Hair Length and Religion

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Does hair length impact our religious practice?. Image by Karan Kapoor/Stone/Getty Images

At some point during your exploration of new Pagan traditions, and the metaphysical community, you're probably going to encounter someone who tells you that you have to look, dress, or even eat a certain way. In fact, an issue that sometimes comes up is that of hair length. Should a High Priestess or High Priest be laying down guidelines for how long–or how short–your hair needs to be?

First, let’s keep in mind that Paganism is an umbrella term covering a wide variety of religious paths and beliefs, so there’s no one set of rules, and no all-encompassing, universal set of guidelines.

Even within specific sets of practices, such as Wicca or Druidry, there is a significant amount of variation from one group to the next, so if a High Priestess were to say you had to have long hair to be part of “our religion,” what she really is saying is “her specific group.” Perhaps the goddess of her group’s tradition prefers followers who do not cut their hair, but that doesn’t mean that every Pagan goddess makes the same demands.

In other words, you can relax and rest assured that you may still find the group that is right for you, and keep your hair in whatever style you choose to wear it, without pressure to change it.

That said, the notion of hair as tied to religious belief is actually a pretty complex one. In some belief systems, hair is associated with magical power. Why is this? Well, it may be purely psychological. Take, for instance, a woman with long hair who wears it up in a neat bun, pulled back from her face, while she is at work.

Her hair is kept tidily out of her way while she does her job, tends to her family, and so forth. And yet once this woman steps into a magical setting, she removes the pins and combs, setting her hair free–it’s a liberating feeling, to literally let your hair down. It brings a primitive sense of wildness and raw sexuality to the moment, and that in itself can be very powerful indeed.

As another example on the opposite end of the spectrum, consider the shaved head of the monk. In Buddhism, novices shave their heads as part of the process of renouncing physical goods and their ties to the material world. The bald head makes each monk equal to his brothers in the face of the Divine, and allows them to focus on the spiritual.

Covering and Veiling the Hair

In some religions, women choose to cover their hair. While this practice is often tied to modesty, in some traditions it relates to the restraint of power. Although not a typically Wiccan or Pagan custom, there are some individual Pagans who have incorporated this into their belief system. Marisa, a California Pagan who follows an eclectic path rooted in Eastern traditions, says, “I cover my hair when I go out, because for me, it’s a matter of keeping the power of the crown chakra contained. I uncover it when doing ritual, because then the crown chakra is open and uninhibited, and allows me to commune directly with the Divine.”

In a number of traditions of folk magic, hair is strongly associated with the human spirit, and can be used as a way to control an individual. There are countless recipes found in hoodoo and rootwork that involve the use of human hair as part of a spell or “trick,” according to Jim Haskins in his book Voodoo and Hoodoo.

Superstitions and Folklore

In addition, there are a number of superstitions and customs about hair, particularly when it comes to cutting. It is believed in many areas that if you cut your hair at the time of the full moon, it will grow much faster–but hair cut during the dark of the moon will grow thin and possibly even fall out! SeaChelle, a practicing witch whose family has roots in Appalachia, says, “When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to tell me that after she cut our hair, we had to bury the clippings in the ground. You couldn’t burn it, because it would make the hair you had left grow brittle, and you couldn’t just toss it outside, because birds would steal it to use in their nests, and that would give you a headache.”