Long Hair in Culture
Article By Eilfie Music
In the bible, the story of Samson talks about how Samson’s father Manoah had made an oath to God that, along with abstaining from alcohol, his son would also not cut his hair. Samson’s hair was his strength through his oath to God, and he was able to achieve great feats of strength—such as tearing apart a lion and killing 300 soldiers with an ass’s jawbone. His strength is later lost when the woman he fell in love with cut his hair.
In the New Testament an unnamed sinner, thought by some to be Mary Magdalene, was said to have used her hair to dry Jesus’ feet after anointing it with oil and tears. Though Mary Magdalene was later shown not to be the “unnamed sinner,” she is often depicted as having long tresses—in fact, she is shown as wearing her hair as clothing in a painting by Titian. This possibly represents the image of vanity as was used in a humble state before Jesus.
In Norse mythology, the Goddess of the grain, Fir, is best known for her long, golden locks of hair. In one of the stories, the God Loki decided to cut her hair one night as she slept. Did this take away her power and beauty? It certainly angered her husband, Thor, enough that he started to break every bone in Loki’s body. To prevent himself from being pounded into a gooey mess, Loki went to the dwarves, who were master craftsmen, and had them weave magical golden hair for Fir.
In some cultures, hair is covered as a religious practice for modesty. Other cultures show off the hair in length and style. In Buddhism, when a man goes to become a monk, his hair is shaved off as a symbol of change.
In the western world, hair is almost like an accessory (with the cutting, dying, heating, and styling.) We see a woman with long hair and view her as feminine and natural, but to see a man with long hair, is at times, looked at as strange. If a man has a beard he is seen as more masculine, but if the beard becomes too long, some might see him as wild and unkempt.
Do we find strength in our hair? Women will at times cut their hair in a sudden wanting of change. I know I have. At one point my hair was past my waist, and I chopped it all off out of just wanting something different and becoming tired of pulling it back. If a man starts to lose his hair, he seems to lose his vitality and seems like less of a man—unless he purposely shaves his head.
Grimm’s fairy tales has the story of Rapunzel who was stolen away by a witch after her father had stolen food for his pregnant wife from the witch’s garden. Rapunzel’s hair grew long enough that the witch could use it as a ladder to climb up the doorless tower where Rapunzel was kept captive. Rapunzel lost her hair when she fell in love with a wandering prince and the witch found out. The witch cut off her hair and sent her into the woods to starve. The prince was tricked and fell into a bush of thorns where he lost his eyes. The two wandered, thinking the other dead, until years later when Rapunzel found her prince blind. Her tears healed his eyes and they found there way back to his kingdom. The cutting of her hair can be a symbol of sudden change from being cut off from the world to being now thrust into the real world with no one to care for her.
In Pagan books you can find, amongst the beauty and glamour spells, spells to try and make your hair grow longer or thicker. The deities, Venus, Freyja, and Fir are called upon for help with this. Hair is also used when making poppets or anything connected to a particular person. A lock of the hair makes that connection stronger in the spell. That was why it was always best not to leave any hair or nails—someone could use them against you.
During the Victorian age, when someone passed away, family and friends would cut locks of hair from the deceased in order to keep in locks and in boxes as a physical connection to those they love. They would also, at times, create art with the hair for lockets or large pieces as another form of mourning. In ancient Egypt, women would shave their eyebrows to show morning. In Michelle Belanger’s book Walking the Twilight Path hair is suggested as a sacrifice since it is such a personal item to some, and it shows our tight grip on this mortal body. If hair is not that big of a sacrifice, she also suggests nails as well.
Our hair grows about half an inch each month depending on health. That is six inches each year. Tonics, oils, diets, and contraptions claim to increase this growth. Like the human nail, if the body is not getting the right nutrients and water it becomes brittle and breaks off easily. This dead protein has held such importance in cultures for ages.
I would like to thank the members of www.paganspace.net who gave me the idea to continue on this article.