The question what to wear in ritual and when working Magic comes up frequently on social media. Far from wanting to opine on this one way or another, I still would like to offer some thoughts on this subject.
Personally, I am very much drawn to aesthetics of all sorts and kinds. May be a Libra thing. Maybe because I grew up in a household that upheld fine arts very much, and being surrounded by visually pleasing stuff gives me a feeling of belonging.
This includes, obviously, regalia worn when practicing my Druidry. But aesthetics is absolutely not the end only layer my reasoning for wearing certain clothes is based.
Another, and far more important reason for me to choose particular clothing in ritual is rooted in an experience I had many years ago when talking with Mongolian shamans. When they did their magical work, they put on rather heavy long, maroon coats, on which a number of items were fastened, most prominently plastic snakes and bells. The shamans told us that when they drum, standing up (as it is their custom), and rotate their upper body back and forth, these items begin to swing and “catch the spirits” that way. Additionally, the shamans informed us that just putting on their coats, feeling the weight of the fabric and the gadgets on them, already put them into a higher state of consciousness. Now they were no longer mere people, but already travelers ready to enter the Otherworld.
This change of settings, internally and externally, is pure applied Magic. even though Mongolians wouldn’t use that term. The intent, to work shamanically on behalf of the people that came to visit them, was manifested already in the simple act of putting on special attire. It’s as simple as that.
Now, it was obviously not the only component they used to transient into the Otherworld. They used the sound of their drums; they wore head ear with eagle feathers that connected them to their spirit animals and guides; they had litte gadgets hanging from these head gears in front of their eyes to purposefully blur their vision in the apparent world; and they talked with what they called “demons” in Russian (which they had to speak instead of their native language, so an interpreter could tell us what they were saying). And since attire wasn’t the only component, I saw one of them doing some quick work on a fellow visitor while still wearing his grey soviet-issue suit. Garment was not required, but typically used to enhance the work.
For me, seeing folks, who have lived a live embedded in ancient shamanic practice, wear “work clothes”, has since been reason enough to believe that what’s good for them should be good for me.
But what to wear?
As a Western European, I obviously do not want to appropriate Mongolian shamans’ attire and practice, so the only choice I had was to go local.
See, I grew up in the Alps, in Austria, where we have, next to formal attire (suits and ties, pantsuits, dresses and skirts) – and casual wear (jeans and t-shirts and sweaters) a third option, the so called “Tracht“. Yes, it’s that rough guttural “ch”-sound that makes German so lovely. Lederhosen and the folk dress known as Dirndl are as much Tracht as the suit jackets with the green collars and deer antler buttons, worn for example by Captain von Trapp in Sound of Music.
So, it’s almost self-evident that one like me would choose Tracht as my ritual clothing rather than for example robes as many on the Druid path do. (Although, there are rare, high official ceremonies where I don a robe. Reluctantly, almost, but that’s another tale).
Yet, it’s not the connection to my homeland alone that compels me to wear my Lederhose and other Trachten-clothes. It’s a bit deeper than that.
One angle is that Tracht was mainly worn by the rural population, was the attire of the farmers. Guilds had also special garb, typically supporting the profession (e.g. the baker’s guild wore aprons and special hats. Chefs in modern cuisine still often do so.)
But I am particularly drawn to farming, which for me, as a Druid, holds a special place in my heart. The farmers (especially organic farmers) are the ones who put the good food on our tables. If you’d ever have a chance to purchase produce, bread or dairy products directly from a small Alpine farm, you’d know what I mean.
Insofar, our lives and wellbeing depends on the farmers, and through them on the Land. I can be as green, politically, as they come, and personally interested in growing stuff and identifying what I forage out in nature, I still couldn’t compete with the knowledge of the Land a farmer has. Wearing Lederhosen and a country hat does not give me that knowledge, obviously, but it does connect me to these fine folks on an almost energetic level.
Also, much of Druid practice — and other spiritual paths — is done with, or supported by, the ancestors; actual family as well as cultural forebears. Wearing something that has been donned — at least in a similar fashion — by my ancestors over many generations before me alone is a great way to connect with them just by virtue of attire.
This connection to my ancestors goes back quite far. In the case of Alpine Tracht actually as far as to the Celts dwelling in that area even, roughly from 800 BCE to 500 CE. For example, reliefs found in and on top of Celtic grave sites in what was once the Celtic Kingdom of Noricum, and in the tribal lands of the Boii (in which I was born), the Raetii, and the Helvetii, show our Celtic forbears wearing quite distinct hats. The traditional Pfoad, once undergarment, now an often intricately ornamented shirt, seems to stem from very simple pieces of cloth folded in half, with a hole in the fold for the head; the Leibl of the Dirndl was in Celtic times fabric wrapped around the chest, and only over the centuries was connected with the skirt; and finally the flap that makes the Lederhose so distinct is a remainder of a piece of cloth that was rapped around men’s hips, then pulled from behind through the crotch and up to be stuffed into the wrapped-around part, covering the men’s private parts.
Thus, my Lederhose, in all actuality, connects me 2,000+ years back to my early Celtic ancestors, maybe even to the man Artebudz Brogdui, whose name appears on an inscription found south of the Alps in Slovenia, one of the very few remainders of the language spoken in the ancient Celtic kingdom of Noricum.
Wearing something special at ritual, or when doing Magic, can become meaningful once we take the time and effort to find such meaning.