Working skyclad (nude) has a long and distinguished, albeit controversial at times, history within paganism. Both among modern adherents as well as culturally among some (but not all) of the ancient practitioners of esoterica. Gerald Gardner, considered by many to be the father of modern Wicca was a long time naturalist as were many of the first adherents to the modern pagan movement. Some believe that when we are skyclad the energies of magickal workings are less muddled and it is easier to focus and channel them. Also, it is felt by many, as is stated in The Charge Of The Goddess by Doreen Valiente, it is a sign of our freedom to be naked in our rites.
Whatever the reasons some pagans choose to go skyclad the practice has historical significance within pagan culture. Within our temple we practice traditional Wiccan initiation rites for those who choose to enter the clergy training program in which the initiate is, for a time, skyclad within the circle and presented to the kindred and the four elements before receiving the five fold kiss and being adorned in their new ritual robes. It is essentially a birthing ceremony. The initiate is stripping away the trappings of their former life and being born anew into this tradition. Coming before his or her new brothers and sisters as well as the gods, nature spirits and ancestors as naked as the day they were born into this world. Truly in perfect love and perfect trust. We consider our skin to be our first set of ritual robes bestowed upon us by the gods themselves and in situations where our second robe, the ritual robes of our tradition, are not available, skyclad is always a viable option in formal ritual when not in a gathering with the uninitiated. In other words, other initiated members of the tradition or their spouses are the only people present at the ritual. At this time, Full Moon (Esbat) rituals and Initiations are the only rituals which we hold skyclad. Our Sabbats and New Moons are robed events. Therefore, of the 52 weeks per year that we hold regular events, only 12 of them are skyclad (our blue moons are public, non-skyclad events.)
It is a sign of comfort, respect, enlightenment and freedom to be skyclad in ritual however it is not for everyone and other than it being required during initiation into the tradition and certain other rituals no one should feel pressured or goaded into being skyclad if they do not wish to otherwise. There are certain ground rules which should always be observed. A person who is skyclad is not inviting touching, invasion of their personal space or sexual advances of any kind unless they expressly give permission for such. You treat a skyclad person exactly in the same fashion as you would treat a clothed person, with dignity and respect. There is a notion perpetuated by the modern western society’s puritan roots that the only time for nudity is for sex or bathing. But this is not true.
There is a long history of spiritual nudity in the world and in our tradition we teach that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience. As such, our bodies are the first set of ritual robes we receive and they are bestowed upon us by the Lord and Lady, The Kindred, The Ancestors, however you prefer to view the divine, themselves.
I was once at a work weekend for the grounds of a large Pagan festival space in Texas and one morning while sitting around the fire having coffee and preparing for the work day, a middle aged woman came out of her tent and started working to prepare breakfast for the other volunteer workers there. She was wearing a sarong around her waist and her breasts were unadorned. As many in our community she was on the heavy side and given her age her boobs sagged somewhat but I thought she was majestic in her confidence and lack of concern for what others thought. We were away from the mundane world where body image is enforced by advertising and stereotypes that only the youthful and those with perfect bodies should ever dare to show themselves. After getting some things started cooking she wandered off to find the flushies. Then one of the guys around the campfire ruined the magickal moment by commenting that he loved (whatever her name was) but the sight of her in the morning was scary. Ugh! Such negative commentary and enforcement of mainstream ideals are, in my opinion, foreign to a Pagan culture and have no place in our gatherings. If I witness such at our gatherings I will likely ask the offending party to excuse themselves from our presence.