Being so Nature oriented, it is not suprising that Witches often perform their rites nude, or as we call it ‘Skyclad’ - clad only by the sky.

Nudity within ritual is believed to enhance psychic power as well as convey a sense of equality between the participants. Clothing can create obvious ‘class’ or ‘social scene’ differences which Wiccans seek to avoid; everyone being seen as equal before the Gods.

In Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, one of the important Wiccan texts, the worshippers are specifically instructed to conduct their rites naked ‘as a sign that ye shall be truly free.’ Usually, all one wears in a Wiccan ritual is some sort of symbolic jewellery such as a necklace, bracelets and rings.

This engraving by Albrecht Durer, dated 1497, shows four women undressing for a Witchcraft ritual. By their headdresses, which they've not yet removed, we can see that the women all represent different classes of society. There is the noble woman with an elaborate coif of delicate material on her head, a courtesan with long, flowing hair bound in a garland of leaves, a respectable business woman with a rather plain headdress, and a peasant woman with a scarf or shawl over her head.

Durer is saying here that these four women from different classes are sisters when it comes to the religious observances of Wicca; that Witches come from all classes of society. When we are naked, we meet as equals and social distinctions are forgotten.

Theoretically a Circle can consist of such apparently incompatible people as a judge, a punk, a hillbilly grandmother, an airline pilot, an ice skating champion, a wildlife officer and an Indian prince. Once Skyclad it is difficult to tell who has what career out in the mundane world.

The idea of ritual nudity is an old one being found in the ancient cultures of places such as Pompeii, Greece, India, Rome, Persia, and Britain. The Mother Goddess of Calcutta in India, Kali, is usually represented as nude and she is said to be ‘Digamba’, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘clothed in Space’.

Pliny, in his Natural History, records that the women of ancient Britain performed their religious rites in the nude. Relics of the old belief in the magical power of nudity can often be found in folklore, for example, there is an old English idea that a woman can be cured of infertility by walking about nude in her vegetable garden on Midsummer’s Eve (around 21st Dec).

Of course it is not practical to be Skyclad in the middle of Winter unless you are performing the rituals inside but in Summer, in a relatively private place, there is no problem stripping off the persona or mask represented by your clothing.

Witchcraft’s emphasis upon nudity can sometimes mistakenly encourage sight-seers; those who are more interested in ‘getting a gawk’ rather than experiencing Mother Nature in a mystical sense.

Witchcraft is pro-sex, but not at the cost of spirituality. We believe that Spirit and Matter are entwined and we do not emphasise one over the other. Anyone hoping merely for a bit of ‘slap ‘n tickle’ is advised to look elsewhere. Wicca is a participatory religion, no one just stands by and watches, they join in, otherwise there is no point being present.

Witchcraft ritual is a mysterious, magickal technique for uniting mankind with the oldest Gods - the Gods of Nature.

The freedom and exhilaration of dancing nude under a Full Moon is one of the ways of drawing close to those Gods.

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July 8, 2001
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