Dressing like a Druid

Hanging about in a pub car park looking for a moot, it was easy to spot the likely candidates as they rolled in. I wandered over and said ‘hi’. Not all pagans dress ‘like pagans’ but being part of a counter culture, an alternative movement, makes it tempting to be visible as something unusual. Plus there’s also the issue that many pagans are inherently colourful, eccentric and creative folk, and that manifests in our dress styles.

Druid clothing became an issue for me early on, when my first teacher demanded that I started wearing robes for ritual. She wanted us to collectively look the part. Travelling on public transport meant I didn’t want to lug a bag full of fabric, and I certainly wasn’t going to wear it for the journey! I protested, strenuously, and very nearly left over it. There was also the issue that I just didn’t want to wear robes. I did all three OBOD grades, and greatly appreciated many aspects of the course. However, when OBOD gathers for ritual, it too favours robe wearing, and specifically white robes at that, with tabards. I’ve never been to an OBOD ritual. I don’t much like scripts, but it’s the robe issue that nails it. The idea of them makes me uncomfortable. That’s personal, and about me, and I don’t think that means anyone else necessarily ought to feel the same way. And white robes – they show the stains, and I find outdoors rituals with children, dogs, mud and grass usually get on my clothes.

When I’m doing celebrant work, I dress up. It’s a theatrical event and people expect a bit of colour and drama, so I do my best to look interesting. Thus far no one has objected. No robes. I’ve seen images of some of the old fraternal druid groups, off to their musters in their white nighties and stick on beards, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Robes and costumes are used in so many scenarios to reinforce authority. In religion, the man at the front with the kit on is the man in charge. The more important you are, the more bling your religion may expect you to wear. Standing in a wood, in a circle of druids, I see no place for that. I’d rather folk dressed appropriately for the weather and the conditions underfoot. If there is someone in charge, I’d rather that not be obvious at a glance and indicated by who has the biggest symbol dangling round their neck. I’m all in favour of dressing creatively, to celebrate, to be ‘gorgeous before your gods’ (thanks Kris Hughes!) but not dressing to express power and dominance, and being more druidy than thou. Robes and costumes can easily function to exclude or intimidate. If ‘we’ are all in robes at a public gathering, people who turn up to watch are easy to spot. I like it better when nothing stops a casual arrival joining the circle.

People do judge based on appearances. Media folk can be far more interested in a bunch of nutters in silly gear, doing silly things, than some quiet people who look like they are off for a picnic or a walk. Self expression is unequivocally good, but pandering to the expectations of non-pagans and reinforcing their ideas that we are a bunch of cranks playing at being druids, is not going to do us any favours. It’s important to think about who and what we are dressing for when we put on our ‘pagan’ kit. I’m not suggesting there are right answers here, only that it is worth thinking about this one, being sure of your own motives and knowing what you’re heading into.

I had a cluster of wiccans turn up to one of my druid rituals once. They had all the velvets, dangly silver, cloaks and pretty shoes. They had assumed that because it was a winter ritual, we would be indoors, rather than checking. The druid group I had then always did ritual outdoors. To their credit, the wiccans didn’t chicken out, despite the mud, but they can’t have had an easy day, while the druids in walking boots and winter coats were entirely comfortable. A fine example of why it pays to know exactly what you’re dressing for. Having the right clothing has a lot of impact on comfort, the feasibility of doing ritual, and your safety and scope for staying warm and healthy. Nature teaches us to dress appropriately, if we spend much time outside in it. My feeling is, that if I want to look like a druid, being in a stone circle, or under a tree is going to take me a lot further than wearing a nice dress, just from an aesthetic angle. In terms of actually being a druid, the tree is always going to be more important than the frock.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “Dressing like a Druid

  • Wyzwmn.com

    I agree wholeheartedly…while I see the need for ritual..I’ve never seen the need for dressing alike…I’ve had people tell me I’m not a real pagan because I don’t dress the part…for me it’s more about what’s in your heart and your head that what you are wearing

  • Susan

    Thank you so much for saying ALL of this. I am still pretty new to Druidry, and I admit, the robes are the one thing that makes me wonder if I should just do the solo-practice thing instead of joining a group. I mean, if another person likes it and it’s what they want to do/wear, then more power to them and I wouldn’t want to stop them but it seems a little hokey for me personally.

    • Nimue Brown

      Lots of groups don’t do robes, and there can be a very different character in the kinds of groups that aren’t into dressing for Druidry. It’s worth finding out what your nearby groups do, there can be a lot of variety.

  • Jól Retzloff

    Wander into an ADF gathering, some will be in robes, some in Hawaiian shirts, some in tie-dye. Wear what you feel comfortable with. For those like me who love robes for almost any occasion, layers of wool are wonderful for cold weather, and linen for warm.

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