Last week I saw a walking group on the towpath. Every last one of them had serious, outdoor gear, I would estimate several hundred pounds worth per person, including walking boots suitable for mountains, and dinky little rucksacks. All of it shiny looking, and clearly new on from the shop. They walked a few miles over flat terrain on a nice day – a walk that needed only a passable pair of trainers and enough clothing not to get yourself arrested.
But it’s not just the walkers who are succumbing to the lure of ‘the right gear’. You can’t go jogging or cycling round here without specific stretchy, got zips in it, figure hugging gear. For a short run, I’m not convinced you need anything more than the basics. It’s like the walker – if you’re hiking all day through the fells in tricky conditions, or running a marathon, then you do need the right kit. Regular commenter here, Autumn, does serious cycling and I’m sure she has appropriate gear. I’m waiting to see what she says about this blog… There are times when you need the absolutely right shoes, the all conditions sleeping bag, the first aid kit, and whatnot. For a Sunday afternoon local jaunt in whatever form, mostly you don’t. Today I have seen canal fishermen decked out like they were on an Icelandic trawler.
There are reasons for clothes that have nothing to do with practicality. There are people who have been sold kit who do not understand that it is a needless expense. What’s more worrying is the possibility of people who feel they cannot walk, jog, cycle or anything else for lack of the right clothes. If you believe you have to have all the gear, you might never risk it without, and subsequently miss out on a lot.
The other big aspect of clothing is tribal. The clan of fishermen look like fishermen even when they aren’t waving their rods about. People who want to be recognised as hardcore cyclists or joggers only need ‘the look’ not the activity. The right kind of trousers tell the world that you ride horses, and so on. If all that matters to a person is surfaces and impressions, having the right gear is the main thing. Who cares if you never actually walk anywhere?
There are plenty of people who will happily sell you pagan gear – robes, tabards, cloaks, snazzy dresses, arcane looking jewellery, wands, bags, cauldrons, brooms, big poncy shirts, re-enactment style gear, and so on. You can spend a lot of money looking the part.
Now, maybe there are people who aren’t sure if you can be a ‘proper’ pagan without all the gear. Can you do a ritual without wearing a robe? Can you talk to the gods without the right shoes on? Do you need a bigger pentacle? It can feel that if you aren’t gorgeous, slinky and clinking with metal wear, you can’t really be a pagan at all. This is (to use the proper technical term) total bollocks. What you wear only matters if it makes a difference inside your head. Be creative, or dramatic, or practical in your clothes, as suits your nature, but beyond that, there is no requirement.
There are, no doubt about it, people who are more interested in that slinky surface than in spirituality. If they’re happy, fair enough I suppose, but clothes do not make someone a witch, a druid, a priestess, or, more importantly, any source of wisdom. The man with biggest pentacle is not necessarily the one with the best ideas. Sometimes, the people most keen to get their kit on are the ones who most crave attention, rather than the ones its most interesting to talk to. There are always exceptions, in both directions. If someone dresses in a way they find resonant and meaningful, that tends to be identifiably different from the showy. One of the giveaways is if it looks like the sales tag might still be in there.
So, what gear do you need to head out of the door as a druid? My recommendations are as follows.
1) A really good pair of shoes. Walking boots are good if you’re getting closer to nature, or something that you can comfortably go a few miles in, or stand around for a few hours in, doing ritual. Painful feet and sprained ankles do not make for good spiritual experiences.
2) Dress the rest of you primarily for the weather and anticipated terrain. If it is feasible to ornament yourself and you like doing that, add the ornaments afterwards, making comfort a priority. Lugging a ton of metal up a hill is unlikely to improve your experience.
3) Carry extras – a raincoat, a jumper, whatever makes sense. Also carry water and snacks. These double nicely as offerings when the need arises, and mean that if you want to stay out longer, you can.
You probably now look like a typical walker, maybe with a few extra feathers. On the plus side, you will not draw any unwanted attention and can go about your ritual in peace. Those who see you may assume you are having a picnic with friends. Of course, if you ache to have cameras pointed at you, this will fail to deliver.
Also, I have no idea what a caboodle is, but you probably don’t need one of those either!