Monday, December 10, 2012

What and How and Where and When


I'm splitting this topic up a bit, and I apologize in advance if the next few posts seem disjointed or repetitive. I think they may.

I thought I would go into the specific styles that I've previously mentioned, but that will have to wait until next time. Instead, I want to talk about the veil: what it covers and what it doesn't, some styles available for borrowing, and where and when I choose to veil. Remember there are no rules in modern paganism practices to dictate these things, so where you go from here, how you incorporate veiling into your path, is completely up to you.

What gets covered?

The short answer is: it depends. Some Amish and Mennonite communities allow hair to be pinned up a certain way with a sheer prayer cap on top. Essentially nothing is covered from view, but the hair is not displayed either. Some other communities encourage full bonnets that cover all hair from view. Jewish tichels cover all hair. Muslim hijabs cover hair and neck and, depending on the style, some cover the face also. My Plain Quaker friend Valerie had this lovely thing to say about how she observed other Plain Quakers' dress, "We don’t have a Quaker Hat Store, so women solve that problem by selecting a kerchief, a veil, a prayer cap used in other Plain communities, or make their own, or use a scarf, or adapt until they are comfortable.  I’ve seen braids hanging down behind the prayer cap, hair all the way up (like mine), a tiny veil the size of a spread hand pinned on top of loose curls, and everything in-between."

There are no rules in paganism about hair covering, so my guidelines are completely my own - and that which I sense I am called to do. Really, my point is not to cover my hair (though some days I may), but to cover my crown chakra. Valerie's observations made a great and valid point to me. Even in a community where plain dress might be prevalent, they had no rules. "Adapt until they are comfortable."

As a pagan feeling the need to cover my head, this completely applies. My main drive is to cover my crown chakra, but what to do with my hair? I could leave it loose, so it shows under my veil, or tie it all up in a bun, or leave a braid hanging down. I have bangs that I could keep out or brush back under my veil. I could cover with very opaque fabric or very sheer fabric. There are no rules and no guidelines. This part is completely up to me. And with no guidelines of my own, I take a lot from the other cultures that do have a veiling practice, while trying to keep appropriation in mind.

Let me talk about that for a moment. I've touched on it before, in that people often get mistaken for being a member of a group of which they actually are not. That may not be a bad thing, but it might mean they have to deal with prejudice born of ignorance that they otherwise would not experience. As an anthropologist, I try to be very mindful of how I present myself, trying not to allow myself to be mistaken for following a practice I don't actually follow. I'd be lying if I said I was not trying to avoid any unpleasant reactions from a random stranger on the street, but my main reason is respect. Veiling traditions in most cultures that have them come from something special or sacred, like a religious text, or guidelines set forth by religious and/or community leaders. It is those traditions, those faith practices no matter how they began, that I must respect. Do I know if any of those groups would consider it an insult if a non-follower adopted their practices for entirely different reasons? Of course not, though some people I spoke to at the start of my research did express not being bothered by it. That being said, in many ways paganism is late to the veiling party, and a pagan choosing to veil has little choice than to borrow the styles and practices that have already been adopted by other traditions. It's an amusing and perhaps fitting turn, as other traditions have been borrowing pagan traditions for centuries (consider the "Christmas" tree, that has absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Christ. And there are so many other examples). This is the way the world works, cultures are constantly borrowing from other cultures- borrowing from traditions, languages, styles -  and I don't see this as a bad thing at all. It promotes cultural evolution. [I will say that it becomes a bad thing when the borrowing culture suddenly claims exclusive ownership of the borrowed tradition (consider the "Christmas" tree again) but that's a completely different discussion for another time.]

At the end of this blog, the author posed this lovely question, "for those who say it’s cultural appropriation… whose culture? If most cultures covered their heads at some point, then who is offended, exactly?" A valid question. Even some ancient pagan traditions involved head covering. The neo-pagan movement seems to lack it on a large scale, but it is an old practice that we can draw upon.

Now that we've been through that, what gets covered? Whatever it is that you need to cover in your personal practice. If you're called to cover your head and all hair, do that. If you want to cover your neck too, do that. If it's just the crown chakra and showing hair is okay, do that. If any given day it can be any of these things, do that too. It's completely up to you and your gods (assuming your gods care if you cover or not).

How do you wear that?

I don't mean 'how to tie a tichel' here, I'm talking options- what styles and traditions exist that could be applied to my practice. After the bunches of links (worth following and exploring), this blog post has several lovely photographs of different styles and touches on their associations with different practices (followed by a ton more links- though I honestly haven't gone hopping through any of them yet). I would love to post all the images here for you and talk about them, but they do not all mention a source and I'm not willing to start claiming images I find randomly on the web. But if you follow none of the links I post here, check that one out, if simply for the pictures.

Style means I still want to look good, I still want to look like myself, and I want to appear in a way that respects the culture from which I'm borrowing a style. In relation to this, here is a fantastic post from a blogger responding to a comment someone made about borrowing styles. She said she found as long as it is not something that is just fashion, that there is some meaning to it, people of the other cultures are mostly accepting. I'm inclined to agree with her, and in my research I have found this opinion to be true. Remember why we veil, whatever that reason may be, and use whatever style works for you.

In that regard, I'll probably never wear something in a hijab style. I feel no need to cover my neck except when it's cold, so that style doesn't resonate with me. Also a prayer cap doesn't really suit me. I love the tichel style. I love the look of it (not saying I don't love any other look; for example I think hijabs are quite beautiful- in fact, there's no style I've yet seen that I absolutely don't like aesthetically), I love how versatile it is, and how easy to tie while looking so complicated. I'm also a big fan of snoods, so I expect I'll be wearing those a lot when the weather is warmer. I wear small, triangular bandana type cloths or kerchiefs sometimes, usually when I'm doing chores around the house (I'll get to this). I'll probably never just loosely drape a square or rectangle of fabric over my head as is seen in many depictions of the Virgin Mary. It would work if I needed something temporary and had no reason to use my hands, but I'm more of a tie it on and leave it there kind of person. Most often, I leave my bangs out and have the rest of my hair tied up in some way.

I was and then I wasn't going to talk about the topic of this article. When I was first researching, I just glanced at this page and it looked like someone was using the Bible as a reference for why covering does not apply to Christians in this age. Further reading and really looking at the information being presented shows that it is just the opposite. That makes it apply to my previous topic of oppression: "The Bible says so!" Ok, maybe that is so (hear that, Christians, get your heads covered! I'm kidding.) but further down on this article one realizes that it's actually quite liberal. The part I want to draw your attention to is in what the author has called Myth number nine: "It is significant that God does not specify a style of head covering or give details about how the head should be covered. Should it be a hanging veil, or a hat or cap style? God doesn't specify. Should all the hair be covered? God doesn't specifically say. The emphasis is on a verb, covering the head, rather than on a noun, the head covering. This is significant. By not specifying a style, God gives freedom for a variety of styles and colors of head coverings to be used. God gives freedom for the headcovering to be creative and attractive. It does not have to be old-fashioned, a drudgery, or an embarrassment." Even in the Christian source for head covering, how the head gets covered is open, and communities that follow the practice interpret it in their own ways.

So how do you wear that? Whatever works. Whatever does what you need it to do. If you need a full hijab to cover everything you need to cover, go for it. If a small cloth pinned to your hair covers what you need to cover, go for that too. If one day a wide headband serves your purpose and the next day a bunned tichel does, that's okay.

Where and when do you veil?

You're heading out to buy some groceries: you put on a shirt and some pants, grab a coat, and throw a scarf on your head. You're getting ready for work: you pull on your slacks, suit, or skirt, button up a shirt, and tie a tichel over your head. You're getting ready to do some house cleaning: you put on some grunge clothes, maybe an apron, and tie your hair back with a bandana  You're on your way to visit family: you might just throw a hat on for the journey but take it off for your visit, or pick a shear scarf or bandana  You're sitting at home reading a book: you might pick some lounge wear and leave your hair down. You're crawling into bed, you might don a night cap or just braid long hair so it doesn't strangle you in the night. Some practices encourage veiling at all times, some only when outside the home or not in the company of family, some are required only during active religious observance and ritual.

I've mentioned that one of the places I feel I really need to cover my head is at work. If my main reason for veiling is to protect my sensitive crown chakra from random office energies, that makes perfect sense. Along that same vein, I'm exposed to similar energies when I'm out in the world, so I need to cover then as well. When I am tending to my home, that's a direct communion with hearth goddesses that I have been drawn to of late, so I veil while doing chores around the house as a symbol of devotion (not exactly devotion to a deity specifically, but devotion to a path might be more accurate). Additionally, when I'm in ritual, I feel the need to utilize that same symbol of devotion. I know that some practices cover while sleeping, but I don't feel a need to do that. I do tend to braid my hair, but that's because it's long and I or a cat can easily get tangled up in it during the night. I thought I would be the kind of person who would not need to veil when I'm among family or very very close friends, but it hasn't worked out as I expected. I have different views than many of my family members and I find I need some covering when I'm around most of them for the same reasons I cover at the office. I tend to pick something more sheer and leave more hair exposed when I'm among family, but I have found that I need to cover with something.

I want to explore that last sentence a bit. I have discovered that the types of covering I choose does seem to relate to the situation. I wear no covering at all when I'm with my boyfriend. I don't need to be protected from his energy nor do I have any particular need to express devotion to my path (unless I'm currently doing some activity that relates to that, like washing dishes or making dinner. Even then, sometimes I do and sometimes I don't). Among family, I tend to pick small or sheer veils, or headbands, or hats. Things that usually cover just the crown chakra and not my hair, though sometimes I may do that as well. During hearth-tending activities, I also mostly use those small or sheer kerchiefs, often with my hair bunned or braided for practical reasons. Going out into the world or at work or among company that may be mixed with familiar and totally not familiar individuals, I tend to cover the most, picking opaque veils that tie up my hair as well as cover my crown chakra. In ritual, I have a hood I made for that specific purpose, and I wear it both when I'm practicing a ritual at home and with a group. At other times, not actively in ritual but with that group, the same guidelines apply as when I'm with family. I've noticed that I don't cover when exercising, whether I am alone at home or in my yoga class at the office. It started both because I want to be open and accepting of the energy around me during yoga and because wearing something on my head that will probably fall off after a few down dogs isn't very practical. There's also no real reason to cover when I'm alone at home (exercising or lounging), so I don't do it.

You're probably wondering, dear readers, what this means for you. Where do you veil? Wherever the thing that draws you to veil applies, whether your matron goddess says "all the time" or your compulsion leads you to only veil at work, or you are drawn to veil any time you are outside of your home. No rules means you practice it where you need it, for whatever reason you need to do it.


If you're feeling some kind of inclination to veil, I hope you can get some idea of why and how and when from my series. As pagans, we have so very little to go on, but it is gaining in popularity and I do hope that I've shown that it is not inappropriate for a pagan, or anyone, to choose to adopt the practice if they feel they need to. I hope also that my information might help some non-pagans who might have wondered if and how they could fit veiling into their own practice. If you are not drawn to veiling, I hope you learn a bit about your sisters and brothers of any faith practice who are.

But, I'm not done yet. Next time, I will try to define, describe, or otherwise illustrate the specific kinds of veils that I've talked about (like tichels and hijabs), as well as the specific veil styles that I choose. Likely after that, I'll point you to some great shops for buying a variety of veil styles, maybe share some videos I've found with instructions for tying. I'd also like to post some pictures and possibly videos of my own to help your journey. I understand that I've presented a lot of information in a boring text with links format, and some of you have been asking me to show you what I mean when I talk about certain things. I am happy to oblige and I will figure out how to make that happen, but it might take a bit of time.

2 comments :

Crystal Broomall said...

As you know, I've been covering full time since October, and I've noticed that I don't cover when I'm in a family sphere. Whether I'm at the Nuthatch, my own house, my parent's house, or my sister's apartment, if I'm in "safe" space I go without a veil. Everywhere else - even down to the mail box, or driving in the car - I have a covering of some sort on. I've not delved too deeply into the why of it, but I've noticed.

For me, I need to cover at least 90% of my hair to feel comfortable. Again, I've not thought about why that is - it just feels right. This means I my hair is always in a bun and that I wear shayla scarves where only the front of my hair is seen, al-amira caps with a large triangle scarf, etc. As a result, my necklines have gone a little bit higher, because I feel very odd with this huge piece of fabric around my head and skin exposed between where it ends and where my shirt starts! I don't mind a little peek of cleavage at the front (which is also easily covered by the ends of my scarf), but some of my shirts with a boatneck or similar have had to go by the wayside.

Getting away from me, me, me for a moment, I have to say yet again that I'm enjoying your writings on this subject. I'm glad you came back to them!

Finally I'm eagerly awaiting your shopping post - I'm hoping you've found places I've missed in my searching! :)

Fyrecreek said...

I didn't really notice that I still have something on my head even around family until I sat down to write this and thought about it. Some of it, I think, is practical. Getting to where they are means I need to be covered some way in transit, and if we decide to go out somewhere, I want the covering that I'd need for that to be readily available. In part, I also what the fact that there is something on my head to be subtle. For example, when I'm visiting my parents and grandmother, I wouldn't need to be covered in her apartment, but when we head to the dining room in grandmother's community, putting on my hat would be obvious. Since my mother and I have a 'don't ask, don't tell' principal in place with regards to my faith, avoiding questions as to why I'm getting a hat just to go to another area of the community might be my reason. It doesn't seem to be a general rule, like when we visited my brother, I wore a sheer triangle bandana for the visit, but I wasn't concerned with covering while in the hotel room with my parents. It's interesting. I'm also not sure if it's going to stay this way. I've gotten pretty used to veiling every day, but I think I just felt the need to wear it all the time at the beginning, even when it's "safe." As time moves on, maybe I'll move away from covering even in those safe places. At the same time, I still usually have a lot more exposed than I do at the office.

More times than not, I also have my hair bunned up and covered, except that I usually leave my bangs out. I have some tube bandana things (I'll get to those later) that allow for having my hair loose, but I have yet to wear them that way. I definitely favor a tichel style.