Of Glamour and Paganism

I have no doubt that part of the attraction for many people is how gorgeous and glamorous Paganism seems. The cloaks, the dresses, the jewellery, the goblets and knives and carved staffs and all the altar gear, the robes and the velvet. It’s not an aesthetic that depends on being young and skinny, which is a plus, although it has to be said that if you are beautiful and dressed the part, it’s got a power to it. But then, that’s what ‘glamour’ used to mean – a kind of magic that is all about alluring surfaces.

Fairy glamour is gold that at first light turns out to be dead leaves. It’s dirty hovels transformed by illusion into grand palaces, dresses made of spiderwebs and elaborate feasts that turn out to mostly have been mice. Glamour is a mixed bag – wonderful, exciting, enchanting, but also potentially misleading and resulting in bits of mouse stuck between your teeth.

I’m not good about the glamour. I probably have a bit of a chip on my shoulder in this regard. Some of it is to do with money, and I think this is an issue to raise. For the right money you can have the most exquisite kit. Floor length ankle length cloaks are not cheap, and trust me, trying to make one out of a second hand curtain is time consuming, and they do not come out the same. Some of us have the skills and time to make beautiful clothes and items many, do not. For most of my Pagan life I’ve not had the spare cash for kit that has little use most of the time. It’s easy to shift bags of gear when you have a car, but getting to gatherings on public transport, or walking, creates challenges. These can also be economic issues. Further, a poor person living in a small space may be short of storage space. I don’t have room in my small wardrobe for a cloak I seldom wear.

The desire to be beautiful and to be seen as beautiful, to wear beautiful things and be respected for that is all very human. However, beauty is all too often constructed in terms of ability to pay. So much of what the mainstream understands as beauty is to do with products, affluence, and the kinds of lifestyles available to the moneyed. If I walk to a ritual because I don’t have a car, I’m not going to make it in delicate slippers, or the delicate slippers won’t make it. I need good boots or shoes. Much of women’s clothing depends on the idea that you aren’t going to walk very far in it. Smart, delicate, beautiful, ornate… these things do not fare well if you wear them outside in all weathers, and if they aren’t warm, waterproof etc, the wearer does not fare well either.

I’m a big fan of crafts and creativity, of making lovely things and enriching life with beauty. At the same time, I cannot buy the beautiful things that glamorous Paganism suggests. I can’t work with them, often they do not do what I need. I’m not suggesting that we should all show up to rituals in potato sacks (although that could be funny) but it’s worth thinking about what we infer when we see certain kinds of clothes, how we look at, or look through glamour, and how we avoid excluding people for economic reasons.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. 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

17 responses to “Of Glamour and Paganism

  • druidcat

    Indeed! Sometimes the folk with the most expensive gear are actually the emptiest vessels… 😉

    Lovely clothes are nice, but if you can ritual in everyday wear, you’re doing it right! 🙂

  • Aurora J Stone

    These are very good points Nimue. I have a ritual dress I made from different materials I had around at the time. The fabric is bark patterned. I didn’t use a pattern. My cloak, which does have a pattern, one is still have, is made from material that looks like clouds in the sky and is cotton. I don’t have anything I’ve not made and for the most part didn’t spend much money.

    I never made them to be ‘glamorous’; I made them because they meant something to me. The whole idea of wearing kit to show off or to be seen, doesn’t mean, necessarily, that the wearer or consumer of such items has a deep connection to the spirituality, any more than not having the kit means you don’t.

    If one knows that all the others at an event are well kitted out, it would be hard to feel welcomed or part of the gathering if one came without. It can have the edge of elitism that is uncomfortable. And, as you say getting there can be an issue with lots of stuff to lug around.

    Thank you for writing about this.

  • mabhsavage

    This is a great point. Beautiful things are nice to look at, and if they help focus the mind and will of the practitioner, all the better, but they should not be expected, and should never be used to mask a lack of talent or skill. The best tools I have had were the rather crude ones I made myself, and the most beautiful items almost always gifts from others, which made them more magical than if I had bought them myself. I would be furious if I were looked down upon for not being ‘properly Pagan’ due to a lack of fine robes or a twisted hazel wand! 🙂

  • thefosterfailures

    Isn’t that why so many people believe in being sky clad. That way there is no pretension. We are as we were created.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Sky clad is also cheap, the body much cheaper to care for. I never had the money for an elaborate robe and the there is the matter of taking it to a small town launderette, or dry cleaning place. Word gets around fast a small town. What if the person, taking care of cleaning it, didn’t like it, or was afraid of it? What might happen to it in somebody’s else’s hands? So sky clad makes more sense for a poor and solitary practitioner. Either that or clean but regular clothing.

  • shelleylorraine

    There is something to be said about the relationship of ambience and aesthetics to psychology. I feel much more spiritually involved with my surroundings when they look a certain way – this includes the dress of people I am with. But it doesn’t have to be a costly setup to serve this purpose. I’m totally for potato sacks!

    • Nimue Brown

      That raises some very interesting points, give me a couple of days and I’ll see if i can go somewhere with that, because ritual ambiance and how we transition into ritual is an important point. thank you!

  • caelesti

    I think that sort of mentality is more from the High Muckety Muck ceremonial magic influence, as well as the sci-fi/fantasy cos-players than from more nature and folk culture-oriented types of paganism. I went to a Druid retreat earlier this month, and with the rain, a waterproof poncho would be far more suitable! I think skyclad doesn’t work well most of the time outside- even when it’s the right temperature, I’m not interested in being a walking blood sacrifice to the mosquito gods + sunburn. A lot of my pagan-y things are items from thrift stores, and my favorites are items inherited from relatives in my family.

  • Sue Marsh

    A meaningful message Nume. So called “Druid gear”, especially the clothing and pendants turned me away from group Druid associations. I couldn’t afford them, nor did I need them to create ritual. I practice alone and I dress/or don’t dress in whatever. A friend taught me a long time ago that maybe all that was needed was a certain scarf, maybe a special crystal or maybe a particular leaf or flower and by using those I do believe that I receive Druid energy. Depending on what I use I either gather energy or contemplative thinking…whatever works is what is important. Our intent on creating ritual, not what we use or how we dress.

  • bish

    I think that’s why I sort of fell in a kind of love for Granny Weatherwax. 😉

    Glamour is powerful magic often misused. I vote for sturdy walking boots and a good knife. And yay! for skyclad. I’ve been swimming thus all week, and the feel of water over skin is different even to simple bathing trunks. It s a relationship thing, again.

  • Stepping into ritual space | Druid Life

    […] of daily life and become open to magic, divinity and that which is sacred to us? When I wrote about Glamour in Paganism a few days ago, one person in the comments picked up on the issue that kit and setting are […]

  • Kate Friend

    I haven’t spent a lot of money on ritual gear. More often than not I carefully choose something from my “regular” clothes that seems appropriate to what is being celebrated that day. I knitted a beautiful leaf-green shawl a few years ago and I have worn that to some fall and winter rituals. I don’t have a lot of use for it otherwise but it is beautiful and meaningful.

    I guess I’ve always been rubbed wrong by the whole focus on “collecting” things to “prove” one’s spirituality. You can’t buy spirituality. You can buy tools that will help you focus your spirituality, but the price of your clothes or the size of your wand collection isn’t impressive to anyone except those who put value on price tags. And I don’t.

  • Kate Friend

    Now I do collect stones. They speak to me. If I’m having a rough time, I commonly go to my stone bowl, pick one out that resonates, and carry it around with me. When I find one for sale that wants to come home with me, I’ll buy it. I have a quartz wire-wrapped crystal that I wear as a necklace. But I don’t really think that’s glamour – I think it’s a tool that happens to be beautiful.

    • Nimue Brown

      that’s about soemthing you do for yourself, not to impress or persuade anyone else – so yes i would totally agree that this is about tools, or go further and suggest it is about your connection with stones and the earth.

  • Leeby Geeby

    Whatever floats that ritual boat, shiny cloak and dagger, street swagger, birthday suit, tis all the same to me. As long as the intent is genuine.

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