Okay Goths and Goth lovers, it is time to descend into the Underworld to celebrate your dark, sinister and delicious selves! Today, May 22nd is… (drumroll) … World Goth Day!
Chances are you may have never heard of this very unique holiday. I learned about it from my friend, the awesome Australian blogger V Something Speaks. Check out her Goth Day post for some great info and recipes to help celebrate!
Because the term Goth is complicated and comes from many origins, I thought it would be fun to explore a bit of our twisted Gothic history. Who exactly were the first Goths, what does the term mean and how did it get associated with horror movies and punk rock?
The first Goths were ancient Germanic barbarian tribes, also called Visigoths and Ostrogoths. The term comes from the Latin ‘Gothicus’ and the Greek ‘Gothoi’, later synonymous with ‘vandal’. The Goth tribes resided in what now is Eastern Europe, and were known to be pretty bad-ass, especially under their first organizer, King Alaric.
The Goth tribes apparently got fed up with Rome running the world and, after several failed attempts, finally, under Alaric’s leadership, effectively brought down the Roman empire. This occurred sometime in the 5th century. They then scattered to various places around the world, including remote corners of Europe and Asia Minor. The last of the Gothic tribes were still living in areas near the Baltic Sea as late as the 18th century. One of their languages, known as ‘Crimean Gothic’, was reportedly spoken up until around 1945.
But the Goths were not just warriors. ‘Gothic art’ was a term used to describe a Medieval art movement that developed in France around the 12th century. It included unconventional forms of sculpture, fresco, stained glass, and architecture. Its characteristics were a hodge-podge of different elements (spires, spirals, arches, gargoyles and figurines). Because it broke with classical art forms, critics eventually called it ‘Gothic’ as they thought the new styles were somewhat barbaric and crude.
(I know! It is hard to imagine Notre Dame cathedral as ‘crude’. )
Fast forward to the 18th century when English authors re-used the name Gothic once again to describe literature. Gothic fiction centered around themes of terror and mystery, hauntings, vampires and death. Gothic romance featured dangerous, sensual, forbidden love affairs with overtones of bondage — both physical and psychological. Horace Walpole is credited with the first Gothic novel, ‘The Castle of Otranto’, published in 1764. Gothic fiction carried into the 19th and 20th centuries. More popular writers include Mary Shelly, Bram Stoker, Anne Radcliffe, Emily Bronte and Edgar Allan Poe.
Do you see a pattern here? Goth has always been about stepping outside the accepted norms of society and overthrowing the status quo.
Our current Goth subculture probably grew out of these unconventional, shocking and romantic ideas. It perhaps became most prominent in the 1980’s underground music scene with bands such as The Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division and The Damned. Enter MTV, the internet, and the beginnings of a new revolution.
Of course, many other things gave influence to post- modern Goth – for example, the art of Edward Gorey, movies like ‘The Hunger’ and ‘Edward Scissorhands’, Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, Holly Black’s urban faerie tales — as well as a variety of spiritual and political ideas.
And then there is the fashion! You know it when you see it.
Present day Goth is the natural evolution of its original barbaric/ rebellious/ mysterious and romantic roots, coupled with a great love for the color black.
At any rate, World Goth Day is a great time to don some beautiful, old-fashioned, lacy clothes, read Poe, eat Black Forest cupcakes and (broodingly) let your dark side shine.
(Even a blonde sun worshipper like me goes Goth from time to time…)
On May 19, 1536, Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and second wife of King Henry VIII, was executed by beheading, after being held prisoner in the Tower of London for four days and declared guilty of high treason. The formal charges against her were adultery, incest and plotting to kill the king. (Most historians agree these were bogus accusations.) However, Anne’s actual crime was miscarrying two babies and not being able to provide a male heir to succeed King Henry.
As we know, Anne had given birth to a daughter named Elizabeth who later became queen, one of the strongest monarchs ever to rule Great Britain. King Henry, of course, would never live to see this. Henry, in his quest to bear legitimate male heirs, notoriously married six times, broke with the Catholic Church and changed the trajectory of Great Britain’s future. He divorced two of his wives (Catherine of Argon and Anne of Cleves) and sent another two to the block — Anne Boleyn and her cousin Katherine Howard. All of these woman had committed the crime of not bearing a son.
Why all the fuss over a male heir?
Apparently, the laws had strictly adhered to a thing called ‘male preference primogeniture’ which meant, in essence, boys came first. Girls became rulers only if there were no available boys to take over.
Females had a slim right to the throne, but it was complicated: “Male-preference primogeniture accords succession to the throne to a female member of a dynasty if she has no living brothers and no deceased brothers who left surviving legitimate descendants. A dynast’s sons and their lines of descent all come before that dynast’s daughters and their lines. Older sons and their lines come before younger sons and their lines. Older daughters and their lines come before younger daughters and their lines.” — Wikipedia
This archaic practice was in effect for over 900 years. It began with the Norman Conquest and stayed strong all the way up to 2011 (yes, 2011!) when sixteen Commonwealth leaders finally agreed to change the succession laws. In 2013 a formal a act of parliament changed the established ‘male preference primogeniture’ to ‘absolute primogeniture’, thus allowing female babies an equal part in the royal heritage .
Great Britain, what took you so long?
If only they had been so enlightened 500 years earlier! They would have put an end to Henry’s worries, saved Anne’s head and certainly given Elizabeth a much easier reign…
As it turned out, Anne’s daughter ruled England for over forty years. She defeated the Spanish Armada, stabilized religion, avoided a lot of unnecessary wars and brought peace and prosperity to the land.
She was known as ‘Gloriana’ and ‘Good Queen Bess’.
Here is an interesting documentary about Anne’s execution. (Running time about 30 minutes.) Hope you get a chance to watch!