When I first started in Wicca in my early teens, I admit the idea of ‘ritual garb’ appealed to me. The pretty dresses and robes, the head dresses, and exotic jewelry was all very alluring. As years passed, I experienced the ‘skyclad’ (ritual nudity) at festival, and joined in a skyclad esbat. But the cost of garb, the discomfort of nudity, my choice of preference is regular clothes.
Although gowns and robes can be as simple or ornate as you want, I always found them a bit cumbersome in ritual. Sleeves get in the way, and the hem tends to get too close to the fire. In the summer, they can be too hot, and in the winter, you look silly if you wear your winter coat over it.
And I hated the idea of black robes. My coven once decided ‘we’ would make ritual robes. All black, long sleeves, with hoods. I was against the idea. I threatened if they made me wear it, I’d bedazzle it or add glow-in-the-dark paint. It just wasn’t me.
And frankly, I couldn’t afford the nicer stuff. The photo here was a cloak my sister owned, and she was the one who did the ornate beadwork on the velvet vest, as well as the embroidery on the hood. But it wasn’t mine, and I doubt I would’ve worn it much to rituals anyway.
I’m a practical person; one who prefers comfort over fashion, and even the skyclad rituals tended to make me itchy (from sitting on grass or dirt), or suffer the odd sunburns if I was in direct sunlight.
So why ritual robe or skyclad at all?
I’ve heard the idea is that you dress up for the holidays, like dressing up for church. Some pagans told me it was to add to the atmosphere of the ritual, or it marks a change in who we are when we enter Circle. I just don’t buy into that idea.
Skyclad (going nude) stems from the Alexandrian and Gardnerian practices where the ritual nudity strips you of earthy things and makes you equal with everyone in the circle.
Again, that just doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t need clothes or the lack of clothes to see others as being equal. And frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with seeing people as being better than others. Some people are better, through their knowledge, wisdom, and caring. Some people are not better, because they work from their weakness, such as jealousy, anger, or fear. I can still enjoy ritual and recognize them as worthy individuals.
What is your preference? Post in comments.