If you browse through Google image results for “pagan ritual,” you’ll notice two patterns in the garb. (Also, it’ll offer up the additional words “sacrifice” and “satanic.” Again with the interesting rituals I must have missed.) Either the participants are naked, or they’re adorned in enormous full-body cloaks.
This might have been the case in ye olden days, and some groups still follow that dress code, but I doubt it’s as common as the stereotype.
Think of it like going to modern-day church -- you might still wear a suit, but it’s more about personal choice than dress code. The winter rituals I’ve gone to look a little like this:
Notice the lack of naked people? That’s because they’re sane. We’re here to share a spiritual experience, not lose toes. Ditto for those giant cloaks in the middle of a hot summer -- heat stroke is a sucky way to get in touch with nature.
That’s not to say we’re always a plainclothes bunch. For one, the priests and priestesses conducting the ritual will almost always wear ceremonial garb, such as a light cloak or robe. In addition, attendees certainly won’t be in business suits, but more likely something loose and flowing. But it's still nothing out of the ordinary.
All the festivals I have attended, on the other hand, have actually been more eccentric than the stereotypes themselves. Expecting a sea of cloaks or nudes? How about swaggering pirates clad in kilts? Or Vikings, swords sheathed in their belts and horns of mead in their hands? People wander by in everything from billowing robes to Technicolour sarongs. In the right hands, a pagan festival is a bastion of cultural celebration and personal expression, the likes of which I’ve never seen anywhere else.
But creating this is not easy – as with any get-together, coordinators and seasoned security teams work around the clock to keep these festivals safe and free of prejudice. It’s thanks to them that attendees feel safe to be nude, or skyclad, as they sunbathe or dance around the fire.
Having this freedom of clothing (or non-clothing) is tied to the ideals of neo-paganism; respect for oneself and each other. It’s about respect -- something I’ll address in detail next week.
Is a student in the 2013 Professional Writing program at Algonquin College, and a proud lord within the Principality of Sealand. He has a passion for editing, and assisted with The Secret Promise: Return of the Wishing Star by Kristin Groulx and his sister Daphney Beaulieu.