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Have you ever splashed in the waters of a mountain river in the middle of a hot summer?
I have. And the best part of it is that when you find the right spot, nobody can find you. Which translates into… nudism…
As we know nudism is a thing. And in fact its popularity began here, in France, along the hot French coastline where it found enough supporters to manage to conquere the world.
I personally have a few experiences with nude dudes in particular walking around and letting their ding-dongs hop around freely….. Of course it is better when there’s something out there to hop…. And so I saw some… in Cyprus, Portugal, Spain and Poland… not that I looked…
Nudity was never meant to be a problem in the God’s vision of human and world. We were free to run around naked as we pleased. That was in the Garden of Eden of course. But we all know what happened later. For those who don’t, Eve, the girl that shared the garden with Adam, was tempted by a snake to take a bite of a fruit from the forbiddeden tree, the only fruit neither of them was allowed to touch. She then offered it to Adam. All of a sudden, everything changed, they had sinned. The nudity they were previously not aware of, became apparent and they made clothes of fig leaves and loincloth to cover themselves.
Scientists managed to run some genetic tests on the lice. Lice may live in human hair and feed of human bodies, however to infest, they need clothing. These brought them to a conclusion that since Homo Sapiens are known to exist for about 200 000 years now, then at least for half of this time we were not wearing any clothes. Roughly 75 000 years ago we stopped being nudists and most likely started our migration into the colder places where clothing would have been essential.
Nudity, linked directly with sexuality, played huge role in the lives of people throughout the centures. And for example in ancient Egypt you will find tomb paintings where naked dancers swirl to the tunes of the musicians seated around them. You will recall the Faraohs and their orgies. Akhen-Aton (1385 – 1353 B.C.) is considered to be the one who laid the basis for the nude recreation and social nudism.
Same in any other ancient civilization we happen to be studying these days. Belly dancers in Arab countries were barely wearing anything and they were also entertaining the orgy-style parties filled with nudity. Female nudity embodied fertility and procreation. Naked female fertility deities have been found in very early prehistoric art and, in historic times, were a recurring feature of Near Eastern, Mesopotamian and Egyptian art.
Greeks took nudity to the next level. They were showing extreme interest in the naked male form in particular. In Ancient Greece male body would have been a symbol of strength, triumph, glory, morality, nobility, youth and the highest of values and ideologies. This was due to the fact that competition was a daily business there. That’s how of course they ended up creating the Olympic games, but this is how they also lived and how they dealt with keeping their armies ready – by competing anytime and anywhere in sports. As such their bodies were beautiful. Gymnos means naked. They fought naked and when they partied in their symposias, they partied disrobed too. Students in Greece also received their education in the nude. They were true tabula rasa looks like….
Greeks and Romans lived in a clothing-optional society, although the latter tried to keep it rather behind the closed doors. Robes were necessary for formal occasions only. They often enjoyed bathing in open baths crowded with people. In other words, the ancient world of the hotter climatic zones could be considered a one big nudist village. A complete flower power style.
393 A.D. was when a Christian emperor banned the Olympic Games in Greece because he believed them to be pagan. With the arrival of Christianity, nakedness would only ever be depicted in the forms of Adam and Eve, where it revealed their sin. Middle Ages were very religious times, hence Jesus, whose almost naked body revealed his wounds, naked baby Jezus and breast feeding Madonnas were also allowed. Being naked otherwise was no longer associated with male athleticism and female fertility, but rather with weakness and defenselessness.
It wasn’t until the Renaissance period, which in general can translate as Awakening Anew, that nudity was truly accepted again. In these times naked body was seen as a form of art. Humanism and the celebration of the body and the art of the ancient were back, and even the reluctant church had to accept the idea that God created man in his own image and thought the work looked good. Although anyone who read Mario Puzzo’s books such as the Borgia Family, already knows that the church was always quite aware of the looks of the human bodies….
Donatello’s naked David (1408-1409) was the first free-standing, nude statue since antiquity. And the love of ancient body types retruned. Artists, despite of having access to female models, preferred male models. As a result Michelangelo’s ladies looked like men with breasts! Today men also sport female breasts… mainly due to high doses of GMO chicken, topped with crisps and soft drinks they swollow, which happily keep their testosterone levels low. Instead they’re packed with feminity walking in high heels made of eastrogene.
We have nudity celebrated and depicted in every century because human body is a wonderful sight to behold, both clothed and unclothed. Before photography, erotic art circulated via private paintings, small sculptures or as decorative objects or ornaments shown either as spiritual beliefs or portraying cultural practices. The idea that erotic images were “pornography” was a Victorian invention when the Puritans came to light with their pure hearts and souls seeing everything as sin. Until the mid-nineteenth century, looking at erotic representations was legal and extremely commonplace.
The 18th and 19th centuries used nudity in mythological and allegorical genres, often on the border with surreal or avant-garde ideas. It is at the end of 19th century when naturism started to seef itself through the debilitating aspects of industrialization and urbanization which turned everydayness into grayness. People started seeking the light, relaxation, far from their crummed living zones where life was reduced to work and viruses multiplied with the tendency to linger.
And then came the British King, Edward VIII, who in 1936 went on an Adriatic cruise, where he obtained a special permission from the local government for himself and his mistress to enjoy the beaches and the waters surrounding the isle of Rab. Between here and 1950 people were mainly bathing either in blood or taking showers in Cyclone B. Hence only in the 50s the true naturist movement appeared. And I do believe it may have been very symbolic too; sort of manifestation of finally returned freedom to those who survived the war and who wanted to enjoy every moment of life fully, on their terms and at its best.
This trend moved over the seas quite quickly. Already in the 60s of the 20th century Americans were designating parts of beaches to nudists, who at first were considered to be mainly gay people. This however changed in no time and soon entire families were welcome to splash clotheless around many clothing-optional beaches. It is vital to mention the likes of Henry David Thoreau, who among many other individuals with similar hobbies, enjoyed his daily naked walks which he called “air baths”, whilst Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn were skinny dipping in the Mississippi river already a good century earlier. Nudity in general seems to be illegal in the USA, however there is a number of clothing optional beaches which are available for those who wish to warm up all their body parts, including those usually hidden.
On one hand I do not mind people sun bathing and resting nude, although I do not find it very cool when it is being done in a very close proximity to children. But apart from the beachy stuff, there’s this other aspect of nudity exposure which I personally find quite odd. Namely that some people have the need, I guess, to show their bodies in public. Particularily I have the famous magazine covers of pregnant naked actresses and certain others in mind. This is being portrayed as their strength and pride, etc. We sure do not need to look but I am more interested in what’s behind their need for exhibitionism rather than what comes out of it. As much as nudism still exists in a few scattered and primitive tribes in the Amazon or remote Pacific Islands, there it is a part of a culture, nothing else is known. Our developed world expects us to dress. Perhaps those few, pregnant acresses and known others, try to show that primitive is also possible in the developed world.
With sexuality being exposed nowadays and openly promoted, as well as the growth of numbers of places such as nudist holiday resorts and nudist colonies, naturalism is a thing that raises questions of morality. And as much as the magazine covers may be considered ego-freaks stunts, nakedness is not considered as sexual among the nudists at all. They see being naked as the most basic, natural and purest of ways to be. They wish to touch the bottom of human nature – we were born naked and naked is beautiful in every shape and form. In their opinion and rightly so, it is the outside world that seems to be pervertic about the nudists instead.
But there’s a difference between nudist or nude beaches also called free beaches or clothing optional beaches and simply enjoying your own nudity hidden among bushes, lying on the blanket spread on a high grass, accross the meadow, surrounded by the flowers and listening to the swooshing of the river, birds singing or an occasional bee buzzing….
What better could you ask for than a splash in such a river….
We did find such a river, in fact even more than once!
This time it was old good same one that flows through Mirepoix, L’Hers-Vif.
Btw, check out my other post: When Mommy Says Eat Your Veggies, Eat Them! Diced
It isn’t difficult to find a secluded spot like that in the south of France where plenty of villages, like Vals, have approximately 1 human inhabiting 14 km². Not bad, eh? Although the numbers seem to be on the rise.
The Vals I’m talking about here does not look anything like the one in Switzerland. But believe me, it does have its own charm.
While some people say that Vals fell asleep a few centuries ago and all you will notice around here are the lazy cats either exposing their furry bodies to the rays of the hot southern sun or alternatively lying around under the trees where plenty of shade can be found – I, of course, have found a… donkey. In fact even two of them…. Whether this fact suggests any liveliness in the settlement, I don’t think so.
They were standing in the area shaded by the trees, waiting for someone to pay their human for a ride. Perhaps there are some nice routes one can take around the village and donkey would be a funky ride, but we did not have any such thing in mind when visiting this lovely village that enchanted us with its huge rock and a church tower that’s glued on it’s top. Well seen from the far distance.
The tower, looking quite like a typical tower in some norman sturctures, overlooks the pretty green valley. We stop the car and walk among the rows of clearly medieval houses built in yellow stone, ventrue and debonair. They crumple against each other trying to hold on yet for a while before they give in to the passing time. This village, clearly does not give a damn about tourists or the outside world. The time has stopped here and does not seem to be in any hurry to move anywhere any time soon….
Coming closer to that gianormous rock, we take a quick look up and feel like tiny ants hopig to conquere a dandelion. Stone staircase leads us to the heavy door. But that’s just a beginning of what truly awaits inside. We come through accompanied by the squeaky tunes of the rusty hinges and let in the light that falls onto the second part of the staircase which is tightly squeezed in between the rock walls. So tightly that one must actually watch out not to bang their head on a huge lump overhanging to the left. This part of the chapel was built in the 10th century and is incorrectly known as a crypt.
The sunlight coming from behind lightened up our way up the stairs. And at the top of this staircase, we reached the second door.
The silence hiding among these walls is mesmerizing. Looking up at the rays of the sun dripping through the colorful stained glass windows you think of the singing monks. Time has stopped in this sleepy place, which tourists, most likely, always discover only by accident. Some would sit in a dark corner letting the atmosphere overwhelm them, but not us. We had to touch every piece of this place, smell it and feel it with all senses to then in the end organize a pretend mass for ourselves…
A massive baptistery in its rock notch, carved into the wall of a rectangular apse is bathed in the warmth of the sun. The vaults of this part of the building reveal wonderful Romanesque frescoes depicting scenes from Christ’s childhood in the colors and styles typical to this period.
The main nave used to be situated lower up until the 19th century when Marquise de Portes ordered the changes. Just below it, a row of old, dark, wooden steps will take you up to the Chapel of St. Michael’s that dates back to the 12th century and with a little choir. That magnificent tower that’s above it comes from the 14th century. It is also until when the chapel remained divided off from the Chapel of St. Mary, the one with the frescoes. Apparently this way the locals were protecting their church from the robberies of the Hundred Years War.
Sadly, we did not have a good camera with us when travelling wild. Not from the safety perspective but simply because we did not really want to spend the time taking photos but instead experiencing and memorizing more. As such, I invite you to watch this beautiful film about Vals that tells a very pretty story in a very pretty way as well as shows you the details which I could not show in my few photographs.
Finally we came out onto the terrace. Vast and neverending panarama on the Pyrenean ridges stretched in front of us in the heat of afternoon. And we could not help ourselves but to simply stand there and marvel over this magnificent creation of Nature and human that so beautifully managed to merge the two worlds into one without causing much damage. Which, you have to admit is almost unthinkable nowadays.
Pretty, once red rooftops covered with fading tiles made out of natural stone, created a multileveled mosaic of carious shapes and sizes. And it was so hard to take the eyes off of them that once more, I commited a drawing or two.
It is worth strolling around the church rock as from behind it does not look equally magnificent. On the contrary, a typical church structure not even suggesting what’s hidden inside and on the other end. On the sides of the hill, a wide semi-cubic notch can be spotted. it origin and potential use remain undefned still as the archaeologists are still unsure of its age even. Some claim it may have been a continuation of the medieval settlement whilst others think it may have been a religious site prior to the Roman invasion.
As any other antique settlement, also Vals has its stories that were being passed through the centuries. A few years ago, local lady, Mrs Yvonne Fabre, who was a well of information on the region, was asked by the Association of Friends of Vals to gather all of the stories she herself learned during her childhood. And this is how the book of Contes da pays de Vals was created to cherish the history and remember the stories of a certain past that provide explenation to respective evolutions within the local society, traditions told by the elderly but never before put down on paper.
Mme Yvonne Fabre (1914-2008)
One of these stories is about The miracle of Vals.
This is not a legend, but a fact that happened somewhere between the years 1824 and 1830. Angelique was a servant in Teilhet, at the house of her well-off neighbours.
They had a big house and plenty of land in the village, but above all two pretty farms that yielded a lot of wheat, on the fields between Vals and Saint-Felix. In those days, that was enough to live comfortably.
In the first days of September of that year, a beautiful baby was born in this rich family. One day when Angelique arrived for work in the morning, the old lady said to her:
– Listen Angelique, today you will have to do everything in the house, we are all going to Vals for a mass, we cannot leave my daughter alone with her baby.
– Madam – ansered Angelique – you can leave in peace, everything will be fine, count on me!
And indeed, all day, the servant worked like a bee… Around 4 o’clock, the young lady called her from her room.
– Angelique, come up!
When she was up there, she said:
– You’ve been busy all day today, now it’s high time you went to rest at home and take care of your little girl, please! Poor lamb! She must be lonely. (I must tell you that this unfortunate servant had a crippled child – 7 year old and she could not walk yet).
Arriving at her house, Angelique thought to herself:
– It’s still early, I have plenty of time to go to Vals to recite my rosary.
So she took her crippled child into her arms and went towards Vals.
Halfway, at the chasm of Portes, she met the people of Teilhet. They were returning from the mass and asked:
– And why are you going Vals at this hour? There is nothing going on their now in the church anymore.
– It doesn’t matter – answered Angelique – I want to go all the same.
She finally arrived and went up towards the Cross, then took the stairs, with her precious burden on her back and came into the crypt. She sat her little girl down in a chair. While she herself recited her rosary kneeling.
After a while, the little girl who saw through the stained glass window of the Chapel of the Virgin that the day was going down, jumped from her chair saying:
– We have to go mom, can’t you see it’s getting dark?
The child ran down the stairs. crossed the square and the street. The people of Vals who at that time were much more numerous than today, cried seeing the miracle.
Angelique wept for joy and the two of them returned to Teilhet, light as two larks, thanking the Blessed Virgin all along the way.
I dare to believe in the powers hidden within the mystic silence of L’église de Vals and the story of the Miracle seems very probable.
Who knows, perhaps Angelique’s daughter had children of her own and they live somewhere in the area….
And who knows, perhaps they also bathed themselves in the waters of the River Hers. Maybe even nude.
That we shall never find out…. unless Grandma Fabre did mention it among her stories….. Or maybe… this is one yet to be written still….
Any reason is good to go back to cool places and re-visiting Vals is on my list for sure. One day I shall find out and if there is a story, I will surely write it down. Until then….
Peace, Love and Freedom to All of You!
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