During an email conversation with an acquaintance of mine I managed to elabourate some of my thoughts on modern Craft and it’s growth since Wicca (and derivations thereof). The conversation was sparked after this acquaintance of mine was explaining the positive contribution that working skyclad has had in his Path. For the benefit of readers my own Path is a blending of reverence for the Spirits of the Land and for the Ancestral Spirits. I have also adopted a ceremonialist approach that I feel is also in alignment with my higher spiritual goals.
It’s not my place to say whether someone else should or should not practice naked or skyclad. Truth be told I have done so in a solitary setting myself. Though I do have some opinions on the practice of working skyclad in the modern Craft movement. Having taken some time to speak with initiated Wiccans from both Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions I can understand to a point the role of nudity in their initiatory rites, it plays a part in aiding the breaking down the self-held barriers to doing the work. What I don’t understand is the continued practice of nudity in all rituals. I believe that a suitable meditation could be used in place of some of the workings that require boundary work like astral projection etc. It would also add further impact to subsequent initiations.
When Sanders and Gardner were founding their individual Traditions they adopted the principle of polarity which does indeed have a relevance to the spiritual practices of a system that is also based on the fertility of the land. We enter the complexities of their era in that our understanding of sexuality and masculinity/femininity have developed as well. I think it’s certainly worth our time to look at the historic and cultural tides of their time. Gardner himself was a noted naturalist who one or two commentators have come to remark on his interests in making sure that fertile and nubile young women were in service to the Goddess (subsequently Doreen Valiente is credited with nixing this idea) and Sanders, well we’ve all heard tale of his sexual exploits with the young men and women of the coven.
For the purposes of the particular blog I wish to focus more on the aspect of ritual nudity but there is scope to discuss such issues related to Sacred Sexuality as sex magic, the Great Rite and so forth. The understanding the either homosexuality is against the principles of Wicca due in part to polarity. Some modernists adopt the perspective that homosexuality itself is not against the Gods but that nonetheless the ideal coven is made of male to female dynamics. The Principle of Polarity originates in the Hermetic understanding that all human beings are created with masculine and feminine aspects, each needing to be honed and in balance. Presuming gender equates with balance seems a misnomer since masculinity and femininity are subjective paradigms that are ever evolving. Just because I’m a self identified gay man does not mean I am more feminine than masculine. I’m sexually, emotionally and physically attracted to masculinity, but as a human being I can express traits that traditionally are thought of as feminine such as emotional attachment. Indeed the idea that gay men and women are more one or the other is one of the most disabling aspects of modern society.
My next point is with regard to sexual magic. Many initiatory Wiccans have commented on the pagan online circuit regarding the difference between sex magic and the Great Rite. Sex magic is something any couple can practice (with due care and diligence in my mind) yet the Great Rite is whether the High Priestess and High Priest, having been duly initiated and trained through the system, can channel or aspect the God and Goddess during the course of the ritual. This act, and seemingly this act alone, can produce the desired affect. Perhaps it is in the realm of theory I fail to understand but surely working a system of magic that is also for life would enable the practitioner to aspect either a male or female god regardless of gender. Please don’t misunderstand me I’m not advocating that everyone should experiment sexually with their orientation for the chance of becoming “better” witches but that for some of use there is more scope for bringing the Craft to a more personal level.