RELIGION
08/16/2014 08:22 am ET | Updated Aug 16, 2014

'Naked Goddess Swim' Invites Women To Shed Their Mortal Skin For A Cause

On Saturday August 9 roughly 60 women in Oregon City, OR shed their clothing and swam naked under the full moon in the Clackamas Cove to raise money for two important causes. They called themselves goddesses and their swim the Naked Goddess Swim.

Under the organization of Janie Malloy, a master swimmer and triathlete, the Naked Goddess Swim entered its second year on Saturday and raised about $1,200 through participant fees to support a fledgling non-profit that will help manage the cove as the local government begins developing the area. Some of the profits, Malloy told HuffPost, will also go toward breast cancer research.

As a swimmer who has enjoyed use of the cove for training purposes, Malloy has a personal investment in protecting the area.

"A lot of people like me train at the cove," Malloy told HuffPost, "and I wanted to demonstrate to the government how much the cove can be used for open water swimming."

Why call it a "goddess" swim, when as Malloy said, the event had no explicit religious underpinning?

"We have done moonlight swims for a few years, a small group of us," Malloy explained. "We were just joking around and talking about how fun it was swimming in the moonlight, and a naked goddess swim came up. [But] there is definitely spiritual aspect of it which was pretty powerful. There were women who came from a long distance, women who came for fun, for spirituality, for camaraderie."

Malloy told HuffPost that though she has participated in several Wiccan events, she chose not to bring that aspect of ritual to this event. For her, the goddess component rather signified an deep acceptance of the female form, which she found empowering.

"Particularly connected to this event, [goddess] meant self-acceptance of your body and appreciating your body and exposing it, being vulnerable," Malloy said. "[The women] all felt the power of the evening, and everybody walked way smiling and happy."

A naked goddess swim would not be complete without its Trusted Gentlemen (and Malloy said she believed several transgender women participated, as well.) The Trusted Gentlemen were in charge of monitoring the path to the cove to make sure no one bothered the goddesses in their bare states.

"What was really magical about it was the men who showed up to be our Trusted Gentlemen and Kayak Gods," Malloy said, "men who supported us doing something like the Naked Goddess Swim and wanted it to be successful. They were very protective of us."

Malloy said she plans to partner with a non-profit breast cancer research organization to continue building the event. Eventually she hopes it will become an annual fundraiser women can duplicate in their own communities. Naturally, Malloy said, subsequent Naked Goddess Swims will be planned around the full moon, as well.

Take a look at photos from Naked Goddess Swim, provided by Leyla Duechle Photography, below:

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  • Saraswati
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "The goddess Saraswati is primarily known as the giver of knowledge. But she is actually much more than that. Another of her names is Vak, which means speech. At its most subtle level, this means the original sound vibration that brings about creation. For the Vedas say that all things originate with sound, specifically the Vedic mantra Om. In all her features, the Goddess is always intimately involved with creation, suffusing it with her own being in many different ways. All the names and forms of the manifest world have their origin in Saraswati, who inspires the sages to compose mantras that form the basis of the creative ritual language of the Vedic tradition. Indeed, poets in all traditions have recognized the presence of the Muse, the divine Goddess who inspires their creations."
  • Sita
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "Among Hindus, the popularity of the Mahabharata is rivaled only by the glories of the Ramayana. Known in Sanskrit as the Adi Kavya, or the original poem, this ancient epic describes the earthly activities of Rama and Sita, who are considered to be divine incarnations of the Supreme Lord and the Goddess. Recitations of its 24,000 verses over a seven-day period regularly take place all over India and attract tens of thousands of listeners. Probably the best known of the numerous Hindu festivals is Diwali, which celebrates Rama’s recovery of Sita from the fierce demon Ravana."
  • Parvati
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "Parvati is the form of the Goddess most closely associated with Shiva. In many popular images, the two are shown locked in a sensuous embrace. According to Hindu scripture, Parvati took birth at the behest of Brahma for the very purpose of luring Shiva into marriage and having his child. These accounts indicate that she had a previous incarnation as Sati, who had also been Shiva’s consort. In that life she had immolated herself after hearing her husband insulted, thus lending her name to the now infamous rite of suttee, or sati as it is known in Sanskrit, where a widow enters her dead husband’s funeral pyre as a final and consummate act of loyalty and devotion."
  • Lakshmi
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "For most Hindu families today, Lakshmi is the goddess of the household. The scriptures describe her as the goddess of prosperity, splendor, luminosity and fortune. Her auspicious nature and reputation for granting fertility, good fortune, wealth and well-being attract devotees in every Indian village. Although there are very few temples dedicated to her worship alone, she is often seen on altars standing by the side of Vishnu. According to the Vedas, Lakshmi accompanies Vishnu as his companion whenever he incarnates within the world. Her names, likenesses and symbols are seen on the doors, walls, pillars and niches of temples everywhere, no matter which deity that shrine might be dedicated to."
  • Durga
    B.G. Sharma & Mahaveer Swami / Mandala Publishing
    "Generally Hinduism is divided into three broad strands, according to the particular vision of the deity held by its devotees. The Vaishnavas worship Vishnu as the supreme personal God; the Shaivites similarly worship Lord Shiva; and the Shaktas worship the Supreme as the goddess Durga. The term shakta derives from shakti, the Sanskrit word for power or energy. Durga is thus identified as the supreme divine power. She strikes a powerful pose in her typical manifestation, mounted upon a lion or tiger, her numerous arms wielding a fearsome array of weapons. Appearing as a beautiful woman, she attracts the demons toward her only to annihilate them."

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