Gothic Darkness

Quoth the raven: “Nevermore!” – Edgar Allan Poe

To say that something is Gothic has come to instantly trigger the darkness association. Perhaps, many imagine a group of Goths, all dressed in black and at times seeming to adhere to provocative relationships. Still, the adjective could be thought of as an umbrella term, covering the entire range that is Gothic: from its origins with the Ancients, to Medieval religious monuments and influences (Christian, Celtic, Pagan) to the modern Goth subculture.

Thus, Gothic applies to many time periods. Usually, when used in reference to architecture it relates to the Dark Ages, and therefore, the famous Medieval cathedrals.

As a brief aside and to illustrate the claim of cumulative background, the Morrigan (perhaps a predecessor to Morgana, through the link of the Old Religion and Druids), is associated with shape shift, black color and supranatural powers. With all the amplitude of Gothic literature (fantasy, romance, science-fiction) and expression, art and the horror genre, one can easily see that the dramatic that is often exhibited by the longstanding phenomenon, interested many a mind throughout the ages.



A magnificent raven in flight. Image: Copyright ©

A gorgeous Gothic (Dark vs. Light) elf. Image: Copyright ©

gothic witch

Witchcraft and the supernatural in general pertain to Gothic mysticism. Image:

Thus, to reiterate, Gothic history is long and remarkably resilient. For example, the pseudoarchaic term Gothick is Germanic (more detail given later in the text) and has since its invention come to rhyme with a sinister, gloomy feel. Further, defining the concept seems like a daunting task, since there appear to be no clear definition, although unifying characteristics and features have certainly been established, especially for convenience in academia. Due to its cultural impact and presence, the area is difficult to define narrowly. Nevertheless, criticism of what fails to fit the ‘true Gothic’ category, on which there are disagreements in the literature and in subcultural demonstrations, abound. Given how immense and international, at least superficially glamorous, specific clothing and accessories, customs and symbolism vary according to cultures and subcultures, groups and subgroups – but as a whole remain engraved in the public psyche across times and nations, despite fluctuations in the ideological inner Zeitgeist. Such diversity and cultural persistence, has resulted in multiple facets, and multidisciplinarity due to borrowings from other genres.


A mythical being. Image: Copyright ©

Gothics? German Romanticism Although Gothicism and Romanticism are two distinct categories, they do share some trends. Some expressions of German Romanticism have been considered Gothicized. In addition, Romantic, Fantasy and Anime art have all touched upon subjects and components generally attributed to Gothic art. The appeal of such artwork is often symbolic, romanticized, sophisticated while blending beauty and despair, albeit entrenched in the past.

animated spell

Animated spell (fictional!). Image: Copyright ©

Anime may be construed as a dark and somber animation genre to begin with, but there exists a specific darker version referred to as Gothic anime. Gothic personages and sceneries often make their way into cartoons, as evidenced by many film adaptations, including stop-motion full-length cartoons Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas and 3D animation productions, such as the remarkable 3D animation – Coraline.

gothic yourth

Gothic youth with catlike, blue eyes. Image: Copyright ©

Another related cinematographical undertaking is The Crow, where Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, plays Eric who mysteriously comes back to life and avenges unspeakable injustice done to his fiancée with the help of a supernatural crow. Aside from movie theaters, regular theaters also showcase Gothic plays.


The raven, the crow and the blackbird are all dark plumage birds. Image: Copyright ©

Originally, Gothic literature was prominent among British, German and American writers. Customarily, the genre is defined with the classic Gothic novels originating in the 18th century, the first being The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764). Followed The Monk by Matthew G. Lewis (1796), The Italian by Ann Radcliffe (1797),  and Edgar Alan Poe's poem The Raven  (1845) as well as other works. Notwithstanding, many consider Gothic the established romantic horror tale Frankenstein written by Mary Shelley. Moreover, Gothic literature diversifies into subgenres, with Gothic poetry, Gothic science fiction and Gothic romance. Gothic elements can be traced back as far as the Greek mythology work Orpheus and Eurydice, however the aforementioned writers are deemed the classic Gothicists (Gothic novelists, canon: 18th - early 19th century), with mysticism-ridden manuscripts and interesting personal biographies.

Prolific Writer Edgar Alan Poe – is perhaps one of the best known, with his quintessential poem The Raven. Crichton, Stevenson and Wells are others.

gothic space

The Gothic science-fiction subgenre is a literary mix of two genres (Gothic, sci-fi). Image:

Surprisingly, some characters are comedic, as famous figures like Morticia Addams from the filmed, televised and animated Addams Family series, or personas such as Elvira - The Mistress of the Dark (a television horror midnight movies show host). By the same token, Elvira is likewise the name of an important character in The Monk (classic Gothic novel, as outline above). Is all horror Gothic? Not necessarily, but Gothic horror does represent vampires, werewolves and all kinds of monsters, and is renown for being particularly somber and horrifying.

full moon

A full moon. Image :

Although much of the genre is in fact based on horror, at least as Gothic novels go, a fundamental component is the mixing of infatuation, lust or more noble feelings with inevitable doom and decay. The trend is visible with The Bride of Frankenstein) and other monsters and ghosts falling in love and seeking companionship. For instance, the rock formation Rammstein's video for their song ‘Du Riechst so Gut’ (German for ‘You Smell So Good’) satisfies Gothic criteria from this standpoint.


wolf hollowing

A wolf howling to a full moon.

Clearly, many horror movies doubtless fit the description, a fact widely recognized by cinematography. For example, aside from notorious Gothic films, Gothika is a horror motion picture starring Halle Berry in a ghost tale set in an asylum.

Attraction to the occult is equally visible in popular culture, with the Twilight saga, Vampire Diaries, True Blood and other works intermingling love stories and the paranormal (particularly, and a priori, of an evil nature or on the dark side) - a prevalent trait of Gothic literary subgenres.

wolf looking at the moon

In addition to werewolves, there are also legends about Lokis, a sort of werebears. Lokis is a novella by Prosper Merime about these half-human shape shifters, but in relation to bears. Tragically, during the Middle Ages, innocant animals have suffered due to these human superstitions. Image:

With Goth bands such as Bauhaus, the underground music scene is booming. With designations such as Punk, Emo and Goth, musical preferences similarly continue to shift.  In the media, a funny representation are the ‘Goth Kids’, the non-conformists of South Park.

The theme is evident in many performances, be it musicians, lyrics or surrounding graphics and illustrations. Throughout history, the Gothic genre has left an imprint on several shows, concerts, operas and even musicals. Of course, artists like Marilyn Manson, who could be considered a Goth style icon, and who also dated a Gothic model, reaffirm dark glamor.

horror movie

Horror often involves psychological struggles. Image: Copyright ©

While contemporary Goths are part of a youth subculture, concerned with existential matters, dress code, conferences and theme parties, the Ancients fail to be fictional. Ancient Goths lived in the time of the Classics. Not affiliated with the present day youth culture, the 4-5 centuries BCE Goths, were a feared tribe near the end of the Roman Empire. Their existence provided the first evidence of the East Germanic language, or any Germanic language at all, for that matter. Coincidentally, 'Gothic' may have been initially used with pejorative connotation akin to signifying 'barbaric'. Still, today's era Goths dress all in black and are thus easily distinguishable from other 'crowds'. A riddle surrounding superficiality: If black is the absence of light, is it really meaningful to distinguish shades of black? In any case, accessories comprise collars, corsets, and other items at times reminiscent of BDSM (many shared parallels and characteristics: chains, piercings, tattoos and other body art, interpersonal dynamics).


Experimenting with unconventional lipstick and nail polish colors has been popular among adherents of the Goth subculture, who were the first to opt for black in both cosmetic choices. Image: Copyright ©

The style has certainly made a fashion statement more than once. Black lace, Victorian era apparel, black lipstick and nail polish, specific make-up and specialized make-up artists, all contributed to a visible and recognizable category. Interestingly, much has been said about those preferring to dress entirely in black – that the color is flattering to everybody, that they like or dislike authority and power, that they are crying for help or that they simply want to look thinner.

For enthusiasts, the opportunities to partake in the experience covers online and offline communities. Academically, Gothic studies cover mostly historical, literary, philosophical, and architectural topics. Outside scholarly realms, there are countless thematic shops, games, gamers' societies, festivals, venues, conventions, and the list goes on…

free as a bird

Free as a Bird - lyrics and title, The Beatles. Image: Copyright ©

Resolutions of the hidden meaning enigma have been proposed by several schools of thought, many viewpoints and numerous opinions. Discussions have sprung among minds wandering about the significance of the Goth lifestyle. Some believe that it is a satisfactory alternative to mainstream reality for certain individuals; others attest that by facing one’s fears one gets rid of them through a process alike catharsis; yet, a divergent idea suggests that the obscure reality may be actually less frightening than the real one. Also, Goths have been at times labelled as a counterculture, marginalized and ostracized. Regardless, rebellion can in fact be showing what society values by rejecting it. Finally, what is dubbed socially unacceptable, varies and differs according to the component of the tradition, the divergence or amorality degree, and the times and historical context.