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. (In the U.S. they would not want word to get out, trust me.) 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 sexy clothes, fly the freak flag, 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…)
And finally, a video to make your day 🙂