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Thoughts on Cultural and Spiritual Appropriation
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Gothic Wiccans: Fact or Fiction?
Article ID: 10424
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: February 26th. 2006
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I've recently come across a question that got my thought processes going: Is there such a thing as Gothic Wiccans? My ultimate answer was a very loud "yes." I'm not talking about people who either follow the Germanic deities or are children who listen to too much Marilyn Manson and Korn, I'm talking about the type of Wiccan who wears a lot of black, acts melancholy, and listens to bands like Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Cruxshadows.
I'm going to quote the book What is Goth by Voltaire (the funny Goth performer, not the philosopher, whose book I'm going to HEAVILY crib from) : "In our 'have a nice day 'cause everything is just peachy' society, Goth conveyed a contradictory message. Goth said, 'Life is dark, life is sad, all is not well, and most people you meet will try to hurt you.' (italics in original) "
Also, a fair number of Wiccans (I won't say "most, " since that would be presumptuous) have also experienced this type of betrayal from people they thought were either their friends, colleagues, or coworkers.
Goth provides an outlet for many people, Pagan-types especially. To say that Goth is just for teenagers is just downright silly, especially in light of the fact that over half of the Goth clubs in the world won't let underage drinkers in. So why do most people think both Goths and Wiccans are teenagers? I have a few theories on this:
1) Hollywood TV shows such as Sabrina and Buffy make all Wiccans seem like teenage girls (even though Sabrina was played by a woman in her late 20's) .
2) There have been several books published recently on Wicca geared more towards teenagers. The authors of those books shall remain nameless, I’m sure we all know who they are by now.
3) The Columbine shooting and the Pamela Vitale murder. Columbine was done by two Neo-Nazi students named Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who were considered to be Goth by their fellow students and thus picked on frequently, while Vitale was murdered by Scott Dyleski, a 16-year-old Satanist who “dressed Goth.”
4) Chris Kattan’s and Molly Shannon’s running gag on Saturday Night Live, “Goth Talk.” Kattan and Shannon, respectively, play a pair of teenagers named Azrael Abbys and Circe Nightshade.
5) Do I REALLY need to mention “The Craft” on this website?
So now that I’ve covered the stereotypes of both Wiccans and Goths, I figure a little history is in order. We should all know about Dorothy Clutterbuck and Gerald Gardner by now, so I’ll skip the history of Wicca. Instead, I’ll just cover the history of Gothic culture.
The Goths were separated into two distinct groups during the times of the Roman Empire: The Visigoths and the Ostrogoths. These were the names given to the people of Germany by the Romans (“Visi” meaning “West, ” “Ostra” meaning “East”) . The Visigoths are the ones I’m going to focus on, for historical purposes. They famously sacked Rome in 410CE. Considering that a tribe of “barbarians” sacked “civilized” Rome was an unthinkable act back then, the word “Gothic” came to replace “Barbaric.” For example, spilling wine on your toga would have been described as “downright Gothic.” In no way during the sacking of Rome did the Visigoths paint whiteface on them and do “Punch the Hobbit” across the battlefields to a Sisters of Mercy song.
Incidentally, the descendants of these Visigoths didn’t have a written language until about four hundred years after this. This was for the sole purpose of translating the Bible for their priests, not for writing crappy poetry about vampires.
Fast-forward to the 1100's to the 1400's. Cathedrals in Southwestern Europe were being erected on various Pagan sites, and they didn’t look aesthetically pleasing to the Mother Church in Rome. They were called “Gothic.” In no way were these churches inspired by people with names like “Lord Sinister the Undead.”
Sadly, these cathedrals were destroyed during the French Revolution in the late 1700's at the command of Maximilien Robespierre. Who said that reason never started senseless destruction?
It was about a hundred years after this that books about monsters started appearing. We should all know by now of books like Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Stoker’s “Dracula, ” but Horace Walpole’s “The Castle of Otranto” had the subheading “A Gothic Story.”
So now we have books named after a tribe of Germans who never knew how to read until sometime in the 9th century.
Jump ahead to 1891 in New Jersey where Thomas Edison invented the light bulb and the motion picture projector. About twenty years after this, “Frankenstein” and “Nosferatu” (a thinly-disguised version of “Dracula”) show up on the screen. Needless to say, they were called “gothic movies.”
Jump ahead once more to the late 1970's. Punk rock was in a full, furious swing when a band called Joy Division comes out with it’s first album. They were known at the time for wearing the same type of whiteface that Bela Lugosi wore. This was why their manager told a newspaper that Joy Division was “Twentieth-century, modern Gothic dance music.” Other postpunk bands like Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees were suddenly saddled with this name but quickly embraced it.
In a few years, the Goth scene around the world split up into several subsections:
1) The Romantigoths are the people who prefer the beauty of the past and sometimes go with the vampire look to the point of wearing fake fangs.
2) Deathrockers prefer to look like they just crawled out of the grave.
3) Cybergoths, as opposed to the Romantigoths, prefer futuristic looks.
4) Rivetheads are the people who wear army jackets.
For the music, there are a number of Goth bands that have Pagan themes to them, most notably Wiccan band Inkubus Sukkubus. Other bands that fit into Pagan themes include Switchblade Symphony, Unto Ashes, Dead Can Dance, Nosferatu, and Mephisto Waltz.
So what attracts Wiccans to Goth and vice versa? Hard to say, but I’ll tell my story about how I got into both. I was in the Navy when I started practicing Wicca and I tended to wear a lot of dark clothing, even before I started practicing. A lot of people automatically thought that I was a Goth because of this simple fact, so after a couple of years I finally decide to go to a Goth club (it was Nocturne in Virginia Beach, circa 1999) . Sisters of Mercy, Apoptygma Berzerk, and a crappy cover of Bauhaus’ “In The Flat Field” assaulted my ears and a LOT of black-clad people filled my eyesight. I, personally, was immediately hooked.
So how did I manage to reconcile Wicca with Goth? As I explained above, both groups attract a fair number of people who have been down in their lives through various means.
I know nearly everyone reading this knows what Wicca is, but I hope I at least scratched the surface for you concerning Goth and how the two can be compatible.
Copyright: I quoted a couple of lines from What is Goth? by Voltaire.
Location: Bronx, New York
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Bio: Black Knight is a practicing Wiccan since 1997 and a Goth since 1999. He lives in New York City with his wife and two cats.
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