Graves through the trees, last time I visited. Click to expand
Last month I went down to Glasgow for a meet-up I was very excited about - a visit to the Cathedral and the Necropolis. It was organised by the moderator of the Scottish Lolitas group on FaceBook. Originally it was supposed to be for a guided tour on the Saturday, but it was re-arranged for the Sunday, which means we didn't get a guided a tour, but we were there for choral evensong rehearsals! I've been to Glasgow Necropolis before, once a few years back (when I had no idea how to style my wigs, or what boots suit what outfits... so I won't link back to that one!) Getting to Glasgow from Inverness is a good 3+ hrs on the coach from Inverness, and I don't even live in Inverness itself, so I had to travel to the city first, and Lolita is not the most practical style of clothing for travel! For the most part, I kept my impractically high heels for photographs, and switched to ugly but comfortable trainers (more about how this didn't work out later on). The weather was really quite bright, and I started doubting my choice of an all-black ensemble to wear! It had been cloudy and overcast in the Highlands, but the weather got warmer and sunnier as I travelled south to the central belt.
I made some attempts to get a few photographs of the stunning Scottish scenery taken out of the window. I really like looking out of the window on long coach and train journeys, but I always end up wishing I could stop off at all of the interesting places and explore - one of the downsides of not being able to drive is I can't go off on my own detours!
A rather tall and craggy hill, not entirely sure where
One place I'd love to go on a detour to explore is Ruthven Barracks - I managed to get one moderately clear shot of the Ruthven Barracks out of the coach window. It used to be the site of a castle (presumably Castle Ruthven?) but due to the Jacobite Uprising, the Hanoverian government built an imposing barracks over the site to station troops. It was part of a rather bloody section of Highland history.
Ruthven Barracks from the road, photo out of a coach window.
I did my make-up partly on the coach - probably not the smartest idea, but I don't think it worked out too badly. Trying to do my lipstick was the hardest bit, so I waited for the change at Perth, so the coach would be stationary, to do that bit.
Black hair with blue highlights now! Veil to hide scruffy bits.
I met up with the other Lolitas at the Tempo tea shop, for some bubble tea, and then we walked up to the cathedral. I didn't realise how far the cathedral was from the tea-shop, and made the mistake of changing into my high heels at the tea-shop, and struggling to keep up with the group as I'm a) not supposed to walk in high heels because of my ankle injury, b) not exactly steady on high heels anyway because I'm dyspraxic and clumsy and c) it was roasting outdoors and I was overheating in my clothes. Now I know that there's a steep hill up to the cathedral, I won't be doing that again! I put my trainers back on to wander around the cathedral, because it is uneven paving and there are lots of stepped sections, etc.
The Lolita group outside the cathedral, photographed by Meshya. I'm wearing comfortable but ugly trainers, but hiding them behind my bag!
The cathedral itself is really stunning. It's a medieval cathedral, but it still has an active congregation. It's the cathedral of St. Mungo, who is said to be buried there, known fully as St. Kentigern (He's Cynderyn in Welsh). 'Mungo' is actually an affectionate nickname with its derivation in an earlier British language (I've read conflicting articles as to which one), apparently meaning 'dear one'. St. Mungo/Kentigern is the patron saint of Glasgow.
[Random Harry Potter musing aside: There's a large and rather old hospital (it was opened in the 1790's) near St. Mungo's Cathedral, currently with a rather grand and ornate stone building from 1914 dominating the local area - I do wonder if the combination of the two were the inspiration for St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical maladies, especially as J.K Rowling lives in Scotland, but in Edinburgh, not Glasgow.]
The cathedral does have a few stained glass windows, but much less than I expected. I don't actually know why, but if I had been on the guided tour, that would have been one of the questions that I would have asked. I noticed that a lot of the stained glass was stylistically 20thC and had a lot of beautiful greens, blues and purples, especially one which I think might be the Millennium Window (I didn't get a good photograph, unfortunately), and I'd guess made in the late 1990s to celebrate the then-upcoming turn of the millennium. The cathedral was spared much of the more destructive aspects of the reformation because the local population stepped in to defend it, but maybe the windows were still smashed? - I do not know. According to the unofficial cathedral ::website::, the decision to put in stained glass was made in 1856, but it doesn't say why there wasn't stained glass previous to that, when in most other medieval cathedrals, stained glass was introduced centuries before, often right from the start, and one of the benefits of the Gothic style is how the arrangement of space and fenestration work really well with stained glass (I wrote a mini-dissertation for one of my graded units on this sort of thing last year...).
These windows included stained glass, but my camera blew it out too bright.
Another thing I noticed about the cathedral is that it has a relatively cohesive design overall, and doesn't look like the sort of cathedral built in a lot of disjunct Gothic/Gothic-related styles in many phases over many centuries (eg. Canterbury Cathedral), but more like it was built mostly to one design, even if there's different ceiling designs in the main nave and the choir. It has quite a harmonious and balanced building because of this - no mismatched towers (like the basilica-cathedral of St. Denis in Paris) or Romanesque arches beside late Gothic tracery, no buckled columns (like Salisbury Cathedral) or much later additions in Baroque or other Neo-Classically derived styles mixed in, no awkward 20th or 21stC modern elements stuck on.
It's a very large and long building, and I don't think ALL of it was built at once, but it is remarkably united and singular building considering its age, and that it was built between 1136 and 1197, which is not as long as some cathedrals and basilicas, but still more than 60 years. It's on a straightforward linear floor-plan, with one extension off-centre rather than a cruciform transept, and these two (the Blackadder Crypt and its above ground chapel are aligned with the south transept, and the boiler wing is off centre) are the only bits that seem outside of the original design - the sacristy/chapter house while not part of the main hall-shape building, does seem like at least a very old addition, and maybe part of the original design, or of the original construction phases. I've seen a floor-plan, and been to the building, and these are my educated guesses on the history - it's not something I've really researched, nor did I get a chance to ask a guide. I've got to go back there, with a note-book, and get some more information!
Pews with fabulous Gothic arches and trefoil designs.
There's a lot of stunning carved wooden furniture in the cathedral - pews, choir stalls, and things that can't really be called 'furniture' like the organ loft and the great pipe-organ itself (which I was privileged to hear played!). The interior is impressively Gothic - I guess some of the wooden bits are Victorian-era, probably Gothic Revival, but I guess in a building like that, it's less of a revival, and more of a continuation of an ongoing tradition of ecclesiastical art and architecture.
Memorial with helm, shield and sword
There are a few graves and memorials within the cathedral itself, too. I tried to photograph many of them, but the photographs did not come out well. One that did, however, was a grave with an effigy of the person's armour rather than the person themselves, complete with ornate helm and sword. Looking at the date, it was more symbolic of knightly things than something they would have worn in battle, as the grave is much later than the styling of the armour displayed, but it's still a rather beautifully rendered monument.
Vaulted ceilings and concentric details on the arches. Best ceiling photo.
I think the most stunning aspect of the cathedral, however, are the vaulted ceilings. These vaults are structural, not just aesthetic, and are based around intersecting Gothic arches. I took an awful lot of ceiling photographs, but it was quite hard to get good ones on just my phone - I don't have the old HTC with the 'potato camera' but my Samsung is an older model, and it struggles to get pictures that are crisp and aren't grainy (and slightly off-focus) in low light levels - at least with the standard camera app; I've downloaded Lightroom now, and I might be able to get better shots by having more control over the settings.
I took a LOT of ceiling pictures but most were terrible. This one was passable
I actually got separated from the rest of the group because I got distracted by taking photos of the ceiling. When I looked down, everyone was gone! A French tour guide said what I thought was "sur les arbres" so I went out to the trees by the entrance to look for the rest of the Lolita group, but they weren't there. In retrospect, I think she might have actually said "sur les arches" and I misheard because the Cathedral is echoey and it was quite busy in there, as they'd actually gone to the crypt - under the arches. One of the group found me, as apparently the French tour guide had run into the rest of the group, too, and told them where I was! After we were all reunited in the crypt, I changed into my high heels again for a photo by a grand candelabra.
Photograph by Meshya. Very tall candelabra.
As we left the crypt, the choir had got into full swing of their rehearsals. I'm not sure which choir it was - most of the choristers looked the usual student age, so I'm wondering if they were a university/conservatoire choir, and there was a TV crew setting up around them. They were absolutely amazing! It was Renaissance style polyphonic church music, but with the organ accompanying, and it was something really special. Hearing them was truly wonderful, and coming up out of the crypt to emerge into this sound, with the two big banks of organ pipes flanking on either side, it was something mesmerising.
Byzantine-looking mausoleum and many monuments, photographed by me, from the bridge, on my previous visit to the Necropolis
After visiting the crypt, we concluded our visit to the cathedral, and crossed the bridge over the road, to the necropolis hill nearby. Glasgow Necropolis is somewhere I have visited before, but last time around, not many of my photographs came out, so this time I tried to take a few more. The last time I was there, the weather was hazy and dull, very overcast, and so my photographs were all very drear - I deliberately accentuated this with the use of black and white. Scotland is famous for its 'dreich' weather, but it can actually be brighter and quite sunny, so all the photographs from this trip to the necropolis are full colour with bright blue skies! I thought I'd share the ones from the last time, too, though, because I'm a cliché and I appreciate the gloomy aesthetic.
Another of the previous photographs - grey skies and many monuments.
Neo-Classical mausoleum Click to expand.
One of my favourite things about the necropolis is that it was functioning for so long that it's a snapshot of changing artistic and architectural movements, and a reflection of changing funereal practices, not to mention the people who were buried and the various circumstances that the choice of monument reflects - those who buried by their next of kin, those with monuments paid for by the members of institutions and societies to which the deceased belonged, those with grand mausoleums, those more simple headstones... A cemetery is a history book encoded in stone and landscaping. I think I could go to the Necropolis a good few times, and with each time, learn more.
The Necropolis is also somewhere I could spend a lot more than a mere hour, especially with a camera. I really, really wish I had a camera that worked at the moment - my cheap 'point and click' camera died (it had death spasms, with the shutter and zoom mechanism suddenly going through some random glitching motions and then breaking, before it expired) and the Canon camera I have on extended loan has trouble with batteries and charging... I just have my phone at the moment, and while the photographs are not terrible, but they could be so much better quality. A new camera is something I will have to invest in when I get a job!
I was trailing behind the group, photographing the monuments, but the group are very aesthetic from behind, so that wasn't too bad! Note monument styles.
The Necropolis is also interesting because it also shows a lot of monuments that are both historical now, and were historically inspired when they were made, harking back to ancient Rome and Greece, ancient Egypt, Byzantium, and even a few with Celtic crosses, representing a late Victorian-era Celtic Revival. Plenty of Gothic Revival monuments, too, but interestingly, much fewer than at Inverness' own necropolis at Tomnahurich. Obelisks, and Classically inspired designs seemed most popular, partly because many are older, but also I think out of stylistic choice. I do personally think that there's something about the angular geometry and severity of some variations of the Neo-Classical that is severe and sober, perfect for sombre memorials.
An angel perched in stone. Photo by myself.
There were some figurative monuments, some with a statue of the deceased, some, like the one above, with angels. I quite like this contemplative angel - the plinth is huge and solid, and many of the neighbouring monuments are stones of similar forms, so it almost looks like an angel just landed there, on top of the stone, which I guess was the idea.
Graves through the trees. Photograph by myself.
The landscaping of the Necropolis is really quite park-like - apart from the paths and terraces, there are a lot of flowers and trees, and a lot of grass! One of the reasons I love graveyards (I wrote a whole blog on the subject ::here::). The cherry blossoms were in bloom - I like cherry blossoms in graveyards, because I think of Japanese sakura blossoms, and how they can symbolise transience, which is very fitting for a graveyard. There were also plenty of bluebells. Spring happens later in Scotland than in England, I've noticed, even later where I am.
Lolita group participant in the shade beneath a cherry tree. Photo by me.
The Lolita group, myself included, took a lot of outfit photos and pictures of each other. While they took photos by some of the graves, I wandered off, not too far because I was back in my high heels and I am precarious in them, to look for interesting graves and vistas. I actually brought my cane with me, both to stabilise myself while wearing heels, and to help me walk once I had taken them off because wearing heels all day makes my ankles pretty sore indeed.
This is more content from last year that I should have uploaded then, but didn't have time to do. It's a fashion post, and I guess analysing my outfits probably won't be of interest to everyone, but I'm trying to chart my journey as I improve at Lolita, Ouji, Aristo and other Japanese street fashions, which are a bit more structured and have a degree of expected polish that I'm not quite achieving yet.
[Last year] My friend Luna hosted a meet up for the local Lolita community as part of her birthday celebrations, and I thought I would try wearing Ouji. For those who don't already know, Ouji is the more 'masculine' twin to Lolita fashion, with the name Ouji-Kei meaning 'Prince-Style'. I find this a little more comfortable and practical to wear than Lolita as it doesn't involve skirts with lots of petticoats. I'm wearing
☠ a cheap wig from eBay*
☠ 'Blood Moon' pendant from Alchemy Gothic (second-hand)
☠ Punk Rave jabot
☠ Punk Rave waistcoat
☠ Bat lapel pin I bought second-hand
☠ Spin-doctor blouse
☠ Fair trade velvet wrist-warmers from 'FarFetched' in Inverness
☠ Red & black lace gloves (can't remember where I got them)
☠ Alchemy Gothic bracelet, can't remember the name of the bloody thorns set.
☠ Belt from a charity shop
☠ Vintage Marks & Spencer's trousers
☠ Boots from a charity shop.
☠ Nemesis now dragon cane.
*bought cheap so I didn't feel bad messing it up with my first attempt at wig styling.
Not a vampire, not a library! First set of photographs, taken by my Lolita friends.
There are two sets of photos, one set taken on the day, but which suffered from poor lighting as the book-shop is deliberately a bit dingy to make it less glaring for shoppers, and the second set taken a little bit later, when I was re-working the outfit. I asked permission from the chap who runs the shop if I could have photographs taken on the upper gallery, where there's usually fewer shoppers, and is a quiet and aesthetic part of the shop. Please check ::here:: for a pos tshowing the interior of Leakey's as a whole, and ::here:: for the Leakey's FaceBook page.
I changed which jabot I wore between the two sets of photographs - I liked the volume of the large Punk Rave one I wore in the second set better than the smaller hand-made one I wore in the first set.
Second set of photographs of me at Leakey's
I definitely like where I am heading with the clothes, but I think it is my hair and make-up that is letting me down. One thing I have struggled with quite a bit for Ouji is my hair and make-up. It's quite a different style to that which I'm used to, and I can't use my 'natural' hair for Ouji because the bright green hair and purple fringe doesn't suit the aesthetic. I tried wearing a short-haired wig. The wig was a bit cheap, because I wanted to have a go at styling it, and I haven't styled a wig like that before, so I didn't want to spend a lot of money only to ruin it. If you look between the two sets of photographs, you'll see that for the second time I wore it, the wig started to slip off the back of my head - my natural hair is long and voluminous, and it was too much hair for the wig, and my natural hair was pushing it off. I didn't realise this until after the photographs were taken, sadly. I have two short term options: re-dye and re-cut my natural hair into something more ouji-friendly, or get better wigs, and get someone who knows what they are doing to style them for me. The long term option is to learn to style wigs better myself, which I intend to do, but as I don't wear wigs very often, I probably won't get regular practice.
I think this shoes the problems with the wig best
I asked for some advice on an Ouji forum, on hair and make-up - and the other criticism (and a valid and constructive one) is that my eye-makeup could have been better blended; I agree - I did it in a bit of a rush, and it's quite different to what I would normally do, so I should have taken more care and blended it better. I also think the contouring I did the first time around was something I should have done again the second time around. The wig in the photo-above is very much awkwardly sat on my head, with the bulk of my natural hair sitting under it awkwardly. I'm getting my hair cut a lot shorter in summer, anyway so perhaps my wigs will sit better on my head then.
I like how the outfit turned out. The blouse with the gathers midway down the sleeves and slight puff at the shoulders sits nicely with the waistcoat - I'm quite happy to have found a combination of cuts like that, where the waistcoat is just narrow enough at the shoulders to let the puff of the sleeves stand above them. I'm not completely sure how much I like that specific jabot with that blouse, as the jabot really requires a collared shirt to look best, and the blouse I was wearing actually has a neck-bow under the jabot instead of a collar; I left the bow undone to avoid bulk under the jabot and tucked it into the shirt, which was a bit awkward, even if not outwardly visible. The waist-coat originally had crosses on it, but I don't feel right wearing crosses as just a fashion statement, so I took all the cross charms off the chains and replaced them with bat-charms and skull beads ands suchlike. The boots didn't originally have trim on them, I just got two types of upholstery trim and glued them to the turn-downs at the top of the boots.
The cane is from Nemesis Now, and is a lovely dragon - he has one red eye because I chipped the handle and the eye was damaged, so I put a little glass gem in the damaged eye. It's pretty, but it's not the best support because the handle is brittle, and I think if I had to lean on it too heavily, it might crack or break. I have anterior ankle impingement, partly caused by my hypermobile ankles, and partly caused by my over-wearing of very high heels (and falling off them, partially because I'm dyspraxic and thus really clumsy...), so often if I'm walking around a lot, I'll have a cane because my ankles can really hurt sometimes - effectively my shin bones and ankle bones are pinching. I've been told to wear completely flat shoes (hence the boots) and I've got physio exercises to do at home, but I'd like to save up some money to get physiotherapy privately and regularly. Anterior ankle impingement apparently can get worse to the point where you get bone-spurs or a kind of arthritis, and I don't want that! I'm probably being a little too paranoid about making it worse, but I'd rather be paranoid and overly careful than get careless and make them significantly worse.
One thing that was mentioned on Closet of Frills was that straight legged trousers is more Aristocrat than Ouji, and that puffy shorts are more suited to Ouji - in summer, when the weather is warmer I will definitely be wearing such shorts!
This blog entry has been inspired by the works of ::Caitlin Doughty:: and the Order of the Good Death.
For a long time, probably since I went to my grandmother's funeral as a child, I've thought about how I'd like my own funeral to be. It is probably a total 'Goth cliche', but when other girls planned their ideal wedding, I was thinking less about white carriages bedecked with red roses... and more black horse-drawn hearses bedecked with white lilies.
I'm not suicidal or dying or anything, and hopefully what I'm writing about won't be useful for a few decades still (my grandmother lived into her '90s, as did several of my more elderly relatives), but I think about these things anyway.
Some people might find that depressing, but to me it offers the comfort of some level of control over the finality of things - how I'll leave my 'last impressions' on the world, what my legacy will be. I guess it helps me also accept my own mortality and the finality of death (even if I joke about being an 'undead vampire' a lot!) and perhaps if I share my thoughts on what I would like to happen to me, then it might help clear the stigma about planning for what happens after your own death. Hopefully openly talking about, and blogging about, what I want to happen to me after my death, is a little step towards encouraging death positivity - a healthy acceptance of death and dying as part of the natural way things happen.
It must be awful for the bereaved to have to try and plan a funeral as well as be in the early stages of grief, so I also want to have that planned out to save those who remain after me the hassle and bother of having to come up with an apt way to do those things, especially as it's probably quite clear to those who know me that I both admire some funeral traditions, and dislike others, and that it might not be clear to them which I'd want, and which I wouldn't without actually leaving some sort of document behind. Funerals can also be very expensive. Funeral plans exist, and there are ways to pre-pay for your funeral in advance, and this is something I really think people should look into. Monuments can also be quite expensive, and as I want something fancy (more about that later), I want to have mine made while I'm still alive, but I suppose it is possible to make other financial arrangements for a monument.
One issue for me is that I am most likely going to be the last of my immediate family. I couldn't have children even if I wanted to (and I don't) and with the rest of my family, I am either rather deliberately estranged, or much older, with the exception of my adopted sister. As such, other than my partner, I don't have much in the way of immediate family to plan things when I die, and that might make for some legal issues, whereby those who know me best might not be my legal next of kin, especially if I outlive my partner and sister. If I have things planned out (and potentially paid for) before my demise, it might make ensuring my wishes are carried out a bit easier.
What happens to someone after death actually has a LOT of stages and elements, and I've pondered about a good deal of them.
One thing I've been considering is what of me I'd donate to science. If there's any parts of me that are useful to medicine or science, I won't be using them any more, so I'd quite like to donate them - however, if I get mangled in a car wreck, I might not be much use for spare parts, but I might make an interesting scientific case-study for understanding exactly what happens if you get hit by the intercity coach or something, but that could also be something already well understood and researched, but if I gave my corpse up for research, I might not get buried at all! I also have spiritual thoughts about whether some of energy would linger on in whoever I get donated to, and that it's one way to live on a little after death, but then what if I would accidentally haunt the recipient? I have heard stories about people who, after transplants, started having eerie connections to their donor, and that honestly bothers me (although quite a few people reading this are probably rolling their eyes and thinking I'm being needlessly superstitious!). It's something I've pondered, and it's made me wonder exactly what bits of me I'd be OK with being reused, too. Perhaps the brain is the seat of our self, and to some it is the heart, so would it be better that those things decompose with the rest of me, to acknowledge the finality of me as myself being gone (I believe in reincarnation, but, to me, reincarnation isn't a direct transfer of consciousness), or would it be better to have my brain preserved in a lab somewhere so that something of what made who I am remains (and could be useful in studying eccentrics with neurological disorders!). It's not something I've fully made up my mind on - organ donation, and donation to science are both things I feel are a good idea, but the nuances of it aren't something I've finalised.
I believe in reincarnation, a I mentioned above, and that our bodies are just temporary vessels for energy that goes through endless cycles of life, death and rebirth, so I don't feel like I need to have specific after death treatment to ensure a specific afterlife, and my beliefs in regards to such things as ghosts is that ghosts are real, and if you become a ghost or not depends on factors like having unfinished business or a particularly traumatic death, so that wouldn't figure into funerary rites for me. I know some other Pagan paths do have these traditions, and include things like burial goods, but I don't believe in a permanent afterlife place where I need to pack stuff to take with me. This leaves my funerary options a lot more open.
To me, reincarnation is more like 'spiritual recycling', and in line with that, I also think that the natural literal recycling of a corpse into decomposed mush that feeds further organic life is important. This is the one aspect of what happens to me that I feel strongly about. I don't want to be embalmed; embalming fluid is bad for the environment, and I want to decompose properly. Tidied up so I don't look too awful at my funeral is one thing, but preserved is another. I have no need to lie 'in state' like I'm royalty or Lenin, and I don't feel like decomposition ought to be kept at bay, because it's part of the cycle of life - life feeds on the death of other things, that is how nature works, and if bacteria and the creepy-crawlies in the ground eat me, then that's as nature intended, and hopefully I'll fertilise the ground.
Wanting a natural burial has many aspects - I don't want a plasticised casket full of synthetic fabrics and foam upholstery, I don't want to be embalmed, and I don't want my coffin to be made out of stuff that's heavily plastics-based or would otherwise not rot well - ordinary wood would suffice (wicker or woven coffins are another option, but they don't look traditional enough for me). That's something I'm very certain of. If my coffin needs to be fancy, they can put a pall over it and some nice flowers. I also wonder about how deep a natural burial should be - will it be 6 feet under, or is it more shallow so that the worms and bugs can munch? Do 'natural' cemeteries allow for monuments as well as trees/plants planted as memorials? Etc. etc.
Another thing for me to consider is where I would like to be buried. Most of my favourite cemeteries have ceased to take new burials (and usually ceased to do so somewhere around 100 years ago), but most modern cemeteries don't have the same ambience as older ones, because tastes in memorials and headstones have changed (glossy stones, gilded letters, and one of three basic forms with some decorative etching seems to be the norm in many parts of the UK now) and many modern cemeteries I have visited are very linear, organised on a neat grid, and without the interspersing of shrubberies, landscaping and paths that some of the older cemeteries, that were organised, but still had a park-like feel (like Tomnahurich Cemetery in Inverness) do. Some of them seem genuinely depressing rather than simply sombre and reverent - rows and rows of very similar headstones with just grass, plastic flowers, and a grid of gravelled paths, which seems very impersonal, even with the personalised messages on the headstones. As much as I love old churches, I wouldn't want to be buried in a church graveyard.
One thing I am pretty certain about is the design of my headstone. I want it to be circular, I want it to be a stone that will weather nicely over time, and I want it to include an Ouroboros symbol - a serpent eating its own tail - as a symbol of the infinite cycle of destruction and recreation. I would also like a pentacle, as a symbol of my faith. I also want it to be Gothic Revival in style. That's pretty specific, so it's something I would like to commission while I'm still alive, partly as it would be quite expensive for those that remain after me and partly so I can make sure it's exactly as I'd like it. I will leave the face blank, so those who survive me can have whatever words they like inscribed on it, but I want the framing ornament to be quite specific. Maybe it will sit atop a pile of stones in a small cairn, maybe it will stand alone, such things as that, I haven't figured out.
When it comes to the funeral, in many ways, funerals are for the bereaved, not for the deceased. I don't want talk of heaven or God in the conventional meanings of those words at my funeral - for a start, my friends are too diverse in their beliefs for that, and it's also not what I believe in. I would like to write a letter of 'last goodbyes' to be read out at my funeral, and I suspect as my partner and I are Pagan, and much of our friendship circle is, that while we have diverse cosmologies and theologies, Paganism is more orthopraxic than orthodoxic - we are more united by practices than beliefs - so there will be certain elements of Paganism there. I don't want to dictate what those survive me do to best deal with my passing. How I want to be buried is important to me, but whatever rite of memorial others chose is for them, not for me.
I know, in my fantasies, that I'd like to be pulled to my resting place in an ornate carriage pulled by black horses, and that everyone would wear black in traditional mourning, and there would be candles and flowers and and that I'd be carried to my grave by my best friends (which wouldn't work out so well in real life when some are just about 5 feet tall, and some are over 6 feet tall!) and that I'd have a very dramatic, very Victorian funeral, just without the Christian liturgy, but that's what I'd like for myself, and I wouldn't be alive to appreciate it, so there'd be no point. Now, riding in a hearse while I'm alive is a different matter! I want my funeral to be for the benefit of those who survive me, not for me.
Most of my readers probably already know the difference, but I commonly see the two words used interchangeably, so I feel like a disambiguation could be useful. I guess part of the reason is that the Goth subculture is built upon the Gothic, but Goth is a more complex layering.
The term Gothic comes from the name of the architectural style, which itself was a misnomer. The pointed-arch style which is called Gothic was named so after Neo-Classical styles became fashionable, where the pointed arch style was misattributed to the historical Germanic tribes, whereas it mostly originated in France. The application of the term to things that were a specific kind of 'spooky' came a bit later, with late Romanticism bringing about a certain sort of horror novel, where an atmospheric setting was an essential component as much as supernatural elements, and the setting was often something like an old castle or abbey or such building, and often those buildings were Gothic - because by the 18thC those buildings were already centuries old and a good few had plenty of myths and legends already attached to them. That genre of horror, at that time primarily literary, but with a few illustrations and artworks beginning to emerge, which became the 'Gothic novel'.
As time progressed, the elements of the Gothic novel - the conflict between good and evil, the idea of there being a secret or mystery to uncover, the supernatural entities such as ghosts, vampires and werewolves (or the 'explained supernatural' of the likes of the works of Ann Radcliffe), and the atmospheric setting - got applied to more works in other mediums, such as paintings, poems, plays, music and into the 20thC cinema.
It is this Gothic genre which underpins a lot of the Goth subculture - it has given us a fashion aesthetic, an attitude of dark Romanticism, and plenty of subject matter for songs - however, it has also influenced aspects of metal, and there's plenty of people who enjoy aspects of the Gothic without being members of any subculture too, they just read a lot of Gothic novels and watch vampire movies. Those elements have permeated pop-culture, as well as subcultures, and are very prevalent. Often, when something is misidentified as 'Goth', what has been identified has been an element of the Gothic.
So, what makes Goth different to the Gothic? I would say - in general terms, with exceptions - that all Goths are Gothic, not all Gothic things (or people) are Goth. The Gothic is the fertile ground from which Goth grew, but Goth is more than just an appreciation for the Gothic, and it has a very specific manifestation.
While Goth is a manifestation of the Gothic, Goth has more elements to it than just the Gothic, and it is something more specific. Most obviously, it has the Goth genre (and it's subgenres/similar enough genres) of music; the stuff that evolved out of '80s post-punk. You can see the influences of the Gothic in the lyric content and imagery of that '80s post-punk ("Bela Lugosi's Dead, Undead..." playing vampires in Gothic horror movies), but there are other visual, philosophical, and musical influences in that genre. Goth as a subculture is an eclectic amalgam of other aspects of primarily Western culture - it's taken from fetish culture, it's got fuzzy borders with the realms of metal (Fields of the Nephilim... ), it's taken horror tropes from outside the Gothic genre of horror (a I know a lot of Goths that are interested in the murderous psychopath sort of horror stories, for example), and it balances nihilism and Romanticism. Goth came about in the '80s, so there's stuff in the Goth fashion/style that's just a darker adaptation of what was popular in the '80s, such as angular makeup and back-combed hair. Goth also grew from punk, so there's aspects of punk thinking, although somewhat less political, in Goth, too, obvious in Goth's emphasis on the resistance of individuality despite external pressures to conform.
For example, while I'm a Goth because I like Goth music, try and make it to gigs when I can, participate in the club scene (as dwindling as it is where I live), have an attitude with roots in those movements outside of the Gothic that influenced Goth, and I take aesthetic cues from Goth fashion as well as Romantic fashion, I'm fundamentally also Gothic because that is the underpinning mind set - which, in me personally manifests itself in a love for the Gothic as originated in Gothic novels; the ruined architecture, the spooky castles, the ghosts and vampires, the cemeteries, the ancient curses and that dramatic, Byronic sort of decadence... 'Gothic' is the broader umbrella under which Goth shelters. It's also probably the term which should replace 'Goth' in terms like 'Pastel-Goth' or 'Cholo-Goth' which seem to have very little to do with the Goth subculture, but do have a connection to the darker things in life and, at least with Pastel Goth, I've seen Gothic elements like vampires, ghosts, bats and zombies as motifs.
I've seen terms like 'Darksider' and 'Schwarz Szene' to describe the broader miasma of dark subcultures (I'd say 'cloud' but we're being spooky here!) including Industrial, Cyber-Goth, and some parts of Metal, and I don't think Gothic can really replace that, because certainly some of the darkness embraced in these subcultures is from quite a different angle than that within the Gothic genre - lots of dystopian, science-fiction inspiration exists in Industrial and Cyber-Goth especially, and again, the sort of horror that explores themes of madness, psychopathy, and a generally more 'clinical' (for lack of a better word) look into why people do terrible things, rather than a philosophical or supernatural/religious angle. There are still elements of the Gothic, however - songs about demons, devils, vampires and ghosts, supernatural motifs and a sort of Gothic-meets-science-fiction reminiscent of things like the 'Doom' gaming franchise, it just seems to be less of a thematic core, and certainly less of a strong underlying principle or aesthetic.
[An aside on Pastel-Goth: I've seen the term 'Creepy-Cute' used for what is known as 'Pastel-Goth'and I know that this is probably related to the play on words in Japanese between 'kawaii' (cute) and 'kowoi' (scary), so maybe that is a better term altogether? I also don't know what this aesthetic is called in Japan, which appears to be where it originated.]
I think the word "Gothic" as a term to describe a person whose personality includes that sort of mind-set, those interests, that sort of aesthetic, is under-utilised, and is the answer for a lot of people who aren't Goth specifically, but want an umbrella to identify with - 'Gothic' is probably the better term. Certainly, it's an adjective rather than a noun, and lot of us are used to rolling our eyes (perhaps discreetly) when asked "so, are you a 'goffik'?" but I think it's the perfect term for people who love spooky things, but aren't so keen on the sound of the genres considered 'Goth' and would rather listen to say, metal or darker classical works, or maybe darker folk or similar, and just can't get into fishnet and backcombed hair, and hate clubbing, and as all Goths are inherently a bit Gothic anyway, we're all under the same spooky umbrella, so it's not excluding anyone by saying they're not a Goth, rather including a wider range of people by saying 'we're all Gothic', and most of the arguments over the term Goth don't really stem form what Goth is or isn't, but whether someone is included or excluded from the category.
Due to the pressures of college and the stress it has been causing me, I have taken an unplanned hiatus for a while, but I'm now back and blogging again. I'm going to try and get a good bit of content uploaded in the next few days. I apologise for having been away from blogging for so long with little explanation. I've been really struggling to manage my college workload, and studying - or rather the 'study skills' aspect of studying - is difficult for me. I'm good at learning, and taking exams, but I'm not so good at time management, understanding coursework expectations, and group work. I'm going to try and keep updating here more often, and I'd also encourage my readers to check out my account @DomesticatedGoth on Instagram. I upload content to that relatively frequently by comparison, and also more varied content (including more Wicca/Witchcraft/Neo-Paganism related stuff.)
I didn't originally plan to write this, but after having recently changed my hair again (I will post about that tomorrow!) a few things have come up in regards to people's expectations of bright hair. As anyone who has been following me on my blog, or on Instagram knows, I have very bright hair. I have got a lot of compliments on my hair, both in person and online, which has included a few people who have said they'd like to get their hair done similar to mine... I also know that a lot of people don't actually know how much work is involved, or that not all hair styles are really suitable for all hair types. As such, I want to write about what actually goes into having hair like mine, and what expectations for bright and creative/artistic hair styles are reasonable.
First of all, my new hair! I now have a multi-green-turquoise transition for the bulk of my hair, with a purple and fuchsia pointed fringe.
Purple fringe was originally cut in by my friend Melody, and I was hoping to get her to trim it back as it had grown long, but I had an issue with my ID card, and needed a new photograph that was up-to-date and was going to reflect what I looked like all term, and I had let my colours fade out and my fringe grow, my roots grow in (sometimes I let my hair rest), etc. so I needed to get my hair done quickly before the start of term. I was going to just re-colour it, and wait until my friend was back at her hair-dressing course to cut my fringe back in, but as I've been basically tying my hair up and wearing bandanas for about 3 weeks I hadn't realised just how in my eyes and scraggly it had got, so made the terrible mistake of cutting it back myself quite harshly, not just merely trimming 5mm of the ends or whatnot, and so it's choppy/uneven and asymmetric. I have managed to fix it quite a bit since this photo, but now my fringe is shorter than I'd like... I will wait for it to grow a couple of centimetres and get Melody to trim it properly (and hope she doesn't crucify me for ruining her work!).
Damaging My Hair
First of all, while my hair looks nice at first glance, it is actually quite fried and unhealthy. I've had the worst of the over-bleached, badly damaged hair trimmed out back in May, and my stylist had to cut out a good 4½ inches more than I'd have liked because of how much was just chemically and heat ruined nastiness. I have done my own hair for years, and to begin with I did a lot of things that really weren't good for my hair - leaving bleach on too long (once FAR too long because an emergency involving my sister occurred in the middle of me bleaching it - that resulted in hair that snapped off and chemical burns!), trying to bleach it too many shades lighter in one go, using too much heat styling on my hair, and things like trying to make a sudden switch from a dark colour to a bright, etc. I have naturally very dark hair, and while (allergies aside) dyeing it black myself for years did it no real harm, wanting bright colours out of my hair probably isn't a long-term sustainable thing, because of the amount of bleaching required to get my hair to a light blonde, and the continued bleaching of my roots - which, when done on my own inevitably gets on already bleached hair, however hard I try to only bleach the roots -involved in the upkeep. In order to get it looking good day-to-day, I do a lot of conditioning treatments, use oils, etc, but once hair is damaged it doesn't repair itself along the existing length, as it is technically dead material, and repairing treatments only really temporarily put smoothing coatings on the hair strands.
If you have naturally light blonde hair, getting bright hair is much easier, and much less damaging for your hair. If it's light enough, it won't need bleaching - especially if you're putting a colour over it that is sympathetic to the undertones (eg. bright green hair dye over pale blonde hair will probably pick up some of the yellows and pale browns to end up leaf green) and if it does need bleaching, it won't need as much bleaching to get it pale. If, like me, you have very dark brown hair, it takes a lot of bleaching to get it pale enough, and honestly I don't think it's a good idea to do that to your hair, having done it myself repeatedly and damaged my hair. I don't bleach my hair to blonde in one session - I do it in two sessions spaced out, which means it doesn't get prolonged exposure to one long cumulative reaction, and I also don't bleach all my hair out at once - that means no sudden colour changes! - I try to only bleach the roots. Getting my hair bleached professionally is out of my budget, but would probably mean greater damage limitation again, but with bleaching all you can really achieve is damage limitation because the colour stripping process is inherently a damaging one. Bleach does not cover your hair a colour the way dye does, it strips colour, natural or otherwise, from hair. It has two main components - an alkali that makes your hair more porous, and a peroxide that chemically reacts with the melanin in hair, and it is a harsh chemical.
Secondly, I used to try and do all of my hair on my own. That was a terrible idea - first of all, I am not a hair-stylist, I'm an amateur with unusual tastes, and secondly hair dye is really works best with a second person doing it, to get it nice without patches. If I am bleaching my hair at home, I get Raven to help me by doing the back parts that I can't see clearly even with two mirrors, and when it comes to colouring, I get one of a few friends who are experienced with brightly coloured hair to help me. This means I get an even colour, most of the time. Sometimes even after all that, my hair ends up patchy and I have to go back and fix it. Ombre (or really, 'gradient' because I have transitions between colours, not dark roots and lighter coloured tips) hair usually takes me more than one session of dyeing to get the transitions smooth and even! It is very easy to make mistakes with doing your own hair, even if you research your plans first.
When I first started doing interesting things to my hair, there wasn't the explosion in popularity of bright colours, and brights were generally mostly available as DIY options - I'm sure most professionals could, and probably did, do vibrant colours before then, but your average hair salon didn't advertise that sort of thing as an option and it seemed like the hair salons that did were a bit specialist, and only available in big cities with large alternative communities. Now, as brights have become fashionable, even a small city like Inverness has places that will professionally do bright colours, so I really recommend going to a professional to get your hair coloured if you can afford it. They also tend to use different dyes, including better quality, more permanent ones (although there isn't a great range of permanent brights yet).
Being very visibly alternative and walking into a spaces that were mainstream-fashion centred, and in areas that are in general less accepting of eccentric styles, was somewhat daunting, especially for someone like me who is actually quite shy and socially anxious in person. While I have the confidence to ignore mean comments, and disregard other's opinions on my appearance in general, trying to persuade a hair professional that doesn't like alternative designs that yes, I really do want bright green hair, a pointed fringe, whatever else, is not something I really wanted to have to do. This isn't about ignoring professional advice on what my hair can and can't take (which, to be honest, I wish I had been given a long time ago, when I first started dying my hair vibrant colours!), but specifically about those who just think that the sort of things I want are weird, unfashionable, ugly, etc. Trying to find someone willing to do a pointed fringe was interesting, to say the least - the lassie that currently cuts my hair is an Goth studying hair at the same college building as I study architectural technology, and she put my pointy fringe in (and I couldn't make an appointment with her to get it tidied up before the start of university, so I did it myself this time... I regret it!). However, times have changed, and the availability of people willing to do more creative things has increased - especially if you find someone who likes having the opportunity to do something artistic and different once in a while!
Also, if you do things yourself, remember that there's actually a lot of skills and techniques in styling hair - for many it's the difference between able to do DIY home improvements and being a qualified tradesperson, but for hair. Just as you might be able to fix a ding in a wall with some filler and sandpaper, but maybe not plaster a whole wall in a way that is smooth and even, sometimes more complicated tasks are better left to someone who is trained and practiced, and if you do end up doing yourself, do realise that it might not work out right the first time. I've been regularly dyeing my own hair -with help!- for years (I started as a teenager, and I'm now nearly 30...) and I still can't get it as perfect and amazing as some of the salon-done examples I've seen. I've learned to trim my fringe, but on my fifth time keeping my fringe out of my eyes, I've still got a HUGE skill difference between how much better it looked the first time Melody (my friend who is a hair-dressing student) ever did a pointy fringe, just because Melody had a lot of experience and tutoring in cutting hair and fringes prior to the pointy one.
Internet vs. Reality
Thirdly, there are definitely people who are only exposed to what my hair looks like on Instagram, here, Facebook, etc. and only see it in photographs. Even before the photograph is taken, I'll have probably spent a substantial amount of time getting my hair just right, brushing and combing it, styling my fringe, etc. etc. I also tend to take selfies within a week of my hair having been recoloured, so it is at its most vibrant. When I'm actually taking the photographs for my selfies, I make sure I'm well lit, against a white cloth background (actually a lined curtain turned inside out, so the pretty side is hidden and the shiny white lining cloth is visible behind me!) and in a mixture of natural light, reflected natural light (an array of mirrors out of shot!) and sometimes some artificial light. Usually selfies are a document of my latest make-up, so everything is carefully posed to flatter my face, too! After all that, I then make digital edits to photos to adjust saturation, contrast, colour balance, etc. Sometimes I do more substantial colour corrections - especially if I've not had the opportunity to take a selfie in optimal lighting conditions. What people see in a photograph is my hair at an ideal moment. It does not look like that two weeks after being coloured, when humidity is making it fluffy and weird, when the wind has blown my fringe all out of shape, in some terrible lighting that makes it look blue when it's not, etc. etc. This isn't just me, this is what goes on behind the scenes of a LOT of people who put their hair on Tumblr, Instagram, whatever. It was only recently that Ursula Goth went viral for posting their lovely pink, purple and blue ombre hair before styling for a selfie, and then after styling and ::writing about:: the need for honesty and knowing that there's a difference between social media highlights and real life.
Fourthly, unnatural hair colours take a lot of work to maintain. Solid colour permanent dark dye over unbleached hair is the easiest to maintain. When I dyed my hair black, all I had to do was re-dye my roots when they grew long enough to be obvious (that will depend on how your natural hair colour contrasts with what colour you have dyed it) and every now and again re-tone the whole thing as it started to fade back to brown - which took a very long time compared to bright hair, and with cumulative layers of black it became more and more permanent. Solid colour bright/light colours over bleached hair take more work, as first of all the roots need dyeing before re-colouring, and secondly, depending on the colour and brand of hair-dye, and whether it is permanent or semi-permanent (most bright dyes are semi-permanent), and other factors like sun exposure, how often you wash it, and with what shampoos, etc. it can fade in anything from a mere week and a half to much longer, but they usually fade in a few weeks, and to the point where it is very obvious in about a month. Gradient brights are even more work because of recolouring the length with several, but because it's a smooth gradient, it can be redone in a distribution that isn't an exact match to where the colours where before and still look good. Layered, sectioned, or any other hair colouring that involves lots of different sections of solid colour hair is really difficult to maintain the way it was done.
Sectional multicolour hair, with ombre.
I gave up on multi-colour hair done in layered sections because the upkeep was just too time-consuming. The amount of time I spent trying to section my hair in all the same places as when I first did my multicolour hair, because getting green over purple or whatever would result in muddy colours and browning, was inordinate - I would go through my hair with a rat-tail comb and lots of hair ties and very patiently over about 2 hours, try and part my hair exactly into all the individual locks I had initially put it into, made even more complicated when I re-bleached the roots, because then the first inch-and-a-half to two inches of my hair were blonde, so tracking back to my roots where the sections previously were became much, much harder! It also faded very unevenly, and when I tried to re-colour it it became harder and harder to get it looking good like it had before, especially as some colours fade to quite strong tones - hence why I ended up eventually with mostly turquoise hair with neon green bits that didn't look the best.
Weird green top to blue after fading and ineffective touchups
Some styles are also a lot of upkeep, too, regardless of what colour. A fringe needs to be regularly styled to maintain its shape, especially my pointy one that is easily re-arranged to be oddly asymmetric by the wind! Both V or 'vamp fringes and 'Vintage Pin-Up' fringes, and other fringes that require a crisp style and curving under usually involve fringe straighteners, a hair-dryer, a comb, and hair-spray or product to keep them in place (I am allergic to hair-spray!). Back-combing can go from deliberately ratted to plain ratty and matted if not taken out and re-done at the right frequency - too often and you snap and damage the hair, too infrequently and the build up of product, natural oils, and anything that gets trapped in that sort of style can become a bit gross. Under-cuts need to be re-shorn otherwise they grow out oddly, and anything with styled ringlets or waves also requires work (although I haven't got personal experience with the last two, but I have friends that do). I like my long hair loose, but often put braids in my hair just either side of my face to keep those bits from getting in my way, and those get re-done each morning. If you want to have 'mermaid hair', that usually requires both curling/waves and far more complex braids to get the full effect, etc. and some styles if not re-styled in full just turn into a fluffy explosion or stick up at weird angles, or flop down oddly, etc. so to look nice, you're bound into doing something with it each day that's more than just brushing it and/or tying it back, even if it's not putting it back into the full style.
I am not saying this to dissuade people from brightly coloured hair or from having interesting styles, or to try and show off how hard I've worked on my hair, but to give people realistic expectations of what having some of the more colourful and complex styles entail. Also, if you do go to a stylist, and want something done, please be aware that if they're trying to dissuade you on the grounds that it might damage your hair, or inform you it could be quite expensive and take several sessions, they aren't necessarily judging your style, or trying to scam you for unnecessary extra work - as I mentioned above, bleaching dark hair can take several sessions, and dyeing is usually a separate session, not to mention any cuts/styles to be done, and hair-dressing is a skilled trade that requires decent compensation.
I completely forgot about doing the conclusion to my hair adventures, so I'm sorry for not putting this up months ago!
As you may recall from ::Hair Adventures 2: Feeling Blue::, I previously dyed my hair pine green with a violet fringe, and while it was pretty freshly done, it rapidly faded to two-tone blue, which while it wasn't objectively bad, was just not what I actually wanted. The picture on the right shows the colours in my hair when it was done the first time around, and you can click the link above to see what happened when it turned blue.
As I mentioned in that previous blog, I had a plan to turn the blues back to greens and purple - put in very vibrant yellow green over the aqua blue, and neon pink over the royal blue fringe! I used Stargazer UV Green and Stargazer UV Pink over the faded blue hair, but before I did that, I made sure to fade it out as much as possible, to pastel turquoise-blue, and a bright blue for the fringe. To help it fade as quickly as possible, I used original formula dandruff shampoo, which strips temporary dye much quicker than ordinary shampoo, and does help as I can get dandruff in summer.
My hair fixed with lime green and pink!
The bright lime green alone wasn't quite enough to get my hair a colour I wanted, so I put Directions Apple Green (a staple for my hair for ages, my favourite green dye) over it, to get it REALLY green! To keep it green, once every other week or so, I was mixing up some left over green dye (including some of the Crazy Colour Pine, and lots of the Stargazer UV Green) in with some conditioner and leaving it on my hair to deep condition it (it gets pretty fried with all the bleach and styling) and to make the hair more vibrant. I'm not sure this is the best method, but it was recommended to me by a friend, and it seems to be working for me - of course, 'your mileage may vary' as they say, and I am not a professional hair-dresser or stylist, so whether leaving conditioner on for the time it takes my hair-dye to usually set is a good idea or not is not something I am qualified to say.
Slightly more Pine Green in the mix this time!
Putting more of the Crazy Colour Pine green results in a slightly darker green, but it also does fade bluer (I think it is more like a blue dye with yellow dye mixed in, rather than a green dye, and the yellow tones wash out faster). The Stargazer UV Green dye does fade pretty quickly, though, and when I'd run out of Pine and was just using UV Green to touch it up, it was fading to a more minty green. I was using Stargazer UV Pink, mixed with a little of the left over Violette to keep the fringe bright - and still am, as it doesn't take much dye and I still have some of that first bottle of Violette and a third of a bottle of UV pink!
Slightly faded out
If you have my Domesticated Goth account followed on Instagram - viewable in browser ::here:: - you will have already seen the 'Moon Child' makeup picture, and Birthday M.U.O.T.D (make up of the day) picture - I'm more active on Instagram than I am here, and I put content on Instagram that's more about my make-up, fashion, artwork and aesthetics, as I feel that Instagram is a better platform for primarily visual blogging. For wordy blogging, thoughts and even posts that are nearly articles/essays, then I will continue to blog here. I have been busy renovating my house over summer, so hopefully in the near future I will do a room-by-room account of my decorating ideas and inspiration, what still needs to be done, etc. However, I am back at college, so that might take a while!
This isn't actually the conclusion of my hair saga; there's going to be a Hair Adventures 4! On Friday night I stayed up most of the night dyeing my hair a more interesting way... why doing my hair took all night, and what I've done with it will be revealed in the next (and final) instalment of my hair adventures for this year (although those on my FB page will have had a sneak preview yesterday). I'm not changing my hair drastically again until at least next year - which I have a specific plan for, as I am aiming for a rather radically different change in about a year's time.
On the May Bank Holiday (1st May), I went to Spynie Palace Castle with two local Goths and the lady behind ::Superstitchious::, who was there for a rather thorough photo-shoot of herself modelling a new gown design for her shop. You can see the results of that photoshoot ::here::. While the others were working on the photo-shoot, I took the opportunity to explore the castle and learn a bit of history, and generally get rather excited about visiting such a fantastic ruin. As all my long-term readers will know, I love castles. This post is about the castle, I will do another one about the photoshoot, especially as I got photographed too.
Spynie Palace Castle from the approaching driveway.
The first thing I will point out about the castle is its situation. It's on the edge of a hill, just past its crest - and not a particularly high hill - with a steep valley visible on the left of the image above (that curve just gets steeper!). That descent leads to a boggy wooded valley with streams snaking across it and lush ground-cover vegetation, and many hundreds of years ago was actually part of a firth, opening out into the greater Moray Firth near Elgin. The castle guarded a port, with parts of it not quite visible in this image that actually backed straight onto watery bits! However, since then land has both been artificially reclaimed, and the coastline has risen slightly. The whole of Northern Europe was weighed down during the last ice-age by the immense pressure of all those glaciers, and since then, northern places have slowly risen back up! Eventually the valley dried up entirely and is now woods and farmland and does not even remotely resemble an inlet, except for the boggy ground, and the river is now a stream. I am so used to places down in Southern England where the fens are getting wetter, the cliffs are washing out to sea (and ending up as sandbanks in continental Europe), and flood risks seem to be increasing, that for somewhere to dry up - especially in a climate as soggy as the Scottish one - is quite remarkable!
Windows in windows
I can't resist an interesting window (my trips to ::Rait Castle:: and ::Wester Barevan Churchyard:: are testament to that!), and I especially can't resist one in a wall that tells a story like this. The hall it backed onto was repurposed and resized several times. The rectangular apertures of early windows frame both the smaller Gothic window on the left and the tiny rectangular window on the right. Walls like this - where repairs and alteration are even more evident in colour, as different sandstones were used - tell a story, they're a monument to architectural changes - changes in status, purpose, taste and style. Rectangular windows are Baronial, but this was a Bishop's palace, and Gothic arches are ecclesiastical...
A ruined wall with window-holes, tower in the background.
As is clear to see, the castle is in a state of ruin - the tower is still standing, but the rest of it just a collection of ruined walls, window apertures and earthworks. It was apparently rather magnificent in its time, but the waterway dried up, the castle lost its purpose, and eventually it fell into disrepair and then disarray. A roof was put back on the tower to try and halt the process of disintegration, but apparently it caused more problems than it solved and was removed. In some countries, apparently ruined castles get rebuilt, and the (very helpful) information guide was telling me that some tourists complain that the castle hasn't been rebuilt - but I can see the reasoning behind leaving it as a carefully preserved ruin rather than rebuilding.
I have a window obsession.
Photos through windows will always be one of my favourite types of architectural photograph. In this case, I was using the bright spring sky to make the form of the window the focus, with the second thing of interest being the ruined stone wall through which it cuts, and the patch of haze - I think more a camera artefact that any actual dusty or misty air - I need to clean my lens! I think this window has ended up looking Gothic in both the terms of it being a pointed arch window (see the first black and white image) and it having an eerie, almost supernatural quality to it in this picture. I think this is one of my favourite photographs from the trip.
Ruined wall re-imagined as craggy cliff
The picture came about as I saw the tree behind the wall, and was given the idea of the wall as a craggy cliff, now that it is rubbly and jagged, with stones jutting out at dramatic angles. I liked that part of the wall was dressed and neat, and that part was rough and irregular, and waited for the light to catch it just right. I just wish the sky had been a little bit more dramatic, but this isn't the end of the universe.
This blog may contain excessive levels of fenestration.
This is an alcove in what was - I think - a hall or a chapel. I sadly didn't have enough money to buy a guide book, and my search on the internet for a legible floor-plan of the castle hasn't really worked out. There's a nicely visible corbel up in the top left corner, which would have supported a sturdy roof beam. I imagine this part of the castle would have been quite splendid in its heyday. I also like how this image shows the contrast between smooth facing stones, and the more uneven stones on the interior of a wall.
A very tall wall
This is a picture I took to emphasise the verticality. I'm a rural sort of person, and the castle tower is still a legitimately tall building to me! It would probably be quite tall if transported to the city of Inverness, if in comparison to other buildings there - even their tower-blocks are 7 ordinary floors in height, and the hospital 7 extra-height floors with an 8th level of rooms on the roof for services, and this castle is 6 floors above the basement, and then the remains of a roof-space which is another storey, making it quite a tall building even for the modern Highlands. Obviously, quite short if you live in a city with skyscrapers, or even just lots of buildings taller than 10 storeys. (I think I would find actually being in somewhere like New York or Shanghai with lots of tall buildings quite strange! I found myself quite daunted by the taller buildings of Glasgow...)
Interior of tower, with light through window reflecting off floor.
The interior of the tower has been partially restored. I think the patches of white stuff are the remains of lime plastering, and look quite stark against the darker stone. When I've been in castles that are still inhabited, the interiors are often plastered, as are the interiors of many old churches, and the idea that everything was bare stone in the past is something of a misunderstanding - yes, not all spaces were plastered, and yes, a lot of historical remains are no longer plastered, but a lot were. It is like how many old English churches are lime-washed white inside, but many centuries ago, before the Reformation and subsequent move towards Protestantism, they were just as brightly painted as many European churches, and many columns and stone elements that weren't plastered were also painted.
For a change it's a staircase, and not a window!
The picture above is looking back up the stairs that descend into some sort of underground cellar (or possibly dungeon!) beneath the castle. It is a round room, with a domed roof, which I tried desperately to photographs, but I didn't have a tripod or stand, the floor was too uneven to rest the camera upon, and the light-levels necessitated a long exposure... I have a picture that's the least blurry of my efforts, but I'm not sure it warrants being here, nevertheless, the construction method was hypnotically concentric and fascinating, so I have included it as a thumbnail to the side. Anyway, this was the light reflecting off the stone walls, and I thought it really rather interesting. There were lights in the subterranean room, hence why the floor is visible, but it was still quite dingy - but at least it was out of the wind!
Alley to the dried valley.
This alley goes down to a gate, which originally opened out towards where inlet was - I imagine there were once wooden piers or docking areas beyond it, but they are long, long gone. I wish I had taken a photograph that did a better job of demonstrating the three-dimensionality of the other walls and spaces around the alley, but I didn't quite manage. I really wish I could better convey the complexity of the castle spaces, and how the remains still show where rooms and levels once were.
Tree above the wall
Another photograph that shows how ruined the castle has become, and which shows corbels where beams sat and where alcoves and apertures once were. I find it really interesting to look at old buildings and look at how the remains infer what else used to be there. I try and visualise where the floors once were, what sort of doors they once had, whether the windows were glazed, and if so were they just lead-lights, or maybe stained glass? I wonder how tall walls originally were, and what the roof was like - looking for slots and corbels for where beams once rested, wondering about what I can figure out from the spacing, and what's left of any gable ends.
I will finish on another window. Windows are liminal things, between in the indoors and the outdoors, and I find them very interesting. It's a poetic sentiment about perspective that drives my frequent photography of window apertures - thoughts on our viewing things, and the nature of space that I guess are probably a little too much like the architectural-theoretical discourses I read, and which I feel a little overly-abstracted in my thinking, and do wonder if it comes over as pretentious. Perhaps it's enough to just say I like windows!
The Highland Lolita community have become regular visitors at the Botanic Gardens in Inverness. I've written about meets held there, starting with our ::first ever community meet:: when there were only 3 of us and I didn't have a proper Lolita outfit yet, and then a ::summer meet:: in 2015, and the ::Tea Party Club photoshoot::, also in 2015. We went there last year, too, but I didn't get time to write about it. This post is about when went there back in April, but I didn't have time to write about it at the time because of college work.
This was a meet that I organised, but I still ended up hideously late because first one of my shoes broke, and then the bus I was on to Inverness arrived just as the bus to the Botanic Gardens was leaving, so I missed my connection. I ended up meeting a slightly lost lady on the bus, with her young daughter (who had fabulous floral face-paint) trying to get to the nearby Aquadome (municipal swimming pools and gym) for a birthday party, so I showed her how to walk around to where she was heading because currently there is a lot of road-building going on, and the usual entrance to the road down which both the Aquadome and the Botanic Gardens are situated is a construction zone. By the time I got to the Botanic gardens, my friends had already eaten and drunk most of their afternoon tea, so we then went out to the gardens.
Plants & Flowers at the Botanic Gardens. Photos by me.
As often happens we got photographed a bit by other people visiting the gardens, but nobody was too invasive or rude. People often think we're dressing up for a special occasion, but while we're not necessarily daily Lolitas, many of us wear elaborate alternative fashion on a daily basis - whether it's my Romantic and anachronistic Gothic fashion, or fairy-kei and other Japanese street-styles on others, and I do sometimes wear Lolita just because I can - the question "do you dress like this every day?" can be a tricky one. It's a bit easier when I'm on my own and get asked that question - I can answer "this particular outfit and style is for <insert event here> but I do wear elaborate Gothic outfits every day, yes" - a lot of people can't tell Gothic Lolita apart from regular Romantic Goth, to many it's just the same thing but with knee-length skirts. Other Lolita styles, however, are clearly different from any other fashion or subcultural style.
Koi and other fish - picture by Kawaii Keke-Chan
My favourite part of the Botanic Gardens is the cactus house, but we didn't get that far in this visit. My second favourite is the tropical greenhouse. It has a fish-pond with waterfall, but due to an issue with the pump, it no longer goes into the stream under the path, which is sad. I love watching the koi fish and other carp (goldfish?) in the pool. They're very beautiful.
Keke-Chan and H, photo by Koneko
There are steps in the tropical greenhouse leading up to a mezzanine all dripping with climbing plants and beautiful flowers, with fancy railings and even fancier metal furniture.
Koneko, picture is, I think, by me.
As it is in a greenhouse, with a glass roof, it is quite ,bright there! We all sat down and chatted for a while, admiring the full view of the tropical house, and walking up past the waterfall. It's all very beautiful and elegant - and quite warm inside, regardless of the rain outside. One day I will have to take a packed lunch with me (from the café by the entrance), and sit up there to eat it with the sounds of the fountain and the waterfall. The grotto I was photographed in for the ::Tea Party Club photo-shoot:: is beneath the mezzanine.
Koneko infront of the wishing fountain, picture by herself.
Photo of me by Koneko
We then went to the rear of the tropical green-house, which has a wishing-fountain (you throw coins in to make a wish), and the rear of the grotto, which is all neo-classical and completely different from its rocky exterior on the fish-pond. There's even a colourful stained-glass window commemorating something to do with a bank.
One interesting thing is that there is an artificial tree that has been built to grow the sort of rainforest plants that grow secondary on trees. The artificial tree is made from sustainably harvested cork, and rather twisty and fun. It has colourful flowers growing on it, and long strains of silvery, lace-like plants dripping from it. I don't know what the lacy plant is, but I would love to grow some myself as it looks quite magical.
One of the things I like about my local Lolita community is that we're not affraid to be silly now and then, and have a bit of fun. We're quite laid-back, and make sure we don't take ourselves too seriously... like in this photo where Koneko snuck up and photo-bombed me!
Koneko photo-bombing me. I forgot who took this pic!
A few of the younger girls were at the meet, too, but to protect their privacy as they're legally minors in the UK, I haven't featured photographs of them here. Koneko has a facebook page/blog ::here:: andKawaii Keke-Chan's got an account on ::Tumblr::
Photo by Kawaii Keke-Chan
✯ Head-dress: Hand-made by myself
✯ Wig: An online Cosplay shop, but I can't remember which.
✯ Blouse: Spin-Doctor
✯ Dress: second-hand Bodlyine dress
✯ Necklace: Claire's Accessories
✯ Belt: charity shop find
✯ Floral tights: I can't remember, but probably Tesco
✯ Shoes: Demonia shoes bought secondhand on eBay
This outfit was meant to be a simple all-black outfit. I was initially going to wear a black wig, too, but decided to go with this dark green one. The wig has a LOT of volume, so I wore an extra-puffy set of petticoats to balance it. There's no real theme to it, and the design of the dress is just Lolita - not particularly Gothic elements, just lots of ruffles.
In future I want to put together more outfits that aren't just all black and anachronistic, but more Gothic - more elements that tie to the usual motifs - skulls, bats, Gothic architecture, vampires, graveyards, ghosts, etc. as well as cuts that are more Gothic - things with lacing details, big bell sleeves, velvet, using spikes and studs as an accenting detail, etc. I think I need to slowly bing in more of my 'Goth' to my Lolita, making it really Gothic Lolita, not just a 'Goth in Lolita'!
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