IPagan practice and the Gothic lifestyle are different for everyone. Each person gets something out of each lifestyle that others may not. I can say only so much about each without generalizing about the whole. These lifestyles carry a different message for each person, and it would be foolish to generalize about a movement as diverse as Goth or Pagan culture. However, there are a few points that must be conveyed in order to more easily classify and recognize aspects of each movement.
What's a Goth?Alternative culture is the result of similar energy patterns coming together, kinship being found, and the disassociated once again becoming united. One of these alternaneocultures is the dark art, or "darksider," community, many of whose members consider themselves to be part of the modern Goth subculture.
The terms Goth and Gothic have been in use only since the 1970s to describe peobelonging to a particular subcultural faction. Goths can be described in a number of ways, but let's begin with the origins of the word itself.
A tribe called the Goths originated in present-day Götland, Sweden, in the first cenBCE and later made their way through Europe, all the way to Spain. By the third century BCE, they split off into the Ostrogoths (eastern Goths) and Visigoths (western Goths). I will use the spelling "Gothick" to distinguish the historical tribal Goths from the nineteenth-century Romantics and modern Goths.
One Germanic tribe or another seemed to be constantly invading Rome. Integraoccurred between the Romans and the Germanic tribes over time. Though the two peoples were fighting, much of their cultures became intertwined through alliances, including the fostering of numerous sons and daughters. The Visigoths' infamous sackof Rome occurred in 410 CE.
The Goths were originally uncivilized heathens, meaning they did not live in a city and they had a similar god structure to that of the Norse and other Germanic tribes. Before the rise of the Church, they saw no separation between their ways and those of others. The Goths were one of the last European tribes to want to remain nomadic (traveling) rather than become citizens of a political empire.
The majority of the tribes that wished not to become part of the greater Roman political structure saw the system itself as a violation of their freedom, as those in Rorulership were believed to have the "mandate of the gods," particularly if a pure tribal bloodline was maintained. Every tribal culture that became a part of this political empire was absorbed, losing a great deal of its former culture. With the coming of each generation, more and more of the former tribal ways were lost, replaced by the greater government's unionized system. It is for this reason that so much animosity existed between the tribes and the city-states.
Nancy Kilpatrick, author of The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined, bethat modern Goth is facing a similar dilemma: the threat of absorption into the mainstream.
The Gothick people converted to Arian Christianity before being overtaken by the Græco-Roman Christians, even calling their way "Gothick Christianity." The Goths saw the Christ not as the world's one and only figure of salvation, but as a warrior, magician, and shaman.
Following a number of invasions and forced integrations by the Roman Catholics, Huns, and Muslims, the ancient cultures of the Goths became virtually extinguished.
The culture and its ideology survived only as an underground occult movement within persecuted and converted peoples, preserving the teachings of the Norse, the Gothick language (documented as early as 300 CE), and the adopted symbolism of the runes.
The Goths established secret traditions, greatly influencing nobility, but this unmovement largely remained exclusive to the lower classes. Further perseof the Goths fluctuated over time; either they had legitimate political power with royalty and were left alone, or they were too underground and unnoticed to be targeted. This impact can be seen even now, considering the number of currently existsurnames that are Gothick in origin. Even members of Spanish nobility are called gotos ("Goths") today.
Though the ancient Gothick tribes virtually vanished upon the Muslim invasion in 711 CE, some of their culture survived all the way up to the Renaissance, when its spirit was restored in painting, sculpture, and architecture, becoming the Gothic Removement.
The architectural style of the time differed from the common Græco-Roman idea of proper form, gaining the title "Gothic." Because the art and architecture were unique and quite eerie-definitely against the grain at the time-the term Gothic was used in a derogatory fashion. At that time, the term was negatively associated with the bardark, and uncultured.
Gothic architecture is characterized by its towering vertical appearance, pointed arches, curved doorways, large spires and columns, ribbed vaults, stained glass, flying buttresses, and, of course, gargoyles!
European Romanticism was the origin of the literary use of the word Gothic, which evoked a particular lugubrious style of literature. Darkly themed stories around that time period began to be associated with the reawakened Goth movement. The Gothic literary style addressed the mechanisms of fear and sexuality within the human psyche. At the time of the Gothic Renaissance, fear and superstition were stereotyped as being representative of old Gothick belief.
Authors over time (if I may jump around in history) who might be said to have had an influence on the resurrection of the Gothic(k) spirit both in the Gothic Renaisand the later nineteenth-century Romantic movement include Giordano Bruno, Morris Berman, Horace Walpole, William Shakespeare, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, William Blake, and Oscar Wilde, to name a few.
Also included is the Swiss author Hermann Hesse (1877-1962), known for his kinwith the Germanic peoples, having been born German and having an interest in Germanic mysticism. Hesse was a naturist (nudist), vegan, and earth-worshipper-defPagan in many ways. His works, including Siddhartha, Steppenwolf, and Demian, influenced movements like the hippie counterculture.
Poets such as Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, and Sylvia Plath also reintroduced characteristically dark, foreboding writing to the people. The Victorian English poet AlTennyson spent a lot of time in cemeteries, even lying on the cemetery ground for long periods of time.
The turn-of-the-century poet Edith Sitwell insisted on wearing exblack for years, declaring herself to be "in mourning for the world." Many curwriters, like Poppy Z. Brite, Anne Rice, Storm Constantine, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Kala Trobe, and Nancy A. Collins, are known for writing fiction in a "Gothic" manner, explorcultural taboos and controversial issues in the confines of dark settings, atmospheres, and moods.
According to occult scholar Edred Thorsson, the word Gauts, which is the Germanic root word of Goth, means "divine progenitor" or "God." For one to be called Gothick meant to be a descendant of God or a "child of God," if you will. This concept came from the idea of a certain group of peoples having a holy bloodline.
"Books can be burned, religious leaders can be killed," writes Thorsson in his essay The Secret of the Gothick God of Darkness, "but the blood endures." This, he believes, is the way the knowledge of the Norse/Gothick god Odin (Woden) has survived, even into the current Goth movement.
Commenting on modern Goth culture, Thorsson writes: "This revival, or reawakenof the Gothick spirit in many respects follows the characteristics of all the previous revivals."
There are plenty of similarities between present-day Goths, historical Goths, and the artistic movement of the Renaissance, though all three are separate entities. I've heard theories that modern-day Goths may be the reincarnation of the early Goths, now spread worldwide. I suppose this is possible, but that would bring up the unanquestion "Who's Goth and who's not?" That aside, I do believe that people rein certain situations mirroring past-life experience; that is, souls come into alignment with other people and acute situations in life directly carried over from the vibrational patterns of incarnations past. Could it be that we reincarnated aside others from our past whose interactions with us carry similar lessons as before?
I agree that Gothic consciousness is not new to the earth plane. Well before the modern Goth movement, there were writers, painters, musicians, and other artists crecharacteristically dark material. I would guess that writing poetry in solitude or walking about a burial ground contemplating life are not phenomena reserved for the modern age.
Going against the grain has been a common theme in human history. People have been "Goth" for aeons; it's only recently that labels for such dark artists have arisen.
Back in 1970s England, when the street punks would pose for pictures with Amertravelers for beer and concert money, a new subcultural movement was being spawned. Punk was beginning to evolve and define itself as a real counterculture, apto youths of a different mindset, and was starting to branch out in a number of directions.
Members of the punk movement tended to take their anger and dissatisfaction with the world, society, and their personal lives, and express them through music, activism, and aesthetics. This provided a much-needed venue of expression and allowed a comof anti-normative youths to coalesce.
Some people in the early punk scene began to tire of the negative behavior and increasing apathy surrounding the lifestyle. They became more and more attracted to wispier, more melodic music and found more comfort in wearing darker shades of clothing and makeup, which was unique at the time. Eventually, the growing numbers of "dark punks" became known as Goths, further reawakening the spirit of the ancient Goths and the artistry of the Romantic period. In reviews and critiques, the media at the time also helped to push the label "Goth(ic)" onto post-punk bands of a darker flavor. The 1982 opening of London's first Goth club, the Batcave, helped define Goth's own individualistic subcultural identity.
The movement in England spread around greater Europe, over to the Americas, and around the world.Goths became known for taking their reaction to society to a place of sadness and reflection instead of anger and anarchy. While the punk movement could more easily be considered a counterculture or anti-culture, the Goth movement is more easily deas a subculture (a smaller culture within the greater culture) or a neo-tribe.
I believe that Goths should still respect their cousin punk rockers and vice versa, understanding each other as having a similar drive for rebellion, and that both cultures should remember that originally they were nearly hand in hand. Many Goths and punks have similar outlooks on politics, corporatism, globalization, artistry, and human/animal rights. While there are variations in the ways each culture expresses its attitudes, both stand on common ground, and there is no need for anyone to look down on anyone else. We are all part of a new generation, and working for positive social change.
The most important thing to note about true Goth culture is that it is not simply a style, but a lifestyle. This is where many outsiders get confused on the topic and believe the culture to be less legitimate and solid than it actually is.
There is no set religion, attitude, or fashion that holds true for all Goths; there are no immutable criteria set in stone, and there is no Gothic mold that all adherents of dark culture must fit. What is seen as Gothic for one person may not be for another-nothencompasses all Goth, and to believe so would be folly. Darkness is individualistic; it is each person's own personal experience, which is why it is so profound. Each person follows his or her own path, and Goth culture allows for absolute personal freedom, including religion or the absence thereof. There are common viewpoints many Goths share, but Goth culture is very diverse, even if it doesn't appear that way on the outside. Diversity, tolerance, and individuality add to the beauty of the culture.
There are common philosophical threads among Goths, but there is no constant singular viewpoint shared among all members. Most Goths are simply agnostic, bein spirituality and acknowledging the possibility of the existence of God but subscribing to no religion in the end.
When Goths pursue religion and spirituality, many are drawn to earth-based and occult paths like Witchcraft and other magickal-spiritual systems. They are attracted by the nondogmatic appeal of these paths and the emphasis placed on personal developpower, and the mysterious. The Craft very well may be the path that vibes best with Goth culture, not only because of its mystic allure, but also because of its emphasis on nature, magick, and the self all being interlinked, as well as the interconnectedness of light and dark. Of course, most Witches are not Gothic, though many are.wearing giant dog collars and white contact lenses, hissing and barking at people downtown, and yelling obscenities at adversaries does not a Goth make. Wearing black bondage-strap pants and heavy, dark makeup with the intention of shocking and scaring bystanders does not earn Goth points. Nor does buying mass-manufactured "alternative" clothing from the mall, sewn by kids in Chinese and Taiwanese sweatshops, make some"in the know" about the culture.
The fact of the matter is, Goth is much deeper than a look, and negative behavonly perpetuates the image that Goths are strange, bad, evil people who should be avoided at all costs. Goth culture is not rooted in teenage angst. It is rooted in alternative culture-in music, art, ideas, and fashion.
Goths are observers of life, and tend to be quite introspective. They are watchers, constantly analyzing everyone and everything. Some darksiders are very extroverted and enthusiastic, while the majority are more subdued, calm, and soft-spoken. Most are respectful and well-mannered in their speech and actions. Goths are often quiet and reserved, residing in the background and watching the dance of life go by, anaevery bit of it. Sadness is most definitely permitted and often felt, but is not a constant or unchanged state of mind. Depression is recognized and becomes expressed and channeled through numerous forms of self-expression. Goths are also quite direct when speaking, usually having very genuine personalities.
Often, the quiet and contemplative demeanor is misunderstood. It doesn't mean that there are twisted thoughts going on inside their heads or that they're planning their next violent or magickal attack. There are no dangerous or threatening thoughts running through their minds; they are simply absorbing information and experience, processing it on various levels. Goths are, in fact, some of the kindest, most honest, and most open-minded people anyone will ever meet-darksiders are just a bit more willto embrace depression and introspection.
Sometimes, Goths and other introverted people become more reserved because of society's reaction to their alternative appearance or mindset. The general public in smaller towns isn't as used to seeing a visually eccentric person as it is in large cities. Reactions will also differ in predominantly Christian areas versus liberal or artistic areas. When people are condescended to or discriminated against for their appearance, it can force them to become more withdrawn or antisocial, which can lead them to either dress up more or put a halt to decorating themselves altogether. Fear of oppressimply in the form of being stared at and judged-can be intense and saddening. It can lead to depression, insecurity, social anxiety, and various neuroses, depending on the person.
Many unfortunate things have become associated with the culture that are not, never were, and never will be part of modern Goth culture, like violent behavior, teenage delinand devil worship. The idea of Goths as a sinister bunch most often comes from a place of fear. This has, unfortunately, been reflected in the media, and Goths have become the subject of blame for a number of horrid crimes in which the guilty are somehow wrongly associated with the culture. Goths do not kill people! They would much rather sit around thinking about killing themselves or watching actors be "killed" in B-rate horror flicks. Goth is simply not a violent culture; in fact, I would say it's the most passive of all subcultures. No wonder so many darksiders don't like to use "Goth" to describe themconsidering the distortion the term has seen since it caught mainstream attention! In many cases, the media love to take such ideas and run with them, even if they're subskewed. This, I hope, is changing with the times.
Many Goths purposefully do not refer to themselves as such. To quote my friend Ryan, "It seems that these days people are becoming less comfortable with the 'Goth' laIt has gotten to the point where bands that are obviously Goth are actively disassothemselves from the label and claiming to be 'alternative' or industrial. They use the age-old argument of not wanting to be labeled or pinned down. This is especially interesting in that you don't ever see punk bands running away from the label 'punk!'"
I feel that the term Goth, at least for me, accurately conveys who I am. I find it to be very complimentary and inclusive of my lifestyle. I don't find it to be limiting or degrading in the least, as the term gives room for personal individuality. Many people with the Goth label or other labels like "Witch" or "Pagan" feel the same way about themselves, having an understanding that they are only pixels in the screen, represenof a bigger picture.
To recite the most obvious observation of the scene, Goths prefer black; much comis found in darkness. At the same time, not all darksiders wear all black constantly; it's not a requirement by any means! Wearing dark colors is, for many, a subtle appreciaof the unknowable, the unseen. Goths are attracted to darker, more obscure things because of their mysterious and mystical qualities. Music, art, fashion, and the like are all forms of this expression. When darkness is expressed through these mediums, the internal is allowed forth on an external level for confrontation, acknowledgment, and healing. Fashion itself is one of the few living art forms.
Some Goths wear the color black for reasons of mourning, but what's being mournis different for every person. For some, it's the fall of society; for others, it's the light that has died in so many people, rendering them empty and numb; others lament their childhoods. Goths know the injustices of the world and the torments of the mind-the weight of deep thoughts-and have been engulfed in sadness many times over; thus, the color black is very comforting. The color does not, however, have exclusive associawith sadness or mourning. Black means something different for everyone.
Goth is not about the way you dress. Sure, clothing is a factor, but it's ultimately a small one. Plenty of non-Goth people wear black and loads of makeup. I've noticed that a great many occultists, artists, and deep thinkers especially favor black clothing. Likewise, plenty of Goths do not "dress the part" but have inherently Goth characterisThe clothing is but one venue of expression for the darkly inclined.
Goth culture is a way of life that is accepting and does not discriminate based on trivial issues like gender, religion, sexual preference, body size, disability, or ethnicSpeaking of ethnicity, darksiders of non-European descent add color to a predomiwhite scene and typically face no racial prejudice therein. Goth culture is not reserved solely for Caucasians in any way, shape, or form. Many Goths hold nonwhite individuals involved in the culture in high regard, as they provide physical diversificato a scene so commonly associated with only pale, ghostly-faced individuals.
Darksiders allow themselves the freedom to explore alternative practices and hold views on life that are indeed contrary to present-day mainstream ideology. If no harm is caused, and the self is being explored, then no remorse should be felt simply for beattracted to the arcane.
Goth, then, boils down to philosophy, to ideas expressed in numerous forms of art. To be Gothic is to think, feel, act, and behave as a dark artist-not because someone else told you to, and not to fit in, but because loving the darkness is simply your nature.
This philosophy embraces introspective sadness as a natural emotion and seeks to unhumanity and its motivations. Goths come from all walks of life, finding comground with other dark artists. Goth will always remain considerably indefinable. Ambiguity is what makes it real-darkness is universal; shadow cannot be trapped.
In the end, and above all else, Goth is not something someone does. It is something someone is. We are the children of the night, and are damn proud of it!