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Book Spotlight


The Dark Archetype 

Denise Dumars
and Lori Nyx





The Dark Archetype:
Exploring the Shadow Side of the Divine
by Denise Dumars and Lori Nyx

TWPT:  How long have the two of you known each other and what was the impetus to write together?  

LN:  We've known each other for....what is it, 4 years now? It seems like longer! We met in the aftermath of a Long Beach WomanSpirit Samhain ritual.  Also I had put out a flyer for a Goddess 2000 event I'd planned in our home town. Dee rung me up and we were soon cohorts in crime.  Not so coincidentally, I had asked during the ritual for some new and interesting friends to manifest in my life. The impetus for writing this book for me was having a writer for a friend who made me do it! LOL! A year after our initial meeting, Denise and I were sitting together sipping martinis at a Long Beach Vampire/Goth event....again close to Samhain. And I innocently suggested how cool it would be to have a book about the archetypes we were into, mostly the 'darker' sort. Dee took me at my martini influenced words and "The Dark Archetype" was conceived. 

DD:    Ask Lori and she’ll say it’s all my fault. I say it’s all HER fault for putting out that flyer announcing a Goddess 2000 event in Redondo Beach. I was astonished; an event that close to home? Anyway, I participated in her sand-goddess building ritual and she was Art Director of our first collaboration, which was the poetry and art anthology, Isis Rising: The Goddess in the Year 2000 which we edited together for the Temple of Isis Los Angeles. We later founded, along with Stephania Ebony, the Iseum of Isis Paedusis, an Isian study group headquartered here in the South Bay. And those were green apple martinis, by the way!

TWPT:  Your new book is called The Dark Archetype, why is it that you decided to write about the darker side of divinity?

LN:   To tell you the truth I wanted to read a book like ours and there aren't a lot out there specific to the dark gods and goddesses that are geared toward the modern-day pagan. We both realized that there was a void that needed to be filled.

DD:    I say find a niche and fill it. And I was tired of the idea that “dark” always meant “bad” and I was also tired of revisionist history that some pagans were doing trying to “lighten up” the truth about their ancestors and their ancestors’ gods.

TWPT:  For those who may not be familiar with the term could you tell us what “archetype” means to you and how it relates to the subject matter of this book?

LN:    Well, we don't use the term in the formal Jungian sense, though it does apply. Simply, I believe that the deities and mythological figures we deal with in the book are near universal manifestations of primal energies and experiences expressed in religion, folklore, myth, and the arts. These manifestations appear to be built into the human psyche, as they continue to appear again and again to this day.

DD:   Yeah, what she said! I think we did try to explain the reason for the existence of dark deities and mythological beings in world mythology and that took us into Jung’s idea of the archetype. We found ourselves swimming around in the sea of the collective unconscious whether we wanted to or not! It was actually quite interesting to see what manifested in our own psyches while the book was being written…but then you have to read the book to find out what happened there! 

TWPT:  What are your thoughts on why most people don’t like to explore or even think about the darker sides of ourselves or our deities?

LN:    That's an easy one: because it's unfamiliar and, via the force of enculturation, taboo. What is strange and hidden is often perceived as evil and bad. Our society doesn't have acceptable outlets for the darker side of life. Most things that appear to be uncivilized, irrational, messy, painful, violent and overly emotional are viewed as suspect. I talk about that in "The Grim Reaper Chapter." How we sweep death under the rug and then when it confronts us, we don't know how to deal with it. I also think some people feel that they cannot follow The Wiccan Rede or be ethical if they "go over to The Dark Side.".

DD:   Let’s face it; the New Age has had a tremendous impact on Pagan/Wiccan beliefs and practices. When I was starting out in the Craft as a mere child, back in the days of people like Paul Huson and Louise Huebner—who, btw, was named “the Official Witch of Los Angeles” by then-mayor Sam Yorty—it was all about being spooky-cool. But that was before the hippies got off drugs and turned into Jesus Freaks and made us go back into the broom closet. When we came out, someone—probably Shirley Maclaine, whom I bear a certain resemblence to, oddly enough—had dubbed this the New Age and it was all about white light and don’t you dare wear black! Also, we pagans have tried to hard to go “mainstream” as a religion that we spend a lot of time telling people we’re not dark or evil, and in the process sometimes forget that pagans are supposed to take the good with the bad, the dark with the light. It’s about balance. To go wholly one way or another is to court misfortune through imbalance. Even the New Agers are realizing that: read the book The Dark Side of the Light Chasers for a New Age argument similar to ours.

TWPT:  What are some of the main points that you are trying to communicate to those who buy your book about the darker side of themselves and of their deities?

LN:  Simply, that we all need to lighten up a little, and to accept that we find these archetypes intriguing, even titillating, and that that is perfectly okay! Trust me folks, you will not burn in the Summerland if you study or work with the darker archetypes. I sincerely hope that this book will whet reader’s appetites for learning more about these forces and will open up their minds and hearts to new deities and magickal experiences.

TWPT:  Tell me about how the book is arranged and how your readers can make use of it to enrich their spiritual paths?

DD:   The book has introductory chapters that talk about basic precautions and procedures for embarking on the book’s journey. It really isn’t for beginners, but since we know some are going to read it, we’ve included such things as how to set up sacred space and shield yourself while doing the workings. The next section, Femmes Fatales: the Dark Goddesses, is all about the female archetypes we discuss, including Kali, Medusa, Hel, Hekate, and Lilith. The next section is called Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? The Dark Gods, and discusses such male archetypes as Loki, Lucifer, Anubis, and the Grim Reaper. Finally, there is a section on rituals, spells, talismans, and correspondences that gives detailed instructions for specific rituals, spells, etc. for working with the archetypes discussed in the book.

The reader can work with the book in one of two ways: first of all, I’d suggest reading the introductory chapters to see the purpose of the book, and then read the archetype chapters to learn the history and practice surrounding these gods, goddesses, orishas, etc. This will teach some things you may not have known about them—such as the fact that Hekate was NOT originally the witch’s crone goddess! You may also learn about deities you didn’t know existed, such as Volos, the Slavic werewolf god. Then, if these deities appeal to you, you can try the rites at the end of the book or take our other suggestions for working with the archetypes.

TWPT:  Was there a particular point in time when the dark side began to recede from view while the focus of spiritual paths shifted to the lighter side of their deities?

DD:   As far as our modern society is concerned, I answered this under Question #4. As for the ancients, well, I think when the monotheistic religions took precedence they obviously wanted their followers to look to the “good” god and not the “bad.” They created dualism; not paganism. Paganism was always about the grey areas, always mixing dark with light. It helps to explain things such as sickness, death, natural disasters, etc., if you have both dark and light gods in your worldview. I’m a fan of such modern-day sects as the Yezidis, a mostly Kurdish group of Muslims who venerate Shaitan rather than Allah because they believe that a good god is all-good and all-loving and therefore doesn’t need us to grovel for him, while a devil figure is jealous, capricious, and dangerous and therefore needs placating. As a reward for their supreme love of Allah the Yezidis are called Satanists by most other Muslims. And so it goes.

As for my own practice, I call on the dark deities in a limited way; usually I am asking for compassion from someone like Kwan Yin or Isis, or inspiration from Thoth or Sarisvati! Though I do admit to having a world-class crush on Shiva…

LN:  Hmm, I'm not sure if I'm understanding your question. Do you mean this on a personal level, in my own spiritual journey? If so, for me each deity was a different case. I tried to balance both dark and light aspects, but I'm afraid I suffer from what I call "the irreverent reverence syndrome." Once I explore a deity and start to work with them, I get terribly chummy with them, even casual--though not disrespectful. Every time I do Denise’s amazing Set meditation (in our book), Set does something to simultaneously crack me up and comfort me. He may be a bad guy in myth, but he's a devilish charmer as well. Several of our chapters talk about how the dark archetypes aren't really dark at all, just demonized. One deity I thought was going to be quite dark, Coatlicue, turned out to be quite the reverse. Yet, I felt it important to include her in the book. She wanted to be included. Wink. Still, I know that these primal forces are never fluffy. Anubis may appear to my inner eye as a black hound with tail a wag, but he's still the embalming priest and psychopomp and you bet I respect his "Authoritah!" as Cartman would say on South Park. Now that I re-read your question....I think I may have just answered questions 8 and 10 instead! Oops.

TWPT:  What kinds of differences are there in working with the dark side in rituals than the light side?

LN:  We don't view things as so black and white. I believe that all deities have myriad sides: dark, light and every shade in between. I view power in pretty much the same way. It’s intent, what you do with it that is important. Certainly, the energy of so-called darker deities may feel different to work with, more intense or wild or merely different. As Denise points out in the book’s intro, when you are dealing with a more cthonic force it can hit you right around the lower chakras, if you take my meaning. Then again that could be just us! Grin.

As far as set up and procedure is concerned, it’s been my experience that different forces/entities like to be approached in specific ways. But in a general sense healthy respect is a given. As I always say: Groveling is good! LOL The Dark Goddesses don't mind a good forehead to the floor bow. Often a more formal approach is required when working with these archetypes. Then again sometimes you can just let it all hang out and do what feels appropriate. With trickster deities I tend to go with who or what inspires me, rather than adhere to ceremony. This is my preference when working with Dionysos. Although, there are orthodox rituals and procedures for his worship that can be gleaned from ancient Greek practice, I am comfortable being more liberal around Liber Pater. Some things are just a given, however, like shielding and grounding and if you are working with a deity that has a very orthodox tradition of worship, like the Hindu gods or the orishas then it’s best to approach them in more traditional, time-honored ways.

TWPT:  Most of us remember the old Star Trek episode where Kirk’s dark side is split away from his light side thereby weakening him as a complete person, do you think that not working with or acknowledging the darker side in our spiritual nature weakens us as well?

LN:  It all comes right back to Star Trek, doesn't it! Yes, I agree with that whole-heartedly. If you ignore a part of yourself you are only asking for trouble.  Nothing can be repressed or ignored forever. And why should it, when it's who we are. Besides, it's just not healthy for your psyche. 

DD:   Hey, who mentioned Star Trek? Read the Tezcatlipoca scrying ritual, which is called “Mirror, Mirror” and discusses the classic Trek episode of the same name. But seriously, I think it can be downright dangerous to NOT explore the dark side; consider the way our society sweeps death under the rug. We are not prepared for it by our society or most of our current religious traditions, and therefore people in our country suffer terribly when a loved one dies because they have fewer coping mechanisms.

TWPT:  For those who are gung ho about beginning to work with the darker sides of divinity do you have any words of caution about dealing with those energies without becoming unbalanced in the opposite direction?

LN:   “All in Moderation” or so the Greeks thought and that means excess as well! Sure, it's cool to explore the "Dark Side", but like anything. If that's all you take in or express, you are out of balance with the universe, this is just as bad as focusing only on White Light and Rainbow Bodies!  Besides a steady diet of anything is not only unhealthy, but BORING! Why limit yourself to just one flavor? This is part of why we wrote this book: to encourage people to have a more balanced view and to cultivate new tastes.

As for words of caution, I have a few, but they’re not about imbalance. Because to tell you the truth, the deities will note your imbalance and will make adjustments accordingly. Consider yourself warned. My admonition is to incorporate respect and love into everything that you do: this includes the archetypes, yourself and other people. 

TWPT:  For those who have never really worked with the darker side of deity or explored the darker side of their own personalities, what kinds of suggestions do you have for the initial steps that a person should take upon this path of discovery?

LN:  Never move faster than the slowest part of you feels comfortable going. Baby steps are quite all right. In fact, I think it’s best to slowly incorporate anything new into your life. If you are leery, use our book as an introduction to these entities. Read it and see who and what appeals to you before you run out and buy all those black candles! If you become enthralled with a particular archetype, focus on that one. feel free to research them more deeply. You may wish to set up an introduction. That is, in sacred and protected space, light a candle or burn some incense for them and introduce yourself, greet and honor them and that’s all. See how that feels and then proceed. Of course, we all know that sometimes those deities that we are particularly drawn too, have already PICKED us, or at least, they want to teach us or communicate something important to our lives. 

DD:   And never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly! I would say consider what you have to deal with that is negative in your life…and don’t say there ISN’T anything! One of the best things our high priestess Stephania Ebony taught me is to let Set fight some of my battles for me. Another thing I would suggest is to do the rituals int the book that deal with catharsis and with  improving your self-esteem and self-image, such as those suggested for Lucifer, Volos, and Dionysos.

TWPT:  Have the two of you always had an integrated approach to the dark/light areas of your lives or was it something you had to learn over time?

LN:  I suppose having all these darned planets in Scorpio made is hard for me to be Sweet Polly Pure-bread. Certainly, I've always been a little witchy and aware of the darker and harsher sides of life. I have never considered myself a practitioner of the '"black arts", however. I guess I have always tried to see both sides of any issue and tried to move beyond the limits of duality. My hardwiring must have dual pathways, or something.

DD:   I’m an Aquarius with Cancer rising, which makes me a bit like Mr. Spock…when he’s in heat, that is, LOL! I’ve always liked the “dark side,” in fact, I’m a horror writer! But in practice I’d say that I love the spooky trappings of the darker arts, but I don’t do negative things such as cursing. I’m a very ethical person, ethical to a fault, perhaps, and the book supposes that the reader is that kind of person as well.

TWPT:  Are the two of you satisfied with the final results of your book The Dark Archetype?  What kind of reader/community feedback have you received since this book was released?

LN:  We were on a tight schedule, so at times it was harrowing. It was both great fun and hard work, but I am so glad that my co-writer "made me do it"! I am pleased with the results for a first effort and hope to continue to write more about dark archetypes in future. Feedback has been wonderful and gratifying. For the most part readers have warmly embraced what we have done and enjoy our often tongue-in-cheek and casual writing style. The fact is that people want to know about these archetypes. They want to learn and grow in their spirituality. We have only received one strongly worded letter to date to counter the many positive ones! Of course we realize that our take on the deities would not please everyone, as they are specific to us and our own experiences (and the sources we used.) In a book this size it is impossible to talk about every aspect and expression of the archetype in question. We wanted to include so much more, but we were forced to pick and choose. I understand that some readers have deeply personal relationships with these entities that may be quite different than my own and what has been presented in myth, and I respect their feelings. As they say, however, you can't please all of the people all of the time.     

DD:   Well, Lori may have only received one “strongly worded letter,” but I was soundly denounced by some guy who wanted to date me…until he read the book! However, we’ve had an incredible amount of positive feedback. I’m very grateful, for that means the book was interpreted in the way it was intended to be. I’m also very grateful that people are enjoying the sense of humor we bring to the subject and the breezy, conversational tone of our prose. And as for those archetypes we didn’t get to include this time…watch for Part Deux of The Dark Archetype, hopefully coming down the pike in the near future! 

TWPT:  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to TWPT and I wish both of you much success with the Dark Archetype and your future efforts together or as individual authors.