Reflections on “Goth Craft: The Magickal Side of Dark Culture,” Raven Digitalis

ImageSeeing as May 22nd is apparently World Goth Day, I thought it would be good to reflect on one of the first ever pagan-related books I read, back when I wasn’t pagan (but certainly had an interest) but very much into the Goth subculture (as I still am).

I think there is definitely an important link between the Gothic subculture and witchcraft/occultism, but it seems that on large, many Goths and Wiccans alike are a little reluctant to explore this. Perhaps because the media likes to use the “spooky Gothic witch” stock character so often, and it’s become a rather embarrassing cliché. So it’s wonderfully positive to see one author explore, and celebrate, the links between Goth and witchcraft.

If you’re interested in both Goth and Wiccan lifestyles, you’ll probably enjoy Goth Craft. Raven Digitalis  identifies key motifs in Gothic fashion – black clothes, elaborate make-up, occult symbols and a fascination with darkness and the macabre – and interprets their significance in witchcraft. For Raven, Gothic fashion and lifestyle is not merely inspired by magick; it is a form of magick in itself. He even considers going to a Goth Club as something of a spiritual experience, which is a very interesting and compelling perspective. Raven also introduces the concept of “shadow” magick and witchcraft (not the same as the concept of “black magick”), in which one seeks to understand and appreciate the darker aspects of witchcraft including blood magick, vampyrism and necromancy.

Dark as these topics may seem, the book itself is not. Goth Craft is written in a highly personal, playful and exuberant style; I get the feeling Raven was pretty young when he wrote this, which I think is a good thing considering how many Goths and aspiring Wiccans tend to be in their teens or early twenties. Throughout the book, Raven emphasises the importance of a strict ethical code, as well as personal safety, in witchcraft, stressing that “dark” absolutely does not mean “evil,” which is reassuring.

I was pleased to see that an entire chapter has been devoted to explaining the many different paths of witchcraft in bite-sized sections, including those paths quite distinct from Wicca including Enochian, Kabbalah, Thelema and Satanism. I’m glad that the last one was included, which was quite a brave move on Raven’s part considering how keen most Wiccans and other magick practitioners are to distance themselves as far as possible from Satanism. I’m glad not because I have particular interest in practising Satanism, or because I think it does fall comfortably into the same umbrella as Wicca, but because there is an awful lot of misunderstanding regarding this religion and this little section quite successfully explains some of the misconceptions without either condemning or advocating Satanism as a path to follow.

I was also pleased to find a number of examples of spells and rituals that could be considered “shadow magick.” Although I have not tried any of them yet, I am particularly intrigued by the “Lemon House Charm” spell and the “Angel of Death” meditation (I thinking of performing the latter at around O-bon, the Japanese festival of the dead, or Samhain).

Another appealing aspect of this book for me was the design itself; the cover and page designs are beautiful, and I don’t think I’ve ever read another book on paganism that has so many large and attractive illustrations and photos. It’s very easy to just pick up and casually dip in and out.

I do, however, have a few warnings to anyone thinking of purchasing this book:

  • This book is, as the title suggests, heavy on the Gothic culture, so if you are not really into this scene, the many, many sections that are devoted to this lifestyle (including the fashion and music) may not be relevant to you.
  • For new Wiccans, the sections on the different paths of witchcraft and the illustrated explanations of the symbols and tools of Wicca are quite helpful, but there is a considerable number of important details that are left out. An example is the idea of casting a widdershins circle for shadow magick – Raven goes into a lot of depth into the significance of the widdershins circle, but does not explain how one actually casts a circle at all. Clearly, this book is meant to supplement existing beginner’s guides for Wicca.
  • This is a light read. It is not academic in any way and it does not spend much time analysing the small details of Wicca. It is an overview from a very unique and personal perspective. If you are looking for something with more depth and scholarly research, look elsewhere.

Overall, it’s an entertaining and intriguing read that’s a lovely treat for Wiccan Goths, and offers quite a refreshing break from the many other samey books on witchcraft out there.

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