[Glamour Guide] Your Black Swan

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Who Are You?

I’d say I’m great—I mean, look at my hair, my body, my clothes? But I’ve become a Bedford wife, and it’s really just the worst thing. – Georgina Sparks, GossipGirl

Glamour is sometimes described as a falsehood, but at its best it’s the expression of the best and worst parts of yourself.  What makes you great is also what makes you terrible, all day every day.

We’re weird creatures, humans.  I tried to explain to my bestie once why I can get rejected a million times with my writing but the moment I get a contract, everything grinds to a halt.  I have to force myself to do the things I need to do – sign the contract, approve the edited version of my work, follow up with my editor, it becomes the worst version of bullet time.  But I can find open calls and send out a good cover letter with my work in twenty minutes flat.  The work is the same but I’m always my own worst enemy.  I can handle rejection, success is a different animal all together.

What could I do if I got out of my own way?  What could you do if you got out of yours?  And what does that have to do with glamour?

At the Bottom of the Well of Sorrow

I always want to believe the best in you, Blair. The bottom line is, betrayal’s in your nature. – Serena Vanderwoodsen, GossipGirl

The thing is, I started to do serious self examination about my shadow when my last husband divorced me in 2008.  I wish I could dress it up and not bleed all over the internet about it to talk about it, but my options are to either not discuss it at all publicly, which is what I’ve chosen to do for the last six years or talk about it publicly.

It was a brutal, ugly time in my life.  I have been staring at my computer for a half hour because I feel like I can’t authentically talk about my shadow and my root vices and virtues without talking about this time.  I don’t think about him or the divorce very often any more, but reaching back into the vault of livejournal, I feel all those old feelings again.  The heightened level of anxiety, the fear of being exposed as a fraud at everything – as a wife, as a functioning adult, as a whole person.  It still brings up all that old pain and fear.

But I’m going to share it because I want you to know that I survived it and more than that, I thrived from it.  I lost my job soon after because my company closed and my life was a complete disaster and so painful in so many ways. It took a lot of hard work and self examination to get me to where I am, someone who loves her “day job” and makes more now than she did in corporate, aqreasonably successful crafter, a reasonably successful writer, someone who has been happily married for a year and a half, someone who has owned a home for almost five years, someone who paid off most of her debt, someone who is happy with her body and her relationships.  I am the girl who lived.

My journey towards my own personal union of opposites comes from this dark, ugly, shadowed place.  Because I lived.  And I know you can find your strength to thrive too, because I did.  So, here’s my story.  I wrote it in 2010.

My biggest fear is that I have gotten through the divorce and learned nothing. That I have not changed at all or admitted any fault and that I will forever repeat all the stupid ass patterns I’ve apparently been repeating since childhood.

I want to say for the first four years of our relationship, everything was good. And then it started downward spiraling and my reaction was pretty typical of someone who comes from my particular childhood background. I kept trying harder and harder and I was desperate for his happiness. I figured if I just held it down like a good “wife” (we were only married for 1 of the 8 years), eventually his depression would improve, he would work less, he would plug back in, and everything would be FINE. I was so invested in the concept of everything being fine all the time that I refused to see how not fine everything was. More over, I was so invested in things being fine, no one, my best friend included, had any idea how not fine things were. Post divorce, I really started opening up to her about my marriage, but at the same time I felt foolish about it. Who would believe how not fine things were when I was so invested in projecting the image of fine-ness?

I made a lot of mistakes. I run through my rosary of sins at times when I have a moment to pick at myself, whenever I have time to really get into how not perfect I am. If I was better, he wouldn’t have gotten so awful at the last six months of our marriage. If we had sex more, if I didn’t have such a full life, if I complained less, if I did more, if I was . . .somehow more, it wouldn’t have ended so badly. If I let him make me his verbal punching bag when his mom died like he wanted to, etc, etc. It just got so bad and I wouldn’t let myself realize how bad it was which in turn makes me feel stupid.

I walked on eggshells all the time, constantly bending over backwards to cater to his littlest whim (except when it mattered, according to him!)  I tried to maintain some semblance of a normal life (normal work, normal social calendar) several weeks after his mom died (which was right after I lost a family member of my own), that made me a BAD WIFE.  But I felt like if I just kept trying, trying, trying and believing him when he said everything was fine, fine, fine it would eventually work out.

I keep coming back to all of this lately – the bitter bitter end, me on my knees sobbing begging some poor 17 year old wage slave on the phone to let me talk to my husband (who was not receiving my calls).  My husband had said we would talk things out and I should just keep paying the bills and he just needed some time apart.  I needed him to explain to me why he had over drafted our bank account by a large amount.  When I asked him why, I got the loving response of, “What the fuck do you think is happening? We’re getting divorced.” And still, I begged like a goddamn dog like I had never ever begged anyone for anything for him to stay with me. What was *wrong* with me? Why would I do that when someone had done that to me? When I said we could go to counseling, he wouldn’t because I had said it seemed like we could keep talking out our problems and if we couldn’t, then we could seek counseling. When I asked if I could do X or Y to help our relationship he said, “You still have personality problems.” I was so fucking weak. Crying into the phone about what I was supposed to do like the classic housewife. 

I had allowed all of our debt to be accrued in my name. If he hadn’t deigned to be “kind” (he was not legally obligated, what most people would deign morally obligated would be something else all together) and pay his half, I could have been boned with all of it. At the time he made three times more than I did. He let me hang on that tree with not knowing if I would need to declare bankruptcy for months and through the holidays before he decided to pay half.  Likely so he would be thought well of and I could continue to be the shrill harpy he liked to describe.

I had to just . . .live with my mistakes. How stupid and trusting I was that he would never leave me to die like that. Like when he walked out and I just . . .broke. Broke so bad I was locked in my bathroom with bottles of pills and box cutters ( . . .which is totally not me and has never happened before or again since). I was just in such a bad way, the unthinkable was happening and I wasn’t prepared for it at all.  There was no real threat of divorce previously, no turns on the couch, no I’m not happy in this relationship, I was just sideswiped. When he was called to ask how many pills I had in the bathroom I had locked myself in and if they were lethal (as he knew that information), he said he couldn’t deal with it and hung up.

The only reason I didn’t go to the hospital was (a) I figured I wouldn’t have the money to deal with it and it wasn’t like he was going to help (b) omg embarrassing at work the next day or week and (c) because I was told the door to the bathroom was going to be broken down if I didn’t open it and I’m not great with a snap decision like swallowing a bucket full of pills, I’m totally the hesitation mark kind of girl.

It’s not other people I have trusting, I’m having massive trouble trusting myself. I mean Jesus Christ, if I let that drag on for years, how do I know I won’t do that again? How do I know I’ve really changed since he left? How do I know I’ve been making changes inside myself? How do I know my relationships are healthy? Everyone thought my relationship with him was healthy enough, myself included. What empirical data do I have complied to tell me that I won’t let that happen to myself ever again?  The little voice in the back of my head chants, is that enough? How do you know you are making good judgments? You’ve made a lot of really bad ones. You could be in a complete self destructive spiral right now and literally have no idea.  What then?  I don’t know.

Getting Your Shadow to Stick

I’m sick of always looking like Darth Vader next to Sunshine Barbie. Life’s too short, but you make it feel so long. – Blair Waldorf, GossipGirl

The shadow, said celebrated Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung, is the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality–-dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness. Whatever we deem evil, inferior or unacceptable and deny in ourselves becomes part of the shadow, the counterpoint to what Jung called the persona or conscious ego personality. According to Jungian analyst Aniela Jaffe, the shadow is the ‘‘sum of all personal and collective psychic elements which, because of their incompatibility with the chosen conscious attitude, are denied expression in life’’ (cited in Diamond, p. 96).

Yet, the shadow, while very real, is not meant to be taken concretely or literally but rather, allegorically. It is not an evil entity existing apart from the person, nor an invading alien force, though it may be felt as such. The shadow is a universal (archetypal) feature of the human psyche for which we bear full responsibility to cope with as creatively as possible. But despite its well-deserved reputation for wreaking havoc and engendering widespread suffering in human affairs, the shadow–in distinction to the literal idea of the devil or demons–can be redeemed: The shadow must never be dismissed as merely evil or demonic, for it contains natural, life-giving, underdeveloped positive potentialities too. Coming to terms with the shadow and constructively accepting and assimilating it into the conscious personality is central to the process of Jungian analysis. – Essential Secrets of Psychotherapy: What is the “Shadow”? Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D.  

It’s really hard to take responsibility for the things we do wrong in life but what most people don’t seem to realize is that once you take that responsibility onto yourself, it’s incredibly freeing.  When you can admit to yourself all of the fucked up things you’ve done, all of the fucked up things you’re capable of doing, your own personal cruelties and unkindness, your failures, the times where if you did just try a little harder you could have succeeded, that’s when you can fly because you’re acknowledging all of yourself.  Humans are always both cruel and kind but we’re conditioned to focus on finding all the reasons and explanations we didn’t do the right thing and here’s the thing; it does not matter why.  I mean, it does in so far as it can help you understand why you did what you did and that explanation can either help you not do it again or justify (to yourself) why you can keep doing it, but you still did those things.  You are still responsible for doing those things, whatever the reason may be.  If you can own those weaknesses, those frailties, those cruelties inside yourself, then you can reconcile them.
But getting there, oh getting there . . .


S. + B. = Nina

I want to see all the parts of you, even the ones you are ashamed of. – Louis Grimaldi, GossipGirl

Vico referred to figurative cognition as “poetic logic,” defining it as the use of the imagination to connect different referents. All the founding institutions in a culture are grounded on this type of logic. They thus have a poetic-mythical etiology that, over time, gains stability and develops into a more literal or prosaic form of culture. But the poetic form of cognition leaves its residues and becomes part of an unconscious layer of thought that allows us to make sense of the contemporary metaforms in a culture. Clearly, many of the metaforms cross over to other cultures, constituting universals of figuration, which Vico called “imaginative universals” and which Jungian psychologists called “archetypes.”On the Metaphorical connectivity of Cultural Sign Systems, Marcel Danesi

“If a work of art reaches you emotionally, it teaches you something about survival. You may not be able to put it into words, but you remember it.” XO. Survival is definitely the word. From the outside, from this singular situation I’ve been in, I would say “something about survival” is probably the best way you could say it. The show was looked down on for being about teenage girls, because the only people we’re allowed to shit on are women and young people. And then just as it was proving itself, on the global stage, to be a lot more about that, it changed. And changed again. But whether or not any particular iteration of the show was something that impressed me, it did continue to teach about that. About survival.

When they asked me six years ago what these books were about, I would always say the same thing: “It’s about two girls that love each other so much, they have to hold tight to each other, no matter how many times the one gets screwed over and the other is rewarded for no reason. And this is riveting, because you are always one or the other.” And that ultimately the point is that you will always be one or the other, in every circumstance, so get over it. What you have a choice about is whether or not to feel shame about it. Whether or not any secret is worth the burden of having one.

And now I would say it’s about how you want to watch rich people, but you also want to see them fucked, and that is a lot to ask of yourself, and of a show. It is about whether or not you can look at someone else and what they have, and find it in your heart to remember who you are, independent from your jealousy. That privilege is something to be aware of, not ashamed of. That your only shot in this life of becoming a real person is to move away from whatever’s been handed to you, be that intelligence or beauty or money, and into the places that scare you, because that is how we were designed.

The things that are handed to you are worthless. They do not describe you accurately, because your reputation is your behavior and your behavior is about the things you strive for, not the things you just are. You were put in Ravenclaw, if you’re reading this, at birth: You will spend your entire life trying to get into Hufflepuff, because that is how you win the game. By using the gifts you were given, instead of confusing them for the point; by using art and the people who hurt you to rise above mere survival and into life. – Jacob Clifton, “Something About Surival” GossipGirl Season 6, Episode 10 “New York, I Love You OXOX”

In waking life, you’re always either a Blair (getting screwed over) or a Serena (getting everything handed to you), but to really win the game you need to understand that Blair can’t exist without Serena and Serena can’t exist without Blair.  Blair can’t get screwed over continuously if Serena wasn’t there to be handed all the things that Blair wants.  Serena can’t be handed everything that Blair wants if there is no Blair.  Together, they make the whole union of opposites.  Your job is to merge your Shadow with your Conscious self and become both the White Swan and the Black Swan at the same time without being consumed by either side.  It’s significantly harder than it sounds.

“We all know the story. Virginal girl, pure and sweet, trapped in the body of a swan. She desires freedom, but only true love can break the spell. Her wish is nearly granted in the form of a prince. But, before he can declare his love, the lustful twin, the Black Swan, tricks and seduces him. Devastated, the White Swan leaps off a cliff, killing herself and, in death, finds freedom”.

The director’s use of mirrors and reflections in numerous scenes are a constant reminder of Nina’s altered perception of reality. Mirrors in the movie are often misleading and Nina’s reflections seem to have a “life of their own”. As Nina becomes haunted by the Black Swan, this alternate persona takes a life of its own and acts outside of Nina’s conscious control.

In order to obtain perfection, or in alchemical terms, to accomplish the Great Work, Nina must master both good and evil – light and darkness. The occult concept of duality becomes therefore extremely important.

So the “spirit”, the alter ego that consumed and destroyed Beth, was also the hidden force behind her great performances. The public has always been fascinated by intense and inspired performers who touch them on a primal and visceral level. Depending on the performance, this source of artistic transcendence has been attributed to the divine or to the devil. Controversial and groundbreaking performers have often dwelt between brilliance and insanity – tapping into a mysterious force at the source of artistic greatness and, on the other hand, imminent self-destruction. Religious people might say this force is nothing less than spirit possession; scientists might say that psychological torment leads to creativity. No matter the term one uses for this “force”, it certainly exists and it is tapped into by some of the world’s most influential artists.

At the show’s premiere, Nina gives a stellar performance. She successfully plays the sweet and timid White Swan, and, when the time came, she was overtaken by the “force” to become the twisted, yet thrilling, Black Swan. By marrying the white and the black, the good and the evil, the light and the dark, Nina has accomplished the alchemical Great Work, the occult path to illumination. – The Occult Interpretation of the Movie “Black Swan” and Its Message on Show Business, The Vigilant Citizen 

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life Except When You Are Trying to Achieve Mysterium Coniunctionis

There is no more hierarchy. The steps of the Met will no longer be restricted to a certain crowd. No more nair-tinis. No more headbands. This is a new era. Let freedom reign. – Jenny Humphrey, GossipGirl

What the union of opposites really “means” transcends human imagination. Therefore the worldly-wise can dismiss such a “fantasy” without further ado. . .But that doesn’t help us much, for we are dealing with an eternal image, an archetype, from which man can turn away his mind for a time but never permanently. (Jung 1970, 167)

Jung provides a list of opposites at the very opening of Mysterium Coniunctionis: cold/warm, upper/lower, spirit/body, heaven/earth, fire/water, bright/dark, active/passive, volatile/solid, precious/common, good/evil, open/hidden, east/west, living/dead, masculine/feminine, sun/moon[. . .] Similarly, the notion that good and evil, truth and falsehood, and so on, are interdependent opposites is reported as part of the emergence of early religious systems. In ancient Egypt, for example, mythical accounts such as “The Blinding of Truth by Falsehood” illustrate the point. According to this allegorical narrative dating back to the New Kingdom, Dynasties 18-20 (1554-1085 BC),

Truth is presented as a male who is blinded by the gods at his brother Falsehood’s instigation. At the end of the story, Truth is rescued and vindicated by his son, and Falsehood is punished – but not destroyed. Referring to this text and other similar narratives, Egyptologist Edward F. Wente concludes:

In none of these myths or stories is the antagonist totally annihilated, but rather a resolution is effected so that a harmonious situation is achieved with the elimination of further strife. Such a resolution of conflicting opposites is typically Egyptian and reflects the application of the principle of Maat, which embraces the concepts of balance and harmony as well as truth. (Wente 1972, 127) – Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature Jane Garry, Hasan El-Shamy

There is glamour in the darkness, in the evil queen, the witch in the woods.  There’s something exciting about feathers, bone and blood draped over wild hair and a dark cloak, the cottage that could save you or suck the marrow from your bones.  Equally exciting is the dashing paladin, the good witch, the beloved queen.  The beauty of the glittering armor, the jeweled crown, the drying herbs that smell of life and love.  All of those things live inside you but we tend to want to favor one over the other.  Why?  If you have command over both and can have those aspects married to each other within you, think of the power you could wield.  There is a deep power in the intimate knowledge of the aspects of self that most shy away from.  When you know the great and terrible things you are capable of, you know what lives inside of you.  Think of the savage beauty from that knowledge, the wild glamour that would shine from you with all the brightness of the sun and the moon.  What couldn’t you accomplish?

It’s a miracle of our existence that we have an I, a self. We experience that self as a subjectivity, as an experiencing being. What I am talking about here is our true I, our true self, which is obscured by mental constructs, social conditioning, and culture. For various reasons, we have a false I, a false self, that needs to be deconstructed through a process of self-observation and self-witnessing. This is part of the spiritual process, which I think is universal, to question our motives and to examine what really speaks through us. What is speaking when I say “I”?

The point I want to make is that nothing is wasted in this nonduality. The spiritual journey leads us toward a maturity — to states that are more good, more beautiful, more pure in a sense — and along the way, every lesson, every impurity, is also teaching us. What if the unity is so great that the mercy and generosity of existence operate in every detail of life? What if there is a profound love operating in the nature of reality itself? Some of us, from our own experience, come to trust more and more that this is so. Some of the great Sufis have said that this whole universe was created from a single spark of love. – Simplifying Nonduality by Vesela Simic

The Heart of the Dark

It’s four o’clock, it’s smoking-jacket hour. Why are you still in your robes? – Nate Archibald, GossipGirl

If you want to unlock your full glamour potential, you need to make sure you know what’s living in your internal ant farm first.  Without fully reconciling your Shadow to your Consciousness, how will you be in control of the qualities that make you special, exciting and attractive?  You can’t because you have no idea what makes you special, exciting and attractive. Your lightness can be your undoing and your darkness can be your strength but you won’t know it until you work on knowing what’s inside you.

Get to work.

Lock yourself in a closet or a bathroom without windows, put on a salve, drink some kava, bring a dark bowl filled with spring water, leave the lights off and don’t come out until you have a handle on your darkness and your light and how to marry the two together to make you the unstoppable force that you are.

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


2 Responses

  1. […] good time to write up a manifesto about personal integration (a bit like what Ms Sugar talks about when she talks about Black Swans). She suggested a Gemini New Moon tarot spread on this subject, and I went ahead and did it. […]

  2. […] of your easy-to-like parts with your not-so-easy-to-like parts. She has a whole post about it here, to get you started.   So, quite some time ago now, I did some thinking about what my “easy […]

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