The Dark Goddesses, their names are spoken in hushed whispers in quiet corners, beginners are cautioned against working with them. Experienced practitioners approach them with fear and trembling... and seriously, it doesn't need to be this way.
My opinion might not be the popular one, or conventional wisdom right now, but it is one that has grown from my own experiences working with some of these ladies. While I am not here to tell you what is right for you, I can tell you what worked for me and if you find something in that for you then you are welcome to it with my blessing.
First of all, when it comes to magic, and deities, light and dark is entirely subjective and based on the Judaeo-Christian theory of good and evil. Pagan deities are neither good, nor evil. If anything, to borrow from Dungeons and Dragons for a moment, they're chaotic neutral. Read the Bible sometime, the old testament, The Judaeo-Christian God ordered people to do some really dark things.
The 'Dark' Goddesses are the ones that are most often associated with the aspects of life that we would rather not think about, doorways, death and darkness. Active, life changing power, rather than gentle, life affirming acts. So who exactly are we talking about when we mention these ladies? Some of the most well known include; Hecate: Goddess of the Crossroads, Kali: Hindu Goddess of Death, Circe, Greek Goddess of Sorcery, Lilith: Goddess of Wild Freedom, Medb (Maeve): Goddess of Intoxication, The Morrigan: Irish Celtic Goddess of War, and Sekhmet: Egyptian Goddess of Wrath.
They all have very different areas of life ascribed to them,with a few overlapping parts, such as death and magic. What they do all have in common is power. Not power derived from a male counter-part, or a “feminine” power like growing things or giving birth. But a very direct, active, aggressive power that rules something like death, war, anger, or magic. A power that in many cases is ascribed to a male deity.
These women rule over something that the patriarchy has decided should belong to men. So, throughout history they have been demonized, ostracized and become something to be whispered about and feared. A woman who has dared to rule (and very well thank you very much) something that men have decided is theirs. And therein lies the reason they are considered by so many to be “dark” and to be feared and avoided.
So, should these ladies be feared and avoided? No! Not at all! I have worked along side Hecate for decades now and I can confidently say that she is one of the most loving, protective and encouraging faces of Deity that I have encountered. The key to working with any of them is respect. They don't mind if you make mistakes, we're human, that's kind of our thing. What they do mind is being treated like a convenience or a magickal vending machine. Like any person, treat her with simple respect and she will be a working partner that helps you unlock your full power.
In human terms, they are not the fun auntie that helps you break the rules, or the parent that coddles and hugs you. They are the grandmother figure. That one that feeds you cookies with one hand while smacking you for forgetting your table manners with the other hand. They are teachers, and while not every lesson is easy, every lesson is attainable and perfect for you. And they are staunch protectors of those that they consider to be theirs.
If you have felt one of these powerful women calling you and have avoided it because you think they are dark or evil … reach out to her! Not everyone gets that calling, you have been marked out for something amazing. If you haven't had a calling, but you're curious, I encourage you to read more about them, reach out to them, ask them to teach you of themselves, your calling may be waiting.