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Hair Folklore

Hair has been a subject of folklore found in many cultures across the world.   

Celtic

Hair was an important ritual and spiritual symbol to the ancient Celts. 

  • Warriors wore their hair long and their beards untrimmed when they went into battle, sometimes treating it with lime to give a more wild appearance.
  • Women’s hair was long as well, often braided or dressed; their hair was a symbol of feminine power.
  • Red hair was especially significant, for it showed that fairy blood rain in the person’s veins.
  • Mermaids lured sailors by combing their hair, and according to the principle of sympathetic magic, it was dangerous for girls to comb their hair when their brothers were at sea.
  • Animal hair also had power, especially that of horses, which would come alive if put in water.
  • Should a person, especially a child, be bitten by a dog, the wound had to be bound with hair from the animal to ensure healing.
  • In Scotland, some people believed that there is a relation amongst magpies, your hair, and your time of death. If magpies steal your cut hair and use it for their nests, you are going to die within a year.

Native American

  • For Native Americans, long hair represents strong spirit. They believe the longer the hair, the stronger the spirit.
  • The Cree people claim that their hair is another part of their soul.
  • The Sioux people only cut their hair in a time of mourning.
  • Only certain people were allowed to touch one’s hair.
  • In some tribes, it is also a symbol of knowledge, as it is a physical extension of one’s thoughts.
  • Cutting one’s hair was considered a taboo amongst most tribes.
  • By attaching a lock of a loved ones hair, in your hair, or by carrying their hair on your person, one is able to carry the thoughts of their loved ones with them on their travels.”
  • Braids symbolise oneness and unity.
  • There were communities that used mixture of bear fat and soot to make their hair darker

Asian

  • There are good and bad days to wash your hair; Indians believe that you should not wash your hair on a Thursday.
  • There is an old Indian tradition that widows should shave their head.
  • In India it is a tradition to cut one’s hair in a temple at least once in a lifetime, for this rite enables destroying one’s vanity.
  • In East Asia, long hair is a sign of youth and beauty.
  • The Chinese Lunar New Year is the time where you should not cut your hair. 
  • People in China believe that by cutting your hair you will also symbolically “cut” your chances for prosperity in the New Year.
  • It is also not good to wash hair in first days of the year as it is possible that you are going to wash away all of your good luck.

Superstitions

  • In Victorian Britain, people used to believe that long hair showed a woman’s fertility.
  • In Lancashire, people used to belive that you should put one’s hair in fire to find how long he or she is going to live. Bright fire meant the person is going to live long
  • In most parts of the United States people believe that if you pull out one white hair two will grow in its place.
  • There is also American belief that the colour of hair on woman’s neck shows the colour of hair on her future husband.
  • In England cutting hair in the time when the Moon is waxing will bring you good luck.
  • Do not comb or brush your hair by the window on a full moon - it is an invitation to evil spirits and you may become ill.
  • Cut your hair during a storm for good luck.
  • One should be careful where they dispose of their hair - if an evil person takes it, one could become a victim of hex.

Superstitions by hair colour and style:

  • A red-haired person is widely held to have an irascible temper. This is in reference to the red-haired Judas Iscariot or the Norse invaders of Britain. Though he or she may also be courageous and it is considered lucky to run your fingers through someone’s red hair.
  • Fair hair is a sign of weak nature.
  • Black hair suggests great strength and virility, and is also considered lucky.
  • Brown-haired people are said to make the best spouse.
  • Those who are curly-haired are good tempered.
  • People with naturally straight hair are said to be cunning.

Russian Superstitions

Omens/Protection

  • Knocking on wood is practiced in Russia as in other countries. However Russians tend to add a symbolic three spits over one’s left shoulder (or simply with the head turned to the left), and Russians will often knock three times as well. Traditionally one was spitting on the devil (who is always on the left).
  • Returning home for forgotten things is a bad omen. It is better to leave it behind, but if returning is necessary, one should look in the mirror before leaving the house again. Otherwise the journey will be bad.
  • If one feels that he or she may have been cursed by someone (the evil eye) or just has the feeling of a hostile presence, it is recommended to remove one’s coat and then put it back on starting with the hand opposing the usually used one. It is also recommended to pin a French Pin inside your clothing to avoid the curse of the evil eye in the first place.
  • Birds that land on a windowsill should be chased away. If they tap on the window, or fly into it (open or closed) it is considered a very bad omen (often of death).
  • A woman with empty water buckets coming towards you is considered a bad omen.
  • It is bad luck to use physical hand gestures to demonstrate something negative using oneself or someone else as the object. For example, when describing a scar you saw on someone’s face you should not gesture on your own face or someone else’s. If you must, you can demonstrate in mid-air. If one does it without realising, it can be countered by making a hand motion towards the body part used and then an abrupt motion away (as if to pick up the bad energy and throw it away) or by wiping the area with your hand and then blowing on your hand (as if to wipe off the bad energy and then blow it away).
  • Looking into a broken mirror almost certainly brings bad luck. The superstition says that if you look into a broken mirror, you break your inner world, and your soul becomes defenceless against the dark forces.

Love

  • Never give yellow flowers to your lover, as it implies that an argument will happen and your relationship will end.
  • Lucky in cards not lucky in love. This, however, is only a pre-marital superstition. The reason for the division is that marriage is a sacrament in the Russian Orthodox Church, and this sacrament, ordained by God, eviscerates the pre-marital superstition. Thus, when a man is bonded by divine sacrament to a single woman whom he loves the cause and effect is reversed: namely, his married love for a single woman, and her love for him, will bring him good fortune in all endeavors including cards.
  • During the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom carry candles. Whoever’s candle died first, was the one who would die first.
  • If a woman puts too much salt on the meals this means she is in love.
  • Do not take your wedding ring off to show it to someone else, or worse still to let them try it on. The wedding ring is worn on your fourth finger, which is the one under the influence of the sun, and is a sign of our heart’s true love. If you take it off to show to another, it means you are giving away your love and happiness to a stranger.
  • In Russian superstition if a couple sets a wedding date and doesn’t end up getting married on that date they can not set another date and should not get married as their union will be cursed.

Cause And Effect

  • If your ears or cheeks are hot, someone is thinking or talking about you (usually speaking ill).
  • If your right eye itches, you’re going to be happy soon. If your left eye itches, you’ll be sad.
  • If you have hiccups, someone is remembering you at this moment.
  • If an eyelash falls out you’ll receive a gift. If someone finds an eyelash on someone he or she will sometimes let the person blow it away and make a wish.
  • If a fork or spoon falls on the ground, expect a female guest. If a knife falls, expect a male guest.
  • If someone sneezes while telling something, it means he or she is telling the truth.

Miscellaneous

  • Russians will typically avoid talking about pending successes. They believe that it is bad luck to talk about upcoming success before it actually occurs.
  • Never greet, or say goodbye to someone in a doorway. The threshold divides people, and in traditional Russian folklore, the house spirit resides here, so this superstition says that your greetings and gifts will not bring fortune or good luck.
  • It is best to cut your hair or nails during a full moon.
  • When someone is talking about something very undesirable or bad, the listener should say in Russian “Типун тебе на язык!” (tipun tebe na yazyk), which is generally translated as “Curse that tongue of yours!”. This expression is not meant to be offensive at all but is rather used as a spell for prevention of evil and bad luck.
  • Moving to the new house one must first let a cat go in first to assure harmony in the household.
  • If you sing on an empty stomach, you will chase your money away.
  • Do not pick up coins from the road. The popular belief is that such coins carry negative energy if they were thrown by a bad person and cause sickness.