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Patti Wigington

Reader Mail: Pagans and Nudity

By May 7, 2013

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As the weather gets warmer, it's not uncommon for me to find questions in the Magical Email Bag regarding the practice of going skyclad, or working with a group that practices in the nude. A while back, I received an email that read, in part, "I'm thinking about joining a Wiccan coven, but I read somewhere that Wiccans practice in the nude. That sounds kind of embarrassing. Seriously, I can't imagine being in a room full of people completely butt-ass naked. What's up with that?

Well, much like a lot of other stuff you'll find on this website, the answer is "It depends."

Some groups practice nude, or skyclad, while others don't. It's really a matter of personal preference. If ritual nudity is something you're uncomfortable with, though, I'd strongly encourage you to ask the people in the group you're considering. If they practice skyclad, and you think that sounds terrifying, then this would not be the right group for you to join. Do Wiccans Practice Nude?

On the other hand, if you don't think being naked in front of a bunch of people is that big of a deal -- and honestly, many of us really don't think of it as a big deal -- then you should be fine. But if you're looking at a coven or group to join, you definitely need to ask them about it, and consider your own comfort level. You do, after all, have a choice about how you practice and who you practice with.

It's also important to keep in mind WHY a group or individual may choose to practice skyclad. Much like a number of other aspects of modern Pagan practice, the reasons behind an action are significant. In many traditions, the removal of clothing is the removal of a barrier between us and the divine. In other groups, being skyclad forces us to present our true selves to the gods, with no disguise or artifice. If the group you're considering does in fact practice skyclad, ask why they do so. Their answer may give you a better sense of comfort in joining them - or it may send you running in the other direction. Either way, you've made an informed decision.

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Comments
May 2, 2011 at 4:44 pm
(1) Mia says:

I always think it is interesting when something comes up regarding skyclad worship. Each situation tends to be individual for me when it comes to practicing in the nude.

I have plenty of respect for the old pagan traditions (such as some Egyptian and Greek rituals) that specifically call for clothing such as robes or dresses and elaborate make-up or masks. I also love ones like the Inanna descent that asks you to shed your clothing as you get closer to the underworld. Then there are lovely new moon rituals or dedication rituals that feel like they should be done without any barriers.

So, when it comes to groups and how they practice, it may be more about what ritual they are doing than whether they go skyclad every time.

May 3, 2011 at 5:07 am
(2) Syrbal says:

I’ve always thought that if you don’t trust a group with your naked body, you shouldn’t trust them with your naked soul – for that is what you will be doing.

May 3, 2011 at 6:53 am
(3) Rowan says:

And then, there are groups that go “symbolically skyclad” meaning they perform their rites barefoot….

May 3, 2011 at 8:48 am
(4) Chris says:

My personal belief is that the line from The Charge of the Goddess that states “You shall be free from slavery, and as a sign that you are really free, you shall be naked in your rites…” is intended to be symbolic and was never intended as actually nakedness or removal of clothing. We teach those thata sk us about this that each person is their own authority and that they can be naked in their personal rites if they feel it enhances their walk with the divine but we also state for the record that naked in front of the divine is clean of spirit and not bringing in bs and crap into circle. Fact is the Goddess is going to see you as you are…clothed or not.

May 3, 2011 at 10:32 am
(5) ladywoodspirit says:

I like your post & I also agree with it.

May 3, 2011 at 11:17 am
(6) Sea Shelly says:

I am a witch and I practice solitary and in an coven. I think sky-clad is lovely but only if the person/persons are comfortable with it. For me it isn’t whether clothing can come between me or the Goddess and Gods, it can’t, of course. Clothing does change how we see each other in a group, and can become a status symbol or barrier. I love to adorn myself with my witchy robes, jewelry and head piece because they are tools to lift me out of the mundane to my spell working or celebration that is ahead of me. As for Sky-clad not being sexual, consider this, we are an Earth based fertility practice, and part of the Wheel of the Year is about helping the Earth produce its fruits so that all of the creatures on Mother Earth will ‘survive’ another year and prosper. The Great Rite is a sexual union, whether done physically or symbolically and is a part of a Covens’ Rituals. We practice it symbolically as a part of each gathering where we plunge our athame into our chalice. I have met Pagans who thought sky-clad was a chance to SEE everyone naked. That is not the point of sky-clad at all, where people eye ball one anothers’ naked bodies. When you have groups of people involved you will meet those kinds of individuals who make being sky-clad a time to meet their own sexual obsession with nudity. So my advice is KNOW the folks you will be sky-clad with and understand why you will shed your robes. If you aren’t comfortable, don’t fret, the Gods and Goddesses will value you, your celebration and spell crafting just as must whether you are robed or not. To me that is really being FREE!
Blessed Be.

May 3, 2011 at 12:02 pm
(7) Lynne says:

Excellant explanation

May 3, 2011 at 9:04 am
(8) Michele says:

There is absolutely no reason for rude rites. Not all groups do skyclad. Most of us are comfortable with our body, and enjoy the feel of the air on our skin. There isn’t anything sexual about it. And if you take a good look at the pagan community, you’ll see that ‘perfect body’ doesn’t really exist. Not in the eyes of fashion magazines, anyway. Other than that, we are all perfect in the eyes of the gods.

If you’re not comfortable with it, politely walk away.

There is no rule that says it must be so.

May 3, 2011 at 9:22 am
(9) JSterling says:

Nudity for so many of us growing up in our Puratinistic society can be difficult and uncomfortable. But I think that is why so many of us do skyclad rituals.
It removes one more layer to allow being truly free. It allows us to remove so much of our negative body images and our other distractions that prevent us from fully seeing our true selves, helping us to see the Divinity within.
That being said, one must be comfortable with the group you are planning on working with in order to be sure that it is a safe environment.
It would be very unusual for a group to take a seeker on in an open circle and perform skyclad. This is usually reserved for those members who are used to circling together.
I would be a bit reserved to join an open circle (outer circle gathering) that was skyclad. (With Perfect Love and Perfect Trust)
But at the end of the day, being skyclad allows us to focus be just as the Goddess intneted us to be.
Blessed Be

May 3, 2011 at 9:47 am
(10) pagandeva2000 says:

I do think that it is wise to inquire about the practice of worshipping skyclad before entering into a group. And, asking why will help clarify things.

Personally, I see no reason for nudity-but that is a personal choice. The same as it is a personal choice for me to remain a solitary practitioner rather than to join a coven. I can be honest and state that I would feel vulnerable being naked with people who are not my sexual partners. In addition, my husband, while is not Wiccan or Pagan, does respect my spiritual choices, but, would NOT be comfortable knowing that I was naked in front of anyone but him. Again, these are personal choices…I don’t judge those that do. It is just not for me.

May 3, 2011 at 9:52 am
(11) Sam says:

If the outdoor location is trusted or if indoors, then barefoot is a must for me, but I’m more of a solitare now days so I probably would do the skyclad thing with a group….unless it was at one of the big retreat-like festivals held every year in various places across North America.

A little off topic, but I went to a Swinger hotel once and it was my first time being naked in front of a bunch of people. I thought I would be embarassed and was worried about my “not so perfect body”, but once I removed my robe and entered the pool area where everyone was naked and chillin; it literally only took about a minute before I felt comfortable in my own skin.

It was probabaly one of the best psychological and eye opening experiences I’ve ever had. Whether people were checking each other out or not, it definitely didn’t feel like that was going on at all (and this was a group of people who were actually looking for sex). I felt like I could tell these perfect strangers things that I haven’t told other people that I had known most of my life. The barriers go down when the clothes come off, which totally reminds me of Inanna’s descent.

It was just a very positive experience. I’m not saying that everyone should go to a Swinger hotel, but even a clothing optional hot springs somewhere may provide you with the opportunity to get naked, see how you feel, and either put your clothes back on if you don’t like it or get a tan where you haven’t had one in a while. :o )

May 3, 2011 at 9:56 am
(12) Sam says:

Correction: “so I probably WOULDN’T do the skyclad thing with a groupů.unless it was at one of the big retreat-like festivals held every year in various places across North America.”

May 4, 2011 at 12:22 am
(13) Ric Stroh says:

Yes sam that is the way nudity should be viewed. I use to go to nudist resorts and that was the way all the nudist were or most of them. I felt comfortable around these people and there wasn’t any sexual anything. I live in Seattle now and I believe the best way to worship is skyclad because it does remove that barrier. I am a solitary practioner now. I hope I would be able to find a coven here in the Seattle area.

May 3, 2011 at 10:02 am
(14) Su says:

That’s the beauty of this…clothes or not, solitary or coven, ritual robes or jeans. To each his/her own. I personally don’t want to see people nekkid, but if a coven feels this is right for them, then go ahead. A ritual is all about intent. We know we can’t “hide” our souls from the Goddess, so whether we have clothes on or not doesn’t take away from the intent. Oh that I had a nice enough bod to go skyclad, but I won’t subject people to this. (smile) I also don’t see the need for fancy expensive robes, and I don’t understand why Renaissance garb is used in Pagan rituals. I also see young girls wearing skimpy outfits with fairy wings. Is this religion or a chance to play dress-up? What matters is what is in our hearts and souls.

May 3, 2011 at 11:11 am
(15) StellaCadente says:

I dislike the attitude that somehow you are less than pagan if you don’t want to perform rituals skyclad. I don’t find clothing restrictive at all. I practice Reiki and know that channeling universal or personal energy isn’t impeded by 2mm of cloth. And I find some of my ritual garb to be imbued with energy of its own, that adds to my practice.

Plus, I also don’t necessarily trust people more because I’ve seen their naughty bits. Or less because I won’t show them mine.

If it’s something people want to do, though, I am fine with it. I just don’t feel the need.

May 3, 2011 at 11:19 am
(16) rayven says:

Well said! I agree whole heartedly. ;0)

May 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm
(17) Samantha says:

I agree with you. Also our ansesetors (before the 1920′s) didn’t go around naked for their rites. The SKYCLAD was introduced with Gardneir, ‘witches’ being naked for rites was introduce by the church in the witch hunts not before.

May 3, 2011 at 11:18 am
(18) rayven says:

IMHO, the biggest purpose of how one is dressed or undressed in ritual is to provide an appropriate shift in conciousness for the work at hand – some do so with special outfits crafted just for the occassion or ren-garb because this takes them from their everyday mundane world to a different place in mind; others find that place of mind by shedding all clothing. For me, there are so many social views regarding nudity and LAWS regulating nudity that it simply isn’t worth the complications to attempt group nudity – plus, I reserve nudity for my chosen mate and he for me. It also depends on whether children are involved and how others – school officials, law officials, child welfare officials – might interpret adult nudity exhibited in front of children. I know there are nudist groups (I know there is a different word that is favored these days – naturists?…) that do this but they are registered with the intent clearly defined etc. So, there are many factors as to why groups choose what they do. Our group does NOT worship nude because it is a highly Christian environment and would and has caused major dissension and barriers. It was more important to us to have good relations with out neighbors and law enforcement officials than to demand nudity as a religious right. But again, that is just another example of personal choices. ;0)

May 5, 2011 at 12:31 pm
(19) Lucia says:

@ rayven: “Our group does NOT worship nude because it is a highly Christian environment and would and has caused major dissension and barriers.” I am a solitary, born and raised in the Roman Catholic church. I cannot and will not give up my beliefs, thus I incorporated them into my practice. I don’t feel there is a conflict of interest in making an Act of Contrition, the Our Father, the Glory Be to the Trinity, and a prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, who I have taken as my personal guide and defender, before every ritual or blessing. It is a great comfort, in fact. To get to the main point, I have been searching many, many a-month for a person/group, who have also kept their christian beliefs but still practice rituals, blessings, rites, etc. I would be very interested and most appreciative if we could speak privately via e-mail. I have so many questions to ask, and through your comments on this site I think I may found the person I have been looking to talk to. I am not sure how to send my private e-mail address to you, as I really do not want it advertised world-wide. I am hoping this reply goes directly to you and not the entire site. I am praying that you can spare me the time and are willing to contact me. Blessed Be the Spirit, Lucia

May 7, 2011 at 10:26 pm
(20) Melina says:

Oh my gosh. I am also a Catholic witch and have been solitary because I cannot find anywhere to fit in. I feel comforted that I am not alone!

May 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm
(21) Allan says:

I see no problem with practicing skyclad and have done so several times. Easy guideline from THE SPIRAL DANCE: “Total vulnerability cannot be forced on anyone.”

Allan

May 3, 2011 at 1:10 pm
(22) Suzanne says:

We are all familar with the “Charge of the Goddess” but if you were to read the entire reading it goes on to say

“And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything;
And as the sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites,
both men and woman also”

qouted from “The Gospel of the Witches” by Charles Leland

May 3, 2011 at 2:57 pm
(23) Adnyl Sylene says:

Yes,it is a matter of feeling secure in yourself, but personally, I don’t want the world to see what I have underneath – its not pretty anymore, its rolling in happy dough (only because I was more than happy to eat what it was that put the weight on my frame) and wrinkly – as I’m now 60. But when I was alone and knew no one could see me in my own backyard, I went nude under the full moon. We’ve since moved to a new location and now I’m living in a fishbowl and don’t care to be watched. To each their own.

May 3, 2011 at 3:47 pm
(24) Mija says:

I have some pretty severe body image issues. So there is no way I’d ever go skyclad in front of anyone. I don’t care if it’s some I trust with my spirit or not. I don’t feel the need to be skyclad in front of anyone but myself, my hubby and the Lord and Lady. But having said that, if someone else wants to do it, knock yourself out. I have no problem with anyone else being nude. The choice is yours and your alone. If a coven says you MUST be skyclad, and you feel uncomfortable, then you say,”No thanks.” Then find another coven or practice alone.

May 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm
(25) Freeman Presson says:

Obviously anyone is free to avoid the issue. Besides the obvious advantages already mentioned, the process of shedding a major inhibition is very useful in spiritual development (compare with left-hand Tantra).

May 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm
(26) Julia says:

I get annoyed when people think that you must practice skyclad to be a pagan.

I won’t go into all the reasons here, but the main reason we don’t, is because our children do ritual with us.

Does this make us less pagan? No, I think it makes us realists.

May 9, 2011 at 12:42 pm
(27) Lindsey says:

I agree with you Julia. I do rituals with my children and although they see me naked if I’m getting dressed or something, we do not do it outside in public. My 3 year old is considered the nudist of the family. It’s hard to keep clothes on. I would do a skyclad ritual with my husband alone outside. I don’t think I could in a coven unless it was people I trusted. I know my husband does not want me to be skyclad in front of other people though, and that’s something I’ll always consider. I am mainly solitary though, I just found a group around here to do as a casual circle who meets on full moons and we throw ideas around. I have only done spellwork with my family, mainly my husband. Skyclad is definitely a personal choice, and if your coven decides to go skyclad you should be given the optioon to keep your clothes on if you don’t feel comfortable. You sholdn’t feel that you HAVE to be naked because other people are.

May 3, 2011 at 5:18 pm
(28) Mae says:

The reference in “Gospel of Aradia” to being free from slavery and being nude reminds us that the purpose of ritual nudity was to remove the physical signs of wealth and class. I won’t say that class differences aren’t important these days, but they’re not as important as they were in the Middle Ages. I don’t think we need ritual nudity for its original purpose. However, it might be good for us given our modern obessions with youth and “beauty”.

May 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm
(29) Blkcatwm says:

I had a bad experience with a group that’s leader performed skyclad. He used it as an excuse to fondle all the women and himself. It creeped me out to be violated in such a way. I never went back. While I was there I didn’t want to say anything in front of anyone for fear of being ridiculed for not being skyclad or “open minded”…they were just a very weird and dangerous group…very dark energy…I stay solitary now and I prefer it that way.

May 3, 2011 at 10:59 pm
(30) Morrin says:

I just get cold easy, skinny. That’s the main reason I wear my jeans.

May 5, 2011 at 6:13 am
(31) meg says:

Another issue with performing skyclad is that many of us older pagans are working with our children. Frankly I would sooner go skyclad around a bunch of strangers than my own teenagers. And i know they arent comfortable seeing their parents naked. They arent even comfortable with casual nudity (changing a shirt in front of them, lets say) around that house at this age, let alone doing cirlce in the nude.

May 9, 2011 at 12:51 pm
(32) Lindsey says:

I have 2 small children and an 8 year old step-daughter. I agree that it would be weird to be naked around them when they’re teenagers but as children they see me get in the shower or dressed in the morning. I am only 23 and I remember very clearly when I was a teen how embarressed I was if my parents ever walked in on my changing clothes. Especially my mom. My dad was pretty good about steering clear. But she acted like it wa no big deal and I would freak out, especially during puberty. My son is 3 and so he usually laughs at me when I jumping in the shower, sometimes he still takes a shower with me sometimes, and always with his sisters. I usually throw all of ‘em in the tub, but they’re young. I couldn’t imagine my son as a teen or adult walking in on me. I would probably be mortified, but I know that awkward things will happen from time to time. I remember very clearly things I wish I could vaporize from my mind! I’m glad my kids are close together in age also, my brother was 10 yrs. older than me and I would catch him with his girlfriend or his friends and their girlfriends. Let’s just say eww…I am glad I was usually with the babysitter when my parents were at work or if they ever went out. But my sister and I were little brats to him lol, we all thought she would growup and be a dectecive she was always dragging me around to spy on him.

May 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm
(33) highpriestesschar says:

our Coven Star coven in utah co. utah is a family coven and we are in a morman state so we never have skyclad meetings and we even meet most of the time in public places so,we would never do that there as well ,but All are welcome .So if you live in utah co ,utah come on out and join us meetings posted on our site,meetup,twitter,myspace and facebook. Blessed Be.. High Priestess Char

May 11, 2012 at 5:16 pm
(34) Randy says:

My wife and I practice skyclad in the privacy in our home because we can not find a group that practice skyclad in our area.

May 7, 2013 at 10:50 am
(35) Don108 says:

While I agree with your post and the sentiments expressed by many of the commenters, most have ignored the “elephant in the room”: body image.

In many, if not most cultures today, young people are taught to be embarrassed over the way their body looks. This limiting self-hatred is carried into adulthood. Many people cannot get over the “my body is ugly so nobody should look at it” hatred.

There are many reasons people are unwilling to be skyclad, but poor body image may be the most important one. Whether a person ever decided to go skyclad, overcoming the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual handicaps of a poor body image would be a great first step in improving the mental and physical health of people around the world.

November 29, 2013 at 8:36 am
(36) John (an crotach) says:

As a long term naturist/nudist when i found my path into Pagan practice I was slightly dismayed and puzzled to find that few practiced Skyclad and had to sacrifice a component to ritual and celebration that i felt would add greater meaning and moment to my celebration but did so humbly in order to assist my learning. In time I had the confidence to form my own group – still with an awareness of needing to gain insight and knowledge – and now join with others to celebrate and perform ritual without the barrier of clothes but with the added bonus of joining with others to further enhance the experience and sense of communion with those forces and spirits of time and place who we are privileged to come to us.
We are also fortunate to have nearby the ancient abandoned (by human inhabitants) of Wharram Percy -on the edge of the East Yorkshire Wolds – anyone visiting would be welcome to join us.
I have also been asked to compile a small guide to ritual which I am happy to share on request – feel able to mail me on: opus_pistorum@yahoo.com
Brightest Blessings,
John
(an crotach).

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