Nudism is the cult of sexually unsegregated nakedness in developed countries. It is thought to be indecent and even immoral (leading to promiscuity) or simply impractical in cold temperatures or in situations where clothes serve as protection. As indecent exposure, it may be subject to legal penalties.
Nudity is of widespread ritual significance. Christian baptism and conversion to Judaism originally involved nudity, as did a number of other initiatory rites. Nudity symbolized death and the beginning of a new life. Ritual nudity is often associated with magic. Witches are said to perform their rites in the nude. In some cases, magicians must be naked while offering sacrifices to Lakshmi, the wife of Vishnu but clothed when making offerings to Rama. The practice of Greco-Roman magic is associated with the observance of nudity as was Chinese magic. Nudity is associated with fertility, for example, in India, women will strip naked and embrace the image of Hanuman, the monkey god to obtain progeny. Rituals involving nudity are used to end droughts and controlling excessive rain. Funeral rites also sometimes involve nudity. A number of traditions practice liturgical nudity in association with healing and as a sign of humility and poverty. In some cases nudity may signify sinfulness.
Originally a European movement, nudism began in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century with the Nacktkultur groups. Nudist Societies were formed in England, France, Scandinavia and a few other European Countries after the First World War, and in the USA and Canada in the 1930s, but has little following in Latin or Roman Catholic countries.
There are several hundred thousand nudists throughout the world. Compulsory communal showers in British schools reputedly do great harm to the children's psychosexual development.