Do Pagans Practice Nude?

Does your tradition require nudity? Some do, some don't. Image by Westend61/Brand X/Getty Images

So you've been studying Wicca, or some other form of Paganism for a while, and you've finally decided it's time for you to think about joining a coven or group. You've found one that looks like it might be a good fit... but then you read somewhere that Wiccans practice in the nude.

Oh no! This sounds embarrassing and uncomfortable, and maybe even dangerous. Should you panic?

Well, the short answer is that no, you shouldn't, because not all Wiccans–or other Pagans, for that matter–practice nude. But the longer answer is that some do, some don't.

Why Go Skyclad?

In some Pagan traditions, including but not limited to Wicca, rituals may be held in the nude, also referred to as skyclad, or “clad only by the sky.” Being skyclad is not sexual in nature. Of those who practice skyclad, many say that it helps bring them closer to the Divine, because there is literally nothing between them and the Gods. In other traditions, a person may be skyclad only during certain ceremonies, such as an initiation rite.

There are a number of reasons for going skyclad, but there is not a hard and fast rule that it must be done. Just as many Pagans work robed as skyclad. Why would someone choose to work in the nude? Let's take a look at some possible reasons. For some, it's because there is a sense of freedom and power that comes from being without the confines of clothing.

For others, it is because the gods of their tradition may expect it. Opting to work skyclad–or not–is a matter of personal choice. If you're considering joining a coven or group, keep in mind that you should ask in advance whether or not they do practice skyclad - the answer, whatever it may be, should be one that you are comfortable with before you join the group for any rituals.

Nudity Doesn't Equal Sex

Finally, it's important to keep in mind that nudity is not necessarily sexual. Groups of people can be skyclad with one another and have there be absolutely no sexual component to it whatsoever - it's simply a matter of choosing to practice in one way versus another.

In many cases, whether a group chooses to work skyclad or not depends on a number of things, such as the age of participants and comfort level with each other, weather, and how much privacy is available. It's one thing to have six naked adults in your living room, but completely another to have them scampering around in the local park while the non-Pagans are having a picnic with their children.

A lot of people in the Pagan community don't see nudity as embarrassing at all, but if you do, then it's certainly something you should keep in mind when you're looking for a group to practice with.

Special Circumstances

Occasionally, special circumstances may arise in which a group that normally opts to do certain rituals skyclad might make exceptions. Taryn is a Wiccan in Colorado, and says,

"I found this group I really liked, but when I found out I would have to be briefly skyclad in front of everyone for my initiation ceremony, I balked, and told the High Priestess that I wouldn't do it. To her credit, instead of shrugging and walking away, she asked if there was a specific reason I was uncomfortable with the idea of ritual nudity. I confided in her that I am a survivor of childhood sexual trauma, and I just can't be nude in front of a group of people, even people I like and trust. She was super understanding, told me it was not a problem at all, and I could do the ritual in a robe, if it made me feel safer. It did, and I went ahead anyway, and I'm glad I chose to, because this group has been fantastic."

The bottom line? As Taryn's experience shows, communication is often the key.

Ultimately, if you're thinking about becoming part of a Pagan group, Wiccan or otherwise, it's a good idea to ask about this before you make the commitment to join. The best way to do so is to point-blank ask the group's High Priest or High Priestess. Any issue that is beyond your comfort level is something you'll want to know about ahead of time.