Thursday, October 25, 2012


I somewhat covered the why of it yesterday, but this deserves its own entry. I'm looking a what is beyond "some ancient text says I should" or "the restrictions of my community say I must." I want to explore the choice. When the option is there, why is it taken?

The reasons for veiling are as many as the people who do it. That being said, the simplest answer, and by far the most prominent, is "because I feel called to do it." That calling, that compulsion, can come from faith ("my gods say I should") or a desire to give a certain impression, or a need to identify a certain way, a hope to get a certain effect or benefit.

I have mentioned that my Reiki sensei recommended it. She said it would help with my concentration and focus, reduce the potential for headaches and for being overwhelmed by the emotions of the people around me. In this case, the veil would be a shield or a piece of armor. It is mentioned here and here (the same link noted NSFW yesterday) and here and in a few of the accounts and comments here. While I've felt this pull for years prior to my Reiki training, this recommendation was why I actually tried it. And it wasn't a matter of "sensei said so" but "sensei said this might be helpful and I might want to see if it works for me."

And the answer? It did. I felt safer, more protected, less exposed. And that's probably part of why I still feel called to do it. I feel bombarded, vulnerable. I can cast an energy shield and it helps, but not as much as that physical barrier did- and not nearly as much as the two together did.

Many pagans say their matron goddess requests it of them. Some of the links I've posted already include references to this. Hestia and other hearth goddesses seem to be at the top of the list of goddesses who request this action. In this blog post, the writer mentions specifically that her goddess made a request, not a command. Of all the blogs I've come across in my research, I really enjoyed this one. She gives great examples of how covering works for her and I love that she pointed out the two biggest arguments pagans make against covering are not her reasons for covering. This blog touches on the religious devotion aspect of veiling. This blogger states "My deities don't require it of me, but I feel as though something is telling me that it's the right thing for me to do." My Plain Quaker friend describes it as an individual calling among Quakers as well. Quaker Jane had this page about why some women choose to go plain. This is not the same as modest dress or even just veiling, as I mentioned yesterday, but the reasons are just as relevant.

As for me, I don't have a matron right now. I have, however, felt a pull to hearth goddesses, specifically Brigid and Hestia, for some time and it has gotten much stronger over the past few years - perhaps owing to the fact that I now have a hearth of my own to tend. Likewise, that urge to veil has also been growing stronger since. Second to the recommendation of my sensei, veiling as a sign of my devotion to my path is a very intense desire.

Further along these lines, people are saying that a physical barrier reminds them every day of their faith. The last blog I linked above said "I once heard somewhere (no idea where, now) that the reason Jewish men cover their heads is to remind them that there's something above and beyond them that needs to be paid attention to." I've seen that last part "to remind them that there's something above and beyond them that needs to be paid attention to" quoted over and over among the many blogs and articles I've come across over the past few weeks. This theme of feeling more connected to deity or to faith can also be found in many of the links I've already posted.

Outside of modesty that I talked about yesterday, some pagans say that veiling puts them more in control of themselves. My favorite example of this was in that very first article I came across, "Somewhere amidst the many blogs I read a woman made a comment that she veiled because she didn't have to share herself with everyone. She made the choice on who saw her hair. She deemed a part of herself sacred and set it apart from everyone else, to only share with a select few. I find that concept interesting, that idea of reserved power. A woman may be showing cleavage, wearing a short skirt, and dancing in heels, but her covered hair would represent that she was fully in charge of her body and the decisions made over her body." The article didn't point back to where that came from. I really like this thought. This post also mentions that it can be empowering to be completely in control of who gets to see their hair.

I read a comment on a thread in the Noble Pagan forums (you have to be a member to read it, and I signed up just because the cache indicated there might be some good information there, so I won't link it because of the membership requirements) where a Catholic woman said she recently joined an Eastern Catholic church where the priest encourages women to veil. The reason given was, in her words, "he said that in every major religion of the world anything that is considered Sacred and Mysterious has been veiled and hidden from common site. He then looked at all the women in the church and asked us 'What could possibly be more Sacred, more Mysterious than Woman from whom all life comes.'"

Along the same lines, there are several cultures and faiths where hair is held sacred in some way. Sikhism (a beautiful religion of which so little is known in the mainstream that followers are often mistaken for extremists) is a big example of this. The practice of kesh, allowing one's hair to grow naturally, is used as a way to honor God and the perfection of his creation. The turban that a Sikh wears over his hair is part of this honoring as it keeps the long hair they are forbidden to cut clean and protected. Sikhism is a great example of men who are required to veil as a sign of their devotion! There is even a touching observance called Pag Vatauni where two people may exchange their turbans as a sign of deep and permanent friendship. Women may also wear a turban if they choose, or some other method of covering the hair, but covering the face with a veil is forbidden for both men and women. Some Eastern and Native American cultures believed that hair was sacred, I have heard it explained as an extension of one's soul and so it was not cut. This principle is sometimes why it is covered, though it is not always covered in cultures that adhere to this. In the Victorian era, hair of a deceased loved one was often made into jewelry or wigs for dolls because of its connectedness with the person who is no longer living.

I list these only as an example of considering hair sacred and hiding the sacred from common view. This reason does not resonate that much with me. Only insomuch that I am a sacred being and my entire body is sacred, not just a part of it.(And that in no way is meant to imply that only the head and hair is sacred to these cultures, I'm just trying to illustrate that this would not be one of my reasons to veil.)

Another reason to wear a veil sometimes cited by pagans is as a symbol of marriage. The Jewish guidelines apply to married women, as do the Islamic guidelines in some communities, though unmarried women do sometimes make the choice. This woman says that she enjoys keeping her hair hidden from everyone except her husband.

The comment by Jennifer on this post shows that she does not agree with keeping a body part covered because it is owned by someone else. This post that I've linked before also mentions that it is most often unmarried women who feel their veil is not a representation of marriage but many married women do.

I'm of two minds about this reason, and perhaps my take could be related to the fact that I am currently without a husband, and that I have a wonderful boyfriend who has made absolutely zero demands on my appearance. (It should be noted that most of the women who say they veil in part to keep something else special for their husbands do not also say that their husbands asked it of them. In fact, I only found one reference of a spousal request, three links above.) My first thought is that there honestly is a part of me that likes the idea of considering my body to be something special and sacred and that I choose who to share it with, and if I share it with you, you should take it as the special and sacred act it is. Husband, family, close friends, those are the people who I would trust to allow myself to be completely exposed to them, which is what removing my veil would accomplish in this instance. Those who know me well know that my trust is hard to earn, and those that know me better know just how meaningful it is if I choose to share parts of my sacred and special physical body with them.

But then, I think of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16. In those passages, it indicates a man should never cover his head while praying (11:4) but a woman should always cover her head because an uncovered head is like shaving (11:5) and a shaved head on a woman is shameful (11:6). A man doesn't cover because he was made in God's image, where a woman was made in man's image, from man, and for man (11:3 and 11:7-9) 11:10 states, "For this reason, and because the angels are watching, a woman should wear a covering on her head to show she is under authority" (New Living Translation). That bit right there makes my mind shout "No! Resist, resist!"
1 Corinthians goes on to say that men and women are connected, because woman was made from the first man and all other men were born of woman (11:11-12). In 11:13-16, Paul somehow draws the conclusion that a man's hair should never be worn long but a woman's hair must be, but it must also be covered because it is her pride and joy (11:15). This last verse is interesting because it states "And isn't long hair a woman's pride and joy? For it has been given to her as a covering." This implies to me that a woman's hair is her veil, so I am confused as to why two verses ago a woman must cover her hair when the hair is the covering. It's not the first contradiction in the Bible, to be sure, but that's not why I'm here.

Of course, the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians, and indeed the Bible as a whole, is not a source for my religious faith and practice. So wearing a veil certainly does not mean that I am some man's property or under some man's authority. This is not a meaning for many who choose to veil either, but the historical reason is there, and that is a perception of me that I do not desire. Would it stop me from veiling? Nope. It might stop me from saying "for my husband" as a reason, though. Wearing a veil as a symbol of devotion to a spouse is not without merits. There is a part of me that sees it as a beautiful thing; a sign of my loyalty to the person who I choose to spend the rest of my life with. But it would not be done because he wanted me to, but because it would be something I wanted to do for him.

So I mentioned perception. I want to explore this more, so that's going to be the topic for next time.


Crystal Broomall said...

My personal reasons for veiling are a combination of calling and protection, I think. I've been drawn to veiling for quite some time, and it started when I was a more serious devotee of Hecate. I don't know if it was Hecate in particular who was calling on me to do it, but the urge - almost compulsion - began at that time. It is a constant, underlying push/pull, this need for covering. It never really goes away, and I always end up thinking strongly about taking that step on a permanent basis only to back away because of my conflict over the how.

I will say that this week I've been covering, thanks to your posts, and it has been quite nice. I feel more myself when I cover, I'm able to focus better, and be more authentically me. I feel... safer, in a way? Less like the outside world is getting under my skin. I don't quite know how to explain it, really, but the feeling is quite strong.

Thank you for sharing your journey. It has been an inspiration, and I wish you well as you do your exploration!

Fyrecreek said...

Crystal, that is fantastic! My reasons for wanting to are similar, and that urge/desire/compulsion is almost becoming a nag! I still need to figure out how to deal with the work issue. As far as the protection side of things go, that's where I feel I need it the most.