Ritual wear: What do you wear and why?
The question was asked of me recently “why is it necessary to wear robes in ritual”?
It is an interesting question and I would guess the answer depends on what type of Pagan you are, what type of ritual it is and the pathway you follow. For me personally there are various answers.
If I am at home working a ritual in my house or garden, I probably won’t dress in anything fancy. My personal rituals are often spur of the moment and don’t follow any script. It works for me. Rarely will I use any magical tools either, in fact some of my best (from a personal point of view) rituals have been completely visualised.
However, when we (Kitchen Witch) hold open rituals I do think about what I am going to wear. I am the High Priestess and I usually lead the ritual. And by ‘lead’ I mean that my lovely team write the ritual and I ponce about giving out orders… Our rituals are held during the spring, summer and autumn so the weather is usually good (usually, not always!). We gave up trying to hold winter rituals as more often than not they had to be cancelled at the last minute due to torrential rain, storms or even on one occasion so much snow that the entire country park was closed.
Fair weather rituals mean that a cloak often becomes too hot to wear. I also find it a bit restrictive when I am working in the circle. Although I have three beautiful cloaks; all gifted to me, for which I am extremely thankful. I don’t often wear in them in circle. I do however wear something that has some thought behind it. If we are working with a particular element in the ritual, then I would wear a dress and circlet that match the colour of that element. If we are working with a particular intent, then I would dress with that intention in mind. I do always wear a circlet in my hair when I am in an open ritual.
I have been very blessed to have worked several rituals within the centre of sacred places, in particular Stonehenge. In fact, my initiation took place there. For that I did ‘dress up’. English Heritage (the keepers of the Henge) do like us to dress in ‘proper attire’ when we are allowed in for private rituals. I suspect it is to entertain the tourists, but I don’t have a problem with that if it means we can access the stones. I have also taken part in a fair number of Druid rituals and for that I have a set of white druid robes.
Having said all of the above, there is something special about putting on a cloak, a circlet and/or special ritual robes. It is a ‘key’, a prompt for your subconscious to step from the mundane into the spiritual.
Perhaps it is also as a mark of respect to Deity or the Divine (whomever, whatever you work with). The fact you have thought about what you are wearing for a ritual, it is a way of honouring them.
You may also find that some groups have a colour code for different levels of learning or attainment. It might be the colour of the robes or just a specific coloured cord around the waist.
And of course, there are some that believe rituals should be worked completely naked. This seems to have been more popular a few years ago now, not perhaps so much now. The idea being that when naked we don’t have any clothing in the way to stop the energy from flowing. I do not agree, I don’t find any blockages with clothing and the flow of energy, none whatsoever. I also believe that a group of people all completely naked would make a lot of people uncomfortable and less likely to focus on the intent of the ritual and more on how they feel with no clothes on. But, that is my own personal feeling, it may work for you. Note: If any group ever tries to insist that you need to go naked in ritual with them and it makes you feel uncomfortable…leave. Being naked in ritual must be a personal choice and one that you feel safe and comfortable doing.
With our open rituals we do always stress that you don’t need to wear a cloak or anything fancy. I believe this is important to those new to the Craft. You might not own a cloak or robes. You may not want to invest in any straight away, or even have the funds to do so. We like to make everyone feel comfortable when in ritual, particularly if it is the first open ritual you have attended. We don’t want people to think they cannot attend if they are only wearing jeans and a jumper.
I have written about what a Witch wears daily in previous blog posts https://www.patheos.com/blogs/beneaththemoon/2016/12/so-what-does-a-witch-wear/
In ritual it is a little different, there are other aspects to think about. Some groups will require that you wear robes, others not – do check if you are looking to attend a new ritual.
For us at Kitchen Witch, anything goes…we even held a ritual once where two of our group turned up dressed as blue smurfs…(there was a very lovely and respectful reason behind it), but we want people to feel at ease.
Each individual needs to think about what the robes/cloak means to them. For me some rituals feel that a little regalia is required, as in my initiation within Stonehenge. Others not at all, such as an impromptu ritual in my own garden.
The idea behind it is sound:
- A key to switch you to magical mode, although as I live and breathe every day as a Witch this doesn’t seem such a requirement for me personally.
- Respect to Deity and the Divine – absolutely, but my intent is always there and my words and thanks to them are always done with utmost respect.
- To look the part; honestly, who doesn’t like to dress up on occasion? Sometimes it can be a fabulous excuse to break out the finery.
- Part of the group – some Covens and Groves require a ‘uniform’, something that ties everyone together.
As with most things I write, I shall finish with the suggestion that you “do what works for you”.
Ritual is a beautiful and magical event, but you must feel comfortable to be able to allow the energy to flow.