Gothic Culture and Magickal Spirituality
Article ID: 11991
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Raven Digitalis
Posted: October 14th. 2007
Times Viewed: 5,232
Hello! How do? My name is Raven Digitalis, and I’m the author of the upcoming “Goth Craft: The Magickal Side of Dark Culture” (Llewellyn, September). I’ve noticed an increase in Witchvox articles focused on exploring subcultures such as Goth, so I thought I’d write an article displaying some of my views and observations about that particular subculture and how it links, to whatever degree, with Paganism and magickal spirituality.
Dark culture has been weaving its way into Paganism at a rate increasing since its inception in the late ‘70s. Though many people would like to think that all Witches and “true magicians” are dark, dark, dark creatures, that idea is anything but true.
At the same time, I suppose it entirely depends on a person’s definition of darkness. In the case of “dark Witches, ” (a term I use to describe Witches who are attracted to darker energies and aesthetics), the definition is aligned with positive, progressive spirituality rather than so-called “black magick” or an equal hindrance.
In reality, a minority percentage of Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans are heavily involved with or interested in dark culture, including the Gothic-industrial subculture, the Vampyre lifestyle, and the fetish scene.
Looking around at any good-sized Pagan gathering makes obvious the fact that the “darkly inclined” are the some of the most predominant alternative people drawn to magickal spirituality.
Gothic culture is constructed around an ideology of embracing the beauty in darkness. Sadness is a common theme, but isn’t generally felt to an unhealthy degree. Dark art differs from other art forms in the sense that it expresses the shadowy and mysterious.
Through the wearing of dark clothing, mournful makeup, listening to or creating dark music, writing eerie poetry, and creating dark art, subtle forces are aligned with to some degree. Dark art is an outlet of personal transformation -- something that can occur on both a conscious and subconscious level.
Expressive arts of any kind serve as magickal acts to stimulate personal growth, and many artists act as channels of divine energies, tapping into vibrations stored somewhere in the collective unconscious. The necessity for coming to terms with humanity’s dark nature is immense.
There are a number of reasons for the overlap between dark culture and Pagan spirituality. For one, Earth-based practitioners are some of the last people to cast a harmful judgment against this subculture.
Pagans’ acceptance of alternative lifestyles is a blessing to those who are so often otherwise condemned for striding their own expressive/philosophical path. Renaissance styles, artistic flare, an appreciation for unique music, as well as liberal political views are all embraced by a good number of non-Gothic Pagans, allowing for an acceptance of alternative lifestyles not found in other religious systems.
Many individuals who are drawn to dark culture—whether the extent be great or small—gain a sense of assurance when darkness is unashamedly honored in celebrations such as Samhain (in the Celtic system) and new/dark moon Esbats.
It’s a sad-but-true fact that many people—even followers of the Pagan path—avoid the reality of “the dark side, ” hence the rise of the dread modern “fluffy bunny New Age Wiccan” stereotype!
Yes, our path seeks progression from the depths of unhappiness and unawareness, but that doesn’t mean that darkness is its cause. The association between darkness and “evil” stems from an obsolete, fear-based ideology.
This view is held onto to varying degrees in modern Western society. The majority is unavoidably diurnal, sleeping the solemn night away without venturing exploration of any sort. When a person’s visual darkness is judgmentally associated with sinister motivation, discrimination rises for those who quite literally wear it on their sleeve. Luckily, this unfortunate maligning is subsiding more everyday.
For centuries, there was little if no separation between magick and religion. This view is still widely held by indigenous or tribal “Pagan” cultures across the globe. The division between these two elements occurred much later in time and was greatly due to Judeo-Christianity’s influence on the ancient world.
Because of the Craft’s perseverance of ancient Western spiritual concepts, modern Witches of all sorts integrate the two, letting them dance in unison to a song of active global and personal change.
As aforementioned, Pagan spiritual systems honor the actuality of darkness—and all it encompasses—to provide a holistic and balanced structure of worship. Witches, celebrating the lunar tides just as much as the solar (ideally), understand the unique magickal force that nighttime holds. This same force is channeled in dark culture.
Without darkness, celebrations of light would be meaningless. Likewise, celebrations of darkness are meaningless without their corresponding “equal opposites.” The force of darkness encompasses aspects of the natural world like destruction, death, and decay.
Without question, these darker aspects of Mama Nature’s cycle are in place to provide fluidity: a constant change, renewal, and rebirth of all things. Just the same, the darker portions of our psyche, such as sorrow, anger, and apathy, exist for the same reasons… the microcosm embodying the macrocosm: As Above, So Below. If these forces are sought to be understood, honored, and worked with, a special type of spiritual understanding quite naturally follows.
Dark Witches basically work magick like every other Witch (and generally have similar ethical views), but tend to keep focused on darker currents, certainly not dismissing things like blood magick, body modification, fasting, and emotional introspection. When dark forces are recognized for what they are, as well as the role they play in our day-to-day lives, these energies can be objectively honed and worked with accordingly, for positive means.
Emotion and intention are the fuel of magickal work, and the dark Witch or shadow magician seeks to bring these aspects to a balanced state. Magick focused on emotional transformation is a strong point of interest for darkly inclined Pagans.
Without inner transformation, how can external manifestation occur? Our inner world creates our outer world and personal darkness cannot be pushed aside.
Dark Witches also work with external forces. Death is the dark side of a full cycle, and this energy can be utilized for spiritual means alongside the aforementioned dark lunar and solar tides—for death is the ultimate dark tide of life. Necromancy is a mystical, mysterious, and magickal art that inherently appeals to many dark Witches.
This has nothing to do with human or animal sacrifice (hey, many of us are vegetarian or vegan!), but with the harnessing of death energy. Goths and other dark culturists are not morbidly fascinated by death, but instead choose to recognize its power. Death represents the Supreme Unknowable and is therefore aligned to dark, Abyss-like vibrations. Though some forms of High Necromancy actually require working with the discarded shell (a corpse) of a person or animal who died of natural causes, more common Necromantic practices are concerned with the magician aligning to chthonic energies in a much less potentially dangerous manner through deep meditation similar to shamanic journeying.
Necromancy and other dark art forms are appealing to Witches of a darker nature because they confront raw, undeniable energies of existence.
As darker lifestyles and magickal spiritual paths grow individually, they will also continue to grow together. For those of us with a foot in each of these spheres, or even those of us who simply dabble in either, we must actively claim our role as alchemists of the dark.
Consciousness is rapidly evolving on earth, and it’s up to those unafraid to face darkness, both of the mind and of the world, to help change the plane in which we find ourselves for the better.
Location: Missoula, Montana
Author's Profile: To learn more about Raven Digitalis - Click HERE
Bio: Raven Digitalis (Missoula, MT) is the author of Goth Craft: The Magickal Side of Dark Culture, and the forthcoming Shadow Magick Compendium, both on Llewellyn. He is a fourth-year Neopagan Priest and co-founder of the "disciplined eclectic" shadow magick tradition Opus Aima Obscuræ, and is a radio and club DJ of Gothic, EBM, and industrial music. With his Priestess Estha, Raven holds community gatherings, Tarot readings, and a variety of ritual services. From their home, the two also operate the metaphysical business Twigs and Brews, specializing in magickal and medicinal bath salts, herbal blends, essential oils, and incenses. Raven holds a degree in anthropology from the University of Montana and is also an animal rights activist and black-and-white photographic artist.
Other Articles: Raven Digitalis has posted 2 additional articles- View them?
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