In the Shadows
Article ID: 12473
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: August 17th. 2008
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Back in 2003, after several years of conversation with my best friend and others in the Pagan community, it occurred to me that there was an often a gap to be found in available resources related to aspects that were of a darker nature in the Craft. It was a period during which a staggering number of new texts were flooding commercial bookshelves, although only a small percentage of them contained these darker topics, and then only as an afterthought. As a solitary who had attempted to create a small group in her own city for the purpose of get-togethers, a project that seemed doomed from the beginning as no one would commit to anything, I found myself frustrated.
Turning to the Internet, I searched sites dedicated to dark realms, and found many of them overlapped in what they provided. It was a good starting point, but after having already been in the Craft for eleven years, these sites had little new information to share. Delving further, I began to search for groups geared toward deities such as Kali, The Morrigan, and Lilith. The lunar groups tended to seldom include items of a nature beyond Waxing, Waning, and Full Moon rituals, shunning the Dark Moon and eclipses completely.
To make matters worse, I discovered that the listserves one could find with dark deity specific content were rife with rude comments and mutual backbiting, a veritable “I am darker and more Goth than you” sensibility prevailing. Those that had been in the Craft longer than the rest were unwilling to impart anything more than the most basic information, a circumstance that led me to believe two things: they were incapable of going further due to their own actual ignorance or they liked dangling tidbits in front of the newer members to come across as all-knowing.
Either way, I soon realized these areas were not for me. I do actually check in with these same listserves, but not much has changed, just the individuals behind the screen names.
As a way to address the matter, I started my own small group and worked from there, trying to piece together details in a cohesive fashion. One of my main goals was to do this in a way that did not require the participants to be Goth at all, an area where the Shadows could be most inviting even to those that seldom had been a part of them in the past. My aforementioned friend was by no means of this subculture after all, and though I was, I could certainly understand being drawn to strictly lunar practices and deities that were not what most individuals would find in their “comfort range”.
Expanding on this, I studied history books, folklore, and the everyday offerings of the local booksellers, as well as ordering a considerable number of older and out-of-print texts through my job (InterLibrary Loan). I was fortunate enough to find texts from the 19th century onward, and carefully cited my sources in a bibliography file kept on the group so others could also have a chance to tap into the resources. Polls were presented to the group members on the content they wished to see, and files were amassed as quickly as I could type them out. I have to say, it was the best project I’ve ever entered into.
Slowly, things began to fit together, and more people joined the group. They had their own suggestions about relevant content, and invited their friends who were not of the Gothic persuasion to join us. It made a nice blend, because I knew there were areas in which I was no expert, so I was happy to see the enthusiasm when details were shared that could be a jumping off point toward new exploration.
Of course, we also had a few individuals that came from the same “I know more than anyone else” background, and tried to push their methods on to those of us already present, which made for amusing time since most of our members had been in the Craft for over a decade. Those individuals rarely stayed long, and we just wished them well. I think most of us also hoped that they didn’t manage to lord it over anyone else, people that had not been in the Craft very long that earnestly wanted to learn, and might believe they had to follow the dictates of these troublemakers.
Eventually, and I thought interestingly, our group was composed of more people who did not identify as Goth than those that did. Individuals that had been seeking content related to lunar energies, death, ways to deal with difficult times in their lives, and the shadow side of the divine, began to fill our ranks. These newcomers shared experiences of deep depression, abuse, and troubles that had never been faced and/or instances of being contacted by a particular deity’s darker manifestation. On other groups and by their own friends, they had been told they should leave such things alone. Often it was presumed that the deity was harmful, because it was a strong force. Alternately, well-meaning friends and family stated that if the individual was not comfortable, they should simply turn away and ignore the situation, that the problem would go away on it own.
And yet, these individuals found that turning away was not truly an option. Either they had issues they needed to work through, ones that the lighter deities wished to play no part in or the darker deity would not leave them alone (which is common amongst this type). Psychology began to play an important role in the lives of those in the group, as mothers suffered from post partum depression, one member was subjected to a violent crime, my own relationship began to deteriorate, and others lost their homes due to Hurricane Katrina. Outside the list itself, we spoke in emails and IMs, hoping to support one another in our endeavors both Pagan and otherwise.
To say that we all became friends would be to oversimplify, but I think that we learned some vital things about ourselves, and the deities. My own strong face of the divine had been Athena, but I’d felt a separation for several years, and did not know what to do about this. As it turned out, Nox found me, and I think it was because she knew I had my own issues to work through before I could help others.
I’d been unsuccessfully laying a foundation for a book on these subjects, and with her help, I began to cover more ground. My rituals took on new meaning, and went deeper than ever before, triggering those places in my mind that enabled me to fully face my problems. The bitterness and resentments I felt over problems in my childhood, the behaviors I had been showing that resulted in my relationship fraying at the edges, these finally loosened their grip on me. As a consequence, I was a happier, more fulfilled person. Ironically, I could never have become the individual I am now, had it not been for the darkness.
So on those occasions when I do speak to a person new to the Craft and they ask me for advice on where and what to research, I recommend they look in the dark. For those that have been Pagan for years, but found their rituals lack the appeal they once did, I would suggest the same. The light is lovely, and it has its charms, but a great deal about nature and ourselves can only be found in the shadows.
Copyright: Fate 2008
Location: Beaumont, Texas
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