“Oh, magic in her hands/She could make anything grow/Magic in her hands/She had green fingers” - Siouxsie and the Banshees, Green Fingers
Woodland Goth is an aesthetic that combines dark, romantic elements of Goth culture with light subjects like flowers or woodland animals. It has been recently revitalized by Internet culture, but has actually existed as a facet of Goth music and fantasy literature/film since the 80s. (See Elfpunk on the Mythpunk page.)
It can be considered a lesser-known, typically nameless facet of Goth (most commonly found in ethereal wave) which was and is rife with the imagery of fairy tales, folklore, poetry, ballet, and mythology in contrast to the stereotype of vampires, zombies, and horror movies. In basic terms, it’s a hybrid of fey imagery, Glam Rock glitter, and the lighter side of 80s Goth.
In America, this can be seen in Deathrock’s fixation on Greek myths, ghosts, and angels. In Britain’s Batcave scene (and the rest of Europe) it was even more pronounced, focusing on Grimm’s fairy tales, haunted woodlands, and a fixation on Celtic or Nordic lore.
The major purveyor of this in the 80s, both lyrically and visually, was Siouxsie and the Banshees, who moved from grotesque Steven King fare to the more mystical and dream-like in songs like “Spellbound”, “Red Over White”, and “Green Fingers”. (Even going so far as to filming their own version of Alice in Wonderland.)
Meanwhile, Bauhaus wrote the song “Hollow Hills” in reference to Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s Faeries. The album covers and music videos of 4AD’s This Mortal Coil featured ethereal, often forested imagery. Danielle Dax potrayed Wolf Girl in The Company of Wolves, based on Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber.
The literary influences came full circle as the fey side of the Goth scene began to influence the fantasy, fairy tale retellings, and urban fantasy of the day. In art, Brian Froud adopted gothic visuals for the movie Labyrinth. In books, Terri Windling’s Borderland anthologies and Emma Bull’s War For the Oaks were overtly a hybrid of fae mythology with proto-Goth imagery.
The influence of this then-nameless movement-within-a-movement has persisted in literary, artistic, and musical works up into the modern era and on social media.
Elements of Woodland Goth are similar to Goblincore, Fairycore, Cottagecore, Trad Goth, and Romantic Goth. It’s also important to note that unlike Fairy Goth (on GothTypes), it’s not a cosplay-centric style and actually features modernized clothing.
Styles used by certain Woodland Goth-type bands helped to originate 90s Hippie Goth and Romantic Goth. But while Hippie Goth is often just boho clothes with dark colors and makeup, Woodland Goth tends towards Pre-Raphaelite influences and color schemes as well as the distinctive use of brocade, velvet, and glitter.
The visuals used in non-Goth dark romantic aesthetics such as Dark Mori Kei are also similar.
The Woodland Goth aesthetic tends to feature darkly dream-like, sometimes natural imagery, such as:
- Abandoned buildings or cottages
- Old nick-knacks, such as porcelain dolls
- Flowers and petals
- Candles and old lamps
- Misty forests
- Moon and stars
- 20s theatre/ballet photos
- Unusual insects
- Tea things
- Bare trees and twigs
- Blurry images
- Stained glass windows
- Dancing figures
- Black cats
- Listening to goth rock, deathrock, and ethereal wave
- Walks through the forest
- Writing in a journal
- Drawing plants or animals
- Studying natural poisons
- Catching bugs
- Collecting mushrooms, herbs, etc.
- Admiring roses
- Dancing with the trees in the moonlight
- Singing in the middle of the woods where no one can hear you
- Pressing flowers
- Exploring abandoned places that have been taken over by nature
- Watching woodland animals at dusk
- Ballet/modern dance classes
- Going out to Goth clubs
- Buying old vinyl records
- Foraging for herbs and greens
- LARP and RPG
- Reading fairy tales and fantasy
- Penning poems
Often resembles dark or ghostly types of Fae, but with a punk and Goth twist. It’s also inspired by Shakespearean figures and Greek gods.
- Gothic Lolita-esque skirts, usually with petticoats underneath
- Jewel tones such as dark reds, deep purples, navy blues, and moss greens
- Faded pastels (ie pale pink) and neutrals such as ivory, grey, and black
- Light layering (such as mini dresses over long skirts)
- Tattered or handkerchief edges
- Puffed or billowy sleeves
- Long skirts (including tutus)
- Jewelry that revolves around nature, like flowers and animals
- Floral/fauna and brocade prints
- Stockings or leggings (often lacy)
- Draped scarves and shawls
- Kimonos and hooded coats
- Winklepickers, velvet/suede platforms, and ballet flats
- Faerie and Goth inspired makeup looks in dark jewel tones
- Pink, purple, or green eyeshadows
- Parasols and fans
- Netted fingerless gloves
- Wild hair, whether teased, curled, dreadlocked, or dyed
- Juxtaposing Punk DIY with romantic fairy-inspired looks
- Clothes inspired by Strawberry Switchblade, Siouxsie Sioux, and Danielle Dax
- Makeup inspired by Nina Hagen
- Male icons: Michael and Jay Aston of Gene Loves Jezebel
It has inspired much of 80s era fantasy and urban fantasy, but in general it lends itself to shadowed, ethereal atmospheres. Dark Victorian fairy paintings, jewel tone color schemes, Pre-Raphaelite art, shimmery forests, ballroom/masquerades, and classic ballet/modern dance imagery tend to fit.
- Charles Vess’ Book of Ballads and Sagas
- Neil Gaiman’s Sandman: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- Beauty and the Beast (80s)
- Once Upon A Time
- Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre
- Princess Tutu
- Ridley Scott’s Legend
- The Company of Wolves
- The Dark Crystal
- The Red Shoes
- BBC Alice in Wonderland
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream (40s)
- The Faerie Handbook
- Terri Windling’s Borderland series
- War For the Oaks by Emma Bull
- Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip
- The Door in the Hedge by Robin McKinley
- Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
- Honeycomb by Joanne M. Harris
- An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
- Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer
- The Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti
- House of Pomegranates by Oscar Wilde
- Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee
- Blue Rose: An ACE Roleplaying Game
- Changeling: The Dreaming
These are a few that influenced certain imagery (but were not inspired by this aesthetic, as they predated it).
- Swan Lake
- La Sylphide
- Loie Fuller’s La Mere
- Pina Bausch’s Orpheus and Eurydike
- Martha Graham’s A Diversion of Angels
- Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance
- Richard Wagner’s Die Feen
- Brian and Wendy Froud
- Charles Vess
- John Anster Fitzgerald
- Kinuko Y. Craft
- Nene Thomas
- Amy Stokes
Bohemian Manifesto: A Field Guide to Living On the Edge by Lauren Stover discusses Fairy Goth, which is extremely similar to Woodland Goth.
As this is a Goth subgenre, Goth music and bands are associated, particularly those that explore folkloric subject matter. The vocalists are typically unusual, banshee-esque, and even operatic in their range. It’s also common to see folk rock influences.
Ethereal wave is by far the most dominant Goth genre to find this aesthetic in, particularly from the mid-80s 4AD (and later, Sam Rosenthal’s Projekt) indie record label. Much of the artwork and photographs for the 4AD bands was done by Vaughan Oliver and Nigel Grierson, who created darkly ethereal, abstract album covers and videos. This perfectly mirrors the otherworldly soundscapes of Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil.
Albums such as Cocteau Twins’ Treasure, Siouxsie and the Banshees’ A Kiss in the Dreamhouse, and All About Eve’s self-titled debut are particularly important.
- Cocteau Twins
- This Mortal Coil
- Siouxsie and the Banshees
- All About Eve
- Gene Loves Jezebel
- Dead Can Dance
- Bel Canto
- And Also the Trees
- Dark Arts
- The Cure
- The Vyllies
- Mephisto Walz
- Corpus Delicti
- Black Tape For A Blue Girl
- Autumn’s Grey Solace
- Trance To the Sun
- Rosewater Elizabeth
- XVII Vie
- All My Faith Lost...
- Friends of Alice Ivy
- Love Spirals Downwards
- This Ascension
- Violet Tears
- The Mission UK
Similar to Dark Fairycore, but more centered on cosplay and Renaissance festivals. It has been labeled as connected to ethereal wave, but actually has more in common with non-Goth neoclassical darkwave artists such as Priscilla Hernandez and The Changelings. They typically wear full-on dark fairy costumes, complete with wings and dramatic eyeliner, and tend to be fans of the work of Brian and Wendy Froud.
Ethereal Goth/Ethereal Wave
Typically used to describe the styles worn by 4AD 80s ethereal wave bands such as Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. They typically wore long-skirted dresses (either all-black or all-white), pearls, pink eyeshadow, and white tights. They were often surrounded by abstract, dream-like imagery, usually the photos of Nigel Grierson. (Main Wiki discusses this on the Ethereal Wave page.)