Skyclad (Neopaganism)

In Wicca and Wicca-based Neopaganism, skyclad is used to refer to ritual nudity. Many Wiccan groups, or covens, perform some or all of their rituals skyclad. While nudity and the practice of witchcraft have long been associated in the visual arts, contemporary ritual nudity is typically attributed to either the influence of Gerald Gardner or to a passage from "Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches".

Gardner's "Witchcraft Today" was published in 1954. The book claimed to report on the contemporary practice of Pagan religious witchcraft in England, which had supposedly survived as an underground religion for centuries. Ritual nudity was included as a regular part of Wiccan practice, and remains associated with Gardnerian Wicca. The "Charge of the Goddess", a part of Gardnerian ritual liturgy, instructs Wiccans to practice ritual in the nude. Gardner spent several years in India, and may have picked up the concept from the Digambar Jains, a religious sect in which the monks may not wear clothing. [cite web | title=Llewellyn Encyclopedia and Glossary: Skyclad | url=http://www.llewellynencyclopedia.com/term/Skyclad | accessmonthday=18 March |accessyear=2007]

The origins of this instruction have been traced to Charles Godfrey Leland's book, "Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches".cite book | first=Ronald | last=Hutton | authorlink=Ronald Hutton | title=Triumph of the Moon | publisher =Oxford University Press | year=2000 | id=ISBN 0-500-27242-5 |pages=p. 225] The following speech by Aradia appears at the end of the book's first chapter;

:"And as the sign that ye are truly free,:Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men:And women also: this shall last until:The last of your oppressors shall be dead;" [Leland, ]

Dr Leo Ruickbie also notes that the traditional and artistic representation of witches cannot be overlooked as a source for nudity in Gardner's system, citing artists such as Albrecht Dürer and Salvator Rosi.cite book | first=Leo | last=Ruickbie | authorlink=Leo Ruickbie | title=Witchcraft Out of the Shadows| publisher =Robert Hale| year=2004 | id=ISBN 0-7090-7567-7 |pages=p. 113]

Doreen Valiente, one of Gardner's priestesses, recalls Gardner's surprise at Valiente's recognition of material from "Aradia" in the original version of the "Charge" that she was given.Valiente, Doreen, quoted in cite book | last=Clifton | first=Chas | editor=Mario Pazzaglini | title=Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, A New Translation | year=1998 | publisher=Phoenix Publishing, Inc. | location=Blaine, Washington | id=ISBN 0-919345-34-4 | pages=73 | chapter=The Significance of Aradia ] . Valiente later rewrote the "Charge", preserving the lines from "Aradia". Valiente's version was then widely circulated and reprinted.

Accepting "Aradia" as the source of skyclad practice, Robert Chartowich points to the 1998 Pazzaglini translation of these lines, which read "Men and Women / You will all be naked, until / Yet he shall be dead, the last / Of your oppressors is dead." Chartowich argues that the ritual nudity of Wicca was based upon Leland's mistranslation of these lines by incorporating the clause "in your rites".cite book | last=Chartowich | first=Robert | editor=Mario Pazzaglini | title=Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, A New Translation | year=1998 | publisher=Phoenix Publishing, Inc. | location=Blaine, Washington | id=ISBN 0-919345-34-4 | pages=453 | chapter=Enigmas of Aradia ]

Not every Wiccan coven practices skyclad, and ritual nudity is not exclusive to traditional Wicca. Other Neopagan traditions also practice skyclad. Amongst those groups that do, only some rituals may involve ritual nudity. The Arician tradition, as an example, practices skyclad for six months of the year, and performs their ceremonies in ritual robes for the other half of the year.cite web | title=Stregheria.com FAQ | url=http://stregheria.com/FAQ.html | accessdate=June 27 | accessyear=2006 ] . Within, and especially outside of, Wicca, reasons other than tradition may be given to explain a preference for skyclad worship. Starhawk states in "Spiral Dance", "nudity establishes a closeness and honesty among coveners and 'is a sign that a witches loyalty is to the truth before any ideology or any comforting illusions.'"Fact|date=February 2007

Notes and references

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Salvator Rosa (not "Rosi")


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