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.