Ritual clothing among witches is an oft contested topic, with critiques from the exceptionally supportive to the staunchly adverse. Naturally, one must first utilize clothing within a ritual context in order to determine it's positive or negative effect upon one's arte. To speak of the ills of a tool within witchcraft without first attempting it’s utilization is not only ignorant towards the aeons of prior use, but also a hasty judgement against something to which one hasn't invested prior energy to actualizing.
Historically there are numerous cases across time where individuals wore items said to imbue them with magical powers, or donned clothing in order to be given access (or enhance their talent within) the various artes of witchcraft. Whether it be a simple broach or full body regalia, wearing clothing of any capacity can be just as valuable to a witch as utilizing tools within a rite, and should not be overlooked.
Apparel typically serves a few functions, one of the foremost being protection from adverse weather conditions. From freezing temperatures to blistering sandstorms, clothing should serve the witch as a protective layer from the world around them in order to not disrupt their workings from shivering or heat exhaustion. Conversely, many witches practice their arte with minimal clothing in specific environments in order to be more directly in touch with the weather and it’s effects. To this I can only caution that you be mindful of your bodily needs, and ensure you’re making choices that put your own health and safety first, over that of pride and arrogance.
Another common function of clothing for many is to display one’s physical assets in a pleasurable way, even if for no-one but the mirror. While spirits can be divided on the issue, it is commonly shared to me that a witch can absolutely wear clothing which boosts their own personal confidence and increases their physical appeal - though the spirits generally don’t find this necessary. However, the increased sense of self that occurs from wearing clothing one feels sexy in can greatly enhance a rite, especially those designed to court a lover. Conversely, of course, it has been recommended by more than a few spirits that dressing in repulsive clothing for rites of malefica can oft provide a great boon to the working, granted the witch can find power in the garments rather than cheekiness or humor.
Flammability is a notable and dangerous hazard that any witch should be mindful of when practicing their craft, as one is typically near multiple forms of combustion (candles, fire pits, hearths, incense, etc). A witch should avoid outfits which do not align to one’s ritual accoutrement, such as flowing gowns when circumambulating a campfire or large sleeves while lighting candles. Similarly, outfits which would hamper one’s movement (potentially causing a slip, trip, or similar accident) should also be eschewed for more functional garments.
Yet it is not just the natural world the witch must beware of, fellow humans can cause great duress dependant upon the outfit selected for a rite. Often the last thing a practitioner desires is the curious eye of another, leading to their rite being disturbed and the working foiled. Specific clothing has also been known to draw the attention of unwanted spirits, or even cause others to turn away entirely. Naturally, when a witch is unsure what effect a particular outfit will have within the unseen companie: ask them.
Aesthetic & Heraldry
Whatever elements you incorporate into your workings should enhance them, even if only for their added beauty. Overt and extravagant displays of beauty and wealth can oft detract from a working (or raise the ire of the unseen), but the possibility of adding a touch of visual delight via one’s wardrobe should not be overlooked. Of course, ensuring one’s garments enhance their emotional and mental state is key, as well as being germane to both ritual intention and practiced tradition. If the witch, spirits, or gods recoil at the clothing worn into a ritual (whether it be due a gaudy wand, a ratty cloak, or a “Slayer” t-shirt), the object will become an anchoring hinderance which can create unavoidable energetic stagnation within a rite. Within the Stardust Compass natural materials seem to work best (pure plant fibers and animal skins). Both can be empowered and will maintain their enchantments, and the spirits react positively to their appearance in a rite.
Clothing, no matter how simple, can portray or enforce a sense of duty, announce an alignment to specific energies, or even proclaim a rank or station. Within a rite these can become powerful yet subtle messages for both human and unseen host alike. Even a simple outfit (such as wearing all black when performing works with the Raven of the North) will be aided in their manifestation by your own subconscious, and therein communicate your intentions outward without needing to speak a word. Clothing can also convey solidarity within a specific tradition, acting as a “uniform” of sorts to allow participants to transmit both intentions and duties, but also find energetic resonance amongst their membership. Naturally, however, the witch should ensure ze is not wearing signs or badges of a station ze does not possess - or donning garments which are in conflict with the intention of the rite or it’s denizens.
Not only does dressing up often cause us to act with more aplomb, but the spirits will often react with greater respect and care (towards both ourselves, and those we are with) when they note the focused intention the witch places upon their wardrobe for a rite. Much in the same way fellow humans will treat someone differently when they show up to a social function wearing appropriate clothing, spirits take note of those who dress with intention.
A witch approaching an Otherworldly kingdom for aid while clad in respectful garb and acting with kindness for their customs will often cause powerful manifestations. Those who have the opportunity and possibility to dress in fashion which would suit a working (i.e.: they already own the clothing necessary), but chose to intentionally eschew it, will rarely have their workings crumble... but have been noted to wonder why the working didn’t have the palpable results they were hoping for. Again, this is not to say that a witch must dress in full and foreign regalia in order to perform a simple rite - but sometimes changing the color of one’s shirt, or donning an enchanted bracelet, can make all the difference.
Fascinatingly, some spirits find the concept of changing one’s clothing for daily workings tiresome and misaligned. These daily experiences are often deeply into our lives. Ensuring that the witch’s praxis is not something to simply be embodied when necessary for a working, but perpetually experienced regardless of what clothing one is (or isn't) wearing. As such, many spirits feel that daily workings should occur while we are wearing our everyday clothing. Therein further associating the witch’s praxis to the entirety of zer life (and not simply being something embodied whenever a working is required).
Witches often agree that items can hold power, but this can easily be overlooked when considering one’s wardrobe. Generally, however, ritual jewelry is excluded from this grouping, and is often considered an item worth enchanting. Yet enchanted cloth and animal skins can bestow boons upon their wearer in much the same vain as that of talismanic jewelry. An enchanted cloak, for instance, can be worn for not only it’s warmth and pleasing aesthetic, but also as a tool to hide the wearer from the eyes of men, aid in trance work, allow the witch to move swiftly at night, and more.
By repeatedly wearing the same garments for rites of witchcraft, said items will begin to absorb residual energy from the compass, the witch, and the spirits. This stored force can then be taped and released in times of need to aid the witch, a working, or more. Additionally, if a garment becomes highly specialized (e.g.: only worn during rites of malefica) that item will become tuned to those unique resonances.
Enchanted garments can even benefit the witch by mere thought alone. When ze finds zerself in an environment where donning the garment would be of benefit, the witch can simply recall the sensation of wearing it to evoke the energies regardless of space and time.
The witch should not limit their use of empowered garments to the compass alone. Tantalizing underclothing woven with lustful sigilum can be used to snatch a mate, a jacket who's lining contains midnight worts can hide an individual in plain sight, and a pair of shoes dusted with sacred powders can protect a witch when walking home at night. Further, the wearer of the clothes (just as with the bearer of any talisman) need not be a witch to utilize the garment’s benefits, or even aware of the enchantments at all.
Raven Kaldera (pagan author) shared an interesting story regarding empowered clothing and waytaming (the act of walking in this world, but moving through the Otherworld). Gnosis he received from his spirits was that physical clothes which are not ritualistically empowered (and ideally handmade with that same intent) don’t appear on your body in the Otherworld.
Spirits have shared the same wisdom with me, denoting that if a witch wishes to appear in the Otherworld wearing more than their own consciousness-formed-clothing they need to do so via the use of empowered real-world items carried into the Otherworld alongside the witch. If the witch enters the Otherworld alone, but chooses to appear before the spirits as clothed, they will simply be wearing clothes formed from their own consciousness. Therein performing more an act of shapeshifting than spontaneous generation. Not that this should concern the witch, however. Spirits do not contain the same social etiquette or concern for the nude human form as the prude societies we live within.
Or Try Science
If nothing mentioned above sells you on the idea of wearing magickal clothing, consider the following: there are numerous scientifically vetted studies which clearly show that when someone wears clothes they feel are connected to a task, they perform better at that task (e.g.: putting on a lab coat before performing a scientific experiment). So, if nothing else, wear witchy clothing to trick yourself into being a better witch.
Just Be Happy
In the end, personal aesthetic plays a large role in the donning of ritual garb. What works for one will not work for all, and actually feel less powerful wearing a robe than they do wearing a suit and tie, tube top and flip flops, or nothing at all. The only way to discover what clothing you, the unseen host, and your praxis is to experiment.
Try dressing differently for a ritual and discern the effects it has on you and your rite. Try it again and see if the effects are different the second time. Spirits are often cautious of change, and often require proof of dedication to a shift in behavior before committing in turn. Whether it be a moonstone tiara, a ‘Slayer’ t-shirt, or simply a loincloth and a smile: wear clothing which empowers you, the spirits, and your working.
Image: Watchers in the wood by Neil Moralee (CC: BY, NC, ND)