Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush. It can color any situation.
Hair’s function is to prevent heat loss from the head as well as to protect the head from heat, yet hair is such a profound part of our self-image that it causes people to spend billions of dollars each year on its care.
Today, over 75 percent of American women color their hair, and this practice is rapidly growing.
What we do with our hair has had powerful symbolic and emotional effects in every culture for thousands of years.
We witness the power of hair in stories, such as the one of Samson, who lost his strength when his hair was cut, and in symbols, like the live snakes that constituted Medusa’s hair and were an expression of female rage. These stories and symbols speak of hair’s potent ability to interface with our emotions, both individually and collectively.
Hair is an important way we express our self-image and communicate that image to others. Hair color, texture, and style preferences vary among different ethnicities and cultures, and we use hair to identify ourselves as being a part of, or separate from, these groups. I, for example, was born with coarse, curly hair typical of my ethnicity, though I straightened it through various means to fit into a culture that seemed to prefer smooth, light hair. I relate very much to the Chris Rock docu-
mentary Good Hair.
Entertainers change their hair to express each new project, character they play, or trending style. Our hair seems like such a simple thing, though the complexities of our human emotions make it something else!
Why Herbal Colorants?
There are many reasons why people of every age color their hair. Perhaps we do so because it is enjoyable to care for ourselves or to allow others to, or because it is refreshing to adopt a new persona. We receive tangible and intangible gifts from any colorant, so why would we want to choose herbal colorants?
- Herbal hair colorants connect us to ancient traditions and generations past, and they nourish our hair, our spirit, and the earth.
- Herbal colorants smell “green,” repair damaged hair, and do a better job of covering gray than chemical colors can.
- Pure herbal pigments are nontoxic and can be applied frequently and remain on your hair long enough to achieve the color tones you wish without causing dryness or damage.
- Most people find the muds to be relaxing, soothing, and conditioning.
Herbal colorants — especially henna — link us with the ancient past, to female nurturing traditions, to the land, and to the sun, moon, wind, and water, all of which impact these pigments. These herbal colorants also connect us with our artistic self as we blend them to create different colors.
Of the four herbs I describe in this book, the only one with a long history as abody colorant is henna.
Before henna gained popularity as a hair colorant, people in hot, arid climates used it on their body as a cooling agent. Men and women would henna the bottoms of their feet to protect them from blistering when they stepped on hot surfaces. They would also henna the palms of their hands, again for cooling purposes.
Out of this simple practice of staining grew the tradition of henna body art, whereby people created elaborate designs on their skin using a henna paste.
While both genders have enjoyed the benefits of henna, it is apparent that women have had a different relationship with this red-pigment-producing plant.
We know that women hennaed in groups, and that the time spent together strengthened their relationships with each other and provided a short reprieve from mundane chores while they waited for the henna design to dry and set.
Henna body art is becoming more and more popular today, with the majority of henna body artists being women. Henna is often used to mark female rites of pas- sage and special occasions, and it is currently often sought just for fun. Women’s connections to sensual experiences, I believe, stem from our intimate relationships with the always-changing needs of our ever-changing bodies.