usual, I remind people to check their assumptions, or rather, to try and avoid assumptions and to approach things from a place of learning. Goth is a subculture encompassing fashion, art, music and an appreciation for darker things; it is not an anti-moral code, a religion or a cult and has no bearing on what a person choses to be their religious, spiritual or atheist path.