Friday, March 25, 2011

Funny, You Don't Look Pagan-Then Again, Maybe You Do

After my first blog by this title, I got a few emails from folks who were wondering just what I thought Pagan clergy should wear during ritual...evidently this is a bigger question than I knew about. I didn't consider it a concern, question or problem, but I guess everything is up for discussion in our community these days. Not that I object-it's' how we learn from one another. Dialogue produces an exceptional amount of good-will and teaching.

One thing I don't do is skyclad. I don't have anything against nudity in it's context and I celebrate the naked form as beautiful in all ages, shapes and sizes, both female and male. There occasions when it is ritually proper ( and perhaps necessary, depending on the nature of the ritual). Skyclad, although a bit on the dramatic and romantic side visually, is a ridiculous sounding word and smacks of foppery. I realize there needed to be a euphemism created for the time it was first used, but now it just seems silly to me. I slept naked under the covers last night-does that make me blanketclad? No, it made me naked...and  I don't like being cold, nor do I find it particularly conducive if participants are uncomfortable during ritual-for whatever reason. We can feign an air of progressive thinking all we want, but the fact is that most of the time people are still uneasy with public nudity. Moving right along...

Orthodox dalmatic and deacon stole
The Wheel of the Year is the Pagan  liturgical calendar for most of us, regardless of our tradition. The mainline Judeo-Christian Liturgical Calendar follows a set list of colors for the seasons. Modern use ( and those who produce and sell vestiture) has expanded the list a bit, but it's still pretty basic. Starting with Advent, which is the beginning of the Church Year, the colors are royal purple and pink, with the exception being blue if the Sarum Rite ( Old English/Anglican)is being observed; Christmastide is white and gold up until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th when the color changes to green until Lent. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and the color is either black ( traditional) or violet  thereafter until the week between Palm Sunday and Easter ( known as Holy Week).  I have to stop to comment on the violet used: it's a purple that has more red in it than what's used for Advent, the reasoning being that it's still recognizing the royalty of Jesus, but reflects the blood sacrifice of that royalty. This isn't dogma, it's mythological lore, most likely stemming from the middle ages when much of this type of thing was created to hold the interest of the faithful. The Christian people weren't very far removed from their pagan roots, so they still had the concept of the blood sacrifice of a king very much in their minds, and this was a concession of the Church to community beliefs they knew they couldn't totally erase from the collective unconscious of the faithful.

Roman chasuble
During Holy Week the colors change  several times: red or maroon is used until Maundy Thursday, when the color is changed to black and the interior of the church-including the altar-is stripped of all vestiture and linens. The sanctuary light is taken out of the church, signifying that God has seemingly abandoned the faithful for what is about to take place during the crucifixion on Good Friday. Processing the sanctuary light out of the building is symbolic of the absence of the Presence of the Holy- and if you have ever  participated in a Maundy Thursday service,then you understand the feeling of utter desolation of being left alone by God when the sacred ceases to exist and the Church is just an empty shell of a building. It's difficult to process on many levels.The color usually changes back to red during the day on Saturday, but once again changes to white or gold on Saturday evening if an Easter Vigil is held; if not the color doesn't change until Easter morning, when it remains white for forty days until the Feast of Pentecost
(the Anglican Church calls this Whitsunday," White Sunday"), but most liturgical churches use red to symbolize the Spirit and Word  of God descending on the Apostles-most of whom will be martyred. The season of Pentecost- when the spirit of God dwells among the people, is celebrated by using the color green to symbolize growing in faith. It is temporarily supplanted  for the by either white for feasts relating to Mary or Jesus or red for the feast day of saints who were martyrs.The green is in continuous use until Advent rolls around again at the start of the next Church Year.

The vestiture of the clergy and the sanctuary reflect the colors of the Liturgical Calendar. There are variations to shades of the colors in modern usage from parish to parish. The dalmatic and chasuble pictured aren't exclusive to the Christian Church because they were the garments of the day. The dalmatic is a ornate tunic worn by deacons in the Roman, Anglican and Orthodox Churches. It is worn over a plain white tunic called an alb. Some albs are hooded, most of them are white or cream linen, and they resemble the monk's robe. A rope, called a cincture may be wrapped around the waist; they come in all liturgical colors as well as white.The deacon's stole is worn across the left shoulder and either left to hang as shown or fastened at the right hip. A chasuble is traditionally worn during communion services by priests, but it is actually an adapted outer garment like a poncho in the middle-ages.

As Pagans, we follow no such hard and fast rules other than gold for the God and silver for the Goddess, and even that is debatable. The colors we use are reflective of the seasons and the Sabbats we celebrate (at least in the Northern Hemisphere!): the reds, greens,and whites of evergreens and berries for the Winter Solstice and Yule; reds and yellows for the flames of Imbolc; grassy greens and all pastels related to colors related to Ostara; heady greens and rich shades for Beltane and Litha; muted yellow, brown and gold for Lugnassadh and Mabon, and blazing oranges, yellows and somber black for Autumn and Sanhain....and a million others in between, dictated by location, personal preference and custom. It's wonderful and dizzying and somewhat chaotic. I have my own personal selections, and I'm sure you do to...But to continue...

robe and cowled hood
What do we wear? Anything we want, really. Some folks like to dress to represent their particular pantheon or time period. Renaissance, ancient Greek  and medieval are popular. I know of a coven that wears Goth and Steampunk. To each their own. When I'm not leading a ritual, I settle on a dark outfit of pants and comfortable top or a long dress of appropriate weight for the weather. Like I said before, I don't like to be cold..or too hot for that matter! Many Pagans wear robes-black is the most popular color, followed by seasonal shades.Many are elaborately decorated. It really doesn't matter as long as you are comfortable and aren't fussing-a distraction to both you and others. Many of us wear jewelry specifically reserved for use in ritual. I know many Pagans who have certain pieces of jewelry that they never wear outside the circle. A headband, circlet or tiara are popular with both women or men, but in some circles they are only worn by the ritual leaders for distinction. I wear a wide two-tone copper Celtic bracelet as a part of my "witch jewels". Some folks wear absolutely no adornment whatsoever. All are correct, I my humble opinion.

interfaith stole
What I wear outside the circle in the mundane world when participating in interfaith worship is different: many times I wear a traditional stole ( plain or with Pagan symbols). It signifies the yoke ( burden or seriousness) of office of the clergy, and it's universally understood by all religions. Occasionally I will wear a prayer shawl, especially if I will be covering my head at some point during the service. ( Some Pagans wear a traditional hooded alb-a monk styled robe- for the same reason, so the hood may be drawn up during the ritual.) I nearly always wear a circlet, even when wearing a stole, to set myself apart a bit as a Pagan. The one I particularly am fond of is a plain silver band with an elemental cross in a circle of Celtic knot work. The cardinal directions are signified by small stones of the appropriate colors: it's understated and  tasteful.

Greek or Elemental Cross
I also wear traditional clericals-black shirt, pants, jacket with white collar. It's uniform and professional, and I wear an elemental cross or other Pagan symbol. I never, ever wear a Roman cross-the traditional "Christian" style. There are two styles of traditional Greek crosses.The first is an equal armed cross with four smaller crosses at the ends ( too Christian-looking for a Pagan). The second has four smaller crosses tucked in the angles, which in essence makes it an elemental cross.

While we're at it, lets talk size. Personally, I don't like anything too big and flashy. Not my personal taste or style. An elemental cross or a pentagram about two square inches is plenty enough for me. A man may want something a little bolder-or bigger-and that's fine. Hubcap size is over-doing it. Nobody needs to see you coming from that far away! This is not the time to make a fashion statement. You want to keep it low-key and understated to look professional.

No matter what you're wearing, it can be covered by a nice hooded cape or cloak. This garment is always neat and attractive, and you can layer clothing beneath it if necessary. You can even wear a coat under it without it becoming too bulky and still have a nice profile.

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