True faces, true selves: why I forego Pagan costumery and aspecting

Castlefest 2008 by Anneliez.
Medieval costumed woman - on flickr by Annie Liz

I was in online discussion with another pagan writer, one where we were talking about the struggle to be authentic. We are both introverts to varying degrees – not shy, but with a marked preference towards the internal, and both of us have at times felt like we had to struggle to make our true selves known to those around us. Both of us have observed the enthusiasm to which other neopagans take to pageantry; any event can call for a cape and a costume. I’ve heard and been taught that the magical persona can be assumed through use of makeup and donning of costume.

I’ve tried it, once going so far as to wear a cloak to an outdoor ceremony.

I felt completely stupid. I was wearing a costume. I was being a fake.

The minute I ditched the cloak, I easily entered a magical frame of mind.

My friend, when I mentioned how I felt about costumery, shared a similar experience.

There are people who absolutely need the pageant. But my friend and I aren’t one of them – our true selves come out in a different way, that isn’t visual. We both agreed that we are our truest selves when writing, and all else is decoration. My best chances of accessing that in ritual is by being in the clothing I like to wear, that fits me and is clean and comfortable. In my 20s, that was a good pair of overalls and a babydoll t-shirt. In my 30s, it’s yoga pants and a loose blouse.

There is definitely magical transformation, and real magical skill involved in turning a person into a vision. And there are people who paint and mark themselves until they’ve used their skin as a canvas for the true self. I am just not one of those people – my true self floats just beneath the surface, and to add a costume is just to bury her further.