Today I laid naked in a stream and meditated!
If anyone asked me, Am I a Naturist? I would have said no. While I have been naked in the great outdoors, it been driven by an exploration of a spiritual quest, sweatlodges, alone in my first scared grove and for initiation. Assuming that naturism was solely about the human community sharing space and time without any clothes, however recent experiences have shown how naive I have been, and me as Druid! I should have known better. What of the non-human community that you share time with, without clothes and free as nature intended, soul naked and clothed in sky or water? So yes, I am a Naturist! I remember Emma Restall-Orr saying to me once that socks and shoes are our biggest blindfolds, sometimes so are clothes!
My recent move to the Northwest of England, the Lake District, was spontaneous and unplanned; there had been no great plans to leave my homeland of Kent in the Southeast of England, other than an unquiet rumbling of a need to find a wilder landscape in which to work my craft.
My Husband and I arrived at Imbolc. Starting gently to sow the prayer seeds, to lead me to connect truly and deeply with this new land, this wilder landscape of mountains, beck, valley, tarns and lakes. By the spring equinox, I had ritually cleansed and accepted this new twist in the spiral that has been my spiritual journey – the seeds started to show green shoots.
On my way to work, when I have time I stop off at a small national trust car park just outside Coniston, I head up some roughly hewn stone steps to a wonderful beck (a stream of northern lands) within an ancient Oak woodland. The water cascades from a small waterfall a few hundred meters away and clear sparkling water rushes over smooth rocks and around glacial boulders. Here I felt such a sense of peace and wild beauty. I sang to the spirits of place, to accept me, I made offerings and simply sat in this place, this sacred temple of the wild land stories; I wanted to drink deeply and partake in an engaging way.
As the days grew longer, as the Oak trees, mosses, bilberry bushes and heather came into wakeful presence, this space renewed me, left me with a sense of groundedness and spiritual blessing – the old gods had been heard calling me. Being the Lake District, it was no surprise that the water spirits were calling the loudest; I could no longer be passive within this space. I started to touch the water and then use my wet hands to bless my body’s energy centres. It felt as though I was engaging with the spirits of this place, but still not fully surrendering to the experience. As summer dawned this evolved further, I started to use my hands to splash the water on my face and over my head, but I was being called to enter the water. I knew I had to bathe in the waters, but perhaps find a more secluded place – weeks passed looking for ‘the right place’ noting felt safe, safe from the preying eyes or shock of other walkers and people who my stumble across me. Suddenly I had a dream of what I needed to do and where. I awoke knowing that this morning I would simply have to wade in and it was to be my Oak Beck Grove. On the hottest day of the year so far, I arrived at the car park, it was empty. Purposefully I headed up the stone steps, and reached the beck, fast, cold, mountain fresh water cascading over rocks. I simply stripped off and walked in. I sang my prayers to the water spirits, as I sat down in the waters. The breath retreating from my lungs, telling myself to relax and I started my meditation, awaking my physical body to the physicality of the water and my spiritual body to the spirits of the water. I then laid back into the flowing stream and the most amazing connection occurred. I felt the water was literately flowing through me and I became one with the water. I have never felt such a connectedness to the natural world as I did in that moment. The water and I co-joined as one; I looked up at the tall oak branches above as the early morning sun’s rays filtered through. I was alive, the water was alive and we flowed as one. I chanted to the trees, Born of Water. After sometime I left the Beck, sat on the bank beneath a nearby oak tree, and just allowed the sun to dry my skin. I felt very and utterly alive, awakened and beautifully connected to this place; I entered into communion that was beyond words or gestures, but by simply being soul naked and true. The spiritual ecstasy that I had not felt for a long time was amazing and for the rest of day I felt totally connected to the wild land of my new home and energised, a new phase of my spiritual journey had begun.
I started to research water bathing rituals, and stumbled across a newly published book by Nick Mayhew-Smith, The Naked Hermit: A journey to the heart of Celtic Britain. This book is the result of Nick’s research for his PhD into the early Celtic Christianity at the time when Paganism was transitioning to Christianity. Not only was his desk based research insightful, he also went out in nature and put the Christian Celtic nature rituals, as he refers to them, into practice. As a Naturist, he was able to approach them in an authentic un-clothed way, participating in naked bathing rituals, spending nights in sacred caves, naked and alone as the early hermits did. Putting theory into practice gave him a great insight into the true meaning of these rites. Far from being punishments for the sins of the flesh, these were rituals of profound connection to divinity and nature, for nature featured heavily in the early Celtic Church. He found that the prayers, ritual immersion and time alone and in seclusion while being naked, was more about being vulnerable, open and closer to the divine within both his human nature and wild Nature around him. Finding the sacredness of the natural world, that somehow, the modern church has lost, indeed society has lost, and why we may be in the mess, we are experiencing today. This echoed my personal experience even though I come from a Pagan Druid perspective. This wonderful book, although written from a Christian perspective, it is about a Christianity that Pagans can reach, it is about the sanctity of Nature and our wild sacred places, which can help society today to reconnect and help heal our destructive behaviour to the planet. This is a book for both Druids, Pagans and Christians alike, the message calls deep to us all.
I have always believed that if we hold Nature as sacred or see sacredness inherent in Nature, we are more than likely to protect that which we perceive as being scared to us. For me I find divinity in the natural temples and cathedrals of woodland, caves and roaring oceans. I also find the sacredness and divinity within the human body, the soul naked human form to which we come into this world. Therefore, to be soul naked and true within nature allows the most intimate, sensuous communion with that divinity, the old gods and spirit of place, the genius loci. This has always been at the core of my teaching, research, academic study and work.
I do think that Christianity has played a role in placing sin within our body and within our nature. It has helped to distance ourselves from Nature; leaving a society very disrespectful of themselves as well as the natural world. It’s given a sense, that we have dominion over the earth and her resources, to do with as we pleased – although that wasn’t exactly true for the early Celtic church, they felt that they could help the Pagan populous to recover from their sinful ways and find the paradise of Eden once again. As Pagans trying to find acceptance or the perceived normality of a modern society, we have played down the importance of being naked. Being ‘Skyclad’ in our rituals, nature communion and mediation have been played down, for fear of the ridicule of fulfilling the stereotypical image of naked pagan’s dancing around bonfires, wild and covered in mud reaching for an orgiastic state of bodily wild abandonment. As Pagans, we need to have dominion over our innate fears of our naked body and importantly, being naked in nature. We need to reweave our connection and place within Nature, and so to dance mud covered around a fire at night, raising the natural energy within, simply in praise of the natural world, to dream and spin the intention of healing our relationship to Nature, to our Mother and home, the Earth. To find our connection to our true uncovered self and the raw beauty of simply being a part of Nature not apart from it. Moreover, to find kinship with those folk, regardless of religion, tradition or path, who find the sanctity and power of Nature to help create the change we are to become.
I am truly blessed to be able to live and work in this wild beauty of the Lake District, where you cannot help but feel the human vulnerability against the elements, indeed where you need an awareness of the natural world in order to survive still to this day in this modern world. Just as Merlin went into the wild to find rest and healing and then emerged with prophecies, so I feel that, I am here, soul naked in Nature and receiving the greatest of teachings about my path and my life on earth. Naked skin on bear earth, cold tarn waters and sunshine caressing my naked form, skin swept by wild winds, with my body I surrender into this relationship with my wild land, my goddess. My secluded practice born from a deep reverence for this wild land, not out of any desire of exhibitionism but a moment where I feel totally the freedom of spirit, soul naked and true. An authenticity of experience that connects to my animist nature and hopefully some small way to help save our planet from humanity.
Water all around my being
Permeating every essence of my being
I am being and I am alive
Water is being and Water is alive
Co-joined we flow in rhythm
I sing your stories and hold your memories
We are Alive!
Rob Wilson – August 2019