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

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

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Dundee City

For New Year's/Hogmanay, I went to stay with some friends in Dundee. I think it was either New Year's Day or 2nd January, but one of the days of the trip, Raven and I went for a wander around the city. There's a lot of very pretty architecture there, and an interesting cemetery in the city centre. Raven and I were on a quest to find a specific restaurant, so most of the pictures were just snapshots, and I didn't get a chance to look at what they actually were, and with this being exam season (and with me having been generally extremely busy with college this spring) so there's not my usual historical and architectural context.

Quiet Dundee Streets

The one place I have some context on is the Howff Burial Ground. It is urban, bordered on two sides by walls and roads, and on the other two by the rear walls - and windows - of tall Victorian buildings, including the former newspaper offices. There's a windowed tourelle on one of the old newspaper offices that seems to be firstly an afterthought, and both leaking and leaning precariously, which seemed expected - the whole cemetery seemed like a bubble within the city that was in a different time and a little bit like a different world. Even the trees there were tangled, winding and strangely shaped! The burial ground was originally part of the grounds of a Franciscan monastery, and I think the wall with the arches dates from 1601!

Tangle-wood tree

I don't know if this is is a specific species of tree that grows like this, or the result of some kind of pruning technique, but this tree just grew in knots and tangles and lumps and snags. I've never seen a tree like it, but there were at least two in Howff Cemetery. There were no leaves or flowers on it so I, who am no expert on trees, didn't even have that to go on to identify them.

It is possible to do a virtual cemetery tour if you look up 'The Howff' in Dundee, Scotland, on Google StreetView. Apparently it was uploaded by a Google user (a Kevin Reid) - I didn't even know that was possible! It looks like it was done with one of those 360° image cameras or something, as a series of "image spheres" at locations all around the cemetery paths. I don't know how you link to a specific place in Google StreetView, so I won't add the link here, but I do recommend looking it up. 

Neoclassical tower

Near the cemetery was this rather large and fancy Neoclassical building - I didn't catch what it actually was, as I was walking within the cemetery walls, not without, and didn't actually walk past the exterior of whatever it was to see a sign or anything. Whatever it is, it's a very ornate and grand building, and the light on that wintry day caught it beautifully. I looked it up on Google StreetView, and it looks like a concert hall or theatre. 

Church tower, one of a pair

I liked this church, but it was hard to get a god photograph of it because there is a bus stop right in front of it. It is on Panmore Street and has two of these towers and a charming rose window. I thought I'd take one of its 'witches' hat' roofed spire. I love the vents - possibly to help the sound of bells escape. 

McManus Galleries

I had a walk around the McManus Galleries - an amazing Gothic Revival building. I didn't get to go inside them as they were shut, but I took several photographs of the exterior. I would love to do a photo-shoot on the fabulous steps - I wonder if that could be arranged! I also think the steps - in Baroque swirling design - work really well with this otherwise very Gothic design. It's an altogether fabulous, magical-looking building... 

Steeple under rainy skies

This is the steeple on a rather interesting building. In the centre of Dundee is a building that, at first glance, would look like a cathedral. It is huge, old, and Gothic and very definitely the size and shape of the average cathedral. However, it is not a single-purpose building. It has been subdivided, and done so historically. There is the steeple, shown above, which I think is a municipally run clock tower, and at least two churches and a youth group using the rest of the building, with the spaces subdivided for these uses. Apparently subdividing the building became a necessity centuries ago, as there have been several serious fires in the building. The history of the site is very long with the earliest church on the site being from 1192 - a time-line of history of the building can be read ::here::. It's currently surrounded by a shopping mall!

The observant will have noticed that some of the photographs -specifically the ones of  buildings and monuments - are watermarked 'Architecturally Gothic'. This is one of the two Tumblr accounts I run. ::Architecturally Gothic:: is  my architectural photography Tumblr. It's mostly my own work, but I reblog a lot of other people's architectural photography too. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Hair Adventures 2: Feeling Blue

As I mentioned at the end of my previous post, my new hair was meant to be a purple a pointed fringe, but the rest pine-green. The hair-cut, done by my friend Melody, turned out well (even if I am still learning to manage it), and initially it seemed that the dye - which I did myself - had worked out, too. I was really happy with my hair for a short while...

Violet fringe, pine-green hair... all seems well
I liked this colour combination - I had gone for a bluer, more violet purple and a green with cool tones so that together they would look better than a yellow-green and a pinkish purple, and I used a different dye for my hair than I normally did - the green was Directions Alpine Green with streaks of Crazy Colour Pine Green. I liked this, and I liked the Crazy Colour Violette. I didn't like how it washed out, though! After a couple of washes my hair was two-tone blue! 

My hair turned blue!
I don't actually know why this happened, either. Before I re-dyed my hair I had bleached my extensive roots, and had spent a while washing (not bleaching) the faded green from my hair until it was very pale mint. My fringe had been bleached to nearly white, and most of the top of my head bleached to pale blonde, so it wasn't from there being a lot of blue underneath. I did, however, dye it in two stages, as the first time was a bit patchy, and I did notice that after the second coat the colours seemed bluer. With the second coat I had also mixed conditioner in with the dye to try and deep condition my hair as I dyed it - something one of my friends recommended to me, and she has had no problem with it, but she uses Arctic Fox rather than Directions dyes.

Freshly done
I have had green dyes fade to bluish before - when I had my multicolour hair, which included actual blue, it definitely faded more towards the blue tones, and the greens became bluer. The picture on the left is how my multicolour hair started out - note that I used actual blues in the middle sections, and only green at the top  - and then it faded to mostly blue. 
After a few washes
However, this took a few washes, and didn't dramatically change colour the first time I washed it. It was also clearly a case of the green at the top fading to turquoise, still with hints of green, as well as blue from the middle section leaching into the purples. The blues remained pretty constant, and just faded a little - not dramatically.  

I don't actually know what has gone wrong with my hair, or how best to fix it. I don't want to bleach my hair again, as it's already brittle and a bit fried - and it needed quite a bit chopped off the bottom to deal with how much I had already damaged it. I'm trying to wash out as much of the blue as possible, and I've bought both some of my usual Directions Apple Green, and some Stargazer UV Green to re-coat the bulk section of my hair. I've also bought some Stargazer UV Pink to put over my royal blue fringe, hoping to make it look purple.

I don't know how well this is all going to turn out - the dye is ordered, but I have an exam on Tuesday, so I probably won't get any dyeing done until Wednesday - after which I will post a 'Hair Adventures 3' instalment to show you all how it turns out. 

Shiny blue lipstick.

I don't think the blue is an objectively bad colour - it's just not right for me. I don't even think I look necessarily bad with it - it suits me a lot better than my natural brown, and a lot better than that time I tried to have lilac hair, and I think it's better than the mint colour my green fades to, but it just doesn't seem right on me - I've had green hair, or at least mostly green hair, for so long that I just can't get used to my hair being a different colour. I look at my reflection and it just looks off - like I'm wearing a wig when I'm not. Plus I just like the colour green more than the colour blue. I think if it had been on purpose, that might also have given me a different outlook on it, but it being unwanted, some mistake I made in the process, really doesn't help. I've tried to make the most of it, and used it as an excuse to play around with blue make-up, but I definitely want it green again. 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Hair Adventures 1: A Paean To Green Hair

My hair was green for over 3 years, and now it's blue. I wish it was green again.

I tried to give myself pine green hair with a violet fringe and it went wrong... Well, it went fairly well until I washed it and now I have aqua blue hair with a royal blue fringe... I've had blue hair before, and I didn't mind it then, but this time around I just don't like it. I want my green hair back, and I've tried washing out the blue, but it just fades to lighter blue, and I'm scared to try stripping out in case I fry my hair. I'm just going to let it fade to a really light blue, then try and cover it over with a rather yellow green, and hope that the two together make the sort of mid-green that I love. In the meanwhile, I'm making this retrospective of pictures from when my hair was bright green and I loved it.

Here is my hair dyed with Directions Alpine Green - the colour my hair is currently meant to be! The last time I used it, it stayed very much like this, and I wonder what caused it to be so unstable this time - perhaps it's because I mixed in Crazy Colour Pine Green, perhaps its because I mixed in conditioner to try and repair my bleach-frazzled, hair... I don't really know. My last employers let me have green hair as long as it wasn't too vivid, so I dyed it this colour.
Spiky collar and short pine-green hair.  Selfies.
Below is another picture from early 2014, when my hair was short and green - although in this blueish lighted picture and with some fading, it looks a little more turquoise. This was around the start of me dyeing my hair green, and it's a colour I feel really suited me, hence why I have stuck with it for so long. 

Short dark emerald green hair, and a party outfit. Selfies.
As my hair started to grow longer, I started experimenting with more greens. For work I needed to keep it in darker greens and one colour, but for Hallowe'en 2014 I dyed it in this gradient effect. After the celebrations were over I dyed it all the darkest green of the very tips. 

Green ombre hair. Selfies.
Here is one from 2015, taken in my old apartment (I miss the pale purple walls in the hall-way). This particular shade of green ended up being "my colour" and I have gone back to it time and time again, even including it when I've had multicolour hair. I think this was summer time, hence the bright colour. I used to work at a school, so during summer I wasn't at work and could have my hair bright colours.

The start of the emerald green hair. Selfies. 
Even when I have dyed my hair in multicolour, 'mermaid' effects, I've always retained green as one of the main colours - on the top layer so it is the one that people can see most vividly. I don't mind having blues and purples in my hair - and I definitely liked it when all my hair was purple - but green has really become my favourite colour for my hair.

My first attempt at multicolour 'mermaid' style hair. Selfies.
This next one was from last summer. The weather was warm enough to warrant me wearing a white shirt instead of my usual all-black-everything, and my hair still had blue tips from when it was multi-colour. Blue is a fun accent colour, but I just don't really like my whole hair being blue. 

Summertime Gothic. Selfies.
Last autumn I pretty much settled into dyeing it the green that I want to stick with in the long run. I'd got into a routine with the Directions Apple Green, and it was looking very bright. I had fun doing matching makeup for it, including this angular look with iridescent green lip gloss over black lipstick. 

Bright green hair and matching makeup. Selfies
The photos below aren't selfies, they're a selection from the set that Raven took for me in January. The colour had faded out a little from washing, but was still quite bright. I wore a purple and black jacket with my green hair... as you can probably tell, my fondness for this colour pairing was building. 

Green hair in January. Photos by Raven. 
These pictures are from the same day - but are ones I took to focus on the make-up I did - green and purple like my outfit and hair. I rather liked this dramatic effect, and it is something I would like to repeat in future. 

Make-up for January photoshoot. Selfies.
This make-up made me feel like a fae-creature of some sort, and the green hair really does help with that kind of aesthetic. I filled my eyebrows in green and painted my lips to match. This is actually pretty recent - I think I did this make-up in March or April. There are a lot of good green make-up products available, so it's quite easy to find ways of co-ordinating green make-up for green hair. 

Green hair and green make-up.
I have had a lot of fun doing interesting make-up for my long green hair. I let it grow quite long - not as long as it was in my teens (I had it nearly waist-length once). The ends were getting a bit frazzled after repeated bleaching over the years, which means that I have since had it trimmed by about 5 or 6 inches. This purple make-up wasn't my neatest (the eyebrows came out a little uneven), but it was another pairing of purple and green. 

Green and purple once again in combination. Selfies.
This next make-up look was inspired by the idea of an 'evil dryad'. The great thing about unnatural green hair - not even leafy, or grassy green hair, but bright, vivid, artificial, green - is that it's good for looks that are based off distorted nature, because they're a nature colour, green, but not in a natural variation - well, unless it's in mineral form; malachite and emerald.  

Green hair and dark make-up. Selfies.
And this windswept picture (in which my new pointed fringe looks rather fluffy!) illustrates the colours my hair was meant to be - a violet fringe and an emerald-to-pine green for the rest of it... if only it had stayed these colours! Green and purple are my favourite colour combination, and this was the hair that my recently lace-on bat-wings were supposed to match.  

Green hair and purple fringe. Selfies.
I'm a little annoyed that the above colour combination was so shortly lived. I will try and somehow remedy the situation, but I am not sure how successful I will be. It really didn't work out as intended - even if the immediate results seemed successful. I think that perhaps at some point in the next two years, as it will be likely that I will need to have a more natural colour after I graduate in order to appease the professional job market, but now my green hair is (hopefully, only temporarily...) gone, I know that when that time comes, I will really miss it.

One thing I can say is that the pointy fringe turned out pretty well. It has faded blue, but it has a good shape. The picture above doesn't do it justice because I was literally holding it down against the wind. It was a rather bright but rather windy day when I took those, and you can see the trim on my sleeves! I have some more selfies of the new hair with the fringe better visible, but they're all decidedly blue!

The next instalment of my hair adventures is about my new hair... Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible hair, and my friend Melody who cut it did an excellent job, it's just that it's blue (which I dyed myself) and I just don't feel right with blue hair this time around, plus it is not what I had intended. However, I am trying to make the most of my blue hair. 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Bat/Dragon Wings from Madame Magpie: Review

I spotted an advert on FaceBook for some rather pretty lace-on bat wings, and immediately fell in love with them. They're hand-made by an independent crafter - Madame Magpie, who makes them for attaching to both roller-derby skates and regular footwear, and can be found ::here::. I agreed with her what design I wanted, but said I couldn't afford them until after I got paid, which she was amenable to. The discussions via FaceBook chat were really good for explaining exactly what sort of colours I wanted - and I used a selfie for colour reference so they would match my hair! (Although my turned turquoise-blue with royal-blue fringe after the first wash... which I am NOT happy about! But that is another story entirely).

Bat wings, keyring, and card.
The wings are leather, and are hand-painted in metallic paints with a touch of glitter. They have three metal grommets each where the laces go through - which is good as I wouldn't want them to wear or tear from friction where the laces go through. The colours are exactly what I hoped for. It's hard to tell from the photographs, but they are a lovely metallic effect, even the purple bits, and have a little bit of shimmery green glitter on them.  

A single bat wing 

The package was well wrapped, and also included a matching branded keyring. I'm not normally a fan of key-rings that are also adverts, but this one has a personal touch that makes it different, plus it's very sparkly. My keys have enough stuff attached to them already, but I will be hooking this key-ring on too. 

Free key-ring

I really like the bat wings, especially as I can use them with any pair of lace-up shoes or boots. Currently they're on a pair of black high-heeled brogues, but next they might end up on some granny-boots, or a pair of flat shoes - or maybe my roller-derby skates! They're tough leather, so they should withstand the rigours of what is a rather frenetic contact sport. 

Close up of bat wing, key-ring, and awesome skull-magpie logo.

I would rate this product as: 

Construction: 5/5
They're well made, with paint that hasn't cracked, peeled or flaked since I've worn them, and the grommets seem firmly in place. The leather is thick, and they seem generally well made and quite sturdy - which is important for something going on shoes or even roller-skates which will entail a pretty good chance of them getting caught or scraped on stuff.

Time: 5/5

The turn around for making them and despatching was just a couple of days, which I was really happy about. It took longer for the postal service to get them to me than it did for her to go from finalising the commission with me to sending them off. 

Communication: 5/5

Communication over FaceBook chat was really effective. We were able to clearly establish what I wanted, and she was very good at responding, and very clear and polite. She used one of my selfies as a colour reference, and it worked out pretty well. 

Packaging: -

I forgot to keep the packaging for my review, so there's no score for this one. It all arrived safely, though, and that's the important thing.

I have bat-wings that match(ed) my hair that I can pair with whatever shoes I want, and I think that's pretty cool - but maybe I'm a tad biased. I know the colourful, fun aesthetic isn't for everyone, but I love them (plus, if you have to have all-black-everything, she can do all black ones!).

Photos are taken on a grey skull adorned printed napkin I got at Hallowe'en from TK Maxx
This post is NOT sponsored, and I haven't had any renumeration or reward for writing this. I bought the bat-wings with my own money, and I don't expect any future recompense from Madame Magpie.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Subcategories of Goth - Do They Exist, & Are They Limiting?

Goth has often, in recent years, been divided into 'subcategories', and some of them relate to fashion taxonomies - descriptions of what kinds of clothes someone wears - but I think that some of them are more than that.  I will open with saying that this is just my opinion on the matter; it is not absolute fact, and this is based off my personal experiences with the scene rather than any concrete research. Whether or not there actually are subcategories, and whether there should be, has been a topic I've seen debated recently, so I thought I'd break down how I have observed this playing out. 

The first question is, however, are they all more than just fashion styles? 
For some people, of course, they are all just fashions, different ways of aesthetically expressing their Goth tastes, and they might dress Trad Goth one day, and Romantic the next, choosing outfits based on the events they're going to, or their mood that day, and they like a lot of different styles of Goth fashion, and those fashion styles might not reflect anything of what aspects of Goth culture they're into at all. There are, of course, plenty of Goths that are into a an eclectic collection of non-fashion aspects of Goth, too, and there are those that switch their aesthetics to express all of those aspects in turn. However, I think in many cases the fashion taxonomy reflects more than just what clothes they felt like wearing that day, but reflects visually what aspects of Goth culture they are into.

I will have to say I am a little biased in this case - I identify as a Romantic Goth, and was into Romanticism before I was into Goth, and am firmly based in Romanticism, Sturm-und-Drang, Gothic Revivalism, and other related artistic and literary movements such as Gothic Literature, the Pre-Raphaelites, etc. I came to the Gothic before I came to Goth, and my fashion reflects my interests [I wrote about why I wear Romantic Goth ::here:: a few years back, and while my situation has changed since then, my fashion is similar]. I am also the sort of Goth that loves the atmospheric and ethereal branches of darkwave: music like Dead Can Dance, The Cocteau Twins, Sopor Æternus and the Ensemble of Shadows, and This Mortal Coil - plus a lot of classical music of the atmospheric and passionate sort! I have an extensive collection of Requiem Masses, my favourite being Faure's... [I have written about my love of choral music ::here:: ] My interests lean towards the Romantic and the Gothic and I spend a lot of time in nature, seeking an experience of the wilder, more awesome places of our planet, I find my peace and quiet in graveyards [why I spend so much time in them is something I wrote about ::here::] or wandering around ancient ruins and decrepit castles. My engagement with Goth is primarily with its Gothic and Romantic aspects in the art-history sense of the word. For me, 'Romantic Goth' is describing far more than my fashion taxonomy; it's describing my mindset, the literature I read, the music I listen to, and generally the perspective from which I interact with the subculture.

I know, however, that the plural of anecdote is not data, and that my own life is just the experiences of only one person - however, it does at least seem that this is often a more general phenomenon, and that people describing themselves as a 'Trad Goth' and a 'Romantic Goth' as more than a description for their outfit of the day is a valid description. I'm sure it's something that could probably be actually studied, but I've enough work to do figuring out how to attach a water-tower to an eco-friendly moveable classroom for my uni project, and I'm not a sociologist, so all I am going on are my experiences and my observations, so I'm not presenting this as any sort of definitive truth on the matter (and I'm fully up for debating this).

When the (controversial, and originally intended as humorous!) ::'Goth Stereotypes':: (which I am mentioning because a lot of people feel like these pseudo-infographics inspired a generation of younger Goths to start labelling or even pigeon-holing themselves) by Megan Balanck at Black Waterfall (and I think originally on DeviantArt) were written, they all included a lot more than just what clothes were worn; they included interests, attitude and music - even if they aren't necessarily accurate, and with the graphics being deliberate stereotypes, they are intentionally narrow.  The 'stereotypes' described also include a lot hybridisation and diversion from what seems to play out in real life - according to them, I'm a mixture of Victorian, Romantic, Medieval, Vampire and Faerie! The stereotypes Megan Balanck wrote and drew were intended as more than just fashion taxonomy, and this came about for a reason - there really are people who are more into some aspects of Goth culture than others, and for a good few people, what aspects they are into form a fairly cohesive set of related interests. I'm not going to say that her stereotypes are definitive categories or necessarily accurately reflect how subcategories work in my observation of the scene, however, because I could critique them. 

The Subcategories of Goth
From what I have observed in the scene, there is often more to these labels than just clothes; these are the subcategories which are about which aspects of the subculture you primarily engage with, what sort of attitude to Goth you have, and perhaps what sorts of music you listen to, too. To be a subcategory of Goth, something has to originate from, and stay within that which is Goth - the music, attitudes, the aesthetics which in combination make Goth, and just be a direction from which those things are approached or an alignment of which things within Goth someone likes, and it has to be more than just an aesthetic. 

Romantic Goth is definitely a nice black parasol under which many adjectives gather; we're the ones that, like my little self-description includes, are interested in a more Romantic aspect of Goth; we like the Gothic - we're often the ones reading 18thC Gothic novels, appreciating ruins and cemeteries, and combining morbid fascination with a touch of decadence, and living a life of rich experience, and thoroughly appreciating things. We tend to like the memento mori lockets, the gravestones with rich symbolism; we're the ones who go through the bother of having an absinthe fountain with the glasses and spoons, or drink red-wine from elaborate goblets; we're the ones fantasising about living in a period home that's something like 'Crimson Peak'...

Trad Goths.
People who call themselves Trad Goths, or are referred to as so by others tend to be very music focused, especially following the original '80s bands, and the subsequent musicians that work with a very '80s post-punk, cold wave or similar sound, having more of a focus on club culture, and also coming with a distinct fashion style, as I described above. A lot of Trad Goths seem a bit closer to Goth's punk roots in their fashion - more spikes, more Post-Punk music where the sound is closer to Punk, and sometimes more of an attitude of rebellion, or at leat defiance of the norms imposed.
J-Goth or Japanese Goth
is certainly its own subcategory, too. Non-Japanese J-Goths tend to be into more of contemporary Japanese culture and the Japanese take on Goth than only wearing the street-styles, and often have an interest in anime and manga - especially those with darker, Gothic and morbid themes - and also Japanese bands that either have a Gothic aesthetic with a metal sound or are outright Goth bands from Japan. There's obviously Goths in Japan, and they invented this; they've been doing Goth with their own twist for decades, as Goth is always a subculture and Japan has its own culture to be the 'parent' culture, and through cross-cultural pollination (for example Westerners reading 'Fruits' 'Gothic Lolita Bible' and seeing blogs from East Asian and Japanese Goths, reading manga or seeing anime with Japanese takes on the Gothic, as well as Goths physically travelling) it has spread to influence Goths outside of Japan. There are other things, however that don't seem, in my opinion reasonable as a sub-category.

is something I am not sure whether to classify as a subcategory of Goth or its own thing. It formed America in a parallel evolution to Goth forming in the UK, and is closer to its punk roots. I am not familiar enough with Deathrock to classify it - I don't know whether, like J-Goth, it is a geographically based approach to the same core thing as Goth, or whether it is a separate entity, and I think such a classification is probably better made by someone more familiar with it than I am.

Some things get categorised as 'subcategories' of Goth, when they're not. Some of them, like Emo, are other subcultures, and some, like Cyber-Goth, are hybrids, and others are just aesthetic descriptions. 

Other Subcultures
There are a few subcultures that often get mixed up with Goth. Rivetheads (fans of Industrial music), Steampunks, Metalheads and Emos are all members of separate subcultures, and while many of those subcultures have cultural and aesthetic similarities, they are distinct entities unto themselves, and not subcategories of Goth.

Some kind of thing aren't really a subcategory of Goth itself, they're more what happens when elements of Goth is hybridised with elements of a different subculture.

Vampire fan(g)dom Goths
are pretty common, and there is significant overlap between passionate fans of all things vampiric and Goth, but there is a vampire fandom subculture that is its own thing, and members of it who aren't Goths. Most Goths (but not all!) seem to like vampires in varying degrees, but not all of them partake in the fandom as a subculture/community. Going for a 'vampire' lifestyle such as having a coffin to use as a bed, getting permanent fangs as veneers or implants/crowns, wearing theatrical contact lenses everyday, and even being nocturnal are not things all Goths do, and they are also things that some non-Goth members of the vampire fandom/subculture do.

Cyber-Goth is a hybrid of Industrial, Rave and Goth and probably actually owes far more to the Industrial music subculture than the Goth subculture.

Gothic Lolita
is a hybridisation of Goth and Lolita, and often just Gothic fashion and Lolita, as while there are plenty of Gothic Lolitas that are also interested in the rest of Goth culture, there are also plenty who are only interested in it as a wardrobe option and are themselves primarily Lolitas or into other forms of J-fashion. Goth culture is certainly pretty strong in Japan, and there is a local cultural difference in how Goth is in Japan, but Gothic Lolita isn't 'Japanese Goth'; that is a different thing, and while designers like Mana of Moi-Meme-Moitie are both, and there is definitely a blurry area of overlap, they are  still different things.

Goth-Metalheads are those, like my partner Raven, and several members of my local scene who like both Metal and Goth, and often especially like Symphonic Metal bands that go for Gothic imagery and lyrical content, or the genres of metal that borrow from Goth rock musically. There's a lot of aesthetic similarity between the two subcultures, and lot of overlap in terms of subject matter for lyrical content, so it's no surprise that a lot of people like both.
Hippie-Goth is a hybridisation of Hippie and Goth, not a subcategory of Goth; these are often people whose musical tastes are a lot more diverse and include folk, psychedellia, stoner rock, prog-rock, etc. as well as Goth genres, and whose interests are equally a mixture of both.

Gothabilly, Psychobilly, etc. all seem to be more about a mixture of Rockabilly and Goth, sometimes with other influences, and are again more hybrid than subcategory. It is something else that I don't have much experience with either, so for those who do, feel free to educate me.

In my opinion, hybridisation is great for Goth is it introduces ideas from other subcultures into Goth and keeps things fresh and interesting. I know some people see it as 'diluting', but the thing is that as long as the core of Goth remains strong, it can be mixed with as many things as imaginable without vanishing; the only time things become muddy is when things are improperly labeled so it becomes unclear where things have come from, and in what direction they are going. One does not have to be subculturally 'monogamous' - you can be interested in more than one thing without it being somehow disloyal to either subculture, or being somehow not truly part of either. 

Fashion Taxonomy
Some things are probably just a fashion taxonomy, and are primarily an aesthetic rather than a reflection of how a person approaches the subculture, and therefore aren't subcategories, but aesthetic desciptions:

Victorian Goth, Medieval Goth (or any other specific period). I would say that 'Victorian Goth' is a fashion taxonomy (one often misused to refer to people in historical attire from other periods, too!), and for the people themselves, "historically inspired" or "anachronistic" would be a better description than only 'Victorian', as most of the Goths I know that like Victoriana and the 19thC are also interested in other periods of history, and that historically-minded Goths tend to have interests that overlap, and like mixing periods as well as sometimes going quite intently with historically accurate period garb and re-enactment. You also get people whose period is not Victorian, but also not Medieval - they like, for example, the Baroque, the Georgian, the Belle Epoque or Regency. There are also historically minded Goths whose culture or interests aren't European; I've seen pictures of Japanese Goths who dress in the mourning clothes of their culture with sombre black mofuku kimono with the only adornment being the silver of the family crests, rather than the veils and crepe and black gown of Victorian mourning. I would also see it as related to Romantic Goth rather than necessarily a completely new 'sub category'.

Nu-Goth seems to be both worn by hipsters who just like the aesthetic, and regular Goths seeking a more modern and minimalist aesthetic - perhaps a little more practical and comfortable for the day-to-day. It seems to mostly describe fashion, and while some associate it with 'Witch House' music, I'm not sure if this is really apt, as I haven't seen that connection play out in practice. 

Pastel-Goth is an aesthetic, and while some people who wear it are into Goth culture and the contrast between the sweet, cute things and the dark, macabre iconography (and this is something that has existed in Goth for a while; '90s kindergoth used it in a 'ruined innocence' aesthetic, and I've met plenty of Goths over the years who like cute things as well as dark things, plus the influences of Emily Autumn, Tim Burton and Kerli have all brought aspects of cuteness, cartoonishness, childishness and pastel colours to the Goth aesthetic, as has the influence of Adora Batbrat), some people just like it as an aesthetic with no connection to Goth culture; they're just into 'creepy-cute'. The fashion seems to be based of J-fashion/Japanese street styles like fairy-kei, and the mix of 'kawaii' and 'kowai' (cute and creepy), but as it's not something I am into, I can't really say if it's actually a subsection or hybrid of Japanese street fashion or not.

, or whatever else you want to call Goth in an inverse, all-white colour scheme. I think this has always been done, right since the '80s. Some people have always worn Goth in all-white instead of all-black. I'm pretty sure this just an aesthetic choice. It's a fun one, and I'm sewing an outfit like this right now, but I don't see it tying into any specific aspect or aspects of the subculture.

There are plenty of things that clearly are primarily an aesthetic based on perhaps a musician or a film - 'Burtonesque' as an aesthetic derived from the stop-motion animations of Tim Burton and his illustrataions, Emily Autumn's fans emulating her stage costumes with the white and crimson and stripes (she even sells tights or leggings based on her set designs, I think... I'm not a fan of hers, but I remember seeing something like this.), all the horns, purple and green being worn after the Maleficient film came out, etc.

One thing I'm not sure how to really classify is the witch aesthetic and the surrounding the current popularity of the intersection of the popularity of modern Witchcraft and Goth. While Nu-Goth could be linked to the 'occult trend' and perhaps Witch-house' music, I'd say that the popularity of all things 'witchy' is perhaps its own thing, rather an aspect of Nu-Goth. It's also referred to as the 'Occult Trend' and the fashion dominated by the use of white graphics taken from Neo-Paganism, Satanism and the Occult and printed onto clothes, often black and of a fairly mainstream cut/design (hoodies, tank-tops, leggings), harnesses that form pentagrams, and silver jewellery with occult motifs. and while some people just co-opt the symbols for the aesthetic, a lot of people, especially young women and teenage girls, are getting into practising actual Witchcraft, which I think is good as long as they're respectful of the traditions they are entering. Some people who are into it also like Witch House' music, and I think it could be bordering on being its own thing, perhaps a subcategory, or perhaps a hybridisation of Goth and Witchcraft/Occult culture. There has always been a higher percentage of Goths interested in the occult than of the general population, too, and an embracing of occult, supernatural and witchcraft-relatd themes. With witchcraft and the occult being a central theme in a lot of recently popular television series and films, it appears to be having something of a trendy moment - similar to when The Craft came out! [I think that its more commercialised aspects, and the aspects that play on how 'edgy' witchcraft is supposed to be according to popular misconception (but isn't) is mis-appropriative, as are those that try and conflate disparate religious traditions such as Wicca, Satanism, Hermeticism, etc. and plays into negative stereotypes that many Witches, Occultists, Wiccans and Neo-Pagans face, something I wrote about ::here:: ]

Now I've done what the subcategories might be, and what is not a subcategory, I'm going to tackle the other question, and probably the more important one. Are these categories limiting?

Don't Box Yourself In
The important thing is not to feel like you have to pick a specific category of Goth, and then limit yourself to what is in that category. I think you should not do that with Goth as a whole, either - you don't have to disavow anything that isn't jet black and spooky to be a Goth. Being a Goth, a subcultural hybrid, or a specific subcategory of Goth shouldn't come with any value judgement, either [something I wrote about ::here::]. These subcategories aren't concrete, they are just descriptions to either indicate what things you might like within Goth, or maybe for what your outfit is like. A lot of people are into a broad variety of different aspects of Goth, and that is great. Some of us happen to like certain aspects more than others, and that is also fine.

One of the things with the 'subcategories' is that some of them are rather heavily commercially marketed - the most recent trends of the occult trend, pastel Goth and nu-Goth have coincided with a real increase in marketing via social media - I'll admit that every sponsored post I do is part of that! - but it does mean that what hashtags and labels things are given has become even more important to those who are commercially minded when it relates to page views, search terms, and internet marketability. Sometimes this leads to people mislabelling things (just search "Goth" on any retail or auction platform and see how much Grunge, Metal, Emo and "celebrities dabbling with a dark aesthetic" turn up...) and sometimes it also leads to adjectives and descriptions appearing to be rigid concrete categories, and the appearance that these categories are essential, that everything needs to be labelled - but this isn't the case! The only reason they are labelled and tagged so much online is to make sure relevant items appear on people's feeds and search algorithms as intended; offline the labels are a lot less necessary.

These are also not concretely defined terms. There's often a lot of fuzziness as to how to categorise things, especially things that fit into more than one category or which borrow aesthetics, musical style, etc. from many sources. Most Goths tend to like things that can be described in a wide range of ways, and have at least some eclecticism to how they approach Goth. Even, I who self-identify as a Romantic Goth, like things outside of that, and also outside of Goth entirely (like the classical music!).

You do not need to pick a category, you do not need to fit a category, and it is far more important to be true to yourself than to be as Goth as possible, or as <insert specific type of Goth here> as possible. It is healthy - and good for the subculture- for us to be diverse people with diverse interests, and to not just be clone-like and striving to fit in to some social group as neatly as possible. 

Friday, 24 February 2017

Pentacle Shelf (Review)

I bought a pentacle shelf from ::Casdesign:: in Berlin. 

This is the first time I have bought a proper piece of furniture new that isn't something like a cheap folding chair or flat-pack shelf. Most of our furniture has come secondhand from the likes of Gumtree, or been bought in a charity shop, with some of it (like the book-cases in our living room, my study desk, and our corner table) was built by Raven. 

Pentacle shelf by Casdesign, Berlin.

This, however, was something special, and a custom piece. It is a 60cm diameter pentacle shelving unit/display unit. I bought it back in January, as a custom piece and a New Year's present to myself and the house, to function as a display shelf for Pagan objects that don't go on the altar below (not pictured). It cost me €79.95 to have the shelf made - it was made in a workshop by real people rather than by automated machines in a factory, so I was rather happy with the price, especially as this included a custom paint-job. Shipping to Scotland was quite dear, at €22.99 but considering the VAST box it arrived in, and how much it weighed, that is actually a very reasonable transit cost.

For the green I was given a colour-chart from which to quote a colour code, and I chose the colour "Farngrün", which I think is fern green in English. This goes with the green theme to the décor in our living room (which is where our household altar is), and I think is a lovely colour for a shelving unit honouring objects from a nature-based spirituality. The wood was originally stained in 'dark oak' per my request, but once the shelf arrived I realised that this was actually lighter than the furniture that we already had - my mistake - so I stained the wooden parts a darker colour. All the original stain was done in very even coats, any unevenness in staining is my fault entirely. 

The unit is very sturdy. The circle appears to be made of some sort of formed plywood, but it is solid and not at all flimsy. The pentagram in the middle is made from some sort of laminated wood- each leaf of the laminate a millimetre thick, so a very sturdy product. There is also a beautiful grain on the pentagram parts, which sadly this photograph does not convey. I tried to deliberately dismantle the unit by unscrewing it so I could repaint the wood with darker stain, but found out it was both glued and screwed, so it is definitely put together rather permanently. I think it's very high quality, finished to a good standard, and considering what I got for that money, a very reasonable price. 

I actually like it so much that I am saving up for a second pentacle shelving unit - one of their standard models, with a black pentacle over a purple background, which will go in my study, and store items for my personal altar. 

I would rate this product as: 

Construction: 5/5
Quality laminated timber products are frequently stronger than natural timber due to the grain of the laminated being arranged in varying directions, and this has been assembled with joints, glue and screws (not nails!) which seems pretty sturdy indeed. I couldn't even take it apart when I was actually trying! 

Time: 5/5
I payed on 11th January and it arrived on 3rd February. I think it was made in good time, and the only minor delay was in shipping, but that's more due to the sheer distance the shelves had to travel. 

Packaging: 4¾/5
It was double-wrapped in plastic wrap, which I felt was a bit excessive from an ecological perspective, especially as it was shipped in a very sturdy cardboard box with plenty of packing materials, but perhaps a little wasted plastic wrap is better than a scuffed shelving unit, especially when shipping internationally. I feel like I might be nit-picking slightly, but I'm trying to be committed to reducing my waste output.

Edit: Although I only deducted 
¼ of a point for this, I have had feedback from the company about the packaging, which I think should share: all the inside packaging they use is actually reused left-overs from major furniture manufacturers, so it gets one more use at least (depending on if the person that receives the package reuses the packaging again... I try and save packing materials for shipping the things I sell on eBay). Apparently there are also insurance requirements for levels of wrapping; their insurance would not cover mending or replacing a unit unless it is very, very well wrapped indeed. New score: 5/5 for using reused materials. 

Communication: /5
Mostly excellent. The company's primary language is German, but all our e-mails were exchanged in English, which is great as I don't know a word of German. Their translation to English was mostly pretty clear, and they were very prompt in responding to correspondence. I was notified of shipment via Etsy rather than e-mail despite not buying this through Etsy but directly, but other than that everything ran well and I commend them for communicating in a second language with a customer. 

Coolness: 5/5
It's a pentacle shelf, in my own custom colours, and is the perfect addition to my ritual space. Plus that fern green is one of my favourite colours. I have only seen one other company offer pentacle/pentagram furniture, and that is in Australia, so it is something different as well as something for my sacred objects and Pagan things. 

I think I will have to create a room-tour video for the living room to talk about my ritual space and how Neo-Paganism is a part of my life, not just a collection of objects. 

The company make pentacle shelves in different sizes and colours as well as coffin shaped furniture. I thoroughly recommend them after this very pleasant ordering experience. I will be buying a second pentacle shelf unit, but not until I've saved up more money. I definitely think it was worth the money, and highly recommend getting pentacle shelves from them. 

As to what is on the shelf:
✪ Draped over it is a naturally shed snake-skin. Snakes shed their skins periodically as they grow, and this one was relatively intact, so it now hangs over my pentacle shelf as a symbol of transformation.

Clockwise from top:
✪ Top point includes a pentacle and Celtic knot-work coaster that I sometimes use to place my chalice on if it is actually containing a liquid.

✪ In the upper right compartment there is Raven's crystal ball, and a little pewter Celtic knot-work box.

✪ The right point has a fox's jaw-bone we found in the garden, and an athame belonging to Raven with a bone handle and knapped flint blade. It was a gift to him from one of our close mutual friends.

✪ The right section is empty.

✪ The bottom right point has a raw amethyst chunk and some tumbled stones and crystals that are green. I don't use crystals for symbolic or otherwise associations, and just have them as a reminder of the beautiful things that come from the Earth.

✪ In the bottom section is a sage bundle I was given as a house-cleansing incense, which we will use when we have finished refurbishing the property for its ritually becoming 'ours' (we have done other cleansings already, we're just saving this bundle of sage). There's also a pentagram made of twigs I bought in a market in Cardigan, Wales, and an ammonite fossil.

✪ In the bottom left point is an orange carved translucent stone that Raven uses to represent the sun, and a heart carved from some pretty sort of green stone.

✪ In the left section is an old Victorian perfume bottle I am saving for a special use. It's got perfume residue in it, but it doesn't have a scent any more, sadly.

✪ In the upper left point is a big chunk of quartz.

✪ In the top right section is little statuette of Bastet that I've had ever since my period of obsession with Ancient Egypt when I was about 11, and a stone oil-burner with a pentacle window which I bought at the Thunder In The Glens festival of Harley Davidson motorcycles and biker stuff in general, which is held each year in Aviemore.

✪ In the centre is a hand-made green witch's face, made by the very talented chap at ::Mystery Star:: back when he had a shop in the Harris Shopping Arcade in Reading... I've kept it as a memento of that little haven of spookiness ever since and even re-dyed it after the sun over many years faded it to khaki. It will end up nailed next to the kitchen door as I've always had 'her' by my kitchen doors, but for now it's in the centre of the pentacle until I find a suitable sun-and-moon disc.

This is just the start of what will be kept there, I'm keeping a little bare for now so there is space as I slowly accrue more. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Be True To Yourself

This is something I feel like writing up for the young ones, those in their teens who feel like they don't have a space in the world because they're too different. I'm going to share my experiences growing up, and I hope that I can provide some consolation those who are going through something similar. 

Even though society has progressed quite a bit in many places since I grew up in the late '80s, '90s and early '00s, there's still a level of expected conformity ("be yourself, but not like that"). I have resisted this since my mid-to-late teens after all my trying to fit in failed rather catastrophically - all my attempts to imitate my cool peers and act like the others, to seem like just an ordinary member of whatever demographic my current school had, always resulted in my being exposed as a poseur, and me constantly double-thinking myself. I ended up literally driving myself mad with worry, spiralling into deep anxiety about being found out and exposed as the fraud I was, and deeply miserable because I felt there was no place in the world for the real me underneath the disguise. 

I became deeply, deeply unhappy, self-destructive and quite mentally ill. I descended into my own personal hell, one fuelled also by the abusive and traumatic experiences I had survived, as well as this sense of alienation and the unhappiness I felt in my fake existence. I don't want to recall the exact specifics of how bad it got, but it really was the most awful head-space I have ever been. 

One of the things about me, which I have alluded to on this blog before, but which I haven't spelled out exactly, is that I am neurodivergent. I have Asperger's, which I had suspected for a long time, but it was only about 3 years ago I went to a specialist centre  and was officially diagnosed. It is suspected that I have quite severe dyspraxia, too, and possibly ADHD, but the symptomatic overlap with Asperger's makes it difficult to diagnose, plus there is no NHS service in my region for adults to seek official diagnosis or treatment for either ADHD or dyspraxia. This means there are many ways in which I fundamentally can't be normal, however hard I try to be. 

[I didn't want to admit it, because I am worried that in doing so, people will just see me as someone with Asperger's, and this will be used to overshadow and 'explain' me away, as if all people with Asperger's are the same, and as if Asperger's is all there is to me]

When I was a teen, I didn't know why I was so different, struggled so hard socially, why I everyone seemed so alien and confusing to me, why it seemed like my senses were so much keener than others, why crowds seemed so awful and chaotic to me, why I couldn't see the logic in other humans, why everyone seemed to think, in some fundamental way, differently from me. I sought out explanations, some quite fanciful, I will admit, but they were all lacking. I tried my best to blend in, to capitulate to the rather socially conservative expectations being put on me , to be what others wanted, but eventually I realised that this was impossible. Some of it is my inherent nature - Asperger's, bisexuality, my being essentially agender, these are inherent traits - some of it is something between personality and choice, where my underlying nature probably contributes significantly, but ultimately it is my choice; I'm Neo-Pagan, I'm Goth, I'm a Romantic, I'm a little bit "hippie", passionately green, and have a lot of 'eccentric' tastes and interests, some of it was just my background; there are people who don't have much care for immigrants and their children, or for those who are poor, or come from unconventional families. 

Even if I made all the "normal" choices, I would still be innately different - I still was, when I tried to - and I was miserable because I was suppressing all the things that made me happy. If you cut yourself off from the things you enjoy to fit in better, all you'll do is limit your own happiness, and probably still not fit in any better, or at least, that's what happened to me. Eventually, at about 14 or 15, I gave up pretending and ran headlong into being different. Sometimes I was awkward, obsessive and a bit cringe-worthy growing up (I'd get a bit obsessive about fandoms, and was also a bit of a 'weeaboo' for a while), sometimes I did things out of petty defiance, and sometimes I took 'flying my freak-flag high' a bit too far, sometimes I experimented with different identities trying to find my own, but eventually I levelled out and found myself. I do think there's a place in the world for tact, for moderation (especially as I have obsessive tendencies), and situational awareness, but I learned that there are always ways of being true to myself. 

I learned a lot. I realised that often the world will not just automatically make a space for those who are a little too different, so it is up to us to make our own spaces, and to seek out the others like us. I learned that politeness, compassion and competence can get people to see past difference, especially with patience and kindness. I came to see that being true to myself, and giving myself the freedom of divorcing myself from the pressure to live up to other's expectations, was the key to my happiness. I learned not to really care anymore about the opinions of strangers and busybodies, and to live for myself. Life wasn't about external acceptance, and my self-esteem was no longer predicated entirely on validation from others. 

I also met other people with common interests, and while I will say that my self-worth comes from inner acceptance, it is certainly easier in life when you have support from others. I'm naturally a bit of an introvert, and not the most actively social individual, but even I have found a value in community; a tree can be strong and sturdy on its own, an ancient solitary oak living hundreds of years, even over a millennia, but a whole forest is something else. Goth and Neo-Paganism have been where I have found like-minded individuals, and a sense of homecoming; certainly I'm different even from other Goths, and Neo-Pagans, and will probably always be something of an anomaly in all situations, but this subculture is where I've found my people, and there's something to knowing I'm not completely alien in this world. I don't have to pretend around other Pagans and Goths, I don't have to hide who I am. 

I also learned that it was a waste of energy and time, as well as quite misguided, to be consumed with bitterness at the rest of the world, to define myself by opposition to others, to rail against the "conformists" as terrible people, and bristle with defiance. Instead, I would focus simply on being myself and doing what I enjoyed. 

What this little bit of autobiography is trying to say is this: be yourself, live life for you, and don't let the world break your spirit if it wants you to be something you're fundamentally not. This world has many strange people who are proud of being strange, and who have found, or carved out, their own niche, and have happy, successful lives - even if some of them measure success by different yardsticks. Often the road less travelled is a harder, rougher path, but it is worth it for what you find on the journey. As long as you aren't hurting either yourself or others, do what you enjoy and live life your own way.