In the interesting documentary A Very British Witchcraft presented by Professor Ronald Hutton, and in many 'exposes' of Witchcraft, one of the areas of great interest is: 'Do real Witches work their rituals naked?' (and if so can we have some piccies please? But preferably of young and pretty female Witches.)
I would say that there is no evidence for Witches in the British Isles holding outdoor rituals in the nude prior to Gerald Gardner.
However there are at least a couple of classic paintings of Witches creating a spell indoors (in private) where they are naked - except for a pair of fashionable shoes in one case.
There is also a passage in 'Aradia:the Gospel of the Witches' a collection of Witch spells and rituals from Italy collected by the folklorist C. G. Leland in the 19th century which says:
And ye shall all be freed from slavery,
And so ye shall be free in everything:
And as a sign that ye are truly free,
Ye shall be naked in your rites, both men
And women also:
It is well known that Gerald Gardner was a naturist, popularly known as 'nudists'. The main point of being a Naturist is to celebrate the fact that humans are, by nature, born and designed to exist without clothes. Clothing is a convention and fashion imposed by society.
However nudity is associated in many people's minds with sexuality, and some might say: 'How can you be naked together and not indulging continually in wild orgies?'
And, of course, one of the charges which has always been levelled against Witches is that their rituals are scenes of wild debauchery.
Gerald Gardner certainly padded out rituals with information, poems and spells gathered from a variety of places, and one of his sources was Aradia.
As a Naturist he would have been delighted to find that passage, and quick to incorporate it into his rituals. But just remember: Aradia is a collection of Itallian Witchcraft. The climate of Italy is a lot warmer than Britain, where even a summer night can be chilly - and in Scotland: beware of the midges!
So: do Witches work their rituals naked?
The short answer is: some do and some don't.
Witchcraft or Wicca as it is often known today. is not a religion that imposes a strict set of rituals and dogma on its adherants. The emphasis is on re-awakening your personal connection to the Divine.
One way of doing this is through breaking social taboos - sexuality and nudity are both frowned upon in public (unless the protagonists are young and pretty, in which case 'pass the camera'), but perfectly normal and natural activities. So by entering the ritual area naked you are going against most of society's ideas of what true religion is about.
To Witches this nakedness, or as we say 'being skyclad', is a sign of trust between ourselves and deity - and a sign that we are hiding nothing, and holding nothing back. Nudity is also a great equaliser. We can tell a lot about a person by their clothes, we can tell their financial status and social position, their rank even their job. But when we are naked there are none of those clues, and therefore none of the social restrictions which would make you wary of approaching a person of a different rank or class.
Most Witch initiation rituals will insist that the postulant be naked. This is a symbol that you are putting aside all your worldly trappings, everything that defines you in the everyday world, and are come before the deities in a childlike and innocent manner. It is also a symbol that to Witches our ritual area, wherever we create it, becomes a place not of the mundane world, so in a similar way that if you step into a dreaming world you can take nothing from this world with you, and bring nothing back from there to this world, when you step into the Witches world, you bring nothing with you from your previous life.
However having said all that, it is still up to the individual how they choose to worship or work with the God and Goddess. Nude or robed is a personal choice.