Goth-spiration: Ancient Egypt

Lets start by saying that I’m writing this purely from a
western perspective and if you feel that I’m appropriating anyone’s
culture feel free to call me out and I assure you I will feel terrible.

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Magick MaxiBast MaxiThe Life MaxiSiouxsie Sioux

There’s little doubt that Goth’s already take a lot of symbolism from Egyptian religion i.e. the Ankh. With all the recent appropriation of what is consider ‘rebellious’, mostly in the form snap-backs with marijuana leaves or “fuck you” written on a t-shirt, there has been a rekindling of the Egyptian flame in some alternative stores. You can find this Egyptian influence for instance in Killstar’s Bast Maxi dress (pictured above) all the way back to Siouxsie Sioux’s Egyptian inspired make up.
 What do you think? Have you ever been inspired by Ancient Egypt or Egyptian symbolism? What do you think of the current attempt at a rebellious trend?

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18 Comments

  1. As a student of ancient Egyptian history and language myself, it's not you I have an issue with appropriating the culture, it is Killstar/Blackcraft, Siouxsie etc. and it is because they mix decontextualised Egyptian symbols with other religious/philosophical symbols (like Satanism, as shown above) to make money, and they get their hieroglyphs wrong.

    I am most irritated because it makes the designers/artists look like idiots. They have no appreciation for the background of the culture (they have not released statements, they do not consult academics in the field nor publish or really contribute at all) and they are brooding this ignorance in their consumers. The Bast maxi dress is beautiful (the cat part) but I'd never buy it because they've mixed their symbols and it makes me cringe.

    I have bought the Ankh dress from Killstar because it has a single ankh on it thus I feel that piece is appropriate, the meaning is preserved. The fabric is lovely and soft and I would love to buy more but (aside from my other gripes) the pieces are too expensive for what one gets. If they really want to make an edgy piece, put a traditional swear word in Egyptian hieroglyphic or Mesopotamian cuneiform on a t-shirt. I would buy that. But they won't because they have no interest in education.

    Also a point on cultural appropriation, recent research suggests modern "Egyptians" don't really feel a connection (thus a need to defend cultural appropriation) to ancient Egyptian culture since they are now an Islamic (and before that an early Christian) society. I use inverted commas because I believe ancient Egyptians wouldn't consider modern "Egyptians" Egyptians because they reject the ancient faiths.

  2. Ancient Egypt is one of my favourite cultures of all time and although I've never incorporated any Ancient Egyptian themes into my outfits (aside wearing ankhs, of course), I'm constantly looking for ways to invite them to my looks, especially now, when summer heat is ruling over my part of the world.
    On the other hand, I abhor this trend of putting random symbols on clothes. Symbols have their meaning and I think they shouldn't be used just because they look interesting/mysterious/rebellious/whatever. Anybody wearing a distinct symbol should be aware of the meaning behind it and accept it, or feel connected to it in some way. Yet on these dresses you shown above I can see not only Ancient Egyptian imagery, but also symbol of Satan, western astrological symbols, some Viking runes, swastikas, head of an alien… I can't help but find it very, very wrong, because mixing ancient mythology with medieval occult practices and modern western witchcraft is one wrong thing, but also bringing the occult, which is supposed to be 'hidden', to the mainstream fashion, is wrong, too. This trend doesn't respect the symbols, doesn''t respect their meaning, doesn't respect their history and simply makes masses of people unaware of what they're wearing, to appear. It's just as funny and sad as people tattooing 'Five-spice chicken' or chinese profanities on their backs, because they found it to be cool to have Chinese characters tattoed.
    But of course, it's 'dark', so it sells.

    1. I saw the heiroglyph dress on a blog yesterday and I never noticed the satanic symbols. It's a little strange to mix them… Seems awfully unnecessary. I was excited about this dress purely because I have an Egyptian fetish but now not so much. This reminds me of the 90s when they were appropriating Chinese script into fashion with no consideration to the meaning. I had a shirt with geishas on it and script, I asked my friend (from China) what it said and she told me it was a mash up of war terminology and completely made up scripture. In her words, it was stupid. I felt bad knowing my shirt didn't even have real meaningful Chinese text, it made me feel like an idiot to wear it. What would it take to have a designer do a little research and get things right? I mean really…

  3. I love the Bast dress but I'll never wear it because of the ankh. Even though crosses and ankhs are quite popular in goth culture I feel it's so kitch to wear a symbol from a culture you don't really believe in. I guess it also comes from my more punk-ish roots. (No gods, no masters;)
    I really don't want to make you feel bad or something it's just what I believe in:)

    But yeah because I love the Bast dress I now have the ambitious plan to learn to screen print myself and make me a dress like that with one of my own design!

  4. you can't appropriate a culture that doesn't exist anymore. Egyptians don't write in hieroglyphics and don't worship Ra. You're more likely to be appropriating goth culture if you wore this as a nongoth.

  5. I agree with 1666 X 30: this isn't appropriation (though as above commenters have pointed out, it doesn't mean it's been done with respect or taste either). Cultural appropriation is part of a systemic and historical problem, where non-western, usually PoC cultures (apologies for lumping them into one group) are oppressed by white western cultures* (usually as a result of colonialism), who have often tried to stamp out the practice of these cultures in the past; appropriation takes place when the oppressor later adopts aspects of the culture as a transient fashionable statement, possibly ignoring any cultural or religious significance, whilst members of the oppressed group would be discriminated against for doing the same thing. It's a combination of the historical hypocrisy and current double standard; the ancient Egyptian race hasn't ever suffered from this by current civilisations (they nor their original oppressors/conquerors remaining), so it doesn't count.

    Wearing the symbols of a religion you don't believe in is another moral issue entirely (I am quite happy to with certain symbols, but I realise that this is a personal decision), but I don't agree with inaccurate use of those symbols; pentagrams/pentacles with 'Hail Satan' alongside drive me nuts. I don't always think it's bad to mix several religious symbols together, but it would be better if they meant something to you, and one should definitely know what they mean. Intent is paramount: are these symbols being worn because they appear rebellious, because it's a trend or because you're interested in them?

    *(Note: I speak mainly from a British perspective; if others know examples outside of those rooted in western colonialism, my novelty SJW badge will vibrate excitedly at the thought.)

  6. I noticed that Bast maxi dress at Asos. I absolutely love it :3 Personally, I'm not very familiar with ancient Egyptian culture and symbolism. The main reason I like that bast maxi is because bast is usually pictured as a cat and I have this thing for cats.. xD

  7. I do question the motives behind several aspects of this recent occult trend, this and like Fee's example of hail satan with pentacles and pentagrams… some things do make me scratch my head, but not necessarily lose it lol.
    As much as the stigma bothers me (because it affects me), I can't presume to know what the wearer of these items know, and through affiliation be angry or annoyed at them.
    I get inspired and fall in love with symbolism I don't have extensive knowledge in, as well– it's just human nature to covet what we see, and seek to emulate it.

    Now as a designer, it is quite facetious to not at least make even a small attempt at accuracy in their presentation. They are the trend setters afterall– they have some measure of responsibility to the masses.

  8. The specific items presented notwithstanding, I do love seeing nods to Ancient Egyptian symbolism in the fashion world. There's just an otherworldly and magical feel about such imagery.

    As for the dress presented above, I think it would fare much better if labelled and presented as an "Illuminati Goddess Dress" or something equally silly. It would make the mashup of symbolism also funny and I do love to poke fun at those that screech about secret societies and conspiracy theories.

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