Original Public Talk given at the Vox in the Twin Cities Minnesota hosted by Julie (1999)
Later Published in written form in April 2006 (via Facebook)
April 19th, 2011 (The Examiner, Articles Wicca, subheading 18+ per The Examiners' requirements)
Skyclad or Ritual Nudity, is it a Good Idea?
Author, Angelina Rosenbush
We have all become aware most recently of varied climatic changes happening all over the world today. From the dramatic storms and tidal waves to more subdued changes such as heavier or sporadic snowfall. Minnesotans for the majority realize that part of living within the northern Midwest region is that sudden weather changes can be almost commonplace. Here, you might be saying, “What does this have to do with Wicca?” The answer relates to a practice known as ‘Skyclad’, better defined as ritual nudity. The practice of ritual nudity was popularized by both Alexandrian and Gardnerian Wiccan Traditions. The earliest written reference in regard to heathen or witchcraft nudity coming from Aradia’s Gospel of the Witches, written by Charles Leland.
With the coming of the spring and summer months the weather is beginning to warm slightly and many individuals, not just pagans are getting outside and enjoying all that nature has to offer. For many Witches and Wiccans this means of course the coming celebrations of Beltane (May Day) and Midsummer’s (Summer Solstice). And of course, there will be a few adults engaged in outdoor rituals that may practice naked, but given our region and the climatic changes so commonplace in Minnesota how safe is this practice? Here are some references I found that you might consider helpful before the next time you decide to venture out of doors nude. According to the Mayo Clinic in an article addressing hypothermia, this is some of what medical experts have to say; Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Normal body temperature is around 98.6 F (37 C). Hypothermia occurs as your body temperature passes below 95 F (35 C). When your body temperature drops, your heart, nervous system and other organs cannot work correctly. Left untreated, hypothermia eventually leads to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and leads to death. Hypothermia is most often caused by exposure to cold weather or immersion in a cold body of water. The mechanisms of heat loss from your body include the following:
Radiated heat. Most heat loss is due to heat radiated from unprotected surfaces of your body. Your head has a large surface area and accounts for about half of all heat loss.
Direct contact. If you're in direct contact with something very cold, such as cold water or the cold ground, heat is conducted away from your body. Because water is very good at transferring heat from your body, body heat is lost much faster in cold water than in cold air. Water that is 65 F (18 C) — a relatively mild air temperature — can lead to hypothermia very quickly. Similarly, heat loss from your body is much faster if your clothes are wet, as when you're caught out in the rain.
Wind. Wind removes body heat by carrying away the thin layer of warm air at the surface of your skin. A wind chill factor is important in causing heat loss. For example, if the outside temperature is 32 F (0 C) and the wind chill factor is minus 15 F (minus 26 C), your body loses heat as quickly as if the actual temperature outside were minus 15 F (minus 26 C).
With this in mind it is important to understand that a minimum amount of time spent outdoors in cold or even windy weather can possibly result in hypothermia. This does not however only pertain to full body nudity or ‘Skyclad’, but even prolonged exposure of having bare feet directly upon the earth in colder temperatures may put you at risk. So, for northern Midwest pagans the practices of ritual nudity may still occur within the confines of the area laws, restrictions, and ethical practices of age-appropriate participants, as long as we are first and foremost aware of the possible risk factors. So, for Wiccan leaders it is imperative to stress a standard of safety in regard to ritual nudity for all possible participants to such an event.
Additional: Grigorian Witchcraft realizes and supports the individual as well as individual traditions rights and / or requirements for ritual nudity. It is up to each individual when undertaking a practice or joining a tradition to decide for themselves their own best practices in regard to their bodily choice. This article as stating in the final paragraph was written to place emphasis on climate conditions and safety when considering skyclad practices.