Story, art, magic and creative activities for families to share and do.
Welcome to the dark side! Don't worry--we've said it before, and we'll say it again--the dark is not a place of fear, but one filled with magic and mystery. Raven Digitalis is an intrepid explorer of this aspect of the craft. He took time out of his busy schedule to chat with me about his tradition, music, animal rights and all things shadowy...
NZ: You are quite young for a published author. How did you get started, and any advice for young and aspiring writers?
RD: Hello! Thanks for the interview.I was contracted by Llewellyn to publish my first book, Goth Craft: The Magickal Side of Dark Culture just before my 23rd birthday. Writing is a fun and strategic way for me to convey information that's in my mind. I would advise any young writers to keep doing what they're doing, whether it be nonfiction, fiction, poetry or anything else--just keep writing, even if it doesn't feel immediately successful. Art is something that should be channeled and expressed, regardless of how many people may or may not become readers, viewers, listeners or whatnot. As with any art form, if you get the motivation to do it, make the time to make it happen. One must always follow their calling!
NZ: You also formed your own tradition of the craft, Opus Aima Obscuræ (the Work of the Great Dark Mother). Can you tell us about the tradition, and what did you have to do to form it?
RD: Our tradition (or "system" or "approach," perhaps more accurately) of the Craft blends many different magickal and spiritual traditions. The path's first Priestess, Estha McNevin, is the one responsible for forming the majority of the training structure. In many ways, it's a very demanding and disciplined tradition; one that requires initiates to study, write, practice, and to performvarioustypes of devotional work and social work. We strongly believe that spirituality--no matter the path--is something to be lived every moment of every day. The Craft is not something to "do," but is something we can all *live*, and it is our hope that our tradition, as well as the public community work we do, can help bring others more stability and peace in their chosen path.
NZ: We are going into Samhain, the dark season, sometimes called the season of death. Many folks from all paths are uncomfortable with this aspect of life. Why do you think this is, and what suggestions from your tradition can you give for becoming more attune with it?
RD: I talk a lot about the 'dying season' in my second book, Shadow Magick Compendium. Yes, it's true; death is feared in many forms. In actuality, death is the only constant force that life has to offer. This is not a 'doom and gloom' perspective, but is to say that death is completely natural and unavoidable. I think it's good for people of all ages and spiritual paths to study death and dying, and have exposure to this phenomenon. We have all sorts of emotions attached to death, and it's best to confront these emotions and come to our own conclusions about these things. In fact, in many cultures and countries, death is celebrated by entire communities so that everybody can both celebrate and acknowledge the occurrence. Many cultures, such as with the Day of the Dead in Mexico, reserve a day, week or month for the exclusive purpose of acknowledging death and dying, and to communicate with those who have gone before us and 'crossed the veil.' For those who live in largely non-ancestral cultures, such as American culture, I would say that the best time to become acquainted with death is when a pet dies. If a pet dies, one can create a ritual to perform when burying its body. Maybe there are certain spirits that can be called, such as those who will protect and carry the beloved pet's soul to the Afterlife. One can meditate and contemplate death and dying, and think about where the pet's spirit may have gone now that it has left its body. There are many possibilities, and everybody deals with death in a different way. The first key is to approach the subject with openness instead of fear.
NZ: You've said (I'm paraphrasing here from another interview) that while it is healthy to focus on death energy and the realm beyond (which is what Samhain is all about), you don't want to do it too much. What do you do to stay balanced and work in the "here and now" as well as the "next and beyond."
RD: While every spiritual person should approach mortality in a realistic and love-based manner, it’s wise not to become fixated on what comes after this experience. As spiritual beings, it’s good practice to bring our attention to the Now, because what is happening in the present moment is the most significant moment of all of our lives. We always find ourselves in the present, so we can't spend too much time worrying about what's next. Some amount of research, meditation is healthy, of course, but we should always bring our awareness back to the work that needs to be done by us on Earth while we're here!
NZ: You're also a DJ (very cool!). Do you incorporate music into spell work? How about dance?
RD: I sometimes like to use music in spellwork because it carries a certain vibration. I also love to sleep to meditative music and I love to enter trancelike states while dancing to EDM in a club or at a party. While I generally prefer silent ceremonies, I am myself a music fiend, so I can personally function with a certain amount of music conducive present while performing a ritual or meditation. But like I said, most ceremonies are best performed without prerecorded music. Organic music is a bit different; if the person or people performing the ritual are drumming, using flutes and bells, strumming instruments, clapping and singing, it carries much more creative power than playing somebody else's music in circle. As for dancing, amazing energy can be raised through movement! Author and teacher T. Thorn Coyle discusses and teaches this quite a bit in her expression Feri Witchcraft. In public circles at my Temple, some sort of dancing is always required for raising energy in a sacred space.
NZ: Being Goth seems to be a part of your practice and who you are. "Goth" conjures up alot of images--often misunderstood. What are the main myths, and what is the Goth outlook really about?
RD: To be honest, I’m not really into the social aspect of the Goth scene at this point. I love the music and art, but I’ve witnessed far too much cruelty, ego, apathy, self-aggrandizement, viciousness and mundane infighting in the scene to proudly call myself a Goth anymore. I realize now that what it means to me is not what it means to others, so the subculture is no longer so important to me. Though in my first book I propose a possible connection between these two lifestyles, the two are entirely different entities. For some, dark culture can be mystical. For most, it’s not. As for the other portion of the question, if I were to summarize Goth, I would say that Goth itself is a subculture that begun in the late 1960s in England, and originally evolved from the punk rock subculture (or counterculture). Goth is focused on music, art, creativity and coming to terms with oneself through the 'darkness.'
NZ: Animals rights are a great passion of yours (judging from interviews and your website). What suggestions can you give our readers for furthering this cause?
RD: I love animals! I would personally encourage all readers to research information about animal rights and welfare, and maybe even try their hand at a vegetarian or vegan diet. While I am no longer vegetarian (I was for 8 years), I have proudly not eaten any factory-farmed meat in 11 years (as of 2013). Meat and dairy animals are treated in horrific ways, so by deciding either to not eat meat and dairy, or by deciding to buy only locally, humanely-raised or hunted meat, one can play their part in helping the animal realm. There’s no excuse for animal abuse, and many of the practices of the corporate meat industries should be criminally outlawed. I encourage readers to eat locally and seasonally, and to be mindful of everything they put in or on their body by being aware of the origins and the living conditions (as well as the working conditions of the employees). It’s unfortunate that the world is largely unethical, but in order to help change the karma we need to invoke kindness and mindfulness in our every action – not to mention a hefty dose of research into companies or organizations one might support!
NZ: What is your favorite Sabbat and why? What do you do to celebrate?
RD: Samhain! Yes ma’am, Halloween is amazing. I prefer this holiday because I love spooky, dark and kooky themes. I love how many traditional Halloween activities are still preserved, which are from old Europe and elsewhere. I definitely think it's the most fun Sabbat, and is one that speaks to me for many reasons... not least because we are closest to the Otherworld at that time. At my Temple, community members ritually burn black poppets to represent banishing their own unwanted darkness; it’s very potent and successful.
NZ: What is the most magical thing that's happened in your life (so far!)?
RD: Becoming a Priest is the most magickal thing I could ever ask for. Though it comes with immense responsibility, as well as extreme devotion and dedication, and though it rules every aspect of my life, it's the most significant thing that's ever happened to me. I am on my path! May we all find our paths in this world, because we all have a very important role to play.
Blessed be, readers.
Note to parents: Goth Craft and Shadow Magic Compendium are books with some adult themes.
Interview by Natalie Zaman, Photos by Raven Digitalis