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Author Topic: Skyclad?!  (Read 9049 times)
Zoe Moonchild
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« Topic Start: October 21, 2010, 02:42:19 pm »

I'm absolutely not out to insult anyone ... but I find the whole skyclad thing very hard to deal with.  I have only checked on a three of the Wiccan traditions and read a couple of websites on CR and they all have stuff about going skyclad (naked) during rituals or special rituals.  I understand the reasons given ... but seriously ... does the general population of certain religions really do this?  I admit to it being the main reason I draw back and pass over a tradition.  It might fit me everywhere else, but I just can NOT see myself getting naked for a ritual.  By myself.  No problem.  With my SO.  No problem.  With a bunch of others.  No.  Heck, even my Momma doesn't see me naked and hasn't since I learned to wipe my own butt and bathe myself!  I was an only child raised in a one-parent household.  Privacy was a big thing and consequently I developed a high sense of modesty (giving birth about did me in because you are allowed none).  I even feel awkward in a bathing suit on a public beach.  I just know for me I would be so distracted by my own discomfort that it would be useless for me to even try.  So, I'm wondering if maybe I would be better off just being solitary or sharing my circle with my SO and no one else but the Gods and Goddesses?
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« Reply #1: October 21, 2010, 02:50:29 pm »


I'm gonna be honest: I find the concept of doing ritual naked to be absolutely ridiculous. You do not have to be skyclad if you don't want to. Not all Wiccan circles are skyclad, and I don't think I've heard of any other Pagan religions where that's even an issue.
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« Reply #2: October 21, 2010, 03:01:14 pm »

I have only checked on a three of the Wiccan traditions and read a couple of websites on CR and they all have stuff about going skyclad (naked) during rituals or special rituals.

You found a "CR" website that promotes doing rituals skyclad???  What site?

I'm asking because it's definitely NOT a standard CR thing.

My understanding is that the idea originates from Wicca, but that's about all I know.  I've never seen it as part of any ancient Celtic or CR ritual I'm familiar with (with the possible exception of a private, "vision quest" sort of thing possibly used by poets to gain inspiration and understanding -- and I'm not even sure about that one; I'd have to find a description and check, and even then it probably wouldn't be called "skyclad").
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« Reply #3: October 21, 2010, 03:33:55 pm »

So, I'm wondering if maybe I would be better off just being solitary or sharing my circle with my SO and no one else but the Gods and Goddesses?

First - don't panic! Some traditions work skyclad (under specific conditions, on which more in a moment). Many don't. If that's a make-or-break thing for you, it should be just as possible to find a group that doesn't work skyclad as one who does.

In terms of working skyclad, however, people often get very nervous about the idea without realising how it actually works in practice. So, let me ramble a bit. (My tradition does not practice skyclad, but I have been skyclad in specific rituals, and I have been in a number of rituals and other settings where some people were skyclad and some people weren't, so I feel like I've got a reasonably good range of experience.)

I'm also a woman of size. (250 pounds and 5', to be specific, which puts me in the category where some people  sneer "*Some* people shouldn't ever go skyclad") I describe myself to people I'm meeting for the first time as "I come from a long line of European peasants who were very good at surviving famines", and I realise that my body's had a bunch of stuff thrown at it that makes it inclined to hold on to reserves for dear life. I find it hard to blame my metabolism for that, especially when complicated by some past medication choices, and by the more recently diagnosed hypothyroidism. That said, I do my best to take good care of myself, and I don't think I'm that amazingly unattractive, either.  I like and appreciate my body - and as noted below, don't think hating on my body for doing what it's designed to do is a good use of my time and energy.

I'll also add: I was effectively an only child (my brother and sister are 15+ years older than I am), and had very body-modest parents, and was raised that way myself. My usual clothing styles are relatively modest, except that my necklines run lower than truly modest dress. (I show collar bones, and a very tiny hint of the top of my cleavage.) But otherwise: loose longer skirts and non-tight or clingy tops with at least short sleeves.

Ok. Back on topic.

Covens who work skyclad: One of the things people worry about is working skyclad with a group of strangers. While this can happen (festivals, which I'll talk about below), it's really important to remember that in a *coven* setting, you're talking about people you know, and generally know pretty well, and have had a chance to get comfortable with, build trust with, and so on. It's not "Oh, walk into a random room with total strangers, and drop your clothes."

Generally, covens that work skyclad have some way to ease into the experience. One common practice is the idea of the outer court: you work for a while (a year's pretty common, but it varies) with the group in non-oathbound, robed rituals, and when you initiate, you start attending the skyclad tradition rituals. But by then, you've had a chance to get to know people, and feel comfortable with them.

Skyclad in particular rituals : There are times it pops up for specific rituals: for example, I know of groups where being skyclad is part of the initiation ritual, but isn't generally practiced at other times. In this case, it's about enhancing a shift in perspective I'll talk about in a minute.

Skyclad optional : There are some events where skyclad is optional. On one hand, this can be sort of weird. On the other, it turns out to be a good compromise for some events like festivals where some people may want to be skyclad, some people may want to wear some clothing (but less than they would on, say, a public street - a sarong around the waist and a very skin-revealing top, say) and some people prefer more clothing.

Some festivals, and some rituals offer this - others don't. Generally, it's really clear in the information. In the ones I've been to, there's never been any pressure to bare more skin. (Though someone wearing lots of clothing who complains about being hot might get gently teased a little - but mostly 'cause they're complaining about something they could choose to change.)

The actual experience

In my experience - and pretty much everyone I've talked to that has worked skyclad at least a few times - the basic description is "For about the first five minutes, maybe fifteen, it was really really really weird, and I felt very aware of everything, and I was sure people were looking at me and judging me. And then .. we got going with the other stuff we were doing, and it was fine. And later, I wasn't sure why I'd been so nervous."

(The other thing about skyclad when everyone is: you're all in the same boat, so while you're standing there going "Argh! Nervous!" so is everyone else. And everyone else is going "Oh, she looks so gorgeous! I love her hips, and that curve of her shoulder. But I'm sure everyone else is looking at how flabby I am around the middle, and my hair's a mess, and ack, I missed a patch shaving, and...." We see beauty in others so much more easily than we do in ourselves, sometimes.)

Why skyclad:

Ok, here's the philosophical reasoning. It's my theory that part of the 'witch' part of religious witchcraft traditions is that you need to know yourself thoroughly, including all the places that make you nervous or stressed or afraid.

The things that scare us have power over us. The things we avoid because we're scared of them limit our choices. The more we know about why something bothers us - and the more we deconstruct so we know *exactly* what the issue is, the more power we have in our own lives, because we have that much more understanding, and that much more choice about how we respond.  

Nudity is a big one for a lot of people - whether that's for reasons of family upbringing around privacy and modesty, whether that's because they're not comfortable with the shape or size or whatever of their body, or whether that's because they're trying to figure out how nudity and sexuality interconnect (or if they have to.) And then mingled with that are all the choices about "Do I want to feel this vulnerable around this particular collection of people? And if so, why, and if not, why not?"

When you frame it that way, that's one pretty powerful potential tool - there aren't a whole lot of things that can affect us that deeply in multiple areas of our lives. I therefore think it makes a lot of sense for people to spend a fair bit of time with it. Not with the goal of getting comfortable being skyclad, necessarily, but with the goal of being really clear with themselves what the actual issues are for them, and the times those issues do and don't apply. (And what might change that, if anything.)

It's also a process that takes time: for a lot of students I've worked with, (and for me, actually!) skyclad was very nervous-making initially, but as they got closer to initiation (after a bunch of other work excavating other habitual responses, and getting to know people, and getting used to being vulnerable in a bunch of ways that had nothing to do with clothing), suddenly the clothing part got a lot less scary. It stops being one big thing by itself: it becomes part of a larger pattern of testing yourself and your choices against the edges of the world, and deciding which answers you, yourself, and no one else, are happy with.

I generally wouldn't pick skyclad as my top choice (for practical reasons, as much as anything: I much prefer sitting on fabric to sitting on bare floor, for example.) but these days, I'm totally comfortable changing clothing in mixed company (as long as I trust the people there: not random strangers, in other words), I'm comfortable wearing skin-bearing clothes, and I decided when I picked up swimming again that anyone at the Y who didn't want to look at my body didn't have to: I was going to wear my swim suit and not swath myself in a towel just to save someone else's delicate sensibilities, and I'd strip off my suit in the showers like most other people do so I could rinse and spin dry it. (My Y is particularly size-and-shape friendly, but it still took a little bit of nerving myself up for initially.)

Things I ask, as part of that process (some of which may be specific for you, but I've thrown in a bunch of general ones here, too.) Don't feel you need to answer them here, or anywhere - I just wanted to throw out things  possibly worth mulling over.

- What does clothing mean to you? Does it help shape your identity? If you didn't use clothing to do that (i.e. you were wearing something very generic and basic), what would you do instead to feel like you?

- How is your relationship with your body? Discomfort uses up a lot of energy that you might rather use for other things. What would it take to see your body as beautiful, as it is now? (not in some mythical time when you lost weight, gained weight, had better visible muscles, whatever.) What do you like about your body? (One particularly powerful exercise is spending a period of time - a week to start, but a month is way better - looking at yourself naked in the mirror, and naming one thing you like.)

- If you're comfortable being naked with some people, and not with others, what's the difference? For example, what's the difference between being naked in front of your partner or spouse, and being naked in front of a good friend? What changes if you have the choice in who sees you like that? (For example, giving birth, as you point out, you don't have a lot of choice sometimes. But walking into a small, known group ritual, you do know who's going to be there.)

- How do nakedness and sexuality link for you? For a lot of people, they're very closely linked, in part because the only time we often see other naked people is when sexual interaction of some kind is in the picture. But what happens if you deliberate stretch that link - wearing a swimsuit in public, showering in a gender-specific shower, at the gym, or changing with friends without worrying about what you show, or being naked with a partner at times when sex isn't the immediate future?

- How does being naked make you feel vulnerable? For some people, it's because they lose part of their identity (clothing = presentation to the world.) For some people, it's because all nudity is sexual, and they haven't or don't know how to untangle that for themselves. Sometimes it's because they don't like their body, and are sure that everyone's laughing at them.

(And for some people, it's tied up with past abuse of various kinds, which is a subject to approach very very gently. That said, I know quite a few people who've worked through this one given time and reliable support.)

And once you've gotten somewhere with those, and tried out a bunch of things that feel on the edge of discomfort or stretchy for you ... well, often, skyclad just becomes one of those things. It remains potent, because of the societal weight we put on appearance, but it's not necessarily looming over everything else that might be a part of a particular ritual. Which, really, is as it should be.
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« Reply #4: October 21, 2010, 03:46:13 pm »

You found a "CR" website that promotes doing rituals skyclad???  What site?

I'm asking because it's definitely NOT a standard CR thing.

My understanding is that the idea originates from Wicca, but that's about all I know.  I've never seen it as part of any ancient Celtic or CR ritual I'm familiar with (with the possible exception of a private, "vision quest" sort of thing possibly used by poets to gain inspiration and understanding -- and I'm not even sure about that one; I'd have to find a description and check, and even then it probably wouldn't be called "skyclad").

When I was asking about Arianrhod on the CR SIG board I got this link. 

http://www.tylwythteg.com/tylwyth.html#top

I apologize for not remembering exactly where the skyclad reference is.  There is a LOT of material to cover on that sight.  I just remember reading through it and going .. DANG!  Not AGAIN!  lol  If I can find it again I'll post the link to that specific page.  But it was a long read. 

I will also say that in reading Starhawk's book she makes mention that her coven goes skyclad during rituals.  Since she seems to be a really good source when I came across the same thing while reading up on her tradition (Fairy) and the Gadenarian and Alexandrain (please forgive any misspelling .. not my strongest point) traditions, when it mentioned going skyclad for rituals I thought that it must be true.  I can not tell you how RELIEVED I am to know that is not common practice!  <wipes sweat from brow>  Not only am I a very modest person ... but the thought is in the back of my head that not only do I not want to be seen naked but I have no desire to see others naked either!  The human body is a wonderful, glorious thing ... but it isn't always pretty.  Not only would I be totally uncomfortable showing my 'uglies' along with my 'goodies' but I have absolutely no desire to see anyone else's either! 
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« Reply #5: October 21, 2010, 03:53:31 pm »

First - don't panic! Some traditions work skyclad (under specific conditions, on which more in a moment). Many don't. If that's a make-or-break thing for you, it should be just as possible to find a group that doesn't work skyclad as one who does.

In terms of working skyclad, however, people often get very nervous about the idea without realising how it actually works in practice. So, let me ramble a bit. (My tradition does not practice skyclad, but I have been skyclad in specific rituals, and I have been in a number of rituals and other settings where some people were skyclad and some people weren't, so I feel like I've got a reasonably good range of experience.)

I'm also a woman of size. (250 pounds and 5', to be specific, which puts me in the category where some people  sneer "*Some* people shouldn't ever go skyclad") I describe myself to people I'm meeting for the first time as "I come from a long line of European peasants who were very good at surviving famines", and I realise that my body's had a bunch of stuff thrown at it that makes it inclined to hold on to reserves for dear life. I find it hard to blame my metabolism for that, especially when complicated by some past medication choices, and by the more recently diagnosed hypothyroidism. That said, I do my best to take good care of myself, and I don't think I'm that amazingly unattractive, either.  I like and appreciate my body - and as noted below, don't think hating on my body for doing what it's designed to do is a good use of my time and energy.

I'll also add: I was effectively an only child (my brother and sister are 15+ years older than I am), and had very body-modest parents, and was raised that way myself. My usual clothing styles are relatively modest, except that my necklines run lower than truly modest dress. (I show collar bones, and a very tiny hint of the top of my cleavage.) But otherwise: loose longer skirts and non-tight or clingy tops with at least short sleeves.

Ok. Back on topic.

Covens who work skyclad: One of the things people worry about is working skyclad with a group of strangers. While this can happen (festivals, which I'll talk about below), it's really important to remember that in a *coven* setting, you're talking about people you know, and generally know pretty well, and have had a chance to get comfortable with, build trust with, and so on. It's not "Oh, walk into a random room with total strangers, and drop your clothes."

Generally, covens that work skyclad have some way to ease into the experience. One common practice is the idea of the outer court: you work for a while (a year's pretty common, but it varies) with the group in non-oathbound, robed rituals, and when you initiate, you start attending the skyclad tradition rituals. But by then, you've had a chance to get to know people, and feel comfortable with them.

Skyclad in particular rituals : There are times it pops up for specific rituals: for example, I know of groups where being skyclad is part of the initiation ritual, but isn't generally practiced at other times. In this case, it's about enhancing a shift in perspective I'll talk about in a minute.

Skyclad optional : There are some events where skyclad is optional. On one hand, this can be sort of weird. On the other, it turns out to be a good compromise for some events like festivals where some people may want to be skyclad, some people may want to wear some clothing (but less than they would on, say, a public street - a sarong around the waist and a very skin-revealing top, say) and some people prefer more clothing.

Some festivals, and some rituals offer this - others don't. Generally, it's really clear in the information. In the ones I've been to, there's never been any pressure to bare more skin. (Though someone wearing lots of clothing who complains about being hot might get gently teased a little - but mostly 'cause they're complaining about something they could choose to change.)

The actual experience

In my experience - and pretty much everyone I've talked to that has worked skyclad at least a few times - the basic description is "For about the first five minutes, maybe fifteen, it was really really really weird, and I felt very aware of everything, and I was sure people were looking at me and judging me. And then .. we got going with the other stuff we were doing, and it was fine. And later, I wasn't sure why I'd been so nervous."

(The other thing about skyclad when everyone is: you're all in the same boat, so while you're standing there going "Argh! Nervous!" so is everyone else. And everyone else is going "Oh, she looks so gorgeous! I love her hips, and that curve of her shoulder. But I'm sure everyone else is looking at how flabby I am around the middle, and my hair's a mess, and ack, I missed a patch shaving, and...." We see beauty in others so much more easily than we do in ourselves, sometimes.)

Why skyclad:

Ok, here's the philosophical reasoning. It's my theory that part of the 'witch' part of religious witchcraft traditions is that you need to know yourself thoroughly, including all the places that make you nervous or stressed or afraid.

The things that scare us have power over us. The things we avoid because we're scared of them limit our choices. The more we know about why something bothers us - and the more we deconstruct so we know *exactly* what the issue is, the more power we have in our own lives, because we have that much more understanding, and that much more choice about how we respond.  

Nudity is a big one for a lot of people - whether that's for reasons of family upbringing around privacy and modesty, whether that's because they're not comfortable with the shape or size or whatever of their body, or whether that's because they're trying to figure out how nudity and sexuality interconnect (or if they have to.) And then mingled with that are all the choices about "Do I want to feel this vulnerable around this particular collection of people? And if so, why, and if not, why not?"

When you frame it that way, that's one pretty powerful potential tool - there aren't a whole lot of things that can affect us that deeply in multiple areas of our lives. I therefore think it makes a lot of sense for people to spend a fair bit of time with it. Not with the goal of getting comfortable being skyclad, necessarily, but with the goal of being really clear with themselves what the actual issues are for them, and the times those issues do and don't apply. (And what might change that, if anything.)

It's also a process that takes time: for a lot of students I've worked with, (and for me, actually!) skyclad was very nervous-making initially, but as they got closer to initiation (after a bunch of other work excavating other habitual responses, and getting to know people, and getting used to being vulnerable in a bunch of ways that had nothing to do with clothing), suddenly the clothing part got a lot less scary. It stops being one big thing by itself: it becomes part of a larger pattern of testing yourself and your choices against the edges of the world, and deciding which answers you, yourself, and no one else, are happy with.

I generally wouldn't pick skyclad as my top choice (for practical reasons, as much as anything: I much prefer sitting on fabric to sitting on bare floor, for example.) but these days, I'm totally comfortable changing clothing in mixed company (as long as I trust the people there: not random strangers, in other words), I'm comfortable wearing skin-bearing clothes, and I decided when I picked up swimming again that anyone at the Y who didn't want to look at my body didn't have to: I was going to wear my swim suit and not swath myself in a towel just to save someone else's delicate sensibilities, and I'd strip off my suit in the showers like most other people do so I could rinse and spin dry it. (My Y is particularly size-and-shape friendly, but it still took a little bit of nerving myself up for initially.)

Things I ask, as part of that process (some of which may be specific for you, but I've thrown in a bunch of general ones here, too.) Don't feel you need to answer them here, or anywhere - I just wanted to throw out things  possibly worth mulling over.

- What does clothing mean to you? Does it help shape your identity? If you didn't use clothing to do that (i.e. you were wearing something very generic and basic), what would you do instead to feel like you?

- How is your relationship with your body? Discomfort uses up a lot of energy that you might rather use for other things. What would it take to see your body as beautiful, as it is now? (not in some mythical time when you lost weight, gained weight, had better visible muscles, whatever.) What do you like about your body? (One particularly powerful exercise is spending a period of time - a week to start, but a month is way better - looking at yourself naked in the mirror, and naming one thing you like.)

- If you're comfortable being naked with some people, and not with others, what's the difference? For example, what's the difference between being naked in front of your partner or spouse, and being naked in front of a good friend? What changes if you have the choice in who sees you like that? (For example, giving birth, as you point out, you don't have a lot of choice sometimes. But walking into a small, known group ritual, you do know who's going to be there.)

- How do nakedness and sexuality link for you? For a lot of people, they're very closely linked, in part because the only time we often see other naked people is when sexual interaction of some kind is in the picture. But what happens if you deliberate stretch that link - wearing a swimsuit in public, showering in a gender-specific shower, at the gym, or changing with friends without worrying about what you show, or being naked with a partner at times when sex isn't the immediate future?

- How does being naked make you feel vulnerable? For some people, it's because they lose part of their identity (clothing = presentation to the world.) For some people, it's because all nudity is sexual, and they haven't or don't know how to untangle that for themselves. Sometimes it's because they don't like their body, and are sure that everyone's laughing at them.

(And for some people, it's tied up with past abuse of various kinds, which is a subject to approach very very gently. That said, I know quite a few people who've worked through this one given time and reliable support.)

And once you've gotten somewhere with those, and tried out a bunch of things that feel on the edge of discomfort or stretchy for you ... well, often, skyclad just becomes one of those things. It remains potent, because of the societal weight we put on appearance, but it's not necessarily looming over everything else that might be a part of a particular ritual. Which, really, is as it should be.

Gosh .. I've got to go get my kid from school ... be back asap to work on this response. 
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« Reply #6: October 21, 2010, 03:59:32 pm »



This is such a thoughtful, well-written response on this topic.  I wonder if you would consider submitting this as an article for the website?

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« Reply #7: October 21, 2010, 04:11:21 pm »

I'm absolutely not out to insult anyone ... but I find the whole skyclad thing very hard to deal with. 

Jenett made a wonderful post on this topic.  I would only throw in (from a Jewish perspective) that the moment of ritual takes away from the anxiety of nudity.  When I converted, I was nude in the mikvah in front of my rabbi, my husband, and children.  I'm a relatively modest person, but honestly I wasn't anxious at all.  It was a moment that I touched God and a moment that my children and I were welcomed into a community. I know that I was naked during the ritual, but it is one of last things I think about when the memory of the time comes up.

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« Reply #8: October 21, 2010, 04:13:32 pm »

This is such a thoughtful, well-written response on this topic.  I wonder if you would consider submitting this as an article for the website?

Sperran

For that, there's a couple of things I'd want to expand (a lot of how I got comfortable with it is tied up with the Health at Every Size idea, for example.) But let me see if I can snag that and edit it into something useful in the next few days.
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« Reply #9: October 21, 2010, 04:46:18 pm »

But let me see if I can snag that and edit it into something useful in the next few days.

If you can, I'd love to put it up. It's a good article as it stands.
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Zoe Moonchild
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« Reply #10: October 21, 2010, 05:09:04 pm »


Things I ask, as part of that process (some of which may be specific for you, but I've thrown in a bunch of general ones here, too.) Don't feel you need to answer them here, or anywhere - I just wanted to throw out things  possibly worth mulling over.

- What does clothing mean to you? Does it help shape your identity? If you didn't use clothing to do that (i.e. you were wearing something very generic and basic), what would you do instead to feel like you?

- How is your relationship with your body? Discomfort uses up a lot of energy that you might rather use for other things. What would it take to see your body as beautiful, as it is now? (not in some mythical time when you lost weight, gained weight, had better visible muscles, whatever.) What do you like about your body? (One particularly powerful exercise is spending a period of time - a week to start, but a month is way better - looking at yourself naked in the mirror, and naming one thing you like.)

- If you're comfortable being naked with some people, and not with others, what's the difference? For example, what's the difference between being naked in front of your partner or spouse, and being naked in front of a good friend? What changes if you have the choice in who sees you like that? (For example, giving birth, as you point out, you don't have a lot of choice sometimes. But walking into a small, known group ritual, you do know who's going to be there.)

- How do nakedness and sexuality link for you? For a lot of people, they're very closely linked, in part because the only time we often see other naked people is when sexual interaction of some kind is in the picture. But what happens if you deliberate stretch that link - wearing a swimsuit in public, showering in a gender-specific shower, at the gym, or changing with friends without worrying about what you show, or being naked with a partner at times when sex isn't the immediate future?

- How does being naked make you feel vulnerable? For some people, it's because they lose part of their identity (clothing = presentation to the world.) For some people, it's because all nudity is sexual, and they haven't or don't know how to untangle that for themselves. Sometimes it's because they don't like their body, and are sure that everyone's laughing at them.

(And for some people, it's tied up with past abuse of various kinds, which is a subject to approach very very gently. That said, I know quite a few people who've worked through this one given time and reliable support.)

And once you've gotten somewhere with those, and tried out a bunch of things that feel on the edge of discomfort or stretchy for you ... well, often, skyclad just becomes one of those things. It remains potent, because of the societal weight we put on appearance, but it's not necessarily looming over everything else that might be a part of a particular ritual. Which, really, is as it should be.

I'm really glad I had some time to think this over before trying to write it all out.  I hope I can articulate myself well enough here.

Clothes aren't that big of a deal for me in that they are a part of me or a big way I express myself.  I'm not concerned with what other people think so much.  I go the store or whatever in around the house clothes, no make-up and hair shoved into a pony tail.  When I do get 'fixed up' it's for me and my partner, not anyone else.

Being naked to me is being vulnerable.  For many reasons.  

First I admit to having a huge streak of vanity in me.  I do NOT like what I see when I look in the mirror.  I'm grateful I'm healthy and I know 'things' could be worse.  But I still don't like it.  I have scars from surgery and stretch-marks from pregnancy and quite honestly I don't think it's attractive.  Would I trade them for my health or my kids?  No.  But, again, I still don't like it.  The vulnerable part for me is that if someone said something about me that corresponded to what I thought, I know me ... and it would be even harder to pull out of that.  When people see your imperfections it's a way that they can hold you hostage.  Emotionally, psychologically, etc. you might be able to talk your way out it (in your head or with them) but when it's something as concrete as ... stretch marks do not a pretty tummy make ... I have a hard time not agreeing with them.  The evidence is in front of my eyes every time I look in the mirror.  I am way too hard on myself without 'allowing' others to help me along that path.  Does that make sense?  And if I see someone else has the same issue, i.e. stretch marks, it's not that I look down on them ... but it reminds me of how I look at myself and I really don't need that reminder.  Gosh I KNOW in my head that is something I need to work on ... but I have had a difficult time finding a place where I don't deny the fact that I don't like something about myself (that I can't change) and being okay with it.  At least enough to expose it to others without having a fear that someone will notice my not so nice parts.  It's really not about them or what they think .. it's how they might re-enforce the bad ways that I view myself.  I hope I explained that right.  

Part of this for me is that ... yes, I was abused as a child.  I suffer from mild-PTSD and have blank spots in my memories because of it.  Those spots leave huge reservoirs of fear in me.  I have thought about getting counseling and/or hypnosis to retrieve the memories but when I truly give it thought it is crippling.  This is something in particular that I want to find my way through and it's something I think about when looking at any tradition, belief system, etc. ... how much emphasis is placed on facing the yuck in ourselves, becoming more self-aware and then getting the !@#$ over it and going on with a better life?  I won't follow any set of beliefs that doesn't include that.  

All that being said ... I am also bi-polar and wasn't diagnosed until approximately four years ago.  That left 36 years of my life being a total screw up and different from anyone else that I knew, especially family members.  I have never felt especially accepted for being so 'different' and comments were made through out my childhood that left me feeling alone and very vulnerable as well.  Being bi-polar means too that I experience very intense emotions.  It's not ever an easy thing for me to work through emotions, good or bad.  Being naked is, in part, about the physical, but it's mainly about the emotional.  I'm just not sure I could deal with it at this point in my life.

Also, and this may sound odd to anyone else, but I worked in the medical field for many years.  My heart drew me to terminally ill patients and the elderly.  I loved my work but it exposed me to a lot of death and disease and probably has a lot to do with how I view my body.  It also is a HUGE part of why I am not very trusting of people in general.  I have seen so called 'loved ones' do some truly horrific things to family members.  It's why I had to get out of it and move on to something else.  I felt so helpless and so angry more often than not.  My heart got broke one too many times and I couldn't take it any more.  Add that to my childhood experiences and I do not trust easily.

I can go naked with my SO, any time, for sex or otherwise, because I trust him.  He's earned it.  And he is the first man I have ever encountered that I believe truly loves me for me.  The physical part is secondary.  He's sees me the way I would like to see myself.  He encourages me and gives me hope.  

I get truly frustrated when looking for my own personal path because I just simply do not know if I will ever get to the point of being able to do this with others.  Being naked exposed a lot of stuff that I don't want others close to.  I can barely deal with them myself.  I have this fear that I will find a path, find others down the line that share my beliefs and then WHAM I simply will not be able to go forward if that is required of me and I will be rejected, yet again.  It's been VERY disheartening because a couple of traditions/belief systems line up so closely with my own that I have a true yearning to get in there and get started.  Find my place and get busy with it.  You know?  But the idea of skyclad freezes me.  I DO understand the reasoning behind the idea.  I just have no clue if I will ever be able to give of myself in that way.  Not for lack of wanting.  Just simple lack of ability.  <sigh>
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« Reply #11: October 21, 2010, 06:12:43 pm »

...
Part of this for me is that ... yes, I was abused as a child.  I suffer from mild-PTSD and have blank spots in my memories because of it.  Those spots leave huge reservoirs of fear in me.  I have thought about getting counseling and/or hypnosis to retrieve the memories but when I truly give it thought it is crippling.  This is something in particular that I want to find my way through and it's something I think about when looking at any tradition, belief system, etc. ... how much emphasis is placed on facing the yuck in ourselves, becoming more self-aware and then getting the !@#$ over it and going on with a better life?  I won't follow any set of beliefs that doesn't include that.  
...

I have two thoughts when reading the above, Zoe.

First, I was also traumatized as a child and it took years before I found a therapist that was willing to understand that I blamed myself and that my subsequent behavior w/r/t sexuality was actually a reasonable (albeit unhealthy) response.  The right therapist can be very healing, and I encourage you to work with someone lest you end up in the same spiral within your mind that I was in.

Second, IMO, any path that does not encourage the healthy working through of one's "inner demons" is not a path that one should follow.

-veggiewolf

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« Reply #12: October 21, 2010, 07:20:55 pm »

First I admit to having a huge streak of vanity in me.  I do NOT like what I see when I look in the mirror.  I'm grateful I'm healthy and I know 'things' could be worse.  But I still don't like it.  I have scars from surgery and stretch-marks from pregnancy and quite honestly I don't think it's attractive.  Would I trade them for my health or my kids?  No.  But, again, I still don't like it.

That's true for a lot of people. But at the same time, lots of people do find those things beautiful - a sign of someone having history, rather than perfection, as it were.

One of the weird things about bodies is that a lot of what we find 'attractive' began as what was 'healthy and able to produce kids'. All sorts of things about hip-waist ratios, symmetrical features, even things like clear skin, or non-gray hair, are all about "Can this person have kids and reasonably expect to raise them to independent adulthood?"

Which is a very lovely thing, and good for the species as a whole.

The problem is, over time, a) that's probably not the *only* measure for beauty we should be using and b) our society has skewed a lot of our ideas about what's beautiful in directions that either aren't achievable, are actively unhealthy for most people to aim for, or just plain are a tiny proportion of the options out there. And so, as a society, we spend this absurd amount of time trying to meet those ideals, rather than putting our time and energy in other places. Or simply recognising that there's a larger range of beauty.

I don't have easy answers for this: no one does. But I did make the decision, a few years ago, to do a few things. To trust that when my friends, my loved ones, said to me "You're beautiful", or "I really like your hair" (which is about 1/3 silver or better these days) or "I really like your curves" to say "Thank you", and not try and hide them. To decide how I wanted to live my life and walk in the world, and do it with confidence, rather than constantly feel like I had to defend myself or how I looked. And to focus on what I like about myself (while being aware of long-term goals around well-being and health). Seems like a better option than being self-conscious or even miserable all the time - and I get to use my brain for other stuff this way.

Quote
The vulnerable part for me is that if someone said something about me that corresponded to what I thought, I know me ... and it would be even harder to pull out of that.  When people see your imperfections it's a way that they can hold you hostage.  Emotionally, psychologically, etc. you might be able to talk your way out it (in your head or with them) but when it's something as concrete as ... stretch marks do not a pretty tummy make ... I have a hard time not agreeing with them.

That's true - but at the same time, who's the person making the comment? A lover, a partner, a spouse gets some say in my book - but I tend to presume that if they're sticking around, they're at least okay with it, and there's probably some stuff they like very much. (And I say this as someone who's been celibate since my divorce 5 years ago.)

But anyone else? How much their opinion counts is ... not very much. Lots of people have their own hangups about how they look, and because *they're* insecure about those stretchmarks, or their shape, or their hair, or their skin, or whatever, they pass it on to everyone around them. I decided that I wasn't interested in playing that game. I do talk body stuff with close friends - but we do it in a way that gets us thinking about new things. Means I pick and choose who I do that conversation with - but really, that's true of other topics, too, so not a big deal. 

(My favorite one from this year? A dear friend who commented that for her, the curve from the lower back to the butt is one of the sexiest things in the female body for her, and how much she admired mine. *Never* one I'd thought about, and now I can't stop from grinning in my head over it every time I get a glimpse of that curve in a mirror or window.)

Quote
This is something in particular that I want to find my way through and it's something I think about when looking at any tradition, belief system, etc. ... how much emphasis is placed on facing the yuck in ourselves, becoming more self-aware and then getting the !@#$ over it and going on with a better life?  I won't follow any set of beliefs that doesn't include that.  

Oh, yes. I know  from friends with similar experiences that counseling helped them a lot - and in the right circumstances, it doesn't even need to be all that long. Sometimes, just finding spaces where you can be around different kinds of body conversations helps, too, once you're up for dealing with it for a while.

In terms of the belief and practice bit - well, yes, one does hope that's how it works. What I find happens for me in my own practice (which should not be generalised to all of religious witchcraft, though it's also not uncommon in that...) is that I get done digging through one thing, and I turn around and find another thing that calls out for my attention in some way.

I'm rarely swamped and overwhelmed (and when I am, it's usually because I've been studiously ignoring something for quite a while, and then something makes it break through on top of the other stuff in my life), but I'm never lacking for a new thing to dig at a bit more, either.

Quote
Being naked is, in part, about the physical, but it's mainly about the emotional.  I'm just not sure I could deal with it at this point in my life.

And that might in fact be very much the right choice for you right now. On the other hand, it might or might not be the right choice next year, or in five years, or in fifteen years. We change in so many amazing ways over the course of our lives. One thing I've learned is not to make decisions about what I will and won't be up for next year (or five years, or whenever) from now, because the me I am now is not the me I'll be then: sometimes stuff shifts in ways I'd never have guessed, but that are totally natural steps in a chain.

Initiatory religious witchcraft deliberately accelerates some of those changes. Thoughtful religious practice of all kinds can intensify specific things for a while. Other stuff we do (therapy, body modality work, creative work) can do it too. It's not like there's a single stopping point - or even a deadline, per se. The possibility for change stretches out before us until - and quite possibly after - we die.

(I think I've already mostly covered the rest of this, so am going to skip to the last bit...)

Quote
I have this fear that I will find a path, find others down the line that share my beliefs and then WHAM I simply will not be able to go forward if that is required of me and I will be rejected, yet again.  It's been VERY disheartening because a couple of traditions/belief systems line up so closely with my own that I have a true yearning to get in there and get started.  Find my place and get busy with it.  You know?  But the idea of skyclad freezes me.  I DO understand the reasoning behind the idea.  I just have no clue if I will ever be able to give of myself in that way.  Not for lack of wanting.  Just simple lack of ability.  <sigh>

Like I said - there are plenty of options out there that don't work skyclad, or do so only very rarely and in situations where you would have trust. And, like I said, plenty of groups who will give you time to figure out if you *do* trust them before asking you to work skyclad.

The thing is, too - walking into an initiation ritual is a trust issue.

When I walked into my initiation (actually all three of them), I knew I needed to trust the people doing the ritual to rewire parts of my energy processing, parts of my psyche, and connect them back up right without leaving any gaps. That's part of what connecting me to the current of the tradition was about, that's part of what opening myself up for the internal emotional changes (in context of community) was about, and it's part of what being open to the Gods was about.

Clothing or no clothing, in that setting, turns out to be the thing I worried about least.

I care a lot more about the inside of my head, and the inside of my soul. If I could trust them with that, I could trust them with the outside of my body.

You don't have to make that choice yet. What you do as a seeker is focus on getting to the point where you're considering a group (which might be soon, might be a year or more, might be never.) Then, if you find a group, you focus on getting to know them, and deciding if you want to make an ongoing commitment and connection to them. And then you all get to test it out for a little (these days, anyway, instant initations being a lot less common than they used to be), and see if you're pretty sure you want to do it. And *then* you get to decide if you're going through with it.

If you decide you're not, that time isn't wasted: you'll have learned stuff about yourself, you'll almost certainly have learned some practices and approaches and ritual methods and so on that you can use to enhance your own personal practice. You just nod, and you go on, and you see about trying again if you come across another option down the road.

If you know you'd never go through with a group that requires skyclad work, well, being up front about that is a good move. (Groups have limited time and energy and space for students). But it can be a conversation, not hard line. I just had that conversation with a prospective student who's very much in the same place you are, in some ways - and I pointed out that she doesn't need an answer to that question now, she needs it in a year, and that I am, everything else being equal, willing to let her have that time. (In part, because I know this is one of those things that does often get easier for people when it shifts from "potentially skyclad in front of random strangers" to "potentially skyclad in front of these people I really do love and trust.")

[Note all the 'potentially' here: she asked about it, I said that it's one of the things on the list of "stuff that may happen in initiations" that we discuss pre initiation, and that we don't share which things on that list we actually do. So it's a hypothetical discussion on her side, even though I know precisely what we do and don't do.]
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« Reply #13: October 21, 2010, 09:47:55 pm »

When I was asking about Arianrhod on the CR SIG board I got this link. 
http://www.tylwythteg.com/tylwyth.html#top

Just to clarify: these guys aren't CR. They identify as following a Welsh Witchcraft tradition. Big difference. And I apologize if my giving you the link confused you as to that difference!  Embarrassed

I wanted to show you that not everyone who identifies as following a Celtic spiritual path is a Recon.
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« Reply #14: October 22, 2010, 12:31:37 am »

does the general population of certain religions really do this?
Probably not, but there are other initiatory traditions that do so, if even just in initiations. Not all Wiccan circles do so, but most Traditional covens do, and I think being skyclad is important for initiations, but it's not everyone's cup of tea. Traditionally, Gardnerian&Alexandrian are the only "Wiccan" Traditions, and the only two that should be labeled "British Traditional," because Gards&Lexies don't consider the likes of Blue Star&Central Valley "Traditional, and not every, but you will find that most Gardnerians&Alexandrians work skyclad.

I've known people that ran unto this as the deciding factor of not getting involved, or going through with a degree in certain initiatory traditions, and that is perfectly fine, if that's their Will. There only many paths out there, and maybe the one they think is, just isn't right for them.   
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