Wave Gotik Treffen

Cyber-goths, attending Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig in 2009-06-01. Photo: Danny Sotzny

With World Goth Day #15 occupied by Bob Metcalfe and the Ethernet, this year’s annual post has been moved to 2023-05-27 to coincide with an even older Goth event, Wave Gotik Treffen (WGT) = Wave Gothic Meet, a music festival that started life in Potsdam in 1987, an illegal event in the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR) = Democratic Republic of Germany aka Ostdeutschland = East Germany.

At WGT, there are two types of goths: purists, who regard 1987 as the starting date of WGT; and resurrectionists, who prefer 1992, when the event was revived in Leipzig in 1992. It has been held in Leipzig ever since.

In my career as a prison teacher, one becomes acutely aware that outsiders, those who live outside of acceptable social norms in a thousand or more different ways, find comfort in something excessive. One of the major appeals of Goth music, and its kindred variants, such as glam metal, is its immaturity. It is an attitude reminiscent of 14-year old girls experimenting with makeup: If a little is good, a lot is better. Why not? It is an experiment. In fact, life is an experiment.

Justin Quirk states that: Glam metal kind of drags rock back to where it’s supposed to be, which is the mental and hormonal concerns of 15-year-olds. He redundantly adds that at its best, Glam metal is profoundly juvenile.

An introduction to a large number of immature musicians is found an Alexis Pedridis’ article in the Guardian about Bound for Hell: On the Sunset Strip (2022), a box set from Numero Group that documents the nascent glam metal scene.

I do not read much fiction, but the latest novel I read (finished yesterday, 2023-05-26) is Stasi Child (2016) written by David Young (1958 – ) who has his crime fiction set in the DDR, in 1974. In a Telegraph newspaper interview 2016-, Young says the inspiration for the book series came after his indie pop band The Candy Twins toured Germany in 2007 and he read Anna Funder’s (1966 – ) non-fiction book Stasiland (2003) between gigs. Some of Stasi Child is set at Prora, a former National Socialist resort, on Rügen, an island in the Baltic Sea. Another major location in the book is Brocken, a 1 143 m high mountain, in Harz National Park, in northern Germany. The mountain is the traditional home of witches.

World Goth Day #14

On the left, Philip Burne-Jones’s (1861 – 1926) painting, The Vampire (1897), that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s (1865 – 1936) poem, The Vampire (1897), on the right. The painting and the poem were exhibited side by side at tenth summer exhibition at the New Gallery, London in 1897-04. Rudyard Kipling and Philip Burne-Jones were cousins. The poem was also published in the Daily Mail on 1897-04-17, and in the New York Tribune 1897-05-09. Bram Stoker’s (1847 – 1912) Dracula, with numerous vampires, including Dracula himself, was published on 1897-05-26. The original painting was in monochrome. Despite the text (shown above), the painter is Philip, not Kipling’s Uncle Ned, Philip’s father Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898). All works are now in the public domain.

This is the third consecutive year that a weblog post has been published for World Goth Day, potentially celebrated by tens of people, throughout the world! This year it arrives one day early 2022-05-21, with a focus on fashion. The two other weblog posts were: World Goth Day #12 which looked at some of the origins of the day, and #13 with a focus on music. Future efforts: #15 is planned to look at Gothic architecture from the mid-12th century to the 16th century; #16 will look at the historic origins of the Goths in Scandinavia and their dispersal southwords; #17 will examine will look at their relationship with Rome.

Goths as outsiders

More than seventy years of living, and years as a teacher, has taught me that people do not choose to become outsiders. Rather, social forces – outside of their control – largely determine it. They become victims, and the victim is left to deal with the consequences of their victimhood. One way of coping with their situation, is for these victims to visibly display their outsider status. This display takes many forms, but one prominent way is in terms of clothing.

A fashion statement cannot be made alone, it takes place inside a context. That context may be temporal, geographical or cultural, but often involves all three elements.

A. Insider

Haute Couture

Charles Fredrick Worth (1825 – 1895), from Bourne, Lincolnshire, England and his partner Otto Gustaf Bobergh (1821 – 1882), from Bernshammars bruk, Västmanlands county, Sweden, established Worth & Bobergh, in Paris, in 1858. This company is regarded as the first haute couture establishment, with Worth the first fashion designer, and Bobergh the business manager. Some of its innovations included transforming the salon into a meeting point when clients came for consultations and fittings; advanced client selection of colors, fabrics, and other details; replacement of fashion dolls with live models; sewing branded labels into clothes. By the end of Worth’s career, Worth & Bobergh employed 1 200 people and its impact on fashion taste was far-reaching.

Haute couture has a legally protected status, defined by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris, an organization started in 1868. Rigorous rules were implemented in 1945, which required: made-to-order design for private clients, including at least one fitting; a workshop (atelier) located in Paris, employing at least fifteen full-time staff members; at least twenty full-time technical people, in at least one workshop (atelier); and the presentation of a collection of at least 50 original designs to the public in January and July of each year, with both day and evening garments.

For those wanting to read more, Wikipedia provides an extensive number of links to both existing and former haute couture fashion houses: Balenciaga, Callot Soeurs, Pierre Cardin, Chanel, André Courrèges, Christian Dior, Mariano Fortuny, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Christian Lacroix, Jeanne Lanvin, Ted Lapidus, Mainbocher, Hanae Mori, Thierry Mugler, Patou, Paul Poiret, Yves Saint Laurent, Maison Schiaparelli, Emanuel Ungaro and Madeleine Vionnet.

Traditional Crafts

Being an insider is not synonymous with being urban and rich. Sometimes, it can be associated with traditional values in a rural environment. In Norway, the first handicraft schools were established in 1870, becoming mechanisms for promoting Norwegian cultural values.

The Norwegian crafts association = Norges Husflidslag, was founded in 1910. Its purpose was, and still is, to strengthen Norwegian crafts. In 2017, the organization had 24,000 members, 360 local groups, 36 shops that are wholly or partly owned by county/ local groups. It is a member of the Norwegian Cultural Conservation Association. In 2014, the organization was accredited by UNESCO as the third Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with expertise in intangible cultural heritage. As a member of the Study Association for Culture and Tradition, it joins other organizations that work with popular cultural expressions, including folk dance, theater, cultural heritage (including the preservation of the maritime environment) and local history.

After the end of World War II, crafts (and schools to teach them) came into focus as a means of increasing women’s contribution to farm income. The Ministry of Agriculture appointed a committee in 1946 to look more closely at craft training. This resulted in a proposal, to establish (mostly) publicly run handicraft schools in all counties. Courses were adapted to the needs and interests of young women, especially, and the schools offered both half-year and full-year programs of study. In 1955, the handicraft schools were transferred from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Church and Education. In 1966, the Oslo Industrial School for Women = Den Kvindelige Industriskole i Kristiania, established in 1875, became a vocational teacher’s college, and changed its name to the State Teaching College for Crafts = Statens lærerskole i forming . Two other colleges for crafts were also established. These were essential for recruiting teachers for the handicraft schools.

By 1976, the teaching of handicrafts and aesthetics was now incorporated into the upper secondary school system. An introductory course with a focus on drawing, and aesthetics more generally, formed the basis for advanced courses in weaving, sewing and wood and metalworking. A third year course trained people to become activity therapists. While students used to be older, the schools gradually adapted to teaching younger people, most between 16 and 19 years of age.

Starting on 1980-08-20, Patricia, my wife, studied one year of weaving followed by one year of sewing, at such a school in Molde, while I took a half year introductory course, starting in 1981-01 followed by a year of wood and metal working. At the same time, we learned Norwegian. The school had 120 students, some in their late teens, many in their early twenties, but with some older people. I was one of two male students at the school. Attending this school gave me insights into traditional Norwegian cultural values, but also labeled me as an outsider.

This was not my first excursion into textiles, in 1978 Patricia and I both took a spinning course at the Deer Lake Art Centre, in Burnaby, adjacent to New Westminster, British Columbia. Later, I purchased one of the first electric spinning wheels made by Kevin Hansen on a visit to Port Townsend, Washington. Apart from a few minutes of experimentation, it remains unused.

This tuque, along with some mittens no longer in existence, were knit by me while taking the introductory course at the Husflidsskole in Molde, Norway, in 1981. Yes, I had to learn to knit in order to make it. Later in my teaching career, I would knit more complex garments during breaks both at a conventional secondary school, as well as a prison school. Most male teachers were expected to have at least some proficiency in knitting, if only because pregnant teachers often received a baby blanket consisting of squares knit by their colleagues.


To gain insights into modest fashions, I started to read Hafsa Lodi (ca. 1988 – ), Modesty: A Fashion Paradox (2020), further described as a work that uncovers the causes, controversies and key players behind the global trend to conceal rather than reveal. Despite my attempt to suspend disbelief, as Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834) advised, and to read the work as the author intended, I found it difficult to understand the author’s perspective.

Her primary consideration is that garments conceal, although the extent of concealment varies. The minimal amount varies “by culture, class, ethnicity and generation” (p. 17) but usually means that the garment(s) cover the knees and shoulders. Some want to extend these to covering ankles, elbows to wrists. So far, so good.

However, the fashion she was advocating was not modest in my interpretation of the word, which would include characteristics such as sustainable, durable, comfortable and moderately priced. Instead, the garments she promotes are prized for their designer label and extravagance. She even uses the term luxury modest wear. They may have concealed some skin, but revealed a pretentious origin in haute couture.

Within her world, these garments may be modest. Dubai, and other countries in the Middle East, have the least economic equality of anywhere in the world. Thus, there are some people who can enjoy a luxurious life, because they subject others to a life of servitude and drudgery. It is also the area of the world where patriarchy excels.

Admittedly, having matured in the 1960s, my sense of modesty is tempered by that eras fashion trends. There are modest, and not so modest, mini-garments. In the debate about the inventor of the miniskirt, I am inclined to accept the judgement of Marit Allen (1941 – 2007), half-Norwegian fashion journalist and costume designer, who credits John Bates = Jean Varon (1938 – ) with its conception, and execution in 1965 in outfits for Diana Rigg (1938 – 2020) for her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers. His work included not just skirts and dresses, but Op-Art mini-coats. I have discussed Rigg and Bates in a previous weblog post. I find most of these garments modest! Both André Courrèges (1923 – 2016) and Mary Quant (1930 – ) have been designated the inventor of the miniskirt, by others. I will acknowledge Courrèges role in promoting/ introducing jeans for women.

While there is an attempt to create a gender divide, especially with respect to the use of trousers, there has been fluidity in the use of garments throughout the millennia. An introduction to insights into this topic, can be found in one Wikipedia article on Trousers as Women’s Clothing. Divided skirts were used in the late-nineteenth century for horse- and bicycle-riding. These were rebranded as culottes in the mid-20th century. These have increasingly replaced skirts in many situations. One of the first being that skirts worn by female medical personnel were incompatible with the wake produced by helicopters.

B. Outsider

In Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling American Style (2015), Cintra Wilson (1967 – ) advises: Your closet is a laboratory in which you may invent astonishingly powerful voodoo. It may be used as a tool to direct yourself toward your own ideal destiny. It’s geomancy—portable feng-shui, right on your body. Style is one of the most remarkably fast, proactive, and gratifying ways to change your mind, change your mood and—as a surprising result—change your circumstances. It is one of the most direct ways of exploiting the Socratic adage “Be as you wish to seem,” or, more slangily, “Fake it till you Make it.”

Most outsiders lack the resources to purchase bespoke/ haute couture clothing, or to make their own traditional clothing. Many are a product of a cycle of poverty, forcing them into unskilled jobs at an early age. Many have also suffered various types of abuse, making participation at school or in the labour market difficult.


In 1913, Yva Richard, transformed himself from Paris photographer, to the proprietor of a lingerie boutique, run either by himself or, more likely, his wife Nativa Richard. Their unique creations became increasingly daring/ avant-garde/ erotic, and by the late 1920s, they had develop a successful international mail-order business, based on a catalogue of photographs taken by Yva, frequently modelled by Nativa. It lasted until 1939. Léon Vidal, a tailor and owner a chain of erotic bookshops, was encouraged by the success of Yva Richards, to open a competing boutique, Diana Slip. It, too, lasted until the start of World War 2. Numerous not safe for work (NSFW) and some more socially acceptable photographs of their creations can be found using a search engine.


If there is one element that unites the young goths that I have met at secondary schools and in prison, it is their fascination with vampires. The vamp(ire) has become a symbol of an extreme outsider. The first poems with a vampire in English, was Robert Southey’s (1774 – 1443), Thalaba the Destroyer (1801). This was followed by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 – 1834), Christabel (written 1797 – 1801, published 1816). There are shorter references to this theme in George Gordon Byron (1788 – 1824) in The Giaour (1813). The first modern vampire prose work in English was John William Polidori’s (1795 – 1821), The Vampyre (1819). At this point, the representation of vampires in literature explodes.

The height of vampiremania is reached in 1897. Philip Burne-Jones’s (1861 – 1926) paints, The Vampire (1897). This inspires Rudyard Kipling’s (1865 – 1936) to write his poem, The Vampire (1897). Then Bram Stoker’s (1847 – 1912) Dracula (1897) appears, and the world has never been the same again.

Fast forward to the present and vampires are still with us. On Goodreads, I encountered a list with 1 669 (at the time of writing) best vampire books! At the top of the list is Stephen King’s (1947 – ) second published novel, Salem’s Lot (1975). This work is expected to reappear soon as a film with the same name, directed by Gary Dauberman (ca. 1977 – ). Of course, there are numerous other films and television series that have vampires as an essential plot element.


As a sign of their outsider status, people often opt to dress provocatively. Karl Spracklen and Beverley Spracklen, The Evolution of Goth Culture: The Origins and Deeds of the New Goths (2018) describe this provocation, and fundamental characteristic of Goth fashions in one word – black (Chapter 11: Goth as Fashion Choice). Many of the Goths I met teaching were consumers of Gothic Beauty, from 2000, and/ or Dark Beauty Fashion Magazine, which appeared from about 2010 to 2020. These offered a slightly broader colour pallet.

According to Cintra Wilson in an article You just can’t kill it (2008), this blackness has its origins in the Victorian cult of mourning. Thus Steampunk and related fashions with origins from this time period are embodied into the dress code.

Beyond this darkness there was a fascination with hair, typically dyed. The mohawk represents one of the most admired, if less frequently used, hair styles. It involves a narrow, central strip of upright hair running from the forehead to the nape, with the sides of the head bald. Variations include: the nohawk, a shaved strip from the forehead to the nape of the neck, with hair on either side of that strip; the Eurohawk, where the sides are not shaved, but with shorter hair than on the central strip; and, the fauxhawk, a hairpiece in the form of a mohawk.


Yet, as a sign of their outsider status, some people often opt to dress protectively. Perhaps, the best display of this is characterized by Doc Martens boots, made at Wollaston in Northamptonshire, England. These boots originated with Klaus Märtens, a doctor in the German army who had injured his ankle towards the end of World War II. Standard-issue army boots were too uncomfortable, so he designed improved boots, using soft leather and air-padded soles made from tires. In partnership with Herbert Funckt in 1947, footwear based on these improvements were made at a German factory, and sold primarily (80%) to older (40+) women. In 1959, British shoe manufacturer R. Griggs Group bought patent rights to manufacture the shoes in Britain. Here they the name to Dr. Martens, slightly re-shaped the heel, added yellow stitching, and trademarked the soles as AirWair. It took until the late 1970s for the brand to become synonymous with youth subcultures, including Goths.


In a house filled with books, my estimate is that about 100 of them are related to textiles, in some form or other. Topics include: spinning, weaving, fashion design, pattern making, sewing, knitting and other forms of manipulating yarn. Then there are binders and boxes filled with patterns. Some of these works are older than the residents in the house. One was purchased a week before this comment was written.

I have tried to go through these to find one suitable book that will provide sufficient insight for beginners to learn to sew clothing. This book is by Alison Smith, The Sewing Book: Over 300 Step-By-Step Techniques (2018). It costs about US$ 21 in hardback. This can be followed by her Sew Your Own Wardrobe (2021). It costs about US$30 in hardback. Once basic skills are developed, additional insights can be developed, for example, using Claire Shaeffer, Couture Sewing Techniques (revised edition, 2011). It is about 250 pages in length, shows the history of couture fashion, and is available in both paperback and digital versions for about US$ 17. All prices are at the time of writing.

An electric sewing machine is a necessity for any normal person wanting to make garments. There is no need to purchase the most expensive models. They offer a lot of features that will probably go unused. The most important characteristic is that it has capabilities for making button holes. Our household has a Janome Decor Computer 3050, which costs about US$ 700.

Goth Day

This weblog post was published on 2021-05-21, one day prior to World Goth Day #14.

World Goth Day #13

Ronan Harris aka VNV Nation, walking the streets in, When is the Future? (2018).

To celebrate Goth Day #13 (2021-05-22), this webblog post is focusing on Goth music. Goth Day #14 (2022-05-22) will focus on Goth fashion.

Note: It is proposed that content for future Goth Days be co-ordinated by an elite group of readers of this weblog to be referred to informally as the coven. Anyone interested in participating is asked to send an email to brock@mclellan.no using the subject heading Coven. The term coven was introduced into English in The Witch-Cult in Western Europe: A Study in Anthropology (1921) by Margaret Murray (1863 – 1963), who used it to describe a meeting of witches, that required precisely 13 of them to be present.

In preparation, music was sampled to create a top of the Goths list. The list is totally fake. No actual Goths were consulted. Rather, goth music was searched for on YouTube. While a few Gothish songs were randomly selected, and arbitrarily placed on the list almost in the order in which they were heard, a weakness was soon detected. All of the musicians were male. To rectify this, a new search was made using female goth music as a search phrase. Unfortunately, the result was almost as bad. The results typically showed male bands with a female vocalist. The most feminine band, Xmal Deutschland, had three women out of five musicians. Despite this imperfection, the results from the two searches were used to find the music. The order represents my personal preferences at the time of selection, with VNV Nation at the top, and K.U.K.L at the bottom. From the list one will discover that Hamburg, is the capital of Gothland.

10. K.U.K.L., Anna. This post-punk band from Reykjavík, Iceland, existed from 1983 – 1986. Björk Guðmundsdóttir (1965 – ) is its best known band member. Other members included Einar Örn Benediktsson, aka Einar Ørn (1962 – , trumpet, vocals), Einar Arnaldur Melax (keyboards), Birgir Mogensen (bass), Sigtryggur Baldursson aka Trix (1962 – , drums) and Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson aka God Krist (1954 – , guitar). The track is from the Album, The Eye (1984). The video was made by Islandic director Óskar Jónasson (1963 – ), although comments suggest that the music accompanying the video, originally differed from that on the album.

9. Semblant, What Lies Ahead. This Goth metal band is from Curitiba, Brazil. The track’s music and lyrics were attributed to Juliano Ribeiro. The band consists of Mizuho Lin (vocals), Sergio Mazul (vocals), J Augusto (keyboards), João Vitor (bass), Sol Perez (guitar), Juliano Ribeiro (guitar), Welyntom Sikora aka Thor (drums). The track appears on the album, Lunar Manifesto (2014), that was produced/ gngineered by Adair Daufembach in São Paulo.

8. Katra, One Wish Away. This symphonic metal band from Tampere, Finland was founded by vocalist Katra Solopuro (1984 – ) in 2006. It is augmented with musicians from other bands in related genres. This track originally appeared on the album, Out of the Ashes (2010), released by the Austrian label, Napalm Records.

7. Sirenia, Voyage Voyage. This heavy metal band from Stavanger, Norway consists of Morten Veland (1977 – ) from Stavanger, and Emmanuelle Zoldan (1977 – ) from Aix-en-Provence, France. It appears on their tenth studio album Riddles, Ruins & Revelations (2021), released 2021-02-12.

6. Mono Inc., Children of the Dark. This gothic rock band is from Hamburg, Germany. It has existed since 2000. Karl Fornia (guitar and backing vocals) and Martin Engler (originally drummer, but lead vocalist since 2007) have been with the band since its start. Manuel Antoni joined the band in 2003 (bass and backing vocals), while Katha Mia (drummer) joined in 2007,

5. Clan of Xymox, Brave New World. Originally formed in Amsterdam, Netherlands, this darkwave band originally consisted of three songwriters Ronny Moorings (1961 – , guitar, keyboards, bass), Anka Wolbert (1963 – , vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, programming) and Pieter Nooten (1961 – , analog synth, keyboards). Now, only Moorings remains, but with additional musicians. This track was released 2021-05-07. It was reissued 2021-04-23.

4. Project Pitchfork, Rain. This dark wave/ electronic rock band is also from Hamburg, Germany. Members are Peter Spilles (composition, lyrics, vocals, 1989–present), Dirk Scheuber (keyboards, 1989–present), Jürgen Jansen (keyboards, 1996–present) and Achim Färber (drums, 1999–present).

3. Xmal Deutchland, Mondlich. Xmal Deutschland was formed in 1980 in Hamburg, Germany. Mondlich is the first track on the band’s second album, Tocsin (1984). The musicians on this video are: Anja Huwe (vocals), Manuela Rickers (guitar), Fiona Sangster (keyboards), Wolfgang Ellerbrock (bass) and Peter Bellendir (drums). The band disbanded in 1990.

2. AnsoticcA, I’m Alive. This video was made by Roax Films, that takes its name from Ronald Mattes & Alexander Max Braune, of Berlin, Germany. The symphonic metal band, AnsoticcA, is from Tilberg, Netherlands. It was formed in 2008 by guitarist Adrian Delborg, with Carie Van Heden (Vocals), Vincent LaBoor (Guitars), Jay Zee (Bass), Maarten De Vries (Keyboards) and Zack Rabart (Drums). Their debut album, Rise (2010), was released by Rockfeld Records.

1. VNV Nation, When is the Future? Noire (2018) is the tenth studio album by the Irish alternative electronic band, which consists of Ronan Harris (1967 – ) who provides the songwriting, production, lyrics, vocals and programming of the synths. In 1988, Harris moved from Dublin, Ireland to London, England where he worked for Q8 Petroleum in his day job, and as a journalist and webmaster for the dark-electro magazine, Side-Line, as a sideline. VNV Nation started in 1990. Later that year Harris moved to Toronto, Canada. He moved to Hamburg, Germany in 1994. VNV = Victory Not Vengeance, Its motto: One should strive to achieve, not sit in bitter regret.

Bonus #1. Imperial Age, Turn the Sun Off! Imperial Age is a symphonic metal band from Moscow, Russia, It was founded in 2012 by Alexander Osipov = Aor (tenor/ composer) and Jane Odintsova = Corn (mezzo-soprano/ composer/ keyboards). This video is part of a 180-minute online concert from locked-down Moscow and achieved ground-breaking success with 38,000 people streaming the live concert from all 7 continents, including Antarctica, on 2020-04-25. In addition to Osipov and Odintsova, other musicians on the video include: Anna Moiseeva = Kiara (soprano), Max Talion (drums), Pavel Maryashin = Vredes (guitar), and Dmitry Safronov = Belf (bass, vocals).

Bonus #2. Kerrang is providing a list of 16 Gothic albums. It notes that: Gothic music has a tendency to lean towards the dramatic and artistic, often with a literary or poetic bent. There’s a romance to it, even when it’s dealing with dark and melancholy themes.

Content for this weblog post was first written and saved as a draft on 2021-04-03, then promptly forgotten about, until 2021-05-16, when a calendar entry reminded me of the upcoming Goth day. About a week before this, a new weblog post on construction materials had been written and scheduled for 2021-05-22. At the time, I wondered how this date was available, when there are over 50 weblog posts already written that are awaiting scheduling, in addition to the over 50 weblog posts written and scheduled weeks and months into the future. The reason was that I had already reserved for this date for a Goth day post. The construction post was subsequently unscheduled, which gives me time to research the topic even better.

One fun aspect of making collections of videos during these Covid times, is experiencing how the same sub-culture in different countries, can create divergent musical artefacts. On 2021-05-17, after this weblog post was written, a new video appeared on my YouTube feed by Imperial Age. It appears as a bonus, for those who cannot get enough Goth videos. On 2021-05-21, a link to the Kerrang article appeared in a search, and was added to this weblog post as a second bonus item. Two additional weblog posts on music related topics are scheduled on 2021-05-27 and 2021-05-30, respectively.


World Goth Day #12

Ophilia (1851) by John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896).

Today (2020-05-22) is Goth Day #12. World Goth Day originated at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2009, when Radio 6 was looking at a number of music subcultures including Goth music. Goth DJs Cruel Britannia and Martin Oldgoth decided that May 22 would be the day each year to celebrate it.

Unfortunately, being an active Goth has a number of negative consequences. Researchers Robert Young, Helen Sweeting and Patrick West write: “identification as belonging to the Goth subculture [at some point in their lives] was the best predictor of self harm and attempted suicide [among young teens]”, and that it was most possibly due to a selection mechanism (persons that wanted to harm themselves later identified as goths, thus raising the percentage of those persons who identify as goths).”

Thus, the decision to publish this weblog post has less to do with the celebration of World Goth Day in 2020, and more to do with helping susceptible people cope with life in this challenging period of time when we all face the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us reach out with friendship and inclusion (virtually or in real-life) to those who no longer feel part of society, including those who self-identify as Goths.

In order to talk with a Goth, it might be useful to know something about Gothism!

Of course there is an official World Goth Day website complete with a list of world events. I appreciate that one of the three goths decorating this page is following COVID-19 procedures, and is equipped with a face mask.

Many attribute the start of Gothism to English author Horace Walpole (1717 – 1797) who started it off by writing The Castle of Otranto (1764). Other readers may prefer to read Ann Radcliffe’s (1764 – 1823), The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Washington Irving (1783 – 1859) also contributed to the genre with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1820), also available in its Disney animated adaption, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). Then again there are classics such as Bram Stoker’s (1847 -1912) Dracula (1897), and Anne Rice’s (1941 – ) The Vampire Chronicles (1976).

The first mention of Gothic Rock is by music critic John Stickney to describe a meeting in a wine-cellar with Jim Morrison, described as “the perfect room to honor the Gothic rock of the Doors“. While some musicians may favour The Velvet Underground as the ultimate Gothic rock group, my own preference is for Siouxsie [Sioux aka Susan Janet Ballion (1957 – )] and the Banshees, and their track Spellbound (1981). In Norway, the Stavanger band, Theatre of Tragedy, contributed to the Gothic metal genre with its beauty and the beast aesthetic that combined harsh male with clean female vocals. Other Goth oriented bands include: Bauhaus, The Chameleons, The Cure and Sisters of Mercy.

In terms of film, the 2019 South Korean black comedy thriller, Parasite, is outstanding, and should appeal to many Goths. Another film with Gothic elements is The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Because of its black humour and general lack of seriousness, it may offer a suitable dose of escapism to help people struggling to cope with a pandemic. Other relevant films in chronological order include: The Hunger (1983), Beetlejuice (1988), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), The Crow (1994) and The Craft (1996).

There are also computer/ console based Goth games. The Gothic role-playing game series was developed by Piranha Bytes GmbH, in Essen, Germany. It consists of three versions Gothic (2001), Gothic II (2002) and Gothic 3 (2006). There is also a fourth version, Arcania: Gothic 4 (2007), developed by Spellbound Entertainment AG, from Offenburg, Germany. This company has reorganized as Black Forest Games GmbH.

Fashionistas are undoubtedly irritated about the late reference to clothing in this weblog post. Cintra Wilson (1967 – ), writing You Just Can’t Kill It, in the New York Times 2008-09-17, notes: “The goth subculture, however, for those who live it, is more than the sum of its chicken bones, vampire clichés and existential pants. It remains a visual shortcut through which young persons of a certain damp emotional climate can broadcast to the other members of their tribe who they are. Goth is a look that simultaneously expresses and cures its own sense of alienation.”

My own approach to the Gothic was not through literature, music, film, games or fashion, but art, especially that found in the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Ophelia (1851) by John Everett Millais (1829 – 1896) is one such inspiring work. In addition, John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) was particularly attracted to the Gothic in architecture, which he commented at length upon in, The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849).