Recently, there was a discussion on the ADF-DISCUSS mailing list about ritual wear. When I answered, I talked about the concept of being a “plain pagan” and how that has influenced my ideas of what to wear and not wear. There was a reaction to the term “plain” that I wasn’t expecting, and it appears that some people vehemently disagree with that concept. I’d like to use this blog post to explain a little more about what it means to me. And of course, I am not saying or suggesting that everyone must believe the same as me; we all come to our own understandings of our spiritualities in our own ways.
Some years ago, I was uncomfortable, a vague uncomfortableness that permeated my life. I thought something was missing, but I didn’t know what. I sought order, whatever that was, and didn’t know where to find it. First, I began not in my own tradition. Around this time, I was also very deep into reading Christian blogs that focused on the home and faith. Homeschooling families, especially those who were seeking simplicity and self-sufficiency I truly enjoyed. They lived their faith in such a way that it permeated everything they did. That was something I wanted in my own spirituality and life. Sometimes these bloggers took a lot of criticism, and it even caused one of my favourites, Lentils and Rice, to shut down completely.
Many of them talked about modesty, or dressing in a certain way, with scriptural confirmation. I read weirder blogs as well; controversial people such as the woman who wanted to express her Orthodox Christian faith in such an outward way that she wore long black or grey priestly garments all the time (can anyone point me back in her direction?). What did that mean, for us here in Paganism? I hung on to this question for a long time.
The Orthodox woman and others made me want to look into monasticism. I found The Order of the Horae, Cauldron Farm‘s monastic tradition. I was intrigued, but they are so wide-ranging and I am more mono-cultural, I guess, and whereas I liked the idea, I was still… seeking. From there I found Elizabeth and her blog Twilight and Fire, and how she sought to live as a monastic in devotion and marriage to Loki. I believed that I was getting closer to finding out what “it” was that I was seeking. Elizabeth’s blog threw me into the pagan blogosphere and my list of things to read grew longer and longer, but I still didn’t abandon my beloved Christian homeschooling moms.
I never answered the question of dress, though. It just got more confusing. I found Quaker Jane. I drooled over the head coverings at Garlands of Grace, while I wore my thrift store bandana to see what it felt like. I started library technician school with a social experiment: only wearing long skirts, just to see what others thought of me, what assumptions they would make (“We thought you were conservative Christian, until you opened your mouth!” one said to me). I mulled it over in my mind if this made any difference to my “femininity”, whatever that meant. Elizabeth wrote about clothing. I found other pagans who cover their hair. And finally, I found Ruby Sara and her wonderful commenters, on her post, Pagan and Plain.
I was late to that party, but so were so many others. This showed me that people are continually searching for that something, and maybe finding it in what “plain” is. After four months of skirts every day, and after some times lamenting about how I just wanted to wear pants, I ended my experiment, because fall had arrived. A man from my class didn’t recognise me at the bus stop soon after, because I was wearing jeans and not a skirt.
Whereas I don’t think I would outrightly describe myself as plain, I do consider myself plain-influenced. I do not wear clothing with the company’s name plastered across it (e.g. Bench, Hollister, American Eagle, Helly Hansen, etc.); I do not see why that is desirable, because one becomes a walking advertisement. To me, that seems like a form of conspicuous consumption. (At the same time, yes, I do have an Assassin’s Creed shirt, haha.) I don’t understand, nor am particularly influenced by whatever the latest fashion trend is. Given that I primarily shop at thrift stores, I am either one step ahead or behind that trend.
I would rather have a few well-made and cherished items than items that are poorly made and need constant replacing. My jewelry does not change and does not come off (again, except for one gaudy and large squirrel ring). My hair is kept long and undyed, though I have two feather extensions.
I don’t believe that plain results in a lack of beauty in the world, or in everyone looking the same. What is plain for one person will not be for another; it depends on definition, and our own experiences. For some it is modesty, for some it is the environment, for some it is their faith. Nor do I believe that plain is all about clothing. There are other aspects to a plain life which Mórag or I will talk about in a later post. It really is a personal journey that one discovers for themselves. Perhaps one day I will go back to covering my hair, or wearing skirts only, or maybe I’ll take it further and make all my own clothes… or maybe one day I will decide that I really do want to wear that jacket and be a walking ad for something.