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Medieval Clothing And Wiccan Ritual In This Day And Age

Author: Christopher Orapello
Posted: January 29th. 2006
Times Viewed: 18,021

One time, while attending a large public Wiccan ceremony, I paused, looked around, and asked myself, “Is this a Sabbat or has the Renaissance Faire been dismissed?”

In this day and age, what is the purpose for a Wiccan to dress in stereotypical ‘witchy’ clothing comprised of a cloak, robe, or some form of medieval garb? Why all the drama? I wondered this as I attended a large public ritual last year, which was made up of other Pagans and, I assume, Wiccans, who were mostly dressed as if the local Renaissance faire just let out for the night.

As I observed this, I began to think about the appropriateness, as well as the purpose behind such outfits at a public ceremony. This particular public ceremony I was attending occurred in a field, in the middle of a major city, which was not only bordered on all sides by housing, but by local onlookers, curious individuals, and passers-by. It is my opinion that although such clothing may look nice and seem impressive in the ‘fantasy of it all, ’ it had no place at an outdoor public ritual where the individuals wearing said clothing were merely attending the ceremony and not even a part of actually performing it.

As a Wiccan, why dress like you are from a Renaissance Faire? Aren’t Renn Faire’s sensationalized portrayals of the Renaissance; meaning a fantastic and inaccurate representation? One may dress like that while at home or with a private group, but what about when one is attending a large public ritual where there are outsiders, new people, and curious individuals? Does not the impression we set as Wiccans/Pagans, matter to the greater reality of the ritual and the community as a whole? With that in mind, can it be concluded that such individuals who dress in this manner, hardly take their religion seriously if they are insisting on associating it with a make believe Hollywood portrayal of a time period, which they seemingly cling to desperately for religious security or identity? And wouldn’t dressing in such a manner for a public ceremony do a disservice to others and to the religion of Wicca by making it appear absurd? Is this what the reality of Wicca is in this day and age? Are there others who feel as I do and fear that such forms of religious attire may only further the lack of credibly and respect that Wicca could have and possibly hurt the potential religious role that Wicca could play in today’s society? It’s not even a matter of appearance since there are plenty of modern outfits and clothing styles that are similar to the look these individuals in question want to achieve and can do so while looking like respectable people who happen to be Pagan.

After all, whether you like it or not, the evidence regarding Wicca indicates that it is a modern re-constructionist religion, utilizing and employing modern magickal techniques and practices, applying historical beliefs and customs in a new way and manner. But, let me point out that I think there is nothing wrong with Wicca in and of itself. I have been on my religious path for over ten years, but one of the first things I knew and accepted was that there was a serious possibility that my religious tradition (Wicca) was only forty to fifty years old and I had no problem with this because I liked the religion! I liked what it offered, what it practiced, and what it was all about. So, I couldn’t have cared less if it didn’t really have a connection to an ancient past that is so often clung to by some.

Though Wicca can be an individualistic religion, we are still a part of a community, a greater and larger part of the world; though some seem to ignore the greater role that Wicca can play by presenting it in such a fantastical and mysterious manner. Ironically enough, such individuals who dress as if they are from medieval Christian Europe are often the first to spout that they are practicing a pre-Christian religion! If that were so, then why dress like you’re from a Renaissance fantasy? If historical accuracy is your concern, then why ignore that detail and not dress as a pre-Christian, but still insist on dressing as though you’re living in medieval Europe? You aren’t even filthy, covered with dirt or smell as if you haven’t bathed in a year! So, as far as I can tell, there is no rational purpose behind wearing such outfits to a ritual. Doing so serves no historical basis and if it were teenagers I am referring to, then I could simply regard their actions as their seeking a sense of identity, but the majority of people I see dressing in such a manner are closer to 40 years old than 18.

So still, where does the purpose lie? And yet, to reference the other side of the fence, I don’t ever recall seeing men walking in to church on Easter Sunday with crosses strung over their shoulders or a congregation looking as if they just got done performing a live nativity scene. Why is it that some individuals from the Wiccan community can’t be satisfied with dressing in modern day clothing when it comes to attending public rituals? Is the source of their religious/magickal power drawn from their clothes? I certainly doubt it.

If Wicca is ever going to grow as a serious faith tradition, it needs to move beyond being a fad for teenagers and individuals who simply want to seem different. If any progress is going to be made, then the one thing Wicca needs is to find a modern day identity. If Wicca, as a religious tradition, ever hopes to be taken as a serious community, or respected as much as any other religion, then we have to live and function as people of the modern world who happen to be of a Pagan based faith tradition known as Wicca. Is that so hard to do? If we so choose, as a community, to make this change, then religious ceremonies need to stop looking like a live-action role playing convention, as this behavior does nothing other than effect the integrity of the ceremony and the religion itself.

Now realize that I am not insisting that those who perform the ceremony should take up sweaters, skirts, suits, or even tuxedos in the place of ritual garb. After all, it is not uncommon for those performing a religious service, no matter what the faith tradition, to don a particular outfit or clothing style, as even modern magickal traditions have used such clothing for at least over a century. Though I do think that whatever religious garb is chosen by those performing the ritual should be more respectable and more in accordance with the clothing of other modern religions, but not in an exact sense as to create and preserve our own identity. We do have the opportunity to be more stylish here, but let’s do so with decorum and regard for others. Ceremonial robes would suffice as they are used in many modern day religious orders and traditions, still suit Wicca and are even historical, as modern magickal tradition would dictate.

My primary point being that if we, as a community, want Wicca to be taken seriously, then we first have to start taking ourselves seriously and by that I mean as real individuals of a true and real faith tradition of the 21st century. But, maybe I’m just deluding myself. Maybe most of us don’t want to be taken seriously. Perhaps, the sort of individuals I am speaking of secretly enjoy being ‘different’ and like putting a Lord of The Rings or a Dungeons and Dragons spin on life and their faith. But for those individuals that do this, I ask, “Is this what Wicca is about to you, is it simply fantasy?” If so, then I imagine there is not much else I can say to change your mind however, I don’t think Wicca is fantasy and I am sure there are others who agree with me on this issue.

I think Wicca has the potential to play a major role in the positive growth of our society and the world, and that it is our responsibility, as people of it, to see that it does just that.
When it comes to public rituals and ceremonies let us take up wearing proper clothing and leave the ritual garb to those performing the rite in question! This article is my way of posing such questions of ourselves and our faith and how we should guide its direction and its face for the world to see. Because if no one does it, or cares to do so, what will Wicca become?

Thank you.

Copyright: Copyright 2005 Christopher Orapello


Christopher Orapello

Location: Clementon, New Jersey


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