I was watching one of Freyia Norling’s live streams on YouTube the other day, and she was answering questions that had come in from her followers. One of the questions was ‘what’s your favourite colour?’ I said ‘black’ before the words left my favourite Arctic Witch’s lips.
Freyia went on to talk about how black bought her comfort, and I found myself promptly stopping what I was doing – hula hooping – and jabbing a finger at my laptop screen and yelling, ‘YES! YES! FUCKING YES!’
The comment about black bringing her comfort stayed with me, and ended up inspiring this post. My relationship with the colour black, while being something deeply personal, almost, I’d say, sacred, is something I’d like to explore and talk more about, though, oddly I find it a bit difficult to do. It’s a bit bizarre seen as though I’ve now spent more of my life wearing black than not, but hey ho.
I guess the best thing to do is just take it slowly. So I’ll start from the beginning and see where we go.
It was the mid-90s – I can’t remember what year…maybe 1996 maybe later – and one weekend we went on a family trip to Whitby. My excited, little face was plastered to the car window for the duration of the hour long drive over the North Yorkshire Moors. I wanted to be the first one to catch a glimpse of the Abbey on the horizon.
I knew there was going to be ice cream when we got there. I knew we’d all file into the arcades and get a bag of 2ps to use on the coin pusher game. I knew we’d walk up the massive hill to the whale bones and I’d tell everyone, not for the first time, about how Bram Stoker had been inspired by the view. I knew I’d be able to spend my pocket money on a crystal or a packet of dragon’s blood incense sticks from one of the ‘hippy shops,’ as we called them back then. What I didn’t know was that we were going to Whitby on Goth Weekend (I didn’t even know it was a thing) and that the experience would be my awakening.
It was mid-morning when we arrived and Whitby was teaming with Goths. They glided through the tight, cobbled streets. They carefully picked their way up the 199 steps. They packed pubs, crammed fish & chip shops and stormed thrift stores.
Not knowing where to look, my eyes darted this way and that. I remember my heart surging. While I’d always been a weird kid – I used to smuggle Goosebumps and Shivers books to my classmates during religion lessons, and my idea of a good time was going to my Grandmothers and siting by myself in the living room to watch wolf documentaries on National Geographic – I’d never heard about Whitby Goth Weekend.
At one point, I was in the toilets, and when I went to wash my hands, a woman donned in the finest Victoriana garb stood next to me and fixed her face with white powder. (She might have even had fangs…) Something shifted in me at that moment. I wanted to be out of my hippyesque mirrored waistcoat and cheesecloth skirt (I went to a Waldorf school…what can I say) and into something darker. Something black. My awakening had begun.
When I got home, i immediately started weeding out the coloured items from the wardrobe I shared with my sister. Buying new clothes wasn’t something my family could afford to do on a whim, so it was a gradual process in which the interior of my wardrobe (or my half of it anyway) darkened to the shade of night.
On rare occasions, we used to get bags of clothes from family friends whose kids had outgrown them, and it was always so exciting to pull them open and examine the contents for anything black. There was one velvet dress in particular that found its way into my hands. Long sleeved, ankle length, slightly tight fitting, it was my dress of choice for over ten years. I must have worn it every other day.
I can remember when I first dressed entirely in black. It felt like I’d arrived somewhere I’d always meant to go. As a lifelong weirdo, black felt like home. I found that wearing black helped me come out of myself, express myself in ways I’d been incapable of doing before. My confidence steadily bloomed and, while I did have issues, oh, did I have issues, I had, in many ways, found myself.
Are You Going To A Funeral?
People don’t shout at me much these days. Maybe because I’m not into wearing bat buckle boots or velvet capes anymore like back in the times of yore. But in the before times, I could be expected to be shouted at whenever I left the house. Bellow are the things that were shouted most often:
- Devil Worshiper
- It’s not Halloween
- Are you going to a funeral?
- Where’s the funeral at?
- I like your costume
- Emo (the worst)
- Morticia (the best)
- Where’s your coffin?
- Are you dead?
- Marilyn Manson
Brief Moments Of Colour
Despite being thirty four and quite capable of making my own decisions when it comes to what colour clothes I wear, my Dad never gives up on his mission of trying to convince me to ‘add some colour into my life.’ My Mum gave up trying about twenty years ago ago. (The same Mum who once made me get out of the car because I wouldn’t take off my inverted crucifix necklace.)
Over the years, I’ve had instances when, entirely out of character, I’ve thrifted something that hasn’t been black with the intention of wearing it in ‘real life.’ Though more often that not, that item of clothing ended up being untouched for years, then bagged up and given back to charity. I’ve bought other coloured clothes for photo purposes though where doing something out of character can lead to good shot.
One time, my sister and her boyfriend showed up unexpectedly when I was taking photos in my white dress. I covered up with a black cardigan and went downstairs to see them. Her boyfriend noticed the dress peeking out from under the cardigan and made a comment on me wearing white. I was like ‘no, it’s only for photos,’ and my sister said ‘yeah, I mean, she’s not wearing it seriously.’ We had a good chuckle.
My Relationship With Black Today
I don’t call myself a Goth these days. I haven’t for a very long time. But I won’t forget how important the Goth subculture was in helping me find my place in the world. I never made friends at the Goth Weekends of my youth (I was far too much of an anxious, depressed introvert for that…plus, many folks who went went for the music…which I was never really into) but the very act of going to the event and being present at it was more than enough.
Those feelings I experienced as a youngster? I still experience them today, just as strongly, if not more so. Black is my go to. It will always be my go to. Black empowers me. It ties into my well-being. It brings me peace. It’s my constant, my joy, my sanctuary. I just fucking love it.
*If you create a piece of writing on your relationship with black, please let me know! I’m thinking about maybe featuring essays here on Wyrd Words & Effigies, or maybe creating a special edition of Wyrd Words & Effigies Magazine that focuses solely on the colour black. Let me know what you think!
What I Was Listening To While Writing This