Friday, January 27, 2006

Cultural Phenomena

The phenomena of locking ones hair can be seen in many cultures and civilization throughout history. Pictorially some of the ancient Egyptian paintings depict people wearing locks in one of two states. One of which was by locking their own hair and the other was by wearing wool wigs. In contrast to this pictorial evidence one of the oldest written recordings of locks can be seen in the Hindu holy writing the Vedic’s which date back to about 5000 BCE to 1500 BCE. In it is described the Hindu god Shiva who is depicted wearing dreadlocks called "jaTaa" in Hindi, meaning "wearing twisted locks of hair". According to the 'Hymn of the longhaired sage' in the ancient Vedas, long JaTaas express a spiritual significance which implies the wearer has special relations with spirits, is an immortal between two worlds and the master over fire:

The long-haired one endures fire, the long-haired one endures poison, the long-haired one endures both worlds. The long-haired one is said to gaze full on heaven, the long-haired one is said to be that light ... Of us, you mortals, only our bodies do you behold. ...For him has the Lord of life churned and pounded the unbendable, when the long-haired one, in Rudra’s company, drank from the poison cup (The Keshin Hymn, Rig-veda 10.136)


Another such group of interest is the early Jewish sect called Nazirites who took a vow as described in the bible to lock there hair:

All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. (Numbers 6:5, KJV)


Although it is beyond the scope of what I am attempting to convey here I would also like to draw attention to Asian mystics in China and Vietnam who also wear dreadlocks. In the middle ages of Europe there is a clearly documented phenomenon of wearing dreadlocks, however they referred to them as Polish Plait. The wearing of the Polish Plait had more of a superstitious connotation as it related to pre Christian beliefs i.e. curing illness and warding off evil. As a result of Christian fervor spreading through out Europe in the middle ages the tradition of the polish Plait fell out of favor.

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