On Saturday evening I joined a fairly diverse group of people who wished to celebrate this morning’s summer solstice, timed for 4.43am this Sunday morning! I have to say that there was no clear and obvious sunrise, with light beginning to creep into the sky a good hour beforehand.
We stayed overnight as the guests of one of England’s senior druids near Glastonbury in the county of Somerset. Glastonbury, home to one of the UK’s major music festivals is also very much associated with being the capital of England’s new-age community, and attracts all manner of folk with neopagan, Wiccan beliefs and druidry. The image forming in your head may be one of ‘crusties with a dog called Vomit on a string lead’ and while I certainly saw a few there, it’s an inaccurate depiction of the disparate group who assembled on the owner’s farm.
Druids perform a ceremony at Stonehenge
I’m not pagan, Wiccan or a druid, but Druidry is all about harmony with nature, and I was invited along to speak about naturism as part of wider discussion on how we -human beings- should interact with the world and our environment. I’m not an ‘expert’ on naturism (Ella as a naturist historian is probably much better placed to speak on it as a topic than I am) nor am I an expert on ancient belief systems. However I was delighted to accept the kind offer and to pop down to Somerset for the solstice.
I was there at the invite of the farm’s owner. The gentleman in question part of a mystical old England and the area in which I was in has long been believed to be associated with King Arthur, Glastonbury Tor is assumed to be the site of Avalaon and, indeed Camelot may be in the area too. Please write in if you’re an authority on Arthurian legend. I’m not, so I may have jumbled some of these ‘facts’ about King Arthur up.
In the main, unlike Wicca witches and pagans who perform some ritual nude, most Druids aren’t generally associated with nude ritual (or so I’m led to believe: once again, I’m painting from memory, not having had a notebook with me to scribble down what some of the other speakers were saying). However our host was keen to underline that nudity in ritual enhances the experience, and encouraged all present to go ‘sky clad‘ for our ceremony if we felt the urge. We normally see Druids in their white robes in public ceremony, but I’m told that nudity can be part of Druidic ritual too. The writer Phillip Carr-Gomm certainly writes books which forms an association with Druidry, Wicca and nudity.
Nakedness means freedom, and although dancing on a sun-kissed hillside with shorts on seems pretty similar to dancing with shorts off, there is all the difference in the world. It is as if your clothes take on the weight of your worries and concerns – they come to embody your defences against the world, and if you can feel confident enough and safe enough, then taking them off evokes a powerful sense of liberation, of joy and freedom; and more than that – of innocence and of openness to the world.
Philip Carr-Gomm, ‘The Druid Way’
Each of us were encouraged to lose our clothes and wear a Druid’s white robe instead. A bonfire was lit in a ritualistic manner I didn’t remotely understand, before music (contemporary music, rock music -mostly in the style of, say, Afro-Celt Sound System) began to be played through speakers set up in a copse on the farmer’s land.
A copse, a thicket of trees, similar to the woodland where I spent last night and the early hours of this morning.
After that it was, well, a bit like a rave for a while. There was home-made wine and home-brewed beer to drink (potent things both!). Toilet facilities were no-existent. Just head out into the darkness of the field, hoist up your robe and do what you need too do!!!!
There were about 40 invitees and as I say it was an odd bunch. Some dreadlocked hippy types, some druids, a couple of Wiccan witches and so on, with an age-range from people in their 20s through those of pensionable age. I fell into conversation with a charming and demure woman who looked like a librarian. Well, she actually had been a librarian until retirement, and seated on blankets by the warmth of the fire she revealed she had been a Wiccan since her teens. She then spoke to the rest of us about what it meant, and how it was necessary to be attuned to nature, with each of us who were due to speak then giving short speeches on our own particular interest. By the time a few of us had spoken and fielded questions from others, it was evident that clothing was always optional for our communing with nature. I was asked a question about if I was naturist, would it not be right to be naked right there, right then. I responded that I had no fear, shame or embarrassment of going naked. In fact, near the fire and a bit drunk, the robe I was wearing, ostensibly to ward off the cold, was too much to wear. So off it came, and it seemed to be a cue for several others to disrobe too, including my retired librarian friend.
Not everyone went nude. One chap remained resolutely clothed throughout, although with inhibitions loosened on heady home brew, with the music and with the warmth of the fire, others threw caution to the wind as the night went on. And at dawn, 4.43am this morning, with most of the attendees now naked, we celebrated the sunrise with another ritual I again didn’t understand. After that we trooped down from the copse to the river to bathe naked. It was freezing cold, but it certainly helped shake off the fuzziness -from tiredness and alcohol- in our heads.
It was certainly an interesting experience, the rituals more to do with celebrating the earth (as far as I could tell) than with any form of ‘spells’ or ‘magic’. I headed home, grabbed a proper shower, and then fell exhausted into bed for a few hours.
In the photos below you’ll see I’m wearing ‘druidic costume’. It required some invention to come up with this outfit, and was spotted as a ‘galabya’ at an Arabic sim. A galabya (or galabeya) is a long, loose fitting outfit you’ll be familiar with from Arab lands.
I found this at The Dreaming Button, a sort of builders’ textures store that has one or two freebie things, including the above, and also a (free) white hijab, which paired together made for a reasonable facsimile of a Druidic outfit. What’s nice about the hijab part -the hood of my outfit- is that it could be stretched and allowed me to wear my hair underneath. As many of us know, hair and hats don’t generally make good SL bedfellows.
It was an interesting night, but I’ve come away with more questions than answers about all of what I witnessed and participated in. I know there is a Wiccan community within SL (I couldn’t find any Druids), so what I’d like to do is follow this post up with another, next time with an emphasis on how ‘sky clad’ fits into the whole belief system, and thus keeping within the boundaries of what SLN focuses on. I would have tried to include that in this post but after only a couple of hours sleep around lunchtime, I feel it’s time for another nap! 🙂