from a sense of shame; 4) for aesthetic reasons, as ornamentation, delight, beauty, and to bring the opposite

sex; 5) for apotropaic reasons, to turn away the effects
of magic, sorcery, the evil eye, and hostile spirits. We
shall see that one or more of these factors can
Though it doesn’t function as a protection against the
weather (1), nakedness, like clothing or armour, was
used to recognize social groups (2), in life and in art.
Clothes, actually, differentiates human society, civilized
Folks, from animals and wild creatures, which are
Nude. Individuals wear clothing, creatures don’t. In a
clothed society, nonetheless, nakedness is specific, and can
be used as a “costume.”
came to mark a contrast between Greek and nonGreek, as well as between men and women. The latter
distinction is associated with the most basic connotation of nakedness, the sense of shame, exposure and
exposure it arouses in person (3), and the related sense
of shock aroused by its sight. Clothing is designed to
Avert such powerful emotions by covering the human body particularly the male genitals, the phallus, and female genitals and breast. A “body taboo” against nakedness in
People is pretty universal.3 There initially existed in

Classical antiquity, as elsewhere, a garment designed
diazoma, as the Greeks generally called it. The beauty of
the naked body (4) has frequently been exalted. Its erotic and
aesthetic allure, as Kenneth Clark has revealed, has
caused an alternate word to be used: this facet of nakedness is known as “nudity.”4
In the ancient Near East Ishtar,5 and in the West
naked. The beauty and strength of the naked man
body were also praised, and heroes, like the Master of Animals, were signified naked, or wearing
culture the ideal of male nudity as the best type of
beauty. Greek art and sport exalted the attractiveness of
the youthful male athlete, whose body supplied the
model for the hero or youthful god. The picture of the
Naked young man, the kouros statue of early Greek art
(Comparing with the clothed female, the kore), embodied the arete or magnificence of an aristocratic youth, who
was kaloskagathos, “beautiful and commendable.”8
On account of the strong emotions of shame, shock,
lust, admiration, irreverence, pity, and disgust aroused
by the sight of the nude human body, the most frequent organizations are with taboo, magic, and ritual
(5).
was unleashed. Apotropaic and charming nudity, calling for the exposure of male genitals and female
breasts, and the exhibit of the enlarged male phallus have been used from early times, and testify to the
Bearing power of this elaborate image. As a taboo, it
can protect against the evil eye.
gaze, it can paralyze or protect. The partial nudity or
Vulnerability of a girl’s breast or genitals, for instance,
can signify weakness and powerlessness; but it can
also function as strong magic.9 In art and in life,

belief in such magic powers is well attested in many
cultures throughout history, and has lived into our
own times.
In addition to obscene gestures, still serve as protection
When
Apparel is regular, exhibitionist actions of nakedness commonly
have a magical significance. In the realm of magic, nudity
wards off a spell or other dangerous kind of magic, compels love, and gives strength to one’s own practice of
witchcraft and conjuring.”1 Since, then, in a clothed
society nudity was special, atrocious, dangerous, and
powerful,”1 entire nakedness was avoided in regular life. It was saved for special situations or specific
Rite services.
Language, too, preserved hints of this magic power
of nakedness. The word, like the fact, had to be
avoided, so that its magic power could be maintained. A
linguistic taboo consequently caused the kind of the word for
“Nude” to transform, in all the Indoeuropean languages.
Though gymnos, nudus, nackt, etc. were all originally
related to each other-so linguists assure us-they
were all transformed in diverse and unexpected ways,
so that their first similarity is practically unrecognizable.12 For most parts of the body, there is what
Devoto called a “compact” vocabulary:13 the words for
“heart,” “eye,” “foot,” “knee,” “nose,” “tooth,” “eyebrow” are essentially the same in all the Indoeuropean

languages. Differences can be accounted for, even described, by linguistic “rules.” But words for “naked,”
as well as the names of specific parts of the bodyfinger, tongue, hand, and hair-are different in the
Distinct languages. How can this be clarified? Indoeuropeans obviously had fingers, tongues, hands, hair,
and nakedness; and they must have had names for

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