Personally I prefer skyclad practice to clothed practice. Although I do believe there are certain benefits to skyclad practice, it’s far from necessary, and as a magician I’m just as effective with my clothes on. The real reason I prefer skyclad practice is because that’s the way I was trained. My first teacher was a strong proponent of skyclad practice. My initial training focused on skyclad work, and it lies at the foundation of my spiritual practice. It’s to the point now where, although I don’t need it, I’m far more comfortable doing magic naked than with clothes on, and any anxiety or embarrassment I may have had over being undressed in front of others went away a long time ago.
I’ve seen articles that have weighed the pros and cons of skyclad practice, but it was never really something I ever did. I never really had a choice in the matter. My teacher knew spirituality through skyclad practice, and that’s the only way she knew how to train me. My choice wasn’t whether I wanted to practice skyclad or not, but whether I wanted to advance spiritually with the teacher that was offered to me, or not.
That wasn’t much of a choice either, because everything inside of me was telling me that I needed to be with my teacher. I could’ve said no, but that would’ve run counter to every instinct I had, and ultimately I would’ve done almost anything that she told me was in my best interest. Luckily my trust wasn’t misplaced, and she was a very good and responsible teacher, but she was definitely in a position where she could’ve taken advantage of me in a lot of different ways.
I’m guessing for most people skyclad practice isn’t much of a choice either. It all depends on what groups you’re interested in and who you want for a teacher. Out here I don’t think there is a public group that practices skyclad, so unless you know someone who’s into skyclad practice, your only choice is to practice skyclad in solitary. Some people may have the exact opposite issue, where there’s a really good group they want to join, but they require skyclad practice. The only people who need to decide whether or not to practice skyclad, really, are group founders and leaders.
If you’re considering attending a skyclad ritual or group, there are definitely some things you need to think about, but what’s probably your biggest issue, being naked in front of other people, isn’t really something that needs all that much of your time. It’s the sort of thing a person can spend weeks, even months, thinking about and going over in there head, but all of those issues will fade away within the first five minutes.
If you’re thinking about skyclad practice, but you’re nervous about being naked, the best thing you can do is just jump right in and try it out. After five minutes you won’t be nervous anymore. Also remember that this isn’t forever. Just because you undressed in front of other people doesn’t mean that you always have to be naked. If it turns out you don’t like being skyclad, you can always put your clothes back on and never take them off again.
It’s like trying a new meal. You wouldn’t spend a long time trying to figure out if you might like it or not. You’d taste it, and if you didn’t like it you just wouldn’t eat it again.
In a responsibly run setting though there’s a few reasons why you’re fears will quickly fade away:
1. Everyone else is naked too – When you’re considering taking off your clothes for the first time this never really enters your mind, and if it does you probably don’t think that it makes a difference. You’re not at all concerned about seeing someone else naked, what bothers you is them seeing you naked.
However once you’re all there and undressed, it’s like being in the changing room at the pool or taking a shower at the gym, except that it might be unisex. It’s not that bad because everyone else is naked too. You’re not being paraded around in front of leering eyes. People aren’t sizing you up. They’re just as naked, and exposed, as you are.
2. No one cares that you’re naked – In a responsibly run group, no one is going to care that you’re naked. If anything, the other participants are more concerned about being seen naked than seeing someone else naked. The more experienced members though are probably going to be comfortable in their skin, and treat you exactly the same as if you were fully clothed.
This also means that no ones going to be looking at you lustfully, and there’s not going to be anything to be ashamed about. Which leads right into number 3-
3. Everyone’s body has issues – Because we usually only ever see ourselves naked, and maybe a significant other, we get this idea in our head that our physical imperfections are rare, and so we want to cover them with clothes. We don’t want other people to know exactly how ugly we really are.
Once everybody is naked though, you start to see that very few people are perfect. Some people are a little overweight. Some are a lot. People have cellulite. Breasts are sometimes uneven. Or small. Penises are small. People have back zits. Some women have large feet. Some men have very small womanly feet. With most people things tend to be more saggy than firm. Even a lot of the very few people who look absolutely fantastic naked have managed to find miniscule flaws that nobody else will ever notice to be ashamed about.
Once you notice that everybody else has issues, it makes it a lot easier to accept your own. You also start to notice that nobody even cares, and probably even notices, whatever is wrong with your body. They’re too busy worrying about their own.
This is actually one of the benefits of skyclad practice. It promotes a more positive body image.
The biggest issue with practicing skyclad is finding a good group of people to do that with. You don’t want to have a bad first experience, where a bunch of folks are eyeing you over and trying to get into your pants, or rather that patch of sky which covers your genitals. Even worse you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’ll be pressured into sexual acts, or worse yet possibly raped.
Before you practice skyclad, you should find a person or group that you feel comfortable with. You should be able to get to know the group socially, figure out what they’re about spiritually, and spend enough time with them to have some level of comfort. As a general rule, if you were alone at a party with just these people, and you wouldn’t feel comfortable getting completely trashed with them, you probably shouldn’t be doing any skyclad work with them either.
Outside of the odd ritual or event that draws people from all over, any skyclad group should offer prospective attendees a chance to meet with everyone, clothed, before they attend a skyclad function. This not only allows potential members an opportunity to get comfortable enough with the group to take their clothes off, but it also allows the group to screen potential members before they’re put into a sensitive situation. After all, even if you were comfortable with the group, you probably aren’t going to be comfortable if the group leader lets just anyone who answers their craigslist ad attend the skyclad ritual.
I’d be very wary of any group where you aren’t at least allowed to meet the leadership first while everyone is wearing clothes. Even if you are allowed to keep your clothes on, it’s usually a bad sign when the group leader wants to be naked when you first meet.
It’s also a good idea to ask about the degree of sexuality inherent in their rituals. Just because a ritual contains some sexual aspects it’s not necessarily a bad sign. Many rituals utilize various degrees of symbolic sex. However you want to make sure you aren’t walking into an orgy, since that will probably be a bad experience for you. You also want to make sure the group isn’t doing anything that would make you feel uncomfortable.
In this regard everyone is going to have different limits. Some may be okay with light touching, others may not. Some may be okay with the ritual leaders performing more sexualized acts than what is expected of typical attendees, others may not.
You should also get a straight answer from the group leader if you’re going to be expected to touch anyone’s genitals with any part of your body or have anyone else touch your genitals during the ritual. If they say yes, it’s a really bad sign. There’s a time and a place for rituals like that, but it’s usually going to be between two romantically entangled partners, or with a small tightly knit group that has no romantic entanglements. It’s not the sort of thing that should be happening during larger, general rituals.
Also try to (subtly) question members of the group about the sexual practices of its members. Things you want to look out for are groups where all of the members seem to be pushing for polyamory, and groups where it seems like people are constantly swapping partners. Also look out for groups where members are a little too open with strangers about fringe sexual practices, like BDSM or furry costumes, especially when almost all of the members of the group practice the same fringe sexual practices.
These are usually signs that although the group rituals may not be overly sexualized, the group itself does have an undercurrent of sexual recruitment, and the skyclad practice may just be a way to ease you into that.
The best way to join such a group though is to make friends in the group before you join up. Try to talk to some of the people already attending the group you might get along with. Go out to dinner with them a few times, or invite them over for a little while. You can even try doing some spiritual work with them. This way you can build up a relationship with someone already in the group and come to trust them. Then when it comes time to take your clothes off, you won’t be all alone in a large group of naked strangers.