My first exposure to the concept of hair as a magickal thing came from my West-African step-father. Whenever my mother would cut his hair, he would meticulously gather up all of the hair to be buried. He said that it had power in it and couldn’t just be thrown in the garbage because it was part of a person and someone could use it to do magick against you. At the time, wannabe cynical teen that I thought I was, I thought he and his superstitious beliefs were silly.
Now that I’m living full time in the realms of the mystical, I find myself regularly saying and doing things that are way more “out there” than anything he ever said.
I have worn my hair natural for almost 20 years. I remember having times when my relaxer would start to grow out and I’d see the beginnings of these beautiful waves at the roots of my hair. I was intrigued by them, fascinated, but, for a long time, too afraid to take the next step to find out what my hair might look like, unstraightened by chemicals. I had dreams where my hair was natural, where I’d cut it all off and it had grown back thick and lush and beautiful like a night forest.
The day I decided to cut off all of my hair, I could tell something was going to happen. I’d been thinking about it all day, my heart racing. I’d read the book Good Hair: For Colored Girls Who’ve Considered Weaves When the Chemicals Became Too Ruff, revisiting over and over the section where she discussed her big chop. The next thing I knew, I was in the bathroom, wetting my hair and cutting and when I came out of the bathroom my mother said, “What did you do?!” I’d started a new journey that I plan to be on for the rest of my life.
It turns out that there was some beautiful hair being hidden by those chemicals — from tiny coils to larger curls, cotton and raw silk intermingled on my head in fascinating and unpredictable patterns that I’m still learning to understand. (I mean, really, who puts the tightest (aka driest and most delicate) curls in the center and front edges of a scalp and looser (aka most easily moisturized) curls at the protected back of a head where no one will ever see them and they are rarely touched? My DNA design team, that’s who.) I’ve also been learning about things like high and low porosity (my hair is low), hair types (which I don’t place much faith in), hair density (those dreams of thick lushness remained dreams) and a host of methods to care for my hair as naturally and as lovingly as I possibly can with as little daily maintenance as possible.
I was told once by a hair management specialist (is that an appropriate term for a hair stylist? Hair therapist?) that I have “cotton candy” hair. He sounded as though he was in ecstasy about it, cooing and primping and stroking the locks. I was pretty disappointed, though. “Fine as Candy Floss” is just fine when the time comes to wash and style (the less hair you have, the fewer two strand twists you have to do!), but otherwise, I want hair that’s thick and strong like rope. Hair that metaphorically melts in the rain is not the business. Particularly since, I rarely straighten my hair but it never fails that when I do, I will have at least one incident where a flyaway strand will land on my face and I jump and shriek, thinking I’ve walked through a spider web.
Since first going natural, I’ve been learning to embrace the fact that the stories of my ancestry are in my hair, the raw silk coils, the deep ash brown of it (a color that another hair therapist told me is very difficult to recreate in a salon), the cotton candiness of it and even the spider webbiness. All of those tell stories of blood, of DNA, of meetings and lovings that eventually led to me and on to my son. Those are things to honor, so when I’m feeling any kind of way about my hair other than appreciative, I take a moment to challenge myself: Which one of my parents would I choose to exchange in order to have different hair growing from my scalp? The answer is always neither.
I’ve also been learning, on this journey, that there are lessons in my hair that are guiding me onto new paths of existence in the larger world. I have had to completely shift my mindset and my approach to cleansing and styling my coils. To maintain its health, my hair requires that I treat it with gentleness, patience, tenderness, even reverence. The strands are too delicate to be individually manipulated, my hair is all about community, coils must be worked and styled as a series of teams. Gentleness and community are definitely the kinds of roots I want growing from my head and from my life.
And I have come full circle in the use of hair as magick. I am in the process of manifesting a home in a town that I am hoping will become our new home town, a place to put down roots, to continue our growth as a family, as business owners, as sacredly alive and authentic beings. Whenever we visit, I’ve been dropping strands of hair for birds and other creatures to gather, to twine and tangle in trees and bushes and to roll into the grass in playgrounds. My intention is to weave my own energy into the land as I petition ancestors of the land and ancestors of my blood and that of my family to give their aid, support and guidance, that things will all come together in the right place and time and that we are prepared to step into the opportunity when it presents itself.
Natural. Hair. Magick.
Nadirah Adeye is a mother, writer, priestess and sacred sensualist. She has worn her hair natural for almost 20 years and is still learning powerful lessons about self-love, radical self-acceptance, and the pros and cons of shea butter versus jojoba oil. You can learn more about Nadirah at her site Sacred Sensual Living and by liking her Facebook page.