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Naturist Witches and Batty Vicars – John Harding

In my last column I wrote about my National Novel Writing Month challenge: it is the task of writing 50,000 words inside one month and I chose to write a sequel to my first NaNoWriMo book – the Bare Necessities.
Although I completed the challenge and wrote the 50,000 words required inside the month, the book is nowhere near finished. I have around 40% of the story to write and then there is the several rounds of editing. I don’t expect it to be “finished” until well into the New Year.

However, during writing the story, the lead character is referred to a “fundamentalist naturist” and it got me thinking. While Paige is far from being a true fundamentalist, I try and show that she is at ease with her nudity in situations where many people wouldn’t be, and is intolerant towards intolerance.

The word fundamentalist has a very specific meaning and derivation; it truly means unwavering attachment in literal or ridiculous beliefs, and where the challenge to them is not tolerated. Could there every truly be a naturist fundamentalist? The belief we must be naked at all times, whatever the situation. Perhaps naked protesters could attacks clothing stores with slogans such as “This is the Cotton-Polyester Liberation Front.”

No. Of course not. Because, let’s be honest, even naturists agree that clothing is sometimes required. Who’d want to go deep sea diving without a wet suit? Who’d want to man the barbecue, with spitting hot fat, without an apron?

It’s the religious aspect of fundamentalism that is, perhaps, associated the most keenly with the word. When it comes to religion, naturism was, and perhaps is, related to Pagan worship as well as hedonistic festivals, and as such there is anti-nudity streak in parts of the Bible.

The tale of Adam and Eve, born naked and happy until they ate the apple and “sinned,” and were then ashamed of their state of dress. Passages in Revelation, Luke, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Exodus, Matthew, Mark, Job and Genesis all attach nudity to shame and perversion.

Passages such as:
“And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it”
“Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen. I will take vengeance, and I will spare no one.”
“When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs.”
And so on.

Now, I must confess that I am an atheist, but surely most people must see that the early Church’s attitude to nudity is highly misguided. Sure, I understand the Adam and Eve story, was that rebelling from God was at the point that they became ashamed of their dress. It’s driving home a metaphor that those who disobey the word of the deity are impure of deed and thought. And yes, I get that the early Christians wanted to attach demonic labels to Pagan worship (while stealing and relabelling all of their festivals to suit their own ends), but there is no shame in being at one with nature.

We live in a world where a thousand and one perversions lie a mere mouse click away, where even perfume cannot be advertised without looking like a male striptease act had mistakenly wandered onto the photography shoot. Adultery has become normalised with sites like Ashley Madison and Tinder. And so on. They have their places, but naturism is a completely desexualised pursuit where all are treated equally, irrespective of status, class, wealth and background.

A prince and a pauper could be swimming naked alongside each other, and who can tell who was whom? It should be the very activity religion should encourage. It’s the breaking down of people into who they truly are, underneath the artificial finery and shields.

Which leads me nicely on to the other subject I wanted to discuss: naturism has, or at least inspired, a religion. The followers refer to themselves as witches and worship the goddess of nature, they cast spells and believe in magic. They are all practitioners of Wicca.

Founded in the 1930s in a nudist colony by Gerald Gardner, the gatherings soon attracted a mixed bunch of people. Interviewed by Daniel Farson in the 1950s, Gerald was told that “the reason for all the secrecy is because your covens are an excuse for sexual orgies.” He, obviously, objected to this caricature of his religion, and his hobby. The programme wheeled out a local vicar who expressed outrage that there was nudism was “abnormal” and needed be “kept under control.” It could lead to “irregularities,” you see; the people who practice it are “odd.”(the link is below; it’s worth a listen)

Just how do you keep naturism under control? Thou shall not shower without your keks on? Thou shall not sleep au naturel? It’s crazy

The idea of being skyclad in Wicca is the ritual equivalent to “clothes-free” and although I find the premise of religion to be regressive and outdated, I can’t find it in my heart to dislike the idea of attending an easy-going gathering of naturists. Even it’s in the Woods. After dark.

And there are approximately 70,000 Wiccans and Pagans in the UK according to the last census. For a religion spawned in the back garden of a retired civil servant. They might not have the numbers of the Christian church, nor the wide reach of the Bible, but at least they have a better attitude to our naked self.

In fact, the state of undress is the purest state mankind will ever be; the ten commandments should have included “thou shall not cover thy or thy’s neighbours ass!”

But then, maybe I think that because I’m “odd.”


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2 Comments

  1. Shavetalebidoux January 11, 2016
  2. oldkahuna January 9, 2016

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