Long or short, light or dark, thick or fine, curly or straight – hair is an important element of our everyday lives, being not only a fashion statement and a sign of personal health and grooming, but also having a symbolical and spiritual aspect.
Hair has always been a symbol of beauty and power, starting with the story of Samson and Delilah, where Samson’s strength was apparently measured by the length of his hair. Once his hair was cut, he no longer had any of his superhuman strength. In ancient times, there also appears to have been a link between hair as a symbol of beauty and female deception. In fact, Delilah deceived and betrayed Samson when she cut his hair while he was asleep.
In mythological tales, mermaids too have been known to sit on rocks, combing their long beautiful hair. Their enchanting voices would bewitch sailors who would sail too close to the rocks, ending in shipwreck and death.
This same sentiment of long, thick hair being a way for women to ensnare men, is also present in pieces of art, such as Rossetti’s famous Pre-Raphaelite painting Lady Lilith, who in the Bible was a demonic temptress, as well as Renoir’s Young girl combing her hair.
Hair is quite important in that it reflects sociological and cultural aspects of people’s everyday lives. In medieval times, for example, only unwed young women were allowed to wear their hair unbound and free, while married matrons had to cover their hair with a shawl or appropriate head-wear. On another note, it is well known that at the time, when a close relative or loved one died, his/her family used to cut off locks of hair for remembrance.
During the 1920s, flappers cut their hair short to proclaim women’s equality to men, while on the other hand, the hippie generations of the 60’s and 70’s grew their hair long in order to promote peace. Native Americans too attach great importance to their hair, having different ways of wearing it, which can denote one’s status or one’s role in the community. Using different knots and methods of braiding, Native Americans incorporate adornments, such as flowers, feathers, leaves, pebbles and other items, all with their own significant meaning.
According to the Indian Yogic theory of Kundalini, hairs act as a kind of antennae to channel the ‘sun energy’ or ‘prana’ to the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain reportedly used in visualisation and meditation.
Although different countries and beliefs have all given meaning to the symbolical importance of hair, others focus on the same idea, but conversely give importance to hair by pointing to its absence. For example, after the 2nd World War, the victors are known to have shaved the heads of those women who benefited from or ‘consorted’ with the Nazis, as a badge of shame. Destroying their ‘crowning glory’ was a way of humbling them.
Nuns opt to cover their hair as a way of symbolising their departure and detachment from the outside world, while certain faiths even make it a point for married or older women to cover their hair, in order to show that their beauty and power is private and not for everyone to see.
The health and grooming of hair is a multi-billion dollar industry. A normal person spends a few minutes (at the very least) of everyday looking after his/her hair. This is not just because hair is part of our appearance, but because it is actually part of our personality.
The term having a ‘bad hair day’ in fact means not only that one’s hair seems to be out of control on that particular day, but that everything seems to be going wrong or awry, thereby pointing to a clear link between how comfortable or self-assured we feel when our hair is clean, strong and healthy, as opposed to the insecure vibes we subconsciously emanate when we start to feel that there is something wrong with it.
Have you ever had a ‘bad-hair’ day? What does this mean for you?