As the story goes, Samson, a very strong and powerful man and the final judge of Israel, fell in love with a woman named Delilah, where he revealed to her that the source of his power came from his hair. Delilah eventually went on to betray him by cutting his hair while he lay asleep to fulfill a bribe for money. As one reflects on the story of Samson and Deliah, it brings to mind the natural hair movement and the empowerment in taking on the natural hair journey. Nonetheless, it also makes one reflect on the subjugation felt when forced to chemically alter one’s hair for professional survival and the loss of empowerment felt when succumbing society’s pressure to adhere to certain eurocentric beauty standards.
Hair has played a significant role in the culture of ancient African civilizations, which has been carried on through their folklore. In exploring the role of hair in both Africa and Indigenous cultures, it can make one wonder if there is something far more mysterious and magical about hair that we have yet to unveil.
In cultures across Africa, hair is a notable symbol for fertility. If a woman has thick and long hair, it signals her good health and ability to birth healthy children. In addition, many African communities as well as indigenous communities around the world view hair as like a portal on the body with the ability to transmit divine communication. It's this belief that has also led many to entrust their hairstylist to be close relatives and not possible enemies, as having access to one’s hair could lead to harm or prosperity through ritual or spells.
For the women in the Himba tribe of Namibia, hair signals maturity and whether one is ready for marriage or not. The teenage girls of the tribe cover their faces with bangs of braided strands or dreadlocked. This particular style indicates that they have entered into puberty. Women who are married and are new to motherhood wear the Erember headdress. The men who are not married wear one braid to display their status as single.
In Native cultures, one’s glory is indicated by the length of one’s hair for both men and women. During the colonization of indigenous people, a form of oppression and defeat was to cut the hair of an indigenous person. This was a form of deep humiliation. The significance of one’s hair in native culture connects to one’s mental navigation. The method by which one combs their hair aligns with their thought process, one braid represents the Oneness of thought, tying the hair is the securing of the thought, and the darkness in the color of the hair symbolizes the conviction held within their thought.
In the native culture the hair also is worn according to the tone of the occasion, whether it is for a funeral, marriage or your tribal status. The way the hair is worn also indicates the tribe one belongs to, in addition to whether one will enter a battle or peace. The spiritual representation in which the hair is worn among indigenous people connect to their power from divine source.
In parts of Asia, during the time of Gengis Khan, forcing individuals to cover their forehead with bangs was used as a form of punishment because bangs represented covering the 3rd eye, their intuition.
As an energy conductor, one’s hair is the transporter of the body’s electromagnetic energy. In other words, the hair on one’s head is similar to that of an antennae, it transports energy into the body. In addition to taking in information, hair can also emit energy patterns and frequencies into the environment. There are so many powerful and magical connections that one’s hair holds. It can make one wonder why suppressing the natural hair beauty of many black and indigenous cultures was so pervasive. Was it to suppress their power or the activation of their power? Perhaps when many were stripped of their love for their natural hair, there was an aspect of that power which was stripped as well.