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..

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Goth Is Not Inherently Satanic

I got harrassed for being a Goth by a stranger professing the grounds of Christianity, and attempting to convert me away from Satanism as reason to berate me. 

Yesterday, I was out busking in town, in relatively Gothic clothes, wearing my red wig, and playing my usual fare of traditional Scottish, Irish and other European folk tunes, and this  middle-aged man who was clearly drunk came up to me, and started going about how I play "mystical stuff that goes back to the 12th century" (a reference to an incoherent comment he'd made about Greensleeves at me several months ago; I'm surprised he'd remembered it, because I had, until that point, forgotten about it) and then started going on about how I "don't have to wear black, and dye your [my] hair red" (I pointed out that I was wearing a wig, but he didn't seem to be listening) and then went on to get into my personal space and loudly and aggressively deride being a Goth as Satanic, and tell me that he's a Christian and that I should, to paraphrase him 'find my Saviour'. I tried my best to explain that Goth has no religious affiliation and that it is simply an aesthetic preference, but he kept insisting that it was indeed Satanic. As he later went on to inform that he'd been an alcoholic, and then "clean for 2 years" but had "done a runner three days ago", I decided that his words and actions were the product of mental illness and addiction, and not to take them to heart. He said he would pray for me, and I thanked him for his prayers. I decided silently that I would pray for him too, for that after 2 years clean and then relapsing, he finds his way back to sobreity, and that he would get the help and support to do so, and find the inner strength too, because I know addiction is a hard battle to fight. Just as he left, two of my Goth friends came up to me, saying they weren't sure whether to intervene, as he had just harrassed them for being Goths too, asking them questions about their religious beliefs and condemning them to Hell for not matching his. 

It was a complex situation, and even though he railed at us and condemned us, his actions were clearly a sign of his own struggles and I could not bring myself to be harsh with him, and he did give me a £5 note, so at least he was generous as well as religiously harrassing (not that giving me money ameliorates bad behaviour, and I do wonder if he thought giving me money was simply a way to get my time). I didn't know what to do about the situation; I felt cornered because busking generally means I have to stand with my back to a wall to avoid being in the way of pedestrians, and although people were walking by, nobody helped me and I could not see any security guards or police, although I did feel that they might just treat him as another obnoxious drunk, when he probably needed more nunaced help than that. 

This got me thinking that it is a common misconception that Goth is synonymous with Satanism, or at least that it is inherently Satanic, and I feel like it would be productive to break down that misconception.

Goth is simply a subculture that is focused on having an appreciation for the morbid, dark and spooky in music, fashion, art and literature; it has no religious affiliation at all, and Goths come from all religions as well as agnostic and atheists. 

That is the short response, but does not really contain any nuance, not does it explain why Goths sometimes use Satanic imagery, or gives any differentiated understanding of how occult themes tie into the Gothic, and as such does little to shed light on how Goth is not Satanic even though it looks like it could be.

Satanic imagery is used within the Gothic subculture for several reasons.

Sometimes Satanic imagery is used for shock value, especially by those who feel constrained by a conservative cultural backdrop and wish to differentiate themselves as other, as part of something taboo, dark and frightening. Often it is teens who do this, and it is not representative of the wearer's/displayer's true religious or spiritual beliefs, but part of a more complicated process of wishing to separate themselves and create their own identity. Often, this is a passing phase - either because all interest in dark and spooky things is a passing phase, or because they mature into somebody more onfident in their identity, rather than identifying themsleves oppositionally to others. Some people carry this behaviour on into adulthood, but usually this is a behaviour that people mature out of. Often, Satanic imagery used for shock value is not used in a way that is coherent with the actual uses of those symbols within Satanism or the occult, and is often mixed up with symbols from other religious and spiritual groups (I have seen the Star of David and Wiccan symbols appropriated into this sort of shock-value pseudo-Satanism, but that is another matter entirely.)

Some Goths actually are Satanists, but they are a minority even within the Goth scene - these people will use Satanic symbols correctly, and tend not to advertise their Satanic affiliations. Most of the actual Satanists I know personally are not Goths; they tend to be more "nerdy" and less into the theatric and ostentatious aesthetics of Goth. Most of the Satanists I have met subscribe to a version of Satanism where Satan is an archetype of independence, hedonism and suchlike, rather than a deliberately Anti-Christian worship of the Devil. I have never met an actual Devil-worshipper, someone who subscribes to a Christian theology and cosmology, but looks towards Hell and the Devil rather than to Heaven and Jesus - I am not saying they do not exist, just that such people must be quite rare, even amongst Gothic and Occult circles.

Sometimes people mistake Neo-Pagan iconography and symbolism for Satanic imagery, for example confusion can arise over the use of pentacles and pentagrams (and their inverted variations), and this is exascerbated by the misuse of these symbols (please read ::this:: article on the 'occult trend' I wrote earlier this year). Neo-Paganism is a religion that has no concept of an adversarial dichotomy, with no Hell or Satan. Some people hold the belief that all things other than their specific religious path are Satanic or at least a distraction or deception from what they see as the truth, but outside of that belief structure, there is little in Neo-Paganism that could mark it as anything Satanic, any more than say, Buddhism or Hinduism; it is a completely different belief system to any of the monotheistic faiths. As Goths often have an interest in the spiritual, and are apt to look outside conventional spirituality for answers, there are quite a few Neo-Pagans within Goth, but again, not all Goths are Neo-Pagans, and not all Neo-Pagans are Goths (quite a few dress very 'mainstream' and others -a significant proportion- are more inclined towards Hippy and 'Bohemian' aesthetics.).

There are some people who feel badly hurt by Christianity, or who see it as a destructive force, and who use Christian symbols and anti-Christian symbols as a critique of Christianity and the power of organised religion; sometimes this falls into the territory of shock-value, and sometimes it is done with more refinement and nuance, but this is not unique to Goth, even though it does exist within the Gothic subculture, nor is it something you have to engage in as a Goth. Goths tend to be people who have been outcast by the traditional community structures, and that can include the Church, and/or people who use Christianity as an excuse to harasss people they disagree with (a bit like the man in my opening paragraphs) - as such, there are probably a greater percentage of Goths who do this than non-Goths. Personally, even as an apostate, I find this sort of thing can often be more harmful and rectionary than productive. I don't think religions should be beyond criticism or critique, but I do think that there ways to go about doing this, and there are ways that are just rude and mean, where the message is lost in the missive.

There are, of course, more than these four contexts, but these are the four most common contexts and reasons for the use of Satanic imagery within the Gothic subculture. Sometimes it is used in the traditional way it was used within Gothic horror; as a symbol for various evils or villainry that a good person can come across, for example.

The use of Satanic imagery is not inherent to Goth - the use of dark imagery is, but not all dark imagery has to come from the cultural/religious context of Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil - there are plenty more traditions to draw from, and a lot of Gothic imagery comes from European folk-tales, sometimes more entwined with Christianity. The imagery of death, decay, transience and similar are part of the human experience, and appear in different ways across all cultures. There is plenty of positive Christian iconography used in Goth as well - but that is a topic for different blog entry entirely (and something I would quite like to write about, and get some of my Christian Goth friends to write guest posts for, but that is for a different time). Not everything dark is Satanic even in a Christian context; the Bible is full of stories about people who had to overcome pain, suffering and violence, and the very concepts of martyrdom and Christ as crucified saviour involve death and sacrifice; not everything that is dark is inherently negative.

Goths are not synonymous with Satanists, we are not a group who worship the Devil or are anti-Christian; we are diverse with diverse perspectives outside of things that are actually Goth (of which specific religious affiliation is not). There are quite a few Goths who are Christians, and there are Goths who are Jewish, Muslim, and members of other monotheistic faiths. There are even Goth priests - check out the ::Priestly Goth Blog:: for example. You cannot tell someone's religion by their subcultural affiliation. 

Side note: if you wish to convert someone to your faith, condemning them and berating them will have the exact opposite effect; you are more likely to drive that person away from the religion you profess than convert them. 

Friday, 29 May 2015

Carmarthen Castle/ Castell Caerfyrddin

During the Easter break, we went on holiday to visit friends/family in Wales. My Dad had never been to Carmarthen Castle before, so I took him to visit it. He's an archaeological geophysicist, so he tends to spend more time concentrating on burried ruins than on those remainign more vertical. I took most of the photographs on my camera-phone. My new smartphone is pretty dire for indoor photography, but actually rather good for outdoor photographs; the only problem I have is that it is hard to hold it still, especially as it is so thin and light.

Gatehouse. Photograph by the HouseCat

This photograph was taken from the city centre side of the castle, looking up at the imposing and sturdy gatehouse. In its heyday, it would have been a true stronghold, well defended against attackers with vast walls and a garrison of knights and warriors. I'm not sure what sort of roof the gatehouse would have had, but I imagine it once loomed even taller. All the walls are hugely thick and very sturdy. Apparently, there are further remains of fortifications and associated buildings outwith the curtain wall (big perimeter walls of the castle compound) underneath parts of the city's central shopping district!

Large round tower, looking up. Photo by HouseCar

Carmarthen Castle is rich with Arthurian legend, and according to legend, the town is named after Merlin, or Myrddin (pronounced something akin to "Merthin" - I am not Welsh, and that is my attempt at writing how my Welsh-speaking friends pronounce it, in English phonics. Natively speaking and flluent Welsh speakers are free to correct me :) ), but actually, Myrddin was named after the town, as he was supposed to have been born near there, and the city was named after one of fortresses that have stood there, which overlooking the estuary, was called Moridunum by the Romans - a Latinisation of even older Brythonic, and basically, it meant 'Sea Fort'. The castle, being one fortification in a long history of fortifications there, is part of that history, and is situated on a prominence overlooking the river, and where the bridge now is. It would have once been guarding the way in from the sea. The road now runs directly below it, and beyond that the railway comes in.

Trefoil Gothic window. Photo by the HouseCat

Merlin is supposed to be trapped in a nearby hill, within which the Crystal Caves are supposed to be hidden. The shopping precinct there is called Merlin's Walk in English and Maes Myrddin in Welsh, and there's some interesting public sculpture in the city on an Arthurian theme. Considering the connection to Merlin, most famous of British mythological wizards, I am surprised there are not more local metaphysical shops and Neo-Pagan suppliers capitalising on that theme; perhaps this is a good thing as in other places with Arthurian connections such as Glastonbury, some of that can get a bit tacky and 'touristy'.

Part of castle keep. Photograph by the HouseCat

The road is significantly below the castle walls, and you have to walk up steps to reach even the bottom of them. This photograph is looking up from those steps, towards one of the towers. Until fairly recently, it was possible to walk up one of the original spiral staircases, but unfortunately it appears that there has been instability and partial collapse, so that staircase is now barred up. There is not much left of the castle above ground, but next door is a building that was once a prison, and is now council offices (and which was built in a style that certainly took aesthetic influence from the neighbouring castle) and what is now the carpark has a massive stone wall around it. Within that wall are still visible portions and traces of castle architecture, but it was hard to get a good photograph, and as the council carpark is private, I coul not just go down and take pictures. 

::Carmarthen Castle at Castles of Wales:: - I recommend this link because it shows the extent of the remaining castle with large size photographs, clearer than mine. Includes picturess from the carpark.
::Carmarthen Wikipedia Page::
A lot of what I have learnt about the castle is from the signs there, and from talking with my friends and relations local to Carmarthen, especially Kate B. and Raven's father.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Loving My Green Hair

When I started dyeing my hair green, it was partly because my blue hair had faded to a greenish turquoise and I had as yet not experimented with green yet, partly because I really like the colour green, and . Green is my second favourite colour, but it is not one that appears much in my wardobe, unlike plum purple (my favourite colour) and wine red (my third favourite colour) so having green hair has mean that for some outfits, I have been wearing wigs more than I used to do. I was never expecting to keep my hair green for this long - I thought that by now, my hair would be back to blue or even violet again - but I've really fallen for the green! 

Bright green hair. Selfies taken with forward facing phone cam

This picture was taken just before I went on holiday over Easter. As I've said before, I reserve the brighter shades for the holidays because even though work are happy with unnatural colours, they prefer it if I stick to darker shades - easier said than done when my hair often fades to a muted pastel version of whatever colour I had it dyed before I have the opportunity to retouch it and recoat it in another layer or two of colour. While the forward-facing camera on my new-ish phone does not have adjustable focus, and due to this several of the pictures are slightly blurry, I still love this collection of selfies because my hair looks so luminescent and vibrantly green; as I use UV reactive dye, my hair really does glow in the twilght of evening!

I have had my hair green for about a year now, so a lot longer than I had it purple or blue. I am starting to think about going back to either blue or purple, but I think I will keep it green for a little while longer. 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Purple, Black & Green: Outfit Of The Day

I often feel that posting "Outfit Of The Day" blogs is a bit like cheating for this blog - it is fine if you are a fashion blogger who is primarily a style blogger, but that isn't really what my blog is about. During the hiatus I did not have much time to invest in writing extended articles, and my longer written posts can take several days to write. My usual method is to word-vomit as much as I can at my keyboard to get my ideas out of my head, then edit that into an organised, coherent and reasonable article. As I like to give myself time to think and reflect and "digest" between the first phase and the editing phase, this is often done over a few days. Outfit posts are quite simple: they are a couple of selfie collages made in ::PicMonkey::, an outfit run-down and a little bit about what I think from an aesthetic point of view.

Selfies by the HouseCat
Outfit rundown:
☽ Sunglasses: eBay - I'm not sure who makes them, but several Chinese ebay shops sell them.

☽ Bolero Jacket: DarkStar - bought in shop at FarFetched in Inverness
☽ Blouse: ZanZea - Christmas/Winter Solstice present from Raven
☽ Underbust corset: eBay
☽ Velvet Overskirt: bought secondhand on eBay
☽ Skirt: Marks & Spencer's, bought secondhand on eBay. I have two of this skirt, both secondhand.
☽ Pentagram Bag: DarkStar. I actually can't remember where this is from, I think it was a present from Suzy-Bugs.

Selfies by the HouseCat. Colours more purple and less bruise-like in real life.

I have actually acquired quite a collection of unusual sunglasses, mostly round ones. I'm a real fan of round sunglasses, so these rhombus-lensed glasses in round frames were an interesting addition. My friend ::Ms. Sheridan:: got a pair, and I shamelessly copied her by getting a pair too. 

The make-up for this outfit was metallic purple in a colour that matched my jacket - I used two different cameras for the face pictures and full-length selfies, and the lighting is also different, so it is hard to tell, but if you use the idea that it is the same colour wall behind me in both sets, you should get the idea that they are the same purple! I also used a water-colour brush (dedicated to make-up use) and some metallic purples and metallic black eyeshadow to draw the swirl on my cheek, and then metallic silver eyeliner (same as a I used on my eyelids) to draw the crescent moon. My green hair has faded to turquoise. I am taking a break from dyeing and bleaching it for the while, but will probably do something interesting with it at the start of summer break. 

In the next few weeks I hope to upload more in-depth posts - probably one about things that made me realise I am Goth (a 'how I became a Goth' post, in some ways), and a few other wordier ones. 

Friday, 22 May 2015

World Goth Day 2015

Official World Goth Day Logo,
used hoepfully within their permitted uses.
May 22nd of each year is World Goth Day, as the ::official website:: describes it: "a day where the goth scene gets to celebrate its own being, and an opportunity to make its presence known to the rest of the world". Considering what happened to ::Sophie Lancaster:: and that Goths worldwide continue to get harrassment and violence simply for having different tastes to the norm, I feel that a day to celebrate the subculture's existence is both necessary and positive. We ought to be proud of what the subculture is, what it has achieved (and not just creatively) and of the the sorts of people we are - eccentrics, artists, musicians, romantics of a modern sort, creative folk. Goth is a haven for the morbidly curious and weirdly interesting, it is a subculture in which we can find likeminded individuals and talk about our interests without scorn or derision, and we should be proud of Goth.

Work outfit. Selfies by HouseCat

I always try and 'get my Goth on' on World Goth Day, but this year, it fell on a work day. I almost always wear all black at work these days anyway - today's outfit of black turtleneck and black trousers is pretty standard for my work attire. I obviosuly can't bedeck myself in spikes and studs at work although I did wear this belt with my jumper pulled over it because my trousers kept falling down. It was lumpy, but less obvious and I was searching before work for my one belt that isn't studded fruitlessly (I had left it attached to my archery quiver, as I found out that evening...) and this was slightly more appropriate than the belts with bullets, skulls and othersuch on them! 

After-work outfit. Selfies by HouseCat, glasses removed to show makeup

I added a spiked bangle, a studded cuff, a spiked collar, and the belt, and let my hair down literally. Accessories such as these are an easy way to make an outfit instantly visibly Goth without having to wear specifically-Goth items, so meant I could just stash my accessories into my bag, and put these on when I went into town after work, without much bother; a very simple transition between 'work' and 'casual' modes. This is actually, as far as outfits go, a very casual one for me to be wearing in my spare time as I prefer less contemporary, more anachronistic fashion of a Romantic Goth, Gothic Aristocrat, Visual Kei and Lolita sort - as my readers will know!

In the evening I went out in Inverness with friends, and while I was standing outside the pub we were supposed to meet at, texting my friends about where they were at as I was the first to arrive (ah, the joys of public transport), two drunken men of a chavvy attitude loudly made a wretching noise behind me, and shouted some comment about "puke green hair" and "fucking freak". It disquietened me enough to decide it was a bad idea to be standing around, looking that different, on a main street with several pubs on a Friday night, so I went to go sit in the nearby graveyard, which was deserted at that point - I guess thereby doing something most stereotypically Goth. We get harrassed on the streets by strangers, but we are not in the wrong - drunken jerks who yell insults at people they disapprove of are in the wrong. Never let people's prejudices change who you are; being Goth is neither immoral nor illegal (in most places), but insulting strangers in public is immoral, and I think it might actually be illegal in some places, especially if you are drunk (but I'm not a lawyer).

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Gothic Eye Make-Up: Architecturally Gothic

Medieval Gothic art - and especially Gothic architecture - is the deep tap-root of Goth; it is from the old Gothic architecture of castles and abbeys that formed the settings of the early supernatural horror novels that the term "Gothic" was applied to them, and from those novels that the idea of Gothic meaning things that are dark, supernaturally spooky, atmospheric, and a mixture of darkness, the sublime and the terrible - and it is from that meaning, combined with the (broadly inaccurate) idea of the Germanic Goths being barbarians that the term "Goth" was applied to the fans of the music that would later also be called "Goth". 

As such, I decided it would be interesting to take direct influence from this for my makeup. Over the eyelid are three arches of increasing size with marble-painted smaller arches within them. The eyebrows and above them have tracery based on Gothic windows with pinnacles, crockets and and trifoliate designs. Under the eyes are two "clock-hand" inspired designs drawn to balance the upwards designs above the eye. 

This is my first attempt at drawing anything based on Gothic art and architecture actually ON my face, and I found it really hard to draw over the contours of my skin, and to draw with any accuracy in a mirror and where I could not rest my hand on anything to steady it. With the eyelids I used primer instead of foundation as the basis and then did a gradient of silver and pewter eyeshadow, then drew over that in eyeliner (using a narrow brush and a broader brush), then filled in the details with a silver eyeliner pen. The marble-painted sections were painted using water and powder eyeshadows and a water-colour brush (one assigned exclusively for use with make-up!). 

I would really love advice on how to do something like this more neatly. I'm quite happy with how it already turned out, but I would prefer to make it neater and have more accurately architectural details, and arches that look much pointier. As I mentioned before, I found actually drawing over my eyelids very difficult. The organic forms of my swirlies are more flowing and this easier to paint across an uneven surface, and are often drawn over the bony parts of my face, so are easier to draw. The hardest thing I find is lacking a way of bracing my arm so I can have a steadier hand.