Sunday, March 14, 2010

Freebird – Nudity and the Craft

Pagans are known to be open and honest about themselves. You can see this in their music, their dance, rituals and in their behaviors. If you’ve ever been to a pagan festival, you might have come across a little “nekkididity” in your travels. Sometimes this “nekkididity” happens through ecstatic dancing, in a ritual, or just because someone forgot their swimsuit! But before we sit in judgment, we should first understand the importance of being skyclad.

What is being Skyclad all about?

Skyclad is a term in paganism which means literally “being clad by the sky”, i.e., with nothing/air. Once you understand the reasons why pagans choose to be skyclad, it’s a lot easier to get over the shock of seeing your first naked pagan – it’s really not a big deal! Contrary to what non-pagans might think, being naked is not about sex. Being naked in paganism is about more important concepts: being vulnerable and showing trust towards the community; being free from societal rules and conformities; being in the “now moment” with nothing between you and nature; feeling free enough to be yourself.

As a pagan, you shouldn’t be afraid of skyclad events, but you should be prepared for them if you choose to attend. You do not ever have to participate in skyclad event, nor should you ever allow yourself to be bullied into participating. This is a personal decision, and is based on your experiences and personal boundaries / comfort level. Some pagans are more selective where and when they are skyclad, choosing only to be so around select initiates or with those they trust implicitly.

As a responsible pagan, you should always know of the dress (or non-dress) code of whatever pagan event you’re attending. Most public festivals and gatherings will be very clear if their event is skyclad or “clothing-optional”. This also goes for the words “adult content”. If you see any of those words in the brochure or announcement, be prepared to see some twigs, berries and melons of the human kind. If you attend, know that even if you choose to wear clothes, others may not – and you can’t expect them to change their rules just because you might get creeped out by seeing someone’s hoo-hah. If you have a problem with seeing “nekkididity”, you might want to choose another festival to attend.

If you’re going to a private ritual or Circle, make sure you know beforehand if the ritual will be skyclad. Some traditions celebrate rituals in this way – but if they’re ethical and understanding, they will make sure that every guest knows this well in advance and given the opportunity not to participate if they are uncomfortable.

I remember my first skyclad person at a pagan festival. It was a bit disconcerting at first, but with a little open-mindedness and understanding it became a non-issue. The following guidelines might be of some help.

clip_image001 Having an opportunity to be skyclad does not equal an opportunity to show off a hot bod or how well endowed you think you are. The pagan community is not a captive audience for people to play out exhibitionist tendencies. If that’s the reason why you’re shedding your clothes, you might want to re-examine the reasons for being skyclad in the first place.

clip_image001[1] Always carry a sarong or other similar clothing for quick cover ups. You never know when Ranger Bob and his buddies might want to perform a spot check on the grounds.

clip_image001[2] It is human nature to stare at what is least familiar to us. We will blush and our bodies will exhibit odd behavior until our minds figure out that this is not a big deal. Don’t sweat it! It’s not always a sexual thing - it’s just our poor brains trying to adapt to something we’re not used to seeing. Remember to look into a person’s eyes when you’re talking to them – the “John Thomas” has nothing important to say.

clip_image001[3] If you’re in someone’s private circle and they’re all skyclad, you should be too. If that is a problem for you, ask to be excused.

clip_image001[4] If you are skyclad at a festival or other outdoor pagan event, be aware that you will have private bits which have rarely been this exposed to the world. Give yourself an extra slathering of sunscreen and be generous with bug repellant; be super careful around bonfires and candles (ashes and embers leave marks) and be aware of dancers who get a bit too exuberant!

clip_image001[5] Being skyclad is not an invitation to get frisky, nor should it ever have sexual overtones. Being skyclad is no invitation to sexual harassment. Be aware of the people around you, their actions, and always remember safety first.

clip_image001[6] If you choose to go skyclad, be aware of where you’re at. Is it ok to be skyclad in this area of the grounds/home? Make sure if you’re in an area that is “clothing mandatory”, that your bits are covered – no one wants to worry about children witnessing an adult act or nudity that would best have remained private.

clip_image001[7] Be aware of any children who are wandering around. If no parent is present, simply cover up and leave the area, whether it’s clothing optional or not. If the child’s parents are there and they’re ok with their children being around skyclad adults, you should be ok.

clip_image001[8] Sometimes large festivals will allow “clothing optional” areas to cover the entirety of the grounds or sometimes they will have special areas designated for such attire or adult activities. This is especially if they want to assure that children are kept safe. Oftentimes festivals will have very specific rules or areas set aside for these activities. Some names they might use for these specific areas are “Aphrodite’s Grove” or “Pan’s Playground”. Know what the areas are for before you barge in – you’ll be happy you were prepared.

Only you know what your personal boundaries are. You can be clear about your boundaries and still be respectful of the boundaries of your pagan kin. Many pagans like myself choose to not go skyclad in public, but we also don’t begrudge others to do so if it is their choice and isn’t harming anyone. You are no less of a pagan if you choose to remain clothed at an event, and don’t let someone bully you into thinking otherwise. Being skyclad is a sacred and beautiful thing, and it is up to you with whom you share that level of vulnerability and trust.