Sacred Underwear

The saffron robes of Tibetan monks and black habits of nuns are outer signs of their devotion. But among religious devotees there's also a tradition of wearing hidden clothing that's charged with symbolic meaning -- in other words, sacred underwear.

Some Mormons, for instance, regularly slip on a white neck-to-knee garment that's meant to remind them of their pact with God. Orthodox Jewish men may wear tsitsit, a fringed cloth, beneath their basic black. For especially devout Catholics, the corresponding undergarment is a scapular.

The French philosopher Pascal joined in the fun with his own non-denominational contribution. At the height of an intense spiritual revelation, he scrawled poems on a parchment. Forever after he wore it under his clothes.

In recent years, the shamanatrixes of the Menstrual Temple of the Funky Grail (see the memoir/manifesto The Televisionary Oracle for their full story) have added to this tradition with their own radical twist. The ritual lingerie they slip into comes in a variety of forms. It might be an anything from black lace panties embroidered with prayers to the Goddess to an emerald satin merrywidow with an iconic bull skull talisman woven into the crook of the bra. As it does for their kindred spirits in other religious paths, this intimate apparel serves as a secret sign -- between the devotees and the Divine Spark alone -- of their spiritual intention.

This week's assignment, dear readers, should you choose to accept it: Design or find your own version of sacred underwear, and wear it with passionate, meditative purpose.

For more in-depth info about sacred underwear, see Noelle Oxenhandler's "Pascal's Jacket," an article in the Fall 1994 issue of Parabola magazine.