What (Not) To Wear

It’s that time again where I agonise about what to wear to ritual and in my every day life. It’s bothering me this time for a few reasons, though different than before. Please note that I am, of course, only talking about myself and my personal experiences and thoughts. I wouldn’t expect that anyone take my comments to be about what they should or should not do.

First, the lovely PeaceBang and her blog Beauty Tips for Ministers. She gives fashion and beauty advice to women in ministry to help with confidence and portray themselves with how they want to be seen. She’s a UU minister with a wide range of experience. Seriously, check it out.

Whereas I’m not clergy yet, I’m still the Senior Druid of our Grove here, and I want to ensure that I look the part. Some people might find that vain, but I want to be a better me — a better ritual and group leader, with confidence, so that we can grow our little Grove and do amazing things, and using these tools of presentation and dress are no different than using any other tool. What’s that saying — dress who you want to be five years from now?

Though we say that dress in paganism is whatever we want it to be, I don’t believe that is the case. If I remember correctly, when Tear of the Cloud Grove held their Memorial Day rite at the Wellspring Gathering in 2009, they wore suits and ties, which some people felt offputting and unnecessary. They did it to show respect to those they were honouring, but it is, admittedly, not the norm in a pagan rite. Does that matter?

I myself have had comments concerning my dress on numerous occasions, most recently when attending a rite straight from work (business casual – I’m a “sexy librarian”). Others have criticised the material my clothes are made of (cotton??).

In my previous post on dress, I mentioned that I am not directly plain, but plain-inspired. I do not wear clothing with brand names or products, and would consider it rude to wear something like that to ritual. As the ritual leader, or even as someone with a speaking role in ritual that will have the attention of the gods and folk, how could it ever be acceptable to be a walking billboard?  

A clergy friend of mine asked me the other day if I had considered wearing a torc, since he feels I am living up to what it stands for. First, that’s a really big compliment, and I was a little flattered. That isn’t really anything I had considered — after all, what gives me the right to decide that I deserve it, to wear a symbol of nobility and leadership? I always considered it to be something like the stole the ADF Priests wear, something that had to be bestowed upon you when others feel that you deserve it.

I’ve really shied away from making a robe. That isn’t really the style of what people wear in our Grove, so it would stand out immensely, and quite honestly (to be vain) a lot of robes look like giant bags. I’m working (and improving!) on liking how I look, so I wouldn’t want to hide it all in a robe-bag, even though nobody would then call me a sexy whatever.

What do you wear to ritual? 

(And just to let you know, I wrote this post in workout pants and a ratty sweater.)

3 thoughts on “What (Not) To Wear

  1. Cáer,

    Thank you for sharing your experience! You are not alone in the search for something to wear that feels right for both honoring Deity and facilitating a ritual. When I heeded the call to lead rituals I had hard decisions to make.

    In some Wiccan cultures and sub-cultures (note, not teachings) that i have been exposed to, one’s appearance is the very thing. it shows not one’s status but what they think of themselves. There are two sides of that. Public ritual is like a Pagan Cotillion where participants dance around who wears what and how it looks on them. Bring on the adornments, jewellery, belts, bags, and everything an accessorizing heart could desire.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve got a sketch of a robe I designed. it’s full of symbols of my faith, runes around the hem, cuffs, and collar and some pretty interesting patches. I have not had it made. Why? I feel that I have not earned anything that ornate in my spiritual career just yet.

    The other side? I’ve seen, to my horror, ritual leaders show up as if they’d just rolled out of bed after a night of heavy drinking – stained clothes included – and expect everyone to take them seriously.

    So what did I do? Since I have not reached clergy status as of yet within my tradition, I chose to wear the plainest green robe ever. It’s made of simple cotton and zips up the back. My only adornments are three lapel pins, a silver pentacle on a black field, Brighid’s Cross in gold and Lugh’s Shield in silver.

    Why I wear this is simple, it’s my uniform. It’s my key to shift my consciousness and a signal to others that I am now leading ritual and living my faith. I have found that this works well for me at this time. Once I am fully clergy, the uniform may change as I will have change.

    I applaud you for writing this post. It’s hard to find what is right for our hearts and what is respected by others in our faith. Please let me know of your findings and decisions!

  2. I think like all things you want to dress in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident.

    I have several different robes for different occasions. One is a tunic style dress I made that is brightly coloured with a design of pinks, purples and peaches. I have an A-line style dress in a heavy blue fabric with a simple trim. I have a velour green dress in another A-line style that laces up the front. For years I wore a simple grey tunic.

    All of them are comfy, and some of them look more dressed up then the others. I’ve sewn robes for specific rituals before. I feel in public rituals you want to look a bit more… done up I guess. Its like going to a job interview. You want to look like you put some thought and effort into it.

    As much as I love all the really fancy robes with lace, and ribbons and layers etc I find the simple and yet elegant ones seem more…. I don’t know the word. They just have something. And you don’t have to worry as much about catching on fire.

    As for style a lot of my robes are based off SCA patterns or halloween princess costumes and then modified. Simple A-lines and princess lines can be very flattering on various body types.

    But in the end go with what feels right for you. 🙂

  3. This is an interesting topic. I don’t think I have tried to describe my ritual wear choices before. I’ll try to describe a best-case scenario.

    I like to have a shower, or better yet, a cleansing bath, before ritual. Whether this happens the night before or the morning of, I try to avoid further ‘pollution’ after this cleanse. During the shower or bath I am aware that I am preparing both my body and my mind for ritual, and letting go of things I do not want to carry into my ritual day. I want to say that I try to avoid anger or other potentially damaging emotions leading into ritual after this point, but with busy weekends and a three-year-old, life happens. I am not all light and rainbows in the hours before ritual, but at least I remain aware that I am preparing to go into a space where energy work will be happening.

    Makeup choices will depend on the season and on my mood. Sometimes I want to feel ‘put together’ and for me that often means makeup, at least minimally. Other times, I want to feel ‘natural’ and concentrate on my connection to the earth and the energies around me, and I will go for the most minimal makeup choice. I am happy to admit that I no longer have qualms about going out without ‘full makeup’, and that honestly took a number of years to get to that point. There may not be consistency in my choice of makeup, but whatever I do chose to do on a particular day is purposeful. The same goes for hair, and generally practicality wins the day, but I aim to look presentable in any case.

    Clothing choices usually tend towards green and white or purple. Green makes me feel connected to the Earth, and I feel it is a happy and a healing colour. I try not to dress in an obvious ‘costumery’, not because it doesn’t have its place, but simply because simplicity is better for my own concentration. I don’t want to be concentrating on what others will think of what I am wearing. I want to effect a mood for myself but want to avoid ostentation. I don’t have a lot of items that feel ‘simple’ and still meet my colour requirements, so I tend to wear the same sort of outfit to each ritual, but for me this is okay. I have taken recently to wearing a long scarf (either green or white) around my waist because it offers another layer of a colour that I want as well as giving me a place to hold my ritual book and offerings. However, I will forgo this ‘sash’ if I am not playing a significant role in ritual and don’t actually need the carry space because I am often fearful that it will be seen as my copying someone else’s style. I don’t want the only purpose to the sash to be fashion. Generally speaking, the colour and simplicity of the clothing is more important to me than the clothing pieces themselves.

    I am very aware of my jewelry. If I wear earrings, they will be silver and although do not hold spiritual or ritual significance, the silver colour is intentional as it reminds me of the Earth and of grounding. I will typically have my usual jewelry that holds significance for me, but over the past year and some months I have added my citrine pendant. This pendant has been consecrated as a symbol of my role as healer and energy worker (through Reiki). This typically goes on last and completes my ritual garb. I am aware that while wearing this pendant, I am responsible for my own energies, and for maintaining an awareness that is more than I maintain in ordinary life. I am aware that I have prepared myself for energy work, and I release my fears that may hold me back in those efforts. Ritual is energy work, but there are also opportunities before and after ritual to share and experience energy. This symbol also represents that I am making myself available to others who may need help during this time. This has become so true for me that, should I feel unable to contribute energetically or give help to others in a particular time, I will forgo wearing the pendant. Again, it cannot become simply part of the costume, but must represent a psychological shift on my part, and if I cannot effect that shift then I do not want to misrepresent myself. This said, sometimes even with the pendant, I may feel shy to put myself out there and offer assistance even when I see it is needed, but gathering a level of confidence for the work will only come with time and practice.

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