Discovering my Inner, Nappy Headed Goddess

My hair is kinky.  It is frizzy and so unlike what I am used to.  I have been close to going natural with my hair for some time now, and yet society always pulls me back.  I guess I have just been afraid of what it might look like if I walked around with this super ethnic hairdo that is culturally taboo in a society that is not always ethno friendly.  And yet there is something that inherently goes against a healthy self image when thinking about the lack of acceptance I might have for my naturally produced hair.

I am not sure that I have made a permanent commitment to the natural hair lifestyle but I have made a commitment to explore another aspect of myself that I feel is divinely tied to the creation that was made by the Gods; my kinky, black woman hair.

Seasame Street “I love my Hair”.

My hair got me to thinking about what my image of the Goddess is and what I have visualized her head of hair looking like.  While I don’t always visualize the Gods as one image or being, I think it is natural for humans to conceptualize the divine as an image that is similar to the image in the mirror.  What I find to be amazing is the automatic programming that happens unconsciously, leading us to believe that the face of divinity is fair skin and with flowing hair.  It is the conditioning of the Americanized version of “right” that seeps into the mind and implants itself.  It is these same images that infiltrate ethnic cultures and convince them that acceptable American culture means leaving behind heritage for a more mainstream image.

I have worn straight hair since elementary school, with one period of lightly permed curls while pregnant.  It was the norm, it was the expectation.  And so I find myself wondering how my programmed sense of self is so entrenched with the ideas of a country that has always struggled to accept the very divine nature of the Black person to start with.  In setting my baseline of beauty on the conditioning of a culture that has been steeped in biases and the hatred of my ancestors, am I participating in a process that denies my Goddess given beauty and is depriving my own sense of self worth?  These things I have recently questioned.

Images of the woman in society have always reflected the flowing hair image of the feminine as angelic and righteous.  Kinky or nappy hair has been villainized as undesirable, unfeminine and unsexy.  The unconscious, and sometimes conscious, messages become programmed in our schema, conditioning a type of critical self evaluation.

These types of mainstream culture messages can be confusing to ones ability to reconcile with spiritual beliefs that each of us is sacred, as all things are sacred.  Is my hair sacred? Am I losing the messages of my ancestors that are hidden in my curls and I am too busy thinking about societal beauty to notice what I am losing? Am I beautiful with my kinky hair?

I plan to explore my own relationship with the Goddess as I go through this process of restoration; allowing myself to connect with the divine by connecting with her creation.

It is dry in nature, frizzy and seemingly unmanageable.  Yet I know I am still a child of the Goddess, an extension of her being, with this cultural mop on my head.

Today I know that I am just as sacred as I was when I put chemicals in my hair to wash away my lineage.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

    Hair is one of the THE MOST sacred objects that humans possess, for Hawaiians. It holds your Mana–the same Mana found in your bones, nails, blood, skin cells, etc.; therefore, by extension, is the collective and cumulative physicality of your lineage back to parents, recent ancestors, progenitors, and the very fabric of the Void birthing of Itself to be the First Light–the breath that sighed exquisite Grace into this World.

    Whatever kino (body), inoa (name), & kaona (meaning) you are the First, Last, and Forever–your hair/body/name/meaning and what you do with it is a reflection of that shade of Grace you bring into this World.

    I cannot express the great pleasure and humility this post inspires in myself. I hope others realize the importance of its Voice. Also, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with the Pagan families on Pagan Bed Time Stories :-)

    Lady Bless,
    Lamyka

    • Crystal Blanton

      I love hearing about your culture Lamyka!! And of course you can share it, I would be honored.

      I too am seeing the sacredness in my hair and I thought that was really fitting (what you shared about your cultural views on the hair being an extension of you). Thank you

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/LisaSpiral-Besnett/100000307734866 LisaSpiral Besnett

    It’s just a little humiliating to recognize Pagans are also guilty of the “white Jesus” phenomenon.  I’ve always appreciated the cultural and ethnic diversity of Divinity that polytheism affords.  Sadly, I have to recognize that the blond and light skinned imagery continues to creep into our collective consciousness.  I think you’ll make a glorious nappy headed Goddess!

    • Crystal Blanton

      I agree Spiral. I think there is so much conditioning related to race that has happened throughout history that it is a part of our unconscious mind. It is sad and we need to continue to change it. (And thanks for the compliment.)

  • kadiera

    So many things I could say here…I have curls, but they’re “white” curls (though intense even so), and I know the pressure to have “normal” hair on me was huge, but I suspect not as intense as it is for someone with kinky hair. As an adult, claiming my hair as it is for myself was a huge thing – liberating. I still get questions about why I don’t straighten it, and stylists wanting to try the awesome new straightening product they got on me…but I also get more complements.

    I find myself thinking about the veiling issue too, relating to your post. I haven’t sorted out the link in my head yet, but hair and veiling are related, and not just in the obvious “veiling can cover your hair and keep it from view” sort of way - what we show the world and how we apporoach the divine in ourselves.

  • TripleA

    “It is dry in nature, frizzy and seemingly unmanageable. ”

    The longer you wear it naturally, the less likely you are to feel that way.   Letting it do whatever it wants to do makes it not dry, not frizzy, and not unmanageable.  Fighting with hair to make it do things that are in opposition to its character are when the struggles begin.  Extra patience is necessary as you reacquaint yourself with your natural hair.  
    Believe me, I’ve been there, and I sympathize with some of what you’re anxious about.  I gave up the creamed draino aka “relaxer” over a decade ago after I spent all my teenage years getting my scalp burned in salons (I have extremely strong negative feelings about relaxers, please excuse my severe nicknames for it).  I’ve been through  highs and lows when it comes to self-image and my own texture pattern, but I’ve come to a point where there is nothing like the feeling of knowing that you no longer give two farts about what other people think of your healthy naturally textured hair.  But getting comfortable does take time for a lot of us, at least it did for me.  I wear my hair in locs because that’s what my hair naturally wants to do.  And so now it just does what hair does…hang around and grow until I decide to cut it.  I kinda feel like Yemaya right now with my waist length locs.  Spiritually-aware folks should be able to access the feeling of divinity through the power that is our hair… however we choose to wear it.  Constricting our hair to reflect the very narrow definition of what society deems “beautiful” actually takes this agency away from too many black women.  As does the offensively pervasive depiction of the characters who should be rendered as PoC being whitewashed (Aset aka Isis, Yemaya, heck anything Egyptian, Calafia, the Llwas, the Orixias, etc, etc, etc.)  My heritage is of very recent West African stock, one generation removed.  I remember as a teen, the first time I saw antique photos in a family album of royal women, from the region my family is from, getting their hair coiffed.  Even the maid servants had wonderfully voluminous hair, but I was stunned to see these princesses and queens with their hair in locs and sweeping the floor!  It’s absolutely devastating that colonialism has blotted out the collective memory of Africans that they no longer know how to care for their hair in this way.  This collective amnesia about black hair love and care is very nearly global, not just a western phenomenon.  But, what I’m noticing among black folks in my generation, is that the tide has already turned.  I see far more all-natural heads than I see relaxed… afros, puffs, twists, locs both manicured and free-form… and all of it healthy, luxurious, beautiful and very diverse in style and type as opposed to what I’ve seen with relaxed textures.  

  • Auset

    Here, here! I cant say anything more positive than the other sisters that have commented. I have been natural since 1988. I read the autobiography of Malcolm X & was unable to forget the story he told about his hair. Before he became muslim he was kinda like a pimp/gangster. At that time the conk perm was the style. He was doing a home perm and the water in the apt was temporarily turned off at that exact moment. The chemicals was burning his scalp (can you imagine the pain?!) and the only water available was the water in the toilet. Yep- you know what he had to do (eeeww, yucky, yucky!). This was the first time I ever questioned why I straightened my hair. I was determined to learn to love myself as I am and over the years I have eventually succeeded and cant imagine myself any other way now.

    Just for health reasons alone, if you value yourself, putting lye on your scalp, right next to your brain every 2 or 3 weeks for 50 years- c’mon, u  cant tell me it doesnt somehow seep in & we wonder why everybody has cancer or alzheimers. In Chris Rock’s movie “Good Hair”- they do a live demonstration where they put a coke can in perm solution-it DISSOLVES the can completely. Completely. And this goes for perms on any kind of hair, African or otherwise. There was a book called “Dying to be Beautiful” that addresses all of the toxic chemicals women douse themselves in the name of beauty. As far as, being unmanageable, I agree whole heartedly with Triple A “Fighting with hair to make it do things that are in opposition to its character are when the struggles begin.” It’s all in the perspective you choose to look at it. Say cornrows and braids were the global norm & every magazine donned a braided diva. Straight hair does not work well with braids. It unravels unless something is tied to the end. It is super frizzy even when the braids are freshly done. It slips out of the cornrows within a week, where as African hair stays for 6 weeks. Straight hair can be braided, but it is a struggle and does not take to it naturally. From this perspective, straight hair is unmanageable. When African hair is forced to take on straight hair methods, it is unmanageable. It’s not the hair (straight or curly) that is the problem, it’s our perspective of it. It is true for all aspects of genetics. Some people will never be a size 2  or 5″11 or wear a size 6 shoe. There is nothing like the inner peace you get from loving yourself, no matter who you are & what you look like.  Enjoy your natural hair journey sister! You are not alone- you tube has hundreds of going natural vids. Check out nappturality.com, all you need is there.  And this sister has made a documentary film on her experience http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/opinion/black-women-and-natural-hair.html?_r=0 

    Blessings & Hugs
    Auset

  • lynn white

    Virtually all the Wiccan black women (less than 10 people, admittedly) I’ve met in real life have straightened their hair or worn weaves. I’ve actually wondered about that. Is it because many of the goddesses are depicted as having long, flowing hair? This is a look that seems to be favored by many Pagan women.

    One way a black woman can achieve this look naturally is to grow dreadlocks. They are beautiful, healthy and grow long very quickly. I went from a 1/4 inch afro to hair down my butt in about seven years. I’ve been natural since the mid-80s, and have worn locks, fro’s, twists, you name it. 

    It’s a very healthy thing spiritually to accept one’s physical being as it is, without thinking of oneself as being inherently defective in some way. I would venture to say that most black women in our culture (American) view our kinky hair as less attractive than other hair types, hence the perpetual need to alter or hide it via perms, weaves and what have you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/RevCrystal.Blanton Crystal Blanton

      My hair was straight before I became Wiccan.  So I do think it is more to do with society than Paganism but I see that there is a place for it here too.  And it may be an answer (for me atleast and maybe for others) to assess how my images of the feminine divine have influenced how I feel about my natural hair and adult choices.

  • MaryAnne

    One of the rituals in my tradition includes participants looking into a mirror, with the instruction “Look into the mirror, and worship the deity you see within.”  If the deity you see has nappy, kinky hair, then that’s what Goddess looks like; if our pictures of her don’t, it’s a failure of imagination on our part.  Please help us bring back that vision of Goddess.  She is desperately needed.

    • http://www.facebook.com/RevCrystal.Blanton Crystal Blanton

      I think we need to do that regardless of spiritual tradition.  Society has really dictated our worth for too long and it is good to bring that into the spiritual realm.  Thank you.

  • Yan

    Most people think light hair, light skin, and straight hair is nicer looking.  Why do you have to be a relativist and pretend that what is not so pretty in the eyes of most, is still pretty in your eyes?  If you think it is pretty then fine for you.  That is your preference and that’s fine too.  But obviously you don’t really think it is better or prettier.  Otherwise you wouldn’t be trying so hard to like yourself.

    God didn’t make everyone pretty or smart or tall.  In fact most people don’t fit into those categories!  Well, we have to learn to be satisfied with being the people God made us to be.  And be humble too.  But pretending that you like something which you don’t like, just because you have it naturally, is silliness, in my opinion.

    Get over it!  Life is more than hair, skin, height!

    If someone wants to look more like what they believe is pretty, there is nothing wrong with that either.  Short men wear heel lifts; you don’t see them complaining that society has brainwashed them into believing that ‘tall is good.’  They just wish they were taller, that’s all.

    Women are crazy about this stuff.  If they are born with kinky hair they have to straighten it, and if they are born with straight hair they have to curl it.  Relax!  You are what you are.  And you like what you like.  And if you don’t look like what you like, don’t pretend that you are happy with how you look–go ahead and change it, and don’t judge others for whether they want to change, or not.

    Peace, sisters…

    • http://www.facebook.com/RevCrystal.Blanton Crystal Blanton

      Yan, your post confuses me because you are acting as if I am complaining versus a process of self discovery.  People grow into different beings and learn more about themselves in the process.  That is what I like to write about.  I am not complaining, nor do I judge others.  If you do not see societal pressure as an issue in life, then …… good for you.  But as a student of social work, I know that it impacts a lot of people.

      Life is a lot more than hair, skin and height.  And people have to learn what that means for them individually.  I am enjoying that process myself.

      • Yan

        Hi Crystal,

        What is it that you are discovering?

        It seems to me that you don’t really like your hair as it naturally is.  Having found that fact, you are unhappy that you don’t like it as it is.  Instead of changing it to something you like, you judge yourself for disliking it, and try to persuade yourself to like it as it is.

        Is it really so bad to dislike something about ourselves and want to change it?

        Why is the dislike blamed on what other people think of your hair?  Even if their thinking is the cause of your thinking, can’t other people be right?

        If I am uneducated, and I am unhappy about that, should I try to convince myself that I am ok as I am?  Instead of trying to convince myself that I am ok as I am, why not choose to go to school?

        If other people say I am uneducated, maybe I really am!  Just because they say it doesn’t mean they are wrong.

        In the same way, maybe your hair is not pretty in its natural state to other people or even to you.  On the other hand, maybe it is pretty to you; it’s all a question of taste.  But we should be honest with ourselves about what our taste really is, and not blame our taste on the influence of the tastes of others.

        JMO

        • TripleA

          Yan,

          You sound very, very familiar…  I think I’ve seen you trolling on other websites too over a few years under the very same username and other handles: Racialicious, Livejournal, Feministe, Jezebel, etc.  

        • http://www.facebook.com/RevCrystal.Blanton Crystal Blanton

          Yan, I do think you missed a large point I was making.  I don’t know what my hair is like naturally.  I have not had it natural since I was a child…. and it still has perm in it.  It will be years before I have all natural hair.  

          If you cannot relate to the societal pressures and the cultural implications that has on minority race, then I can see why this might confuse you.  What I can say is this…. I am very excited to see my hair natural.  It is something I know nothing about.  It is something I get to discover about myself. 

          I am not blaming my dislike on anyone or anything.  I am spiritually growing in a way that helps me to question where I am in my life and how that correlates with my spirituality.  It is a nice feeling that I suggest to everyone.  I am excited to see where it takes me… and as for my hair, I get to discover a part of myself that I have never gotten the chance to enjoy.

  • http://stevecthomas.com/ Steve C Thomas

    This was great! I am white and so, as you said, I envision my Goddess as white, although not pale but brown skinned and dark hair.  My Goddess gots a tan!  Anyway, when I envision my Goddess black, she wears her hair in dreads or in long braids.  Her hair is natural and kinky.

    In real life, I love seeing black women and girls with natural hair.  I hate the socially accepted straight hair, which usually comes off as helmet head.

    I think I will envision my Goddess Black more often!  She is strong and sleek.  Her skin is like polished ebony and she is beautiful!

    • http://www.facebook.com/RevCrystal.Blanton Crystal Blanton

      I love this.  Thank you for sharing such beautiful words.

  • lynn white

    I tried to post this comment last week but it didn’t go through so I’m re-posting.

    One of the things I loved about Wicca when I first got into it was the celebration of the divine feminine in all its diversity — in images such as fuller-figured women, and the Crone. So I naturally assumed that there would be plenty of room for nappy hair in this broader representation of female beauty. That was naive on my part, because (in my experience anyway) I found that virtually all of the black Wiccans (all 8 of them lol) I met in real life had straightened or permed hair. . . and so these women adhered to the same “nappy hair is bad” aesthetic of society in general.

    One of the things that many black women discover when they finally do take the plunge and go natural is that much of the pushback they felt before — that fear that they will suddenly be considered ugly, or radical, or unacceptable or whatever — was actually in their own head. And that their new nappy hairdo’s actually garner a lot of compliments. It’s really no big deal in 2012 to wear one’s hair natural. I found this to be true in diverse, international NYC as I do in the predominantly white, rural area I live in now. My hair has never stopped me from getting a man, finding a job or securing a mortgage, and I’ve been natural since the mid-80s.

    Have you ever read this essay by Alice Walker (who self-identifies as Buddhist-Pagan by the way)? It can be an awesomely spiritual awakening to go natural and truly realize in body, mind and spirit that the universe made you beautiful just the way you are:

    http://www.endarkenment.com/hair/essays/walker.htm

  • http://about.me/CosettePaneque Cosette Paneque

    This is a beautiful piece. I’m Hispanic with curly hair. All my life, my mother has referred to it as “bad hair”. When I was a kid, after washing, she’d pull it back in a tight ponytail so it would dry straight. For years, I chemically relaxed my hair straight. In 12th grade, I finally came to terms with my hair and now I wear it natural. It’s frizzy and a bit uncontrollable, but it’s my hair and I’m okay with that.


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