Legendary Naturist King

Adam and Eve. Lady Godiva. The Emperor and his “new” clothes. Venus. David. Archimedes. St. Francis. Among the rich contributions that myth, history, folklore and art have made to nudist and naturist imagery, a much too forgotten figure is El Dorado. This is especially surprising given that El Dorado’s story features not one but two of naturists’ all-time favorite activities: body-painting and skinny-dipping!

El Dorado, Gilded Man of the Chibchas. Theodore de Bry (1561-1623)

According to the 16th-century conquistadors and their chroniclers, El Dorado (The Golden One) was not a city but rather the chief of a Muisca or Chibcha community in what is today central Colombia. The name came to be linked to a city of riches because of the opulence of the chief’s ceremony that so intrigued the Spaniards. For the ceremony, the community would gather by the shores of a lake (probably Lake Guatavita) where the king would disrobe and his assistants would paint him head to toe in sticky resin before blowing gold dust all over his body, in this way outlining the contours of his body as image. Next, the king and his assistants would row out to the middle of the lake, where they would toss in offerings of gold, emeralds, and other precious materials. Then the king, glittering and golden, would himself dive into the lake, washing off swirls of sparkling dust in his wake. Perhaps, while underwater, he could glimpse some of the offerings from ceremonies past – the shimmering insights of his community’s collective unconscious, like a dreamworld. He would emerge clean from the lake as a sign that the ceremony, something like a baptism, provided continuity with his culture’s traditions of fertility and renewal.

Although attempts to drain Lake Guatavita have yielded little significant treasure, recent anthropological research suggests symbolic meanings to the ceremony that were probably lost to the single-minded material pursuit of the Europeans. Chibcha and Muisca creation myths feature a water goddess and a sun god who, after leaving the lake to create the world, returned to the lake and became serpents, residing there permanently. The mixture of sunlight (heat) and water as the basic elements of creation is reflected in the practice of submerging in the lake the golden offerings, since gold was thought to be an excretion or by-product of the sun. Other research has highlighted the optic similarity of the sunlight as refracted by the waves on the lake surface, to the visions experienced by area shamans.

Naturists should emulate El Dorado, one of the original body-painters and skinny-dippers! The chief’s outdoors ceremony celebrated the body’s full and unimpeded contact with sunshine, air, and water, and affirmed the body as image and as moving actor within nature as sacred creation. Why not use paints made from natural materials to recreate the ceremony, with lots of El Dorados and La Doradas, and all the other colors, too?

Nude Dermatology

What’s our largest body organ? The skin you’re in, of course. Our skin is the mongo-network of transaction points between what’s kept inside and what’s kept at bay. It’s the home of most of our tactile receptors for pressure, pain, heat, and cold, the home of our most ancient and basic sense: touch.

I happen to have sensitive skin. There’s always some inflagration burning somewhere on my surface or just underneath – fungal infections, rashes, chemical allergies, random pigmentation blotches that come and go with the seasons and the temperatures. As a naturist, I expose my skin as often as I can, convinced as I am that fresh air, water, and sunlight (the latter in moderation of course) are good for it.

I don’t mind shedding my clothes in front of doctors. But I’ve noticed that trips to the dermatologist involve zones of demarcation. The dermatologist wants to see only those spots that have spots, or only those particular inches that itch. Perhaps this has to do with the structure of HMO bureaucracies or some equally ominous malevolence.

I would much rather have a holistic consultation. Off with the clothes – let the dermatologist lift arms and separate toes and get a whole-body evaluation, all the better to make recommendations regarding, say, diet, sunlight (heliotherapy), and textile considerations (natural or synthetic fibers, laundry detergent brand, etc.) Sure, the poison ivy or the ringworm or the eczema needs to be treated, but I bet that a good dermatologist can evaluate skin qualities, “connect the dots” or spots and make some overall comments that could be most useful. It may be important to know, for example, whether the lip anomaly is related to the foot anomaly, or to know that a particular kind of seemingly unrelated rash always follows a fungal infection treated with Medicine X. Maybe I just need to switch dermatologists – perhaps some advertise a holistic approach? Time to look around.

Intactivists and Lactivists

The cleverly named intactivists (against circumcision) and lactivists (for breastfeeding) have protagonized the news lately. One group wants the government to ban a bodily practice, the other group wants the government to encourage a bodily practice. But most importantly, both groups embrace the inviolate integrity of the human body and the functions for which it is naturally designed!

I’m an example of the wrongs that the lactivists and intactivists are struggling to right. I was born into a Protestant family in the late 1960s in the United States. Almost immediately and very much on purpose, a surgeon mutilated my penis. Then, I was denied my mother’s breast, and as a growing baby I was not breastfed at all. What an awful way to come into the world.

I look back at my parents, and at American society in general, with pity for its spastic Sputnik dyspepsia. What good does it do to cut off the tip of a newborn’s foreskin, leaving a scar and an exposed glans to be wrapped up in airtight-but-soiled superdiapers? What good does it do to deny a newborn the instinct to root for mother’s breastmilk, and the unparalleled nutrition, immunization and bonding that it provides? Somehow, a deceived America misplaced its faith in humanity and bought some sort of ultrasterile pseudoscience of anti-secretion hygiene and violence that sought ruinously through circumcision to “nip in the bud” masturbation and other forms of sexual expression, and that sought substance over form in the manufacture of space-age powdered infant formula and the indispensable, chemical-leaking plastic bottles and rubber nipples needed for its administration. The only “good” generated from these practices went straight to the coffers of physicians (do no harm?) and laboratories. Even today “studies” continue to tout the supposed nutrition benefits of infant formula or the alleged disease-prevention benefits of circumcision.

Intactivist and Lactivist symbols

I’m not convinced that we need our governments to act either against circumcision or for greater public acceptance and awareness of lactation. One would think that common sense, aided by courage, would be enough to recognize the rights of nursing mothers, their babies, and the rights of babies to remain whole. But whether or not we enact new municipal, state, or federal laws, this much is true: we ignore and deny our bodies at our own peril. Who knows what further functions of the breast or of the foreskin are yet to be discovered? How will we learn what these functions might be, if these body parts are so seldom dis-covered? If we continue to dress, slice, and stuff our body parts like so much tripe, we’ll never know.


When the teacher would call roll in grade school, the correct way to respond was “Present!”

For a lot of kids, it didn’t make any sense. What did birthday gifts have to do with attending class? Only after we caught the connection to the word “presence” did the answer start making any sense: being present is the opposite of being absent.

But the link between “presence” and “present” suggests to me how we make of ourselves a gift –  a gift to the moment, of the moment, in the moment. If you are present, then you are living the moment. Another moment of life is a present to you, but you, also, are a present to life.

When you think of it like that, every day is a birthday or birth day. Yours, hers, his, mine, theirs, ours, everyone’s – a day to live life and all its moments to the fullest. What better way to give of yourself as a birthday present than in your birthday suit?

Open your own present: unwrap yourself.

 Unburden, unencumber, unveil, undress, unwrap yourself to the richness of life. Liberate yourself from stitches and strictures.

Then, your presence becomes manifold: you give the gift of human beauty and movement both to yourself (through your own freedom and full contact with the elements) as much as to everyone else (we all seek to recognize ourselves in others while marveling at the variety of humanity).

With your presence you give presents, and nude, you are wholly present.