Feminist Metalhead Witch

Who are the artists creating the music you listen to most right now? For me, they are Scar the Martyr and Poisonblack, two bands playing metal with an eerie edge.
Some of my long-standing favorites are Godsmack, 5 Finger Death Punch, In This Moment, Straight Line Stitch, and a few others. When I tell people that metal brings a sort of catharsis, that I can slip into daydreams of myself in more powerful roles than those I play in reality, or that I even practice some magic with my “Moving Mix” play list on in the background (rock and metal songs ranging from the nineties until now, reminding me of different moments in my life), I get a few different responses.
The first is: how is that possible? That music isn’t relaxing, it’s not soothing. Or it doesn’t have a good beat, you can’t dance to it and get charged up. My knee-jerk reaction is to want to show them my industrial metal play list, which is metal you can dance to. The second is that a lot of classic, centuries-old dance moves can actually be fitted to slower metal tracks. My actual response is that it’s as though the energy of the music matches any tension or anger I might have, and turns it into a feeling of power, even gives me a rush of sorts. In that way it is soothing, and also energizing.

Metal has been a sort of…emotional salve, relieving the ache of wounds we all receive to the soul. It takes me deep inside my head, helps to release all thoughts, and pain can go far away. I have room to understand the things happening around me, to make choices while my thinking is not suffocated by fury or sadness. Or I can not think, can just let go. It’s like a tide, washing everything away, drowning real life in it’s sun heated warmth.
We all have our scars. There was a lot of verbal violence in my home, from the time I was ten, and my older sisters ran away from home. My own medical problems, of which there are many, reared their heads for the first time. My dad got sick, then died. My sisters were in and out of the house, my mom was driven so far into Catholicism, pulling the three of us younger with her. Since I started Sunday school at seven I had not felt in the right place. Now it got worse, as I attempted to kind of numb myself to all of the things that didn’t make sense to me. One of my younger brothers suddenly had a massive change in temperament, from just easily angered to outright violent and verbally abusive. The controlling, manipulative side of my mother really emerged at this point. This went on for a couple of years, while I floundered through school, and began to get a taste of metal. It had always been in my blood, songs like Cat Scratch Fever, grungy tracks like Smells Like Teen Spirit. Evanescence became a favorite of mine at fourteen, just like they did for many other kids my age. I got bands like Disturbed on CD in junior high. Still, nineties pop (still a smaller portion of my library), and top forty dominated my MP3 player at the start of high school.
And then I was handed a CD by Otep. At first the unmelodious racket, with the trademark horrific lyrics of House of secrets, was a lot to handle. Sure I listened to it from time to time. But I kind of reverted back to Metallica, Disturbed, Godsmack, and those kinds of bands. This album did set me on a quest to find more female-fronted metal, which led me to Lacuna Coil, Kitty, and In This Moment. And gateways just kept opening from there. Lacuna Coil led to Within Temptation and Nightwish, forays into Gothic and symphonic realms. The mixed clean and harsh vocals of Kitty and In this Moment appealed to me the most, as did the solid rock of Godsmack and Evanescence. I even did a stint writing for Femme Metal websine, doing email interviews with bands all over the globe.
This happened at the same time as I was re-discovering my passions for writing and crafts, through courses in high school, finding my friends among the Goth/metal girls in school, and secretly, late at night, studying Wicca.
I think I was always a feminist. Contrary to popular belief, most of us don’t hate guys, we just want things like equal pay, abortion rights, to choose our careers without fear of discrimination, to play any sport we want, etc. There are more worldwide issues, like female cutting, but that’s a discussion for a later post. I believed in women’s rights as long as I could remember. My dad shouldn’t be able to stop my sister joining the army if she wants, or me from learning self defense. He should encourage that, right?
Three years after my father’s passing, it was a full moon on a Christmas Eve. I had also believed, in addition to the concept of women’s equality, that if there was a god, there must be a goddess, and this is the night before I found the Glass Temple. I began to study in earnest, using the information that Keitha provided on her site. So much instinctive knowledge came flooding to the surface, along with surprising intuitive abilities that made me feel so much stronger than my family, as they took each other to ground around me.
There were years that followed of highs and lows, of finding my path and finding other Pagans to learn from, of fighting my mom to be able to breathe freely, with no one over my shoulder telling me how to do it the right way, of struggling through school and constantly moving from dorm to dorm. Until I finally graduated, cut ties with my family, and really began exploring feminist witchcraft, my deep connection with the warrior goddess archetype.
How does this all relate back to metal, you ask? I wrote this post asking myself the same thing. It was the piece of driftwood I used to stay afloat while crossing the chasm of the last five years. Well, one of the two. The other was faith in the goddess and my strength as a witch, though that was more subtle, a paddle to keep in the right direction. My music was something I could rest on when I got tired.And my deep seated, kind of unformed feminist beliefs tied my faith in the goddess, in her many forms, with my passion for women in metal, the power their voices, and that of their male counterparts, lent me to keep going. Metal was my shield and magic my dagger. Pretty metaphors, almost something out of a fantasy novel. That doesn’t matter much, it has been true through many tough times. The goddess, embodied in the women of metal, helped me get through. And the god, embodied in the men of metal, helped me cut a path for myself.
I have a respect for all gods, male and female. I have a deeper connection to the goddess, and feel called by those aspects of her not focused on fertility, or motherhood. I regard both male and female as divine sentient beings, who take many forms, both deities of many paths and mortal humans, animals, and immortal spirits. I have found myself a daughter of the dark moon phase, of the harsh voices of womankind calling for change, of the crimson dagger. And that is where metal, as it saved me from everything going wrong around me, connects with my Pagan faith. She gave me this audible talisman to hold through the years.
There are other genres I love, and have loved. Nineties alternative, Pagan spiritual, and acoustic rock among them. What kinds of music speak to you? Which artists do you reach for again and again? And how does the music you love connect with your faith? Writing this has helped me understand that for myself.

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  • paganheart

    As a fellow female metalhead and Pagan (I considered myself Wiccan for some time but am now more of an eclectic with some Wiccan, Celtic and even Christian leanings) this piece really speaks to me. I have been a metal fan since the day in eight grade study hall when the long-haired guy who sat next to me slipped me a mixtape of songs by Metallica, Black Sabbath, Rainbow (Ronnie James Dio era), Ozzy Osborne, April Wine, Rush, Judas Priest, and others I have forgotten. Up to that point, I had grown up on country music and gospel hymns, having been raised in a fundamentalist family (Baptist on my father’s side, Petecostal on my mother’s.) More recently I had become a fan of new-wave MTV darlings like Duran Duran and Adam And The Ants–it was the early Eighties–and my metalhead friend was determined to teach me the error of my ways. (In retrospect I realize that he was also seriously crushing on me…thank you, Art, wherever you are.) It worked; on that day a metal fan was born…and I am still a fan, 30-some years later!

    In the Eighties I discovered to the Big Four (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer) though I will admit to also having an affinity for some of the “hair” bands (Motley Crue, Poison, Dokken, Slaughter.) In the nineties I discovered thrash (Testament, Exodus, Overkill) and progressive metal (Dream Theater, Cynic, Tool) and dabbled in grunge (Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees – Nirvana never really did it for me.) But when nu-metal hit near the end of the decade and into the new millennium, I have to admit heavy metal nearly lost me; I just couldn’t get into it (though Disturbed and Godsmack were OK.) Fortunately Metalcore and the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal came along in 2004, and bands like Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Soilwork and Unearth made me fall back in love with metal again.

    Since then metal seems to have split into so many subgenres and types it is hard to keep track, but I have found a lot more bands to love in the black/folk (Agalloch, Alcest, Ash Borer), stoner/doom/sludge (Baroness, The Sword, Valkyrie, Red Fang) and prog/post-metal (Mastodon, Intronaut, Pelican) genres. I’m 45 years old, and no one would guess from the outside that I am an unrepentant metallhead; I live a boring, normal life and work a boring job in a normal town. But there’s black polish on my toenails inside my sensible shoes, tattoos hidden from view under my conservative clothes, and the latest Darkest Hour album ripping through the headphones as I sit at my desk!

    Like you, I am into other genres of music as well: classical, choral (I have sung in choirs since high school), Celtic, Pagan, punk rock, folk, and a bit of electronic/ambient music. But I always gravitate back to metal because, as one of my fellow metalhead friends puts it, “Metal screams so I don’t have to.” Metal is a both a cathartic release and a source of power when I need it. I’ve been through some serious health challenges myself and a lot of other really sh!tty things in my life. I’ve battled depression and anxiety; I’m a reformed cutter with scars to remind me. I’ve heard all the BS about metal being satanic, making people depressed, suicidal, homicidal, etc. My answer to that, is that there have been times in my life when hearing a well-timed Slipknot or Killswitch Engage song is the only reason that I didn’t try to kill myself (or someone else!) Metal has helped me cope during some of the worst times in my life.

    I have not really thought about how much metal has had impact or influence on my path as a Pagan, but I can definitely see places where they do intersect. That is something I may have to explore a bit more in the future; to be honest I am still seeking spiritually, and while I most closely identify as Pagan, I don’t know if that is where I will ultimately end up. It’s the same with music; unlike so many people I know, whose playlists have not changed since they were in high school, I am still seeking new sounds and new artists to love. Hopefully I will always be seeking.

    Horns Up! m/ :-)