Begin Here

All About Skyclad

foxyWitch ©2012 Holly Golightliy

All About Skyclad
by Sheela Ardrian 

If there’s one thing that everybody “knows” about Pagans, it’s this: they dance naked in the woods. No matter how much you try to explain that not all covens do that, it’s an image that sticks in everybody’s mind. Pretty soon, you start to wonder if there might be something to it after all. Well, there is!

Why Go Skyclad?

People have been worshipping naked for a long time. Judging from the pictures on some cave walls, our ancestors probably worshipped naked before they worshipped clothed.

Certain ritual activities are greatly facilitated by nudity. For example, some Native American tribes have a sweat lodge ceremony, such as the Lakota inipi, where they pour water on hot rocks for purification. Everyone crawls into the lodge naked. For this reason, men and women traditionally have separate sweat lodges.

Would you believe that Christians once practiced ritual nudity? They sure did! In early times, the sacrament of baptism was performed naked — both the priest and the person seeking baptism would disrobe before entering the water. Plus, the witnessing congregation usually included both men and women.1 Sadly this tradition died out after a few centuries.

Ascetic monks may give up worldly goods — up to and including their clothes. The Digambaras, a sect of Jainists, practice spiritual detachment by going naked, even in public. The name “Digambara” literally means “sky clad” and this is believed to be the source of the modern Pagan term.2

Many imagine a Pagan gathering looks
something like this.

There are also written records and pictures of Witches worshipping naked. Most of these are from unreliable, biased sources. But we do have Leland’s Aradia: Gospel of the Witches, originally published in 1890, which suggests that Italian Witches, called strega, practiced their rites nude.

Many of today’s Witches who wish to practice nude look back to Leland for inspiration. He writes (speaking as the Goddess):

And ye shall all be freed from slavery, And so ye shall be free in everything;

And as the sign that ye are truly free, Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men And women also…3

A similar command appears in Doreen Valiente’s version of “The Charge of the Goddess,” later adapted in many variations.4 Although not all Pagans are Witches, ritual nudity has spread far beyond Wicca. After all, some rules are fun to follow!

Many people believe that magic moves more strongly and smoothly when there’s nothing to get in its way. As Gerald Gardner explains, in a skyclad ritual, “when power is given off the flow is more easy and regular.”5 Rick Johnson adds, “The magickal reason for nudity is that anything worn upon the body will interfere with and change the energy given off by the body. This includes clothes, make-up, perfumes, jewelry, glasses, contact lenses and so on.”6

Other folks feel that skyclad improves safety, because there is no fabric to trip over or set fire to. Johnson writes, “Experiences of Witches all over the world often report that naked is safer. You are more aware of where the candles are when you begin to feel the heat as opposed to not detecting the heat of a fire until after your robe is engulfed in flames. Naked people step more carefully and bang into the altar and others far less frequently than clothed Witches.”7 Gardner agrees, “when dancing you are free and unconfined.”8

Yet another reason: going skyclad puts people in the right headspace, too. Gardner says, “it is most important of all that there is not the slightest thing to divert the attention.”9 (Apparently he didn’t find naked people distracting.) Johnson notes several effects: “the person must accept themselves as they are or change themselves,” and “To be naked indicates freedom from conventional mundane thought. […] you are free to place your mind into a sphere of magickal thought where anything is possible.”10

Removing status symbols brings down barriers. Johnson says, “Equality between class and gender is assured when naked as the rich no longer have jewels to show their class worth. Women must face men as equals, both showing their inadequacies and realizing that the other sex is just as physically imperfect as you are. With this barrier down, men and women can accept each other as equals.”11

According to Starhawk, nudity likewise encourages honesty, trust, loyalty, and bonding within a group.12

Most importantly to our discussion here, the sight and feel of a lover’s nude body can excite both, generating a tremendous surge of magical power. Although generally an advocate of demure nudity, Gardner admits that “the touch of the body of your beloved thrills your inmost soul, and so your body gives out its utmost power.”13

From Naked to Nekkid

According to Wiccan tradition, going skyclad means going before the God and Goddess as they sent you into this world. It sets aside everyday concerns.

… damn, she’s got a great pair of knockers.

All of us stand equal in the Circle. It is an occasion of solemn spiritual celebration. It is not an occasion to point or poke fun or make personal remarks.

… he’s really hung. I mean this guy could compete with Sleipnir.

Who are we fooling? Nobody, that’s who!

When people get naked together, if they’re not used to seeing naked people all the time, they’re gonna look. And if they look, sometimes they’re gonna like what they see! In Paganism, that’s okay. Pagans generally aren’t prudes. Our religion is one of love and, sometimes, lust. That’s not an excuse to slobber all over the unwilling (or the happily handfasted) but it does mean that you don’t have to feel guilty about finding other people’s bodies attractive.

Serious worship is all to the well and good; so are bawdy rites. You can be naked in ritual, and have it mean nothing more than “worship with your clothes off.” Alternatively, you can get what I like to call nekkid — which means you’ve got your clothes off, and you’re doing something sexy. The Wheel of the Year includes several holidays where nekkid is perfectly appropriate (Ostara, Beltane, and Litha especially) and there are many more choices such as Lupercalia, Veneralia, and Radha’s Day. Some other occasions lend themselves well to such earthy entertainment, like handfastings. And if it’s just you and your sweetheart(s) … then anything goes!

A few simple steps can help you arrange an erotic skyclad frolic:

  • Make sure all the participants understand that this will be a nekkid event rather than a naked event, and that everyone is of legal age.
  • Hold your ritual in a comfortable, private place with a warm atmosphere.
  • For outdoor activities, consider exempting shoes from the “no-clothes” rule to protect tender feet from rocks or other sharp objects. Provide blankets to sit or lie on.
  • Put some safer-sex supplies on the altar in case people decide to celebrate the Great Rite for real.
  • Begin with fun physical activities to help people feel “at home” in their bodies, such as yoga, body painting, or backrubs.
  • Include ritual lines praising the male and female body, as found in many sacred texts; also encourage participants to praise each other’s bodies too. Everybody likes to hear how sexy they are!

If you have never worshipped skyclad before, consider giving it a try. You can practice alone, with a partner, or as part of a group. Make your ritual as serious or as sensual as you want. Experiment! Remember that your body is your temple, and you are the High Priestess or High Priest of it. How you decorate that temple, and worship in it, is entirely up to you. So have fun!


  • 1 “Nudism and Naturism: Religious Aspects” by B.A. Robinson, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 2005. nudism6/htm.
  • 2 “Jain Dharma” by B.A. Robinson, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 2005. /jainism.htm.
  • 3 Charles Leland, Aradia: Gospel of the Witches, Phoenix Publishing, Inc., Custer, WA, 1990 (originally published 1890), pp. 6-7.
  • 4 “The Sources of the Charge of the Goddess,” Ceisiwr Serith, Wicca Website, 2003. wicca/charge.htm.
  • 5 Gerald Gardner, The Gardnerian Book of Shadows, 1953. See “Skyclad” entry in online version at Sacred Texts Website at gbos/gbos24.htm
  • 6 Rick Johnson, “Ritual Nudity or Skyclad,” Amethyst’s Wicca Website, reference taken 9/1/06. skyclad2.html
  • 7 Johnson, “Ritual Nudity or Skyclad.”
  • 8 Gardner, The Gardnerian Book of Shadows.
  • 9 Gardner, The Gardnerian Book of Shadows.
  • 10 Johnson, “Ritual Nudity or Skyclad.”
  • 11 Johnson, “Ritual Nudity or Skyclad.”
  • 12 “Skyclad,” no author listed, Wikipedia, reference taken 8/31/06.
  • 13 Gardner, The Gardnerian Book of Shadows.

Recommended Resources

  • Celtic Sex Magic for Couples, Groups, & Solitary Practitioners by Jon G. Hughes. Destiny Books, Rochester, VT, 2001. See “Attire,” p. 44.
  • “Nudism and Naturism: Religious Aspects” by B.A. Robinson, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 2005. http://www.religioustolerance.or g/nudism6.htm
  • Secrets of Western Sex Magic: Magical Energy and Gnostic Trance by Frater Ud. Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 2001.

— SHEELA ARDRIAN lives with her partner Dave in an elegant Victorian house in the middle of nowhere.

» Originally appeared in newWitch #14

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