H is for Head Covering

The topic of veiling among polytheist/pagan women has been coming up a lot lately. It even hit the Pantheon blog at Patheos. You can read that post to get more of a general sense of why some of the women cover their head. It’s a fascinating area for me, especially since I’ve been doing this for over a year now. Some months ago I did join the community Star referenced in her post, and in the recent weeks it has exploded with membership.

So why do I cover? It started with Pantheacon 2011. The chronic stress and anxiety I had developed in the months previous led up to me feeling in a very fragile state by the time I got to the con. Things turned in to an odd mix of mental state. While I had been feeling very “cement head” for a while, I simultaneously felt like I was also a little too open and aware psychically. Warding and personal protection only did so much to help. So I took some of the dreadfalls I had with me (lengths of velvet cut to appear as if I am wearing a wide headband and had funky falls) and wore them for a lot of the con. Upon returning home to Connecticut, I decided to go shopping for a scarf to cover my head regularly. This helped a lot with helping me to feel calmer and more centered. It also helped me to deal with big crowds of people. I’ve never been too fond of huge crowds (but not quite agoraphobic), but with my head covered it became much more tolerable to be out and about. I was picking up less impressions from people and overall felt more calm and present in my body.

The kicker was going to New York City not long after I returned to the east coast. I attended the Pompeii exhibit at the Discovery Times Center, head all wrapped, and picking up impressions right and left from the objects in the exhibit. The portion with the casts of people who had died in the eruption of 79 AD was both heart-breaking and illuminating. The former because I felt such empathy for what had happened to these people. The latter was because I felt like I was picking up stories from the people who had died. I do still remember one, but my current knowledge of Roman history would have to be buffed up a little before I could do it justice with my own words.

Me with my head wrapped, taken a few weeks ago.

To achieve the look I have in the above picture:
1. Get a long rectangular scarf. You can find them easily in stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s.
2. Fold the scarf in half lengthwise.
3. Wrap around the top of your head and knot at the base of your hairline.
4. Take the tails and wrap them around the front of your head, tucking in the ends. I highly recommend doing this if you’re going to wrap your head like this. I find having the scarf hanging down affects my center of gravity.

Currently there is only one time when I cover my head, and that is for work. It turns out to be the place where I find it most needed. It keeps out all the stuff I don’t want around me and acts as an additional shield. Wrapping the scarf around my head has also become its own morning ritual. The scarf acts as a boundary (a theme I am going to work with more when I go back to my B posts). It is a tangible reminder that while I walk in this world, I am different from the people around me. With this, I am less likely to forget that there is more to life than just the annoyances which seem poised to take over my reality on a daily basis.

I would like to get some new scarfs, and perhaps some alternative head coverings like snoods. The time may be coming when I want to come more often.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project.

13 thoughts on “H is for Head Covering

  1. Thank you for sharing the reasons why you wear a head scarf. It is something I do think about when I see women with their heads covered – be it with a scarf or bonnet (there is a large Amish and Mennonite population where I live). Reading your thoughts behind the why, I realised that I do something similar when I braid or twist my hair up into a bun before securing it with hair sticks, Alice bands, or other (deliberately chosen) hair jewellery. I also love my snoods. Snoods are a lot of fun *nods*.

    I wish you all the best!

  2. You look lovely in your scarf! Oh and I was lucky enough to catch the Pompeii exhibit myself, years and years ago. I only *wish* I’d had my head covered at the time. *shudder*
    Like you, I am finding a mostly practical value in doing this, especially at work where it increases my ability to function in a customer service job exponentially. I am seeing a bit of negative backlash coming out about the topic from pagans who think this is somehow an anti-feminist or self-degrading practice. I see it as a protective one (modesty isn’t really a factor for me personally) and claims of “Christian baggage” don’t really mean anything to someone who, like me wasn’t even raised Christian. I do think it’s amusing that I’ve been referred to as “young,” though, lol.
    I thought I had pretty much said my fill on the topic already, but there may need to be a follow-up H post on this…

  3. Looking over the past few years, I’m realizing how important the decision to wear hats in public as a rule has been for me…

    Back in ’06, for example, you’d hardly ever see me in a hat, and I only wore things with hoods very occasionally (mostly as a costume). In most of my life before that (except for most of undergraduate college), I didn’t wear hats much before, if at all. And, I was a lot more scattered, and a lot more prone to being influenced by the craziness and nastiness around me.

    Now that I wear a hat in public pretty much without exception, that has helped a lot–and particularly while traveling, for example. (And CERTAINLY at PantheaCon!) It also does wonders for covering up the baldness! πŸ˜‰

    Veiling the head during prayer was a very Roman thing; and, other “sacred hats” like the apex may be things I contemplate in the future. The “modern” priestly/sacred garb I am hoping to assemble over the next year includes a hood/snood that I think will work really well in many cases…

  4. Pretty! I’m . . . baffled and a little not surprised, sadly, that there’s even backlash about this subject. So much for the freedom to choose what one’s path is calling one to do. Well, but I guess what can you expect from god-followers rather than goddess-sworn? *sigh* One more reason I’m glad I’m on the periphery.

  5. *hugs* (just because)

    The keeping one’s head covered thing… yep. I’ve kept my head rigorously covered since my initiation last July (it’s one of the rules). And the feedback I get on it is… exceedingly annoying more often than not. Keeping my head covered all the time, I get lots of veiled (hah!) islamophobia thrown my way. Being Jewish, my face is semitic enough that with my head covered, I get mistaken for Muslim. Including by other Muslims, interestingly enough. That I mind far less – I live in a heavily immigrant community (lots of different countries of origin), and there’s a sizeable Muslim community here and folks from quite a few different countries. I frequently get smiles and “Salaam” from other women with their heads covered, even though I tie my head wrap differently from them. A far nicer response than the side-eye from acquaintances and folks I know through work, and the aggressive, “So are you, like, Muslim now or something?”

    It has made things more… quiet though. There are definitely LOTS of days where I’m glad the head covering is a requirement. I’m honestly not sure what I’m going to do when my year is done… I’m looking forward to getting a cute haircut and having the option of a bare head, but I suspect I may still choose to keep my head covered, at least sometimes.

    I wear lots of beanie-style knit caps (often with a flower hair clip pinned to the side) and ski caps – I find them to be the most comfortable. Because my head covering is supposed to be all white, I don’t tend to wrap mine the way yours is wrapped b/c I already look pretty “exotic” with the beads and the all white clothes and the long skirts & modest shirts etc. When I do wear a head scarf, I usually tie mine at the back of my neck and take the tails and make a bun/rosette out of the ends. I grew up in a very heavily Jewish community on the East Coast, so I basically wrap my head the way the more religious women in my community growing up wore their head wraps :).

    I didn’t realize you were keeping your head covered this year too. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one :).

  6. Thank you everyone who commented! The one drawback to this theme is the lack of individualized reply function.
    Ashtoreth, it’s very nice to meet you and thank you for your words.
    Beth and Jo, your comments put me in mind of a story I heard on NPR years ago. It was about women in Afghanistan. Pre-Taliban, it was not uncommon for women to choose to wear burqa starting around the age of 40. But when the Taliban FORCED it on all the women, they were furious. I think that kind of thinking is akin to what those of us who are covering our heads are experiencing right now. Only in reverse.
    Sufenas, given how much I covet your leopard fez, I cannot wait to see what new hats you have. I wish hats would come back into style, period. It’s a nice bit of flair.
    Bari, yes indeed. I actually found it freeing NOT to have my head covered at Pcon this year. It was a weird turnaround. Though obviously I had a moushwa on for the sevis Saturday night. Having my head covered for just that short period of time was profound.

  7. I understand your reason for covering your head. I am empathic, and despite my efforts to protect myself from being bombarded from unwanted thoughts & feelings, they can get affect me.
    As a young child of the 1960’s, (I was raised Roman Catholic) I couldn’t enter the church without covering my head with a veil. I was told the reason, but didn’t like this forced upon me. Was I not worthy enough, because I was a girl? These are the thoughts of my youth. I also had a cloistered Visitation nun for an Aunt. Seeing Her covered from head to feet & behind bars I didn;t understand. These are just my background to the head for females being covered.
    Flash forward 40 + years & free, educated & free to choose my own spirituality, I see the head arera being covered the choice of the Woman herself. If I wear a veil for a Sacred Ritual, it is my choice. I understand completely any Woman;s choice to wear one, My only objection would be if it was forced upon a Woman, without her permission.
    May your wrap protect you from unwanted thoughts & feelings, be free to be you.

  8. I used to wear a dupatta over my head all of the time, or I would indulge in all the wonderful Laise Adzer scarves and Moroccan style headwraps as a fashion statement and didn’t think too much of it. Now that you mention it and others have, too, perhaps it is not a bad idea. At work, as a requirement in the kitchen, I have to wear a hat, and I actually feel better for doing so. At school, I probably need to think about doing it more as the energy can be very disruptive.

    I am loving your blog, btw and you and Ashtoreth remind me I need to get into gear!

  9. So glad to finally see you hear, my dear Lion sister! And happy to hear I am inspiring you.

  10. “Wrapping the scarf around my head has also become its own morning ritual. The scarf acts as a boundary (a theme I am going to work with more when I go back to my B posts). It is a tangible reminder that while I walk in this world, I am different from the people around me. With this, I am less likely to forget that there is more to life than just the annoyances which seem poised to take over my reality on a daily basis.”

    Very well-said, sister πŸ™‚

  11. Thank you for sharing about your own personal experience. I’ve always been a nature woman at heart, but I associate with Buddhism (more then Paganism). Yet head coverings have peeked my interest. I love learning why others are practicing some form of it. I almost feel like I’ve matured over the past 2 years. I’m an adult sure, but I started to feel like others see the exterior and forget I have a brain in my head. I’m still exploring coverings such as wide headbands to scarfs. I also feel I want to keep physical parts of me just for myself or those close to me. Maybe it’s my hair, maybe it’s not exposing my legs so much. But it’s solely my decision.

  12. Bethanee, I am planning to write a redux post sometime soon. Last summer I purchased several wide headbands and have traded those in. The scarves I was using were too heavy and I had to make a choice. The headbands are also a lot easier to handle overall.

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