49 Degrees: Canadian Pagan Perspectives

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Guest Post: "Clothing Optional" Etiquette

Body Painting in the Wild by Gerhard Lipold.  Courtesy http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/.The Pagan Festing season generally runs from May until October and usually takes place in campgrounds that are reserved for this purpose for anywhere from a weekend to a week. In Ontario, notable campgrounds that host Pagan Festivals include Raven's Knoll,Mythwood, and Whispering Pines.

Some of these Festivals feature Clothing Optional areas so that people have the option to be naked if they so wish. This is because some Pagans like to cast-off their wrappers and be caressed by the sun and the wind, while others consider their nudity to be part of their sacred relationship with the Gods and a Pagan event is a place where they can feel comfortable enough to explore that relationship.

However, because not everyone is comfortable with that, Clothing Optional areas can be restricted to certain areas, including:

  • campsites
  • the beach
  • the firepit area after 10pm

The important word in "Clothing Optional" is the term "Optional". A Clothing Optional area is not zoned as a Strip Club. You have the option to be as naked, clothed, or a variety of both as you wish and it's nobody else's business.

I cannot believe I must state this so blatantly, but this is also means that no one has the right to pressure you to be clothed or naked. No one has the right to tell you how naked or dressed you must be based on other people's decisions to be naked or dressed. No one has the right to express opinions about your character, your values, or your sexual identity. No one. No exceptions.

Now I know that sometimes people can unintentionally cross this line. In their minds, they want you to know that you are beautiful and valued and they want you to know that they are not judging you for any reason, so if you want to strip down, they are ready to support you in this decision. The problem is that it's very difficult to express this idea without it sounding like they are pressuring you into coming to this conclusion.

A person's state of nudity is NEVER an invitation for people to touch, stare, or make sexual references about. EVER. A person's nudity can be an expression of their relationship with the Gods, but it is not meant to be a show for other people to ogle or make snide remarks upon. However, if you want to quietly appreciate the beauty of the human body, that can be okay, but you need to be subtle in your appreciation.

Unwanted, unwarranted, unasked, uninvited contact with a person in a state of undress can constitute assault or sexual assault. The fact that the person is naked does not justify anyone's actions without EXPLICIT permission being given. It also does not give you the right to pressure anyone into being more naked or less naked, for any reason, even in jest. If you think you have accidentally crossed this line, take the person aside (probably better when they are dressed), apologize sincerely, and then learn from it.

Whether it is intentional or unintentional, here are some statements you should NEVER make to someone about their state of dress or undress:

  • This is a Clothing Optional area, so you should be naked.
  • Everyone else here is naked, so you should be naked.
  • You were naked yesterday, so you should be naked today.
  • If you were truly Pagan, you would be naked.
  • You have a beautiful body, so you should be naked.
  • You need to get over your insecurities, so you should get naked.
  • Wouldn't you be more comfortable without all those clothes on?
  • *untying straps without permission* C'mon now... show us your boobs. Don't be a prude.
  • In the good old days, everybody used to get naked all the time at Pagan events. Don't be such a prude. You should get over your insecurities and get naked.
  • Don't conform to the mundane life! This is a sacred, magical place! You need to prove that you love the Goddess and "be naked in your rites!"
  • You're diminishing the Pagan experience for everyone by being so self-judgmental. You should liberate yourself and be naked.
  • You're too fat to be naked. Lose some weight or cover yourself up. Nobody wants to see that.
  • You're too skinny to be naked. Get dressed and have a sandwich. Nobody wants to see your bones.

Repeated attempts to pressure someone to dress or undress constitutes harassment and needs to be reported to the Festival Staff or Security. This can result in the aggressor being removed from the premises, either for that event or permanently. If you are being inappropriate, aggressive, or just plain creepy, people will notice and they will report it to the Festival Staff. Even if a situation is not acted upon immediately, people are always watching, especially Security. 

Lastly, be careful of what you say around people who are naked. Words have a huge impact on people, especially when their nudity is on public display. For some, being naked is not a big deal and takes virtually no effort. But for others, public nudity can be the result of a great amount of personal courage. A careless snide remark can destroy that moment of vulnerability in an instant, tearing the person down into an even deeper hole of insecurity. The sounds of this type of destruction is deafeningly silent, so you may never know its true impact.

Pagan spaces are supposed to be sacred, loving, and safe places where we can strip away our mental and emotion outer shells that we project to the outside world, allowing us to build stronger relationships with our spiritual cores and share those experiences with our spiritual families. But we also need to take extra care and apply extra awareness in these places because we never know where people are coming from and how fragile they are. Our desire to create and share in our spiritual freedom must be tempered with compassion for each person's spiritual and personal realities without judgement, but with support and respect.


John David “Hobbes” Hickey is a Pagan storyteller who has been telling fables, folktales, and legends across Canada for over 15 years. He has won several storytelling competitions and his band TaelStrum was named as one of the top spoken word acts in Best of Montreal 2012. He currently hosts the Slamtastique Story Slam, Montreal’s only bilingual storytelling competiton.

Hobbes hosts the Facebook discussion group The Great Pagan Debate and maintains a friendly, Canadian, often-controversial blog called The Pagan Pope.  Recently he served on the Board of Directors for the Canadian National Pagan Conference.


Hobbes has published several CDs: Did You Hear That? (2014), The Bard’s New Hat (2010), and You Don’t Know Jack (2005).

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Sable Aradia (Diane Morrison) has been a traditional witch most of her life, and she is a licensed Wiccan minister and a Third Degree initiate in the Star Sapphire and Pagans for Peace traditions. Author of "The Witch's Eight Paths of Power" (Red Wheel/Weiser 2014) and contributor to "Pagan Consent Culture" and "The Pagan Leadership Anthology," she also writes "Between the Shadows" at Patheos' Pagan channel and contributes to Gods & Radicals. Sable is just breaking out as a speculative fiction writer under her legal name, and a new serial, the Wyrd West Chronicles, will be released on the Spring Equinox this year. Like most writers, she does a lot of other things to help pay the bills, including music, Etsy crafts, and working part time at a bookstore. She lives in Vernon, BC, Canada with her two life partners and her furbabies in a cabin on the edge of the woods.


  • Jön Upsal's Gardener
    Jön Upsal's Gardener Saturday, 27 June 2015

    "this is also means that no one has the right to pressure you to be clothed or naked"

    Does that actually happen? It sounds uber-creepy.

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