Put on my Pagan trousers!

For me, the first consideration when thinking about clothes to do Druidry in, is that it should enable me to spend time comfortably outside. Walking boots are a default – if I’m inside I’ll take them off and go barefoot. I think in terms of waterproof coats, rather than cloaks, I may also don waterproof trousers. Otherwise for a large chunk of the year, warmth is a major consideration, and in the brief summer, not over-heating is high on the list. Most of the time I won’t carry much extra gear to change into because I’m limited in how much I can carry, not having a car.

I take a very different approach to celebrant work, because I’ve found when working with unfamiliar people, and often with family groups that are a significant percentage non-Pagan, looking the part helps them. I do have a slinky black velvet dress and I’m not afraid to use it! People booking a celebrant tend to pick accessible places, sheltered and easy to work in, and they tend to do their celebrating in the warm part of the year, which makes this easier.

Going to Pagan events, I notice that a lot of people take the opportunity to wear and enjoy their more alternative clothing – which is great fun. I’m lucky in that I live in Stroud, a place that’s becoming a byword for hippies and green innovation, and that has a lot of Druids in it. In an understated way, I perpetually look a bit alternative and feel safe wearing things I like, so I just tend to carry on in that vein unless I’m thinking about it.

But I’ve also started thinking about it, because frivolity and play are on the list for this year, and I see a lot of frivolity and play in the things Pagans wear to do their stuff. This is no way to suggest that having special clothes to be Pagan in, is in any way not serious spirituality – I think play is important, and something I don’t do enough of.

I’m not cut out for slinky velvet witchcraft. I’m inherently scruffy, and I can’t really pull it off for more than brief bursts. As a person I’m not shiny – I cobble things together, I improvise, I’m more practical than elegant, and I’m seldom at ease in anything designed to draw attention to gender or sexual possibilities.

Last year I made a tabard – dark green and dark red with gold leaves appliquéd on. It’s lightweight and easily carried, and can be put over or under other garments so is passably practical. As an item to wear to rituals, it’s worked out well for me, and does a decent job of being celebrant kit as well. This year I’ve decided to go a bit further and make a cloak. I’m knitting it. I’ve had a lot of problems with my hands around knitting, so I’m making tiny squares and sewing them together. Most of the wool is other people’s rubbish – always my favourite thing to be working with. It’ll be mostly green and mottled, and at the moment (I have the hood and shoulders) looks a bit like the commons when the summer flowers are out, which is an evocation that pleases me greatly.

Overtly Pagan clothing can be about wanting other Pagans to recognise us and take us seriously. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m generally too hung up on other people’s approval for it to be a good idea. I need to work on being accepted as myself, not trying to fit in. Working out what to wear, and which needs I can answer in my choice of clothing, is an ongoing consideration.

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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

11 responses to “Put on my Pagan trousers!

  • Blodeuwedd

    I don’t particularly go in for ‘Pagan clothes’ most of the time. For me personally (and I emphasise this is just me, I would not presume to tell anyone else the ‘right’ way to do it) it is quite important that my Paganism does not involve dressing up in clothes from pre-Christian eras. Don’t get me wrong, I belong to an historical re-enactment society and I love dressing up as a Saxon (I have costumes covering c450-1300 CE) or Viking (a term that is approximately as useful as ‘Celt’.) Re-enactment is not an unspiritual activity for me (although as you have pointed out, nothing is unspiritual). It gives me a sense of my ancestors and their lives (no more than a sense, I, unlike them, can have a hot shower at the end of the day) and an appreciation of their skills. Learning hand spinning, natural dying, waving, finger braiding and naal binding (not to mention embroidery) were also of spiritual consequence to me, but re-enactment, while it is one of the aspects that informs my identity, is not my Paganism. To me it matters that Paganism in general and Druidry in particular is a living, breathing, growing ‘religion’ (another singularly unhelpful word) and not an attempt to re-create an uncertain past. Christians do not, by and large, dress like first century Romans. Again, a disclaimer, this is a personal thing. If people find spiritual value in archaic clothing that’s great, but its not for me. Likewise I personally am not comfortable with the idea of a ‘Pagan’ name. To me its important that I am who I am and a pseudonym would feel like hiding. Having said this, I am fortunate to have no personal issues bound up with my name (anymore, it was important to me to go back to my maiden name after my divorce) and none of the things I do require me to be covert about my beliefs. I realise that this is a luxury that many do not have and I totally respect those who choose another name, for whatever reason, but again its not me.

    Celebrancy is, I think, a different thing. (Christian priests do, for example, walk around dressed like first century Romans.) There is a good case to be made for looking different and for symbolic value to he clothing chosen. Unlike Christianity, Druidry has no ‘tradition’ of vestments that are easily recognisable to all and have a well known symbolic language. The Druidic robes are almost certainly based on an 18th Century misunderstanding rather than on anything authentic to the Iron Age, but that’s fine; traditions can be new. What it does mean is that a degree of playfulness and creativity is possible and that is, on the whole, a good thing.

    I do like alternative clothes and I have a real thing going on with colour and that is definitely a part of my spirituality, but not particularly of my Pagan identity. Jewellery is an important identifier for me and I wear quite a lot of what could reasonably be called ‘Pagan’ jewellery but I think that may be as much aesthetic as anything else.

    At the moment, I seem to have a lot going on with Brigit, and mantels seem to be a thing there. I’m going to see where that goes, but at the moment I am making a doll as a way of expressing that.

    A very interesting topic! Thanks for making me think!!

  • cardsandfeather

    Good food for thought!! I am also in the “do not dress up” camp…at least not in any sort of period clothing or otherwise “alternative” garb. If its more than a daily devotion or prayer (for example, a ritual that is associated with a large holiday), I am definitely clean, wear clean clothes, and well-groomed. However, the clothes can be anything from a nice dress to jeans and a nice shirt. If I were to go to a public ritual or a group ritual (I have in the past but not so much anymore), I tend to wear a step or two below church clothes…dress jeans, a skirt or dress, a nice shirt. In general though, as the above doesn’t happen often, I do my regular spiritual practicing in regular clothing (I still make being clean a thing, though, physically and spiritually [which generally means grounding/centering] 😉 ).

    I do think dressing up connotes, mentally, a “shift”…what’s occurring is something important, sacred. At the same time, I feel like our spirituality should be right there with us, in all the grit and havoc of life. While I do take time to “purify” and tidy up, one can be tidy in street clothes. While putting on dress clothing can facilitate a connection to a sacred or special time, donning street clothes tends to remind me that the mundane is always sacred/spiritual…I just have to remember it.

  • syrbal-labrys

    I can do “slinky”, but it seems to be a full time sort of thing for me — like keeping shoes WHITE! Thus MY pagan pants are old weathered Levi 501’s more often than slinky. Even semi-fancy ritual wear tends to be resistant to melting in if spark-struck! I’m a mumbler at hearth-side and a muddy, dirty-in-the-ditches sort of muscle buster while chanting when it comes to magic; my “athame” (oh, hahahahah!) has a straight side and a serrated side!

    Magical life is like my mundane life — literally down to earth and often involving mud pies!

  • Christopher Blackwell

    With me clothing has to be comfortable, easy to care of and survive whatever I might do to it. As for our ancestors, they wore whatever what the fashion of their time and what they could afford to wear. Work clothing was pretty basic, whether you were serf or noble.

    • Nimue Brown

      I’ve thought about it that way too – that rather than coping the clothes of the ancestors, there’s something to be said for copying the approach – what will serve? The Celts suggest physical practicality coupled with decoration, at least to me…

  • Ryan

    I’m another one for the not-dressing-up side. It’s important for me that Druidry and Paganism are not historical re-enactment societies or fantasy roleplay games (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those activities and I quite enjoy both). I think for Paganism to be of any “use” it needs to be a modern spirituality for the modern world. While I might consider robing up for large public gatherings, in my daily practice I’m happy being a Pagan in a Doctor Who t-shirt, jeans and hiking boots!

  • EsotericMoment

    I’m so glad you started your post talking about what is practical when working outside! Cloaks are pretty, but when I trekking in the back woods I do not want to get tangled in all the burrs. Fun clothes are always enjoyable at a festival. I just don’t think they are actually that useful for my Druidry work. I’m always shocked when folks talk about ritual clothing as all shiny robes and silk dresses.

    • Nimue Brown

      I assume a person has to be working indoors to do the pretty stuff – cloaks and brambles don’t mix well, anything that can be tripped over in the dark in the woods…. not fun and anything that dangles is easily set on fire. I think being a Druid needs to mean being and doing very different things in different places, no a one-size (robe) fits all!

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