(Alternative title – May Contain Nuts)
By Eryn Driscoll
I’ve done some wild and wacky things in my day, but few things rank higher on my WTF-O-Meter than standing naked in a field with 30-50 other people. Who were also naked.
Lemme back up here.
In the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to attend a pagan workshop weekend. I had never gone to anything like this before! To be perfectly honest, I was there as a vendor to sell pillar candles I used to make. But as I saw the list of workshops available over the weekend, I decided to give them some of them a try. Then I saw something that caught my attention –
“Women’s Ritual (18+ Only) – Skyclad”
Thank goodness for the interwebz, as I had to google “skyclad”. Oh – it means you’re naked.
The brochure for the event HAD said that clothing was optional, but I didn’t think anyone would actually exercise that option! I thought maybe there would be some crazy hippie nudists in attendance, perhaps, but I didn’t think it would be … y’know … EVERYONE.
I asked around, and the overwhelming answer was “Oh you HAVE to go, it’s such an amazing experience!” ….Nod and smile, nod and smile. Right, crazy hippie folks. Standing around a forest in my altogether in a known mosquito-infested area … sounds like an experience, all right.
Being classified until that point as a “solitary practitioner”, I had never experienced ANY sort of ritual, let alone one in my birthday suit. But over the course of the weekend, I came to know more people, experienced a (CLOTHED!) ritual or two, and the time for the Skyclad rituals was approaching.
I decided to bite the bullet.
The NAKED bullet.
Now, for those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m 5’4” and weigh 240 lbs. There is, as they say, junk in my trunk. Getting me naked in front of ANYONE who wasn’t my (then) husband just was NOT going to bloody well happen. There were parts of me that I hated with such passion, the thought of anyone seeing them made my insides turn to ice. I thought everyone would look at me and say “ZOMG LOOK AT CELLULITE GIRL!” … or … “HEY, look at the bingo wings on that one!” Even worse – “Holy stretch marks, you look like a road map, chickie!”
I walked to the meeting place with my heart in my throat. I was the first one there.
More women arrived, clothing still very much on. They could see I was pale and shaky. “You don’t HAVE to be nude, you know” one of them said with a gentle smile, “but generally we all do it. Whatever feels comfortable to you. Don’t force yourself.”
The time came.
The leader arrived, and all the women undressed. And (very carefully) applied massive amounts of Deep Woods Off. I stayed clothed. No one said anything about it. We were about to begin, when I threw caution (and my skirt) to the wind. I hopped out of my clothes in front of strangers.
I felt … well, naked.
Time to go. I didn’t have time to really consider my predicament. As we reached the clearing and formed a circle, I looked around. I mean, REALLY looked around. I was in a circle of nude women, all holding hands, all singing. There were women who were old, women who were young, women who were large, women who were slender, women who were tall, women who were short.
Every single woman there was beautiful. Absolutely stunning.
It didn’t matter how many “surplus” curves they had, or if they had flat stomachs. It didn’t matter if they shaved their legs. It didn’t matter if they had stretch marks. It didn’t matter if their breasts were large or small. Every single woman there was perfect and beautiful, just the way she was. Then it occurred to me – if they were all beautiful, then maybe … just maybe …
I was beautiful, too.
The realization struck me like a physical force. Suddenly the clearing we stood in seemed filled with energy. The trees stood out more. The singing sounded sweeter. I felt closer to these women, these strangers, than I had ever felt to anyone in my life. For the first time, I felt powerful, beautiful, and completely perfect in my own skin.
Before I knew it, the ceremony had ended. We departed the clearing, gathered our clothes, and headed back to the rest of the group. We giggled and joked around with each other. For many of the women there, this had been their umpteenth Skyclad ritual. It was my first, but definitely not my last.
I left that circle a changed woman. Something in my thought process had fundamentally shifted. When I left that circle, I left parts of myself behind. I left my shame behind. I left my self-consciousness behind. I left my life-long hatred of my physical body. I left my belief that I had to be thin, svelte, tall, and athletic to be pretty, to be worthy of love, behind.
I left the circle with my head held high. And a little extra swing in my beautiful hips.