To Be or Not to be Skyclad
Author: Lady Abigail
As a High Priestess of a Coven, I am often asked by initiates if the Coven works “skyclad.” When a coven works skyclad, they will or should be upfront about it when you first approach them for membership. Any group that springs this on you after you have joined is unethical and not a group you want to be involved with.
To work skyclad means to work only clad or dressed within the sky and nature; nude, within all the powers that be; to work magick and ritual unencumbered by mortal threads.
It sounds wonderful, don’t you think? Just you and a few very close friends, all standing around in nature. One with the God/dess, not to mention a few thousand mosquitoes and other biting things.
Please don’t misunderstand; I love nature in all of her boundless beauty. But being dressed or undressed to work ritual or magick in circle seems more of a stress than release to most.
I am not saying that one tradition is any better than another because they leave their clothes on or drop the cloak. Don’t assume because I choose not to work skyclad that I have never have. Although I have found over the years that, many times, the idea of working skyclad gets lost and somehow misused by some less than honorable people who will take advantage of any opportunity to abuse.
The human body is a magickal and beautiful part of magick. Nudity without shame is also a statement of freedom from prejudice, inhibition, coercion, and so on. However, some people are not comfortable with the idea of nudity, and that should be equally acceptable.
Working skyclad is traditional for some groups. Many Gardnerian covens still perform their rites skyclad.
The idea has been stated that it was a common practice for the Old World Witches to do ritual and magick skyclad. I disagree. I don’t believe that Native American Shaman or Celtic Witches would have stood in the shivering cold while trying to perform magick as their fingers (not to mention other parts) became frost bitten from the ice and snow. It just doesn’t make sense to me.
The reasons given for working skyclad are many and varied. Most are also sincere in design.
According to some, clothing blocks the energy. This is a personal issue. For myself, the icicles hanging off my butt cheeks block way more energy than that cotton tunic.
I have heard that being nude in ritual deepens the trust between coven members. If I have trust issues with a Coven or its members, standing in front of them with all my wrinkles hanging out isn’t going to increase my trust. Being naked for some is an issue of shame or embarrassment. For whatever reason this may be, once shamed, they will never trust or be less for it.
It is believed that removing the robes will remove all indications of rank, and therefore places all members as equals. Again, a good concept. But the truth is that Joe Bob is still Joe Bob, with and without his clothes.
Being able to remove one’s clothes shows the level of commitment one has to the Craft and/or coven. My level of commitment comes from my heart and soul, not how or whether I am dressed.
Being dressed or skyclad should not affect how you work ritual or magick. There should be nothing sexual about performing rituals in the nude, but in this society, it is hard to keep the crazies out and keep the circle protected from them all.
Do not feel that you must go skyclad because that’s what real Witches do. Real Witches decide for themselves. Feeling uncomfortable during ritual will only detract from your purpose. So if you feel awkward being naked with others or even alone, then cover up.
As a child, I was allowed to watch and, in time, participate in rituals and circle with my Great Grandmother. She and the Sister (her coven) would gather and work great mystical rites of magick. They didn’t read books on what made them Witches, they just knew. They didn’t allow anyone to tell them how to do it, they just did. They didn’t worry about how it was, it just was. And not once did they work or perform any of their sacred magick skyclad. They knew magick is magick until you make it something less.
Some people have something special to wear whenever working ritual and magick. It should be something personal to you alone. It can be a medieval gown, a tunic or jeans and t-shirt. But only wear it for working and bless it to that end. Be comfortable in whatever you choose.
Some arguments for working skyclad can be found in the book Aradia, also called the Gospel of the Witches, by Charles G. Leland. In the Aradia, Witches in worship are specifically instructed to conduct their rites naked as a sign that ‘ye shall be truly free’. Because of this book, many have decided that all rites should be conducted skyclad. I enjoy Leland’s book, parts of which are extremely poetic. However, say it is the basics for a structure of a religion I disagree with.
Also put forth as evidence is artwork and early engraving by artists such Albrecht Durer. In 1497 his engraving portrayed four women undressing for a Witchcraft ritual. If this is the evidence, then no man shall be a Witch. Does no one think it odd that men, during a time when even men were somewhat oppressed, would tell stories or draw the Witches or women naked in their magickal workings?
Witchcraft, ritual and magick unite us on a higher level; One with the oldest Gods and Nature. The freedom and exhilaration of dancing under a Full Moon is one of the ways of drawing close to all those energies and powers. But that freedom should not come at the price of your personal power. You choose if your dance shall be in the sky or skyclad. Magick should always hold a bit of mystery.
If you are considering joining a coven and they perform their rituals skyclad, but you do not feel comfortable with it, find another coven. Do not expect any group to bend their rules for you, just as you should not bend your personal power or comfort to fit any coven or group.
Dance as if no one were watching,
Sing as if no one were listening,
And live every day as if it were your last.
High Priestess Ravensgrove Coven
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