Skyclad: Naked Power

Hermod bows
Sometimes for Wiccans, getting in touch with nature quickly is only a matter of shedding clothes. A novel, if curious approach to modern urban spirituality sometimes calls into question the true intent of any such
person when religion appears to be the motive. Going about "skyclad", meaning naked for the purpose of conducting sacred rites, is not new. But, in American culture, nakedness is all but discouraged, especially outside of most Pagan faiths. While there exists no true standards of conduct to focus upon this practice, modern Paganism, including Wicca, has little to say either pro or con on the subject.

When one simply ponders the modern contextual ramifications of nakedness and faith, it may seem to be at odds with modern society, technology, and even legality in some places. But, is it really? Who is it that
actually strips naked to practice the rites of their faith? And who are they, that push past the cultural, and
societal boundaries that keep so many faiths clothed and even fearful of their mortal and naked flesh?

Wiccans sometimes choose to create sacred space and disrobe before enacting rites that are by
certain groups, considered qualitatively better because nakedness is closer to nature. This idea is near the
core of other similar sentiments. It stands to reason that philosophical, and religious ideologies by weight of their merit tend to flatter ethical faiths by being copies of them in some form.

Wicca, in certain respects however, has been found to be a faith of future fashion. By not strutting about in an emperor's new clothes, Wicca tends to thrive on the best and most basic of theatricalities. Black hooded robes and cloaks are fashion standards, but are also frugal and functional. No zeitgeist passes by without the religious vox populi acknowledging this tried and true fashion combination for obvious reasons within each of their own faiths. Nakedness becomes its own fashion through which the sacred activities of Wiccan ritual is sometimes filtered as well as fulfilled.

But, what could be more boring or somber? While pondering such questions some Wiccans are busy getting undressed, as if to make such questions moot. Reverence combined with mirth are central features to the curious and seemingly paradoxic mix at the crux of nudity extant to the Wicca religion. It is usually the intent that boring fashions are meant to draw the mind away from the body, when worn by the majority in the U.S. who practice less daring forays into fashion or faith. Unleashing the body and exposing the corporeal avatar that Wiccans often believe to at times co-exist within them, is part of being closer to deity as they understand it to be. The very act of taking off clothes resonates with many Neo-Pagans, even if they do not practice any form of ritualized nakedness during sacred rites.

Some Wiccans who are brought closer to the natural world through the simple removal of clothing, are at
times, also inspired by divine and revelatory thought. The naked human form, when uncovered, tends to ignite the fires of the sensual realms of imagination. For some people, totemic and shamanic thoughts are unleashed in meditative solitude, or groups through archetypal imagery. Much like a snake shedding it's skin, this process unleashes a new being, yet one that contains the experiences of the predecessor. Another viewpoint is that, perhaps the reduction of the ego by metaphoric mystery through this ritual nakedness, is just one of many that exists to foment The Wicca group dynamic.

The naked person is recognized, or self realized, as a singular and unique incarnation, or facet of divinity. As this person, through ritualized nakedness, works toward becoming a spiritual paragon; they may easily be thought of as a single cell is to a body. The person maintains a type of importance while swathed in the clothes required by the mundane world but, this idea changes when nakedness is revealed. This lone cellular individual takes on a macro-cosmic aspect, and becomes a cell within the dynamic body of the divine. Thus nakedness, inside the circle of Wicca ritual is acceptable. Conclusions on the use of or practice of ritualized nakedness by Wiccans are, at best speculative, but there are indicators that such practice is part of some Wiccan's religious routines, although perhaps rare.

Finding faith in nakedness is best spied upon retrospectively through the lens of western art. Since art is
generally capable of expressing human form in the nude as being divine, this subtlety should not go
without notice. Nudity when expressed through art is rarely vilified. Art creates tensions that, in most
cases, raise the academic bar while at the same time inviting religious inquiry through debate and deep
study into the rhetoric of the fine arts. When one genuflects upon modern Neo-Paganism, which is exempt in most cases from being thought of as helping to further the modern fine arts, it often seems to fall prey to iconographic pop-cultural,theater-of-the-absurd. Images of warty, green-faced female witches, and bearded men with spears and horned helmets carry sway.

Though neither of these circumstances typify the actuality of most modern Neo-Pagan,
they continue to persist. More derelict imagery continues to pervade when certain attempts are made to
justify, through humor, this type of nuanced and side-long reference to the Wicca religion. Futile tropes,
lampooning, and animated cartoon buffoonery, of prior epochs of our own misguided, attempts to connect to a recent past that never existed, cry out for fact filled truth. No truth, or fact exists to be found in that past. In such instances, artists like Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell come to mind. Through the windows of the minds of artists, the culture is easily framed. Not made true, but artistically referenced for the clarity of mass absorption through visual language. Nakedness, can span the same gap for certain Neo-Pagans however since, the body as we know, has it's own language.

Just as crying, or laughter is understood the world over, and bypasses language, so to does nakedness. How this language of nakedness is expressed is central to Wicca. Those who may include it as part of their practice within the faith, may even consider it part of a type of art. Nakedness is the medium, or route to thinking of both the internalized and externalized power of nature as pure and divine. Nakedness itself is not the message, and is not for the voyeuristic in this context. Focusing on and attempting to reconnect with the divine, as is the purpose of religion, is the intent. Maintaining a focus on the divine requires some practitioners to ritualize the event to grant it a depth of meaning that is beyond simply being naked. The gravity of this undertaking may create confusion for some, who are not able to parse that language.

Nakedness, especially when engaged within sacred and ritual setting brings with it several basic but profound ideas. Nakedness in this way disrupts the barriers of social stratification imposed through the implication to which clothing relates. A low ranking soldier, a rich doctor, and a home-maker are all suddenly of the same social strata when naked. Related inferences may be implied through the ritual structure perhaps but, simple visual clues are gone. Body types are quickly assessed for the language that must now replace the former falsehoods that clothing once created. There is a power in the realization of the body as the message when it speaks, simply by coming into eyesight.

It maintains its self integrity for what it is, and how it became this vessel of power. Again, it is assumed that the body, is the vehicle through which divinity is to be channeled, or at least understood for a few scant moments during any such rite. Ideally a strong, supple, body is thought to be ruled by a sharp mind which is capable of connecting with the divine to focus such power as needed when it chooses. If this is the case, then ultimately, the practitioner has little need of ever being naked to begin this process. It is thought, by some Wiccans, to be a type of exercise meant to build spiritual muscle, or to enhance a connection thought to exist between mind, body, and spirit. It is this connectivity that is the vanguard which forwards the the idealistic endeavors of these types of practitioners.

The formation of that past, though flawed as it is, evokes a nostalgia and speaks with poetic license of things that perhaps were lost. But more likely, they never existed, and culturally we have erred,to have ever began such a longing backward glance. Wiccans, when removing clothing to engage better with the natural and spiritual worlds, are attempting to also be pro-active in that type of nostalgic reclamation. No single iteration of faith, or facet of art can be entirely inclusive of any culture. Yet, the finest works of art echo the voice of previous cultures. In this way, it is always safely assumed, that though the artist was mortal, the magic they created with their work lives on in an immortal way.

So, when observing the current iteration of Neo-Pagan religions that speak of faith by way of nakedness; a
glance back at the arts from a more classical world must be understood first. And before reaching any
conclusion about such art, (magic) it is well to consider that the vast majority of Wiccans know their
powers work well, even when they are clothed. As modern medical techniques currently allow for body
modifications to such radical extent as to even change sex; perhaps the basic black hooded robe and cloak
may never really go out of style. And since most magic is contained in mystery, the majority of Wiccans by
their own choice rarely, or mercifully even, share little of their nakedness for which some idiot muse must