Veiling: A Different Take On Pagan Womanhood

[I apologize for the length of this post. You might want to save this for later if it's too long to read on a phone or on a lunch break.]

You can’t move an inch within Paganism without stumbling across paradoxes, anomalies, or just things that make you tilt your head to the side and ponder. We are a diverse and wonderfully strange people. Within our our small minority (in relation to world religions)  there exist myriad majority/minority distinctions. It fascinates me when Paganism moves into surprising territory, and I want to talk about one of these minority movements within our larger movement today.

There is a tendency to place the practice over the spiritual in our communities. We care what you do, and not as much why you do it. We care that you walk the proper direction in circle, not why you do it. We care that you invoke the Gods, not what you believe regarding their nature and relationship to humanity. It is the practice we value, not the belief. Which makes this a difficult subject to introduce, because there will be a knee-jerk reaction to the practice. I ask you to listen to the beliefs and reserve judgement for a moment.

I was a weird kid, a religious nerd, and fascinated by the Amish and Mennonites. My reading literature as a teen was influenced by the Quiverfull movement, and what it meant to be a modest, virtuous Christian woman was my obsession. Essentially, what I wanted to know was “What do I have to do right to get out of these horrible circumstances?” You can imagine that wearing modest dress and reading St. Paul didn’t help me reach my practical goal. Paganism, along with feminism, helped me to do that.

Yet, for several months, but I believe less than a year, I covered my head as a sign of submission to God’s will, and the will of my parents. Nothing fancy. Just your average, cheap dollar store bandannas, but the experience was something I will never forget. There was an internal change that had nothing to do with my outward appearance. My family didn’t pay it much mind (they had come to realize I was an odd duck years ago) and neither did the folks at the grocery store. Internally it was like taking on a mantle of spiritual power, which was the opposite of it’s intended action, and it made me feel more confident in my own skin. To this day I still like a hat on my head.

When I rejected the Christian view of womanhood, I rejected the idea of covering my head for religious reasons as well. It was a symbol of all I had come to loathe about the Christian faith. So imagine my surprise the first time I heard about a Pagan woman covering her head for religious reasons.

A tichel is a scarf Jewish women use to cover their hair.

Months passed, and I pretty much forgot all about Ria Morrison. Then I found another post on another blog about a Pagan woman veiling her hair. This time it was the intelligent and witty Pythia Theocritos from Daughters of Eve who was writing about it on her personal blog. I’m a bit ashamed to say I was taken aback because… Pythia is a smart woman. I had this preconception that women who veil are ignorant and oppressed. I was disturbed and confused. So I did what I always do when disturbed and confused: I googled.

Suddenly I found this small, but growing movement of Pagan women who are veiling their hair for religious reasons. They’ve even formed a private Facebook group. I’ve read their blogs and asked them questions, and they have surprised and confounded me. They’ve given me a perspective of Pagan womanhood that’s unique and fascinating.

I’ll let you hear them in their own words before I delve into analyzing the practice below.

Naiadis:

And then, the move. What better time to start an outward change, when one wishes to avoid unnecessary attention over changes, then when everything is changing? Beth and I moved our household from Philadelphia, PA to Eugene, OR — to a place where almost nobody knew us. A perfect time for both of us to implement some desired lifestyle changes without having to worry about what others might think! It was settled: once we landed in Eugene, I would start covering, every day, whenever I left the house. This was made especially easy, as right away I found a number of beautiful square scarves from local stores that, when tied, stayed put on my head and did not produce any migraines. So, while the suggestion to cover had been planted nigh on three years ago, I’ve only been covering for two months shy of two years.

Covering also made me feel, silly as it may sound, more adult, more grown up. I’ve struggled with this throughout my adulthood. In my thoughts, in my speech, in my approach to life, I don’t think of myself as a woman. I think of myself as a girl. Perhaps that in and of itself is fine, but then comes my Marriage and I find I have a hard time seriously thinking of myself as a wife. Since I am one — perhaps not in a conventional sense, not in the way that most people use the word but then, I’m not trying to please convention here, I’m trying to please my gods — the fact that I do not think of myself as adult, as a woman, as a wife, is a problem. Such problems aren’t allowed to go unaddressed. So, yes, I enjoy that wearing the head coverings sort of mark me off, in a way.

SelfPortrait:

Veiling has given me such a boost in confidence, knowing that I’m doing it for Her.  I love the way I feel when I’m wearing my headcovering (I wear headscarves, wrapped into a bun, like the Tichel style.  Colors: Deep Red, Lavender, Ivory, Deep Purple, and Teal).  Protected, empowered, blessed.

Most women who veil also dress modestly, which is an practice that some are against as well.  Many feel that women are being “forced” to cover up.  Maybe some are (and yes some are), but in my experience–from the stories I’ve read on Covered in Light–it’s a choice.  Once again another way to show devotion to your deity and it is symbolic for only allowing your spouse to see your body.  Personally, I don’t, but that’s my choice.  Hestia, though veiled and dressed modestly, hasn’t led me to it yet.  It’s not all hanging out either, but the only thing that’s changed for me, is what’s on my head.  Though the idea has appealed to me, being a large woman who is self-conscious about her appearance in a judgmental society.

Iconoclastic Domina:

So, why am I going the route of head covering? The most plain and simple answer is: I am being called to do it. Hestia wants it and I feel by answering Her call I’ll grow stronger/deeper in my little iconoclastic (non-conformist) journey. I won’t be able to fully answer this question until I can experience head covering for myself.

Book of Mirrors:

However, in veiling, I’ve noticed a significant change in me.  I do have more confidence.  Especially when I’m out and about.  I don’t think about what I look like.  My thinning hair.  My facial hair.  A missed day of plucking the eyebrows.  My hunched back.

The Veiled Witch:

One may ask why I cover my hair, especially when some of the most famous liturgical texts of modern Wicca exhort us to be naked in our rites as a sign of our freedom. I cover my hair when in public not out of shame or some sense of modesty. Rather, as a sign of my obedience to my goddess. She has said to me that I am to veil myself as an outward sign to others that I am her chosen daughter and priestess.

Only family and a chosen few, those whom I know respect and love me, shall be permitted to see my tresses. When in the ritual circle, I will wear my hair free and unbound as a sign of my power. In keeping my hair hidden, I protect my power and ward off the envious eye of others, along with their potential ill wishes. I can see myself the way my husband sees me, as Beautiful and Strong.  I carry myself differently–literally!  I don’t hunch as much!  And I feel always connected to Hestia.

Today the concept of veiling is most closely associated with Islam, and secondly with extremely conservative Christians, like the Mennonites. Yet the practice began before the rise of monotheism. As far as I can discern, the concept of women veiling themselves as a cultural norm comes from Assyria:

To be able to distinguish between their free honorable women from the slaves or concubines,  laws were issued. Respectable women were forced to wear the veil while those who were considered unrespectable were forced to go with their heads uncovered. Thus veil became an exclusive symbol of respect; a privilege that slaves, prostitutes and concubines were denied off.

Another interesting tidbit of info comes from a Greek scholar named Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, on the blurb for a book he wrote on the subject:

Greek women routinely wore the veil. That is the unexpected finding of this meticulous study, one with interesting implications for the origins of Western civilisation. The Greeks, popularly (and rightly) credited with the invention of civic openness, are revealed as also part of a more Eastern tradition of seclusion. Llewellyn-Jones’ work proceeds from literary and, notably, from iconographic evidence. In sculpture and vase painting it demonstrates the presence of the veil, often covering the head, but also more unobtrusively folded back onto the shoulders. This discreet fashion not only gave a privileged view of the face to the ancient art consumer, but also, incidentally, allowed the veil to escape the notice of traditional modern scholarship. From Greek literary sources, the author shows that full veiling of the head and face was commonplace. He analyses the elaborate Greek vocabulary for veiling and explores what the veil meant to achieve. He shows that the veil was a conscious extension of the house and was often referred to as `tegidion’, literally `a little roof’. Veiling was thus an ingenious compromise; it allowed women to circulate in public while maintaining the ideal of a house-bound existence. Alert to the different types of veil used, the author uses Greek and more modern evidence (mostly from the Arab world) to show how women could exploit and subvert the veil as a means of eloquent, sometimes emotional, communication.

I had the opportunity to ask Pagan women who veil questions about their practice in a Facebook group. I couldn’t have been more surprised by the answers.

  • The women who said their veil represented submission, either to a spouse or God, were in the minority. A few very strongly stated they submit to no one.
  • Several women said that they covered because their Gods requested it of them, and Hestia was a God that was mentioned frequently. Request, and not require, was emphasized by a few women.
  • Most of the women, but not all, seemed to follow some type of polytheistic reconstructionism. There were also Wiccans and women who feel the pull of atheism among the ladies who responded.
  • I’d say the responses were split pretty evenly as to whether the veil symbolized marriage. Unsurprisingly, single women in the group were the most likely to respond negatively when asked about that.
  • There was an overall sense that the veil represented maturity. My impression was that most women saw the veil as representing full-blown womanhood, with all the power and responsibility inherent in that concept.
  • Most women said they felt more confident when wearing the veil. Several said they felt more pulled together, powerful and/or attractive in a veil. One woman said she felt is was a symbol of status, like a crown.
  • The veil was not seen as “modest” in and of itself by a surprising number of women. Only a few women said modesty was a concern for them, and a few said that they aren’t concerned with modest dress in general. Roughly half of those who did prefer modest dress did so out of comfort, rather than morality.
  • Surprisingly, a lot of women asserted that veiling made them feel sexy. Sexy was an adjective that came up far more often than I would have expected regarding veils. Over and over women told me that veiling made them feel sexy, and one that the confidence she felt from wearing the veil made her feel sexy.
  • Most of the women who responded spent a significant amount of time each day wearing a veil. Those who only veiled at specific times, and those who veiled every waking hour, were in the minority. Some women only veiled during ritual, or when doing housework as a devotion to Hestia.
  • Most women veiled when outside of their home. Some were willing to unveil at the homes of family or close friends.
  • Most would take action to protect their religious right to wear a veil if needed.
  • Only a minority of Pagan women who veil see it as a sort of energetic or psychic shield.
  • Most wouldn’t encourage other women to wear a veil, but would support a woman who made that choice for themselves.
  • Almost every married woman said their husband either supported or were ambivalent about the veil. A couple of woman said their husbands appreciated the gesture.
  • Most of the women said they weren’t comfortable wearing the hijab, mainly because it tends to label them as part of a religion other than their own. The Jewish tichel was a popular choice.

The sexy comments took me by surprise. A lot of the responses took me by surprise. These were women of very different religious beliefs, different relationship statuses, different sexual orientations, different ages and different regions.

Somewhere amidst the many blogs I read a woman made a comment that she veiled because she didn’t have to share herself with everyone. She made the choice on who saw her hair. She deemed a part of herself sacred and set it apart from everyone else, to only share with a select few.

I find that concept interesting, that idea of reserved power. A woman may be showing cleavage, wearing a short skirt, and dancing in heels, but her covered hair would represent that she was fully in charge of her body and the decisions made over her body. As the birth control debate rages, it’s a rather empowering image to consider.

One surprising and interesting concept that was brought up was the idea that veiling conferred respect upon the husband. That this was a gift given freely that enhanced his image. Not something required or demanded by him, but rather a blessing of sorts bestowed by the wife. That concept of power balance in marriage is fascinating, particularly when you consider it alongside Goddesses granting power to their consorts, rather than the other way around. An example is that one of Zeus’ epithets is “Hera’s Consort.”

I also find it fascinating that this practice provides for some women a solution on how to mark the period when you’re no longer a girl, but not yet a crone. I know I’m not the only woman who has to remind themselves that they are not a girl, but a mature woman with all the power and responsibility that entails. Our culture may be producing a generation of man-boys, but it’s also extending the term girl far beyond it’s traditional expiration date. At some point being referred to as “the girls” becomes insulting to women. Wearing a headcovering gives a pretty clear signal that you are talking to a woman, not a girl. By basing this sort of milestone on adult maturity rather than on the start of menses, it removes the biological stigma related to women who for whatever reason cannot participate in “moonblood” rituals and rites of passage.

A lot of Pagans have strong opinions on headcovering in other religions. I’m sure there will be vocal critics of it in Paganism. But if you take one thing to ponder from this post, let it be this:

There may be Pagans whose practice seems almost identical to Abrahamic religious groups you dislike and find offensive, yet those Pagans may have religious, political and cultural views vastly different from the Abrahamic religions that share those practices. What if that woman at the grocery store you deem a Quiverfull, conservative Christian turns out to be a married, lesbian, liberal Witch?

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

    I think veiling, or “covering” as I’ve also heard it called, is a beautiful tradition!

    • blackpagan

      I agree. A very beautiful tradition for those who are called to it.

  • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

    Much of my family being Orthodox Jews, covering isn’t a new thing for me to see.  It’s very common among parts of the African-Caribbean pagans I know as well – both men and women.

    Because of the associations within Judaism that I have tied up in covering it’s not something that works for me, but in so many things neopaganism is about working with the symbols and actions that work for the individual.

    Rock on!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1092499077 Ursyl Kukura-Straw

    I find this concept, which I had run into online years ago, fascinating.

    For whatever reason though, when I try to wear a scarf tichel style, it Will Not stay put on my head.

    What seeped into my subconscious from many years of reading Darkover books was not exposing the nape of my neck to any but spouse.  To that end, my hair mostly stays down, even if all or part is pulled back into a braid.

    • Solinox

      It takes bobby pins. Lots of them. I finally figured this out, and confirmed it when I met a Mennonite woman last month with about 20 pins along the front of her headpiece. We started talking about how you need lots of strong pins!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1092499077 Ursyl Kukura-Straw

        That would be a recipe for serious hair breakage for me.

        Guess I should count myself lucky to not be so called, though there are so many many beautiful scarves out there.

  • Kathy

    Once again, there is no such thing as coincidence.  this concept has been on my mind for a while, and this article stated a good many things that answered questions I had.  Thank you so much for this.  Now, I can do some deeper looking, and find out more.  What a pwerful statement, and fabulous notion!  Reason along with practice makes for a much stronger line of inquiry.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/aithneamicheals Aithnea Micheals

      I agree with this statement.  Like Kathy the idea of covering my hair has been on my mind.  It started out with me researching the Hijab but feeling oddly conflicted being a pagan but drawn to such a powerful idea.  This article has opened up my eyes to new possibilities and something worthy of much deeper thought, mediation, and research.  Thank you.

  • Shai

    this article has given me much thought.. my hair is 80cm long and it is always up, safe and out of the way, it is rarely seen by anyone down.. but I am starting to find it difficult to keep and look tidy and still have that veil of secrecy and privacy about my hair….thankyou for this.. I am actually going to investigate scarves as a possibility to continue on my path

  • http://profiles.google.com/emkatcreations Kat Emralde

    One of the reasons I appreciate you is when confronted by something that does not mesh with your previous understanding you put in work and effort to find out more.  Great article.

  • http://syncreticmystic.wordpress.com/ Soli

    I’ve been wearing a headscarf now for almost a year, though at this point I only wear it for work. (And as a member of said group, I think I missed your question and am sorry I didn’t get to reply.) For me it’s a tangible way of keeping out unwanted psychic clutter and actually helps my stress levels.
    At some point I anticipate I am going to wear a headscarf more, but I don’t know yet when that time will be. Maybe when I get some new ones.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marienne.foxwood Marienne Hartwood

    For the first several years of my Craft practices (as a Canaanite Pagan),  I would wear my head covered for my rites–it gave such a feeling of strength and beauty (and yes, even sensuality). I can’t say *why* I started doing it…at some point, I just did. Later, as my path grew in a different direction, I would cover my head when I did tarot readings. I found that it helped me free myself from distractions from the world around me and center me in the here and now, almost to the point where I could feel the knowledge that I needed to pass along slipping into my head ala osmosis.  (Later, I’ve heard people describe this as a form of “spiritual anointing”, which I find amusing as physical anointing is one of those rites that I feel is so potent and yet underused in so much modern Paganism!)

    These days, it has been ages since I have worn my head covered on a regular basis. As a member of a robed tradition, there are times when we may wear our hoods in certain rites, and when it is done, it brings with it this sense of immense power and potency behind it. Aside from that, we are encouraged to wear our heads uncovered and our hair unbound for our practices, and that’s what I do in my personal practices as well.

    The only other place when I’ve run into individuals not of Islamic, Jewish, Vodoun, and conservative Christian faiths wear their heads covered for a specific reason are the cancer warriors I’ve known. I know of many people who make head scarves for people undergoing cancer treatments to transform them from a “cancer patient” to a “cancer warrior”, by bringing them a sense of beauty and strength to their being to overcome their affliction.

    An awesome topic…and it gets me thinking I may start seeing if I’m called to take up the covering in some of my personal practices again. Thanks so much for bringing this up!

  • sunfell

    I probably have a different take on veiling and most other head-gear, but my background is a bit different than most. I went to church when I was really small (pre-Vatican II), where women had to wear a veil, but small kids didn’t. Mom slapped large sun-hats on me when I was younger too- to protect me from the sun. And in the military, hats were an important part of the uniform, and were worn anytime one was outdoors. To this day, I keep my right hand empty out of habit when walking outdoors, although I haven’t had to salute an officer in nearly 20 years. But I hated hats of any sort, and still avoid them unless necessary.

    My own spiritual path is apparently different as well. My Guidance prefers that I keep my head uncovered (except when working outside in the hot sun). I’ve tried to wear scarves, and they pop off no matter how I tie them. Even pins and clips don’t work- they slip out, pop off, or mysteriously vanish. When I put on a scarf, my head gets hot, or itches, or some combination of the two that make it urgent that I remove the item. I am ‘permitted’ to put on a particular hat when I’m doing certain magical things, but the second I’m done, my head starts to itch, and I doff the headgear immediately.

    Perhaps my opposite reaction is because I’m a solitary Mage rather than a Wiccan, and work as a non-gendered person rather than a female. This may be why my Guidance is insistent that I remain bare-headed rather than cover up. Considering what tends to happen to me when I disregard their gentle direction, it behooves me to pay attention.

    • Cairech

      I agree about how uncomfortable headscarfs are.  They’re hot, make my scalp itch, and no amount of pins or clips will keep them in place.  And they give me headaches.  I do love warm hats in cold weather, and I love straw sunhats in hot weather. 

  • http://www.thegoddessofdenver.com/ Paulie Rainbow

    Not surprising that your historical references for veiling show either dividing women into “good” and “bad” or a reduction the actual or symbolic sphere of freedom, a confinement. 

    Again and again the terms for an immature female creep all the way up to cronehood and women constantly strive to differentiate their mature state. 

    Would these women be as likely to veil if we recognized an honored womanhood in our culture? Will this be another attempt at that differentiation that creeps back down into childhood as we sexualize little girls, and then become abandoned for this current purpose as women find a new way to assert and claim womanhood? 

    • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

      Most of us have thought through our motivations and reasoning for veiling with some form of depth and have come to the conclusion of; “Yes, this is something I wish to do.”

      So yes, I have a new way of “asserting” my womanhood. It’s a way that resonates with my soul, my worship of the gods, and the claiming and moderation of my power. It takes into account my narrative as the stereotype of “hyper- sexualized black woman” in America and marks the respect and reverence I hold for my husband as the head of our household.

      It contributes to my piety, and my supplication to Hera and Hestia both and all of the gods I serve. 

      It makes me divine in my femininity, shows my strength in the face of adversity and reaffirms the notion that I control my life; not the patriarchy and not the Feminist movement; which as much good as it has done for women’s rights has, from then on, consistently attempted to shoehorn the ideals of ALL women into the “accepted social norm”  of western, middle-class, white womanhood.

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com/ Vermillion

    I’ve only recently discovered the idea of veiling of but I love the reasoning and practices around it. As it stands I don’t think it’s for me (well not right now anyway,  I cannae see the future!)  but I think it’s lovely.

  • Nan Thompson

    Fascinating subject, I shall have to explore more about it. 

  • http://twitter.com/thinkchristina Christina Searcy

    this was a long read, but thank you! such a great topic.

  • http://twitter.com/RoriRants Rori Lieurance

    I LOVE wearing scarves! I wear them in the Hijab style because it also covers my neck. It makes me feel secure, cozy, beautiful and powerful! If I didn’t live in such a small town, I would wear Hijab outside the house most all the time–I just think it’s SO beautiful :D GREAT article!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1235520207 Melissa DeGenova

       I started wearing them that way in the winter because I often had them on me and couldn’t find a hat.  They kept my head and neck warm

  • http://thecoexistcafe.com/ The Coexist Cafe

    I admit I was confused about the idea of veiling until I reached the part about separating the girls from the women. At 27 years old, I still have a difficult time thinking of myself as a woman (and with all the rights and responsibilities that come with it!), deferring instead to being a “girl” in almost all senses of the word. It’s not from lack of trying, either, but you make an interesting point that the word has gone beyond, as you said, its “expiration date” and is still used for straight-up *women*.

    I don’t know if I’d start veiling, but I think it’s important to have that distinction somehow. And veiling seems to be one viable option. :) Thank you for this!

  • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

    Thank you,
    Star, for this great article. You represented us truthfully and respectfully.

    Veiling/Covering
    isn’t for every woman, but for those who are called, it’s important to let them
    know we are here for them.

    For any
    naysayers: crack open a history book or go to a museum that hosts Classical
    statuary. Roman women were veiling long before the birth of Christianity or
    Islam. It’s our right.

    Veiling/Covering
    isn’t for every woman, but for those who are called, it’s important to let them
    know we are here for them.

    For any
    naysayers: crack open a history book or go to a museum that hosts Classical
    statuary. Roman women were veiling long before the birth of Christianity or
    Islam. It’s our right.

    • Paulie Rainbow

      Hi, 

      I find it ironic that you write “It’s our right” The classical women you are seeing in Greek and Roman statues didn’t have any rights. They had no rights. 

      They couldn’t hold office. They couldn’t vote or take any part in civil society. They didn’t own their own property. All of their property belonged to their husbands. Upper class women were restricted to their houses or had to wear veils in public. Lower class women had more freedom but even fewer rights and privileges. 

      While I support the right of my Pagan sisters to choose to wear whatever they want to, I am not at all interested in emulating the historical societies where women commonly wore veils. 

      Just because there are Goddesses in the pantheon does NOT mean that women are being treated fairly and equally. 

      • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

         Right, because drawing inspiration from the ancients means abandoning indoor plumbing, right?

      • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

        Are you saying that because a modern woman veils that she isn’t treated fairly or equally? By whom?

        Yes, it is our right. It is our right to cover, to worship, to do what we wish with our bodies.

        To suggest that reclaiming such a small bit of ancient practice means that we are now fully embracing the entire cultural practice of said ancient people is ridiculous.  Does that mean (as Star pointed out) that we are to give up indoor plumbing? Are we to have slaves?

        It is your choice and your *right* to emulate whatever culture you wish. But, if you are going to push to the side all ancient cultural practices where women veil, you’ll have a very small group to choose from.

        Even though you claim to support your Sisters, you are doing the opposite. As a modern Polytheist woman, I have the right and freedom to cover or not cover my head as I please.

        • Robert

          I understand that you have some investment in the idea of covering as a right, but I don’t see Paulie’s comment as attacking that right.  I see zie bringing up a valid point of thought and discussion, namely that while *you* have the option of covering or not, there were and are many cultures where women do *not* have that freedom.    It’s easy to find wearing a veil freeing and sexy when you can go without at any time without fear of reprisal.  Those who lived and still live in cultures where going without a veil can mean harrassment, assault, jail, or even death may see it differently. 

          I’d be interested in knowing to what degree those who choose to go veiled have thought about the implications of same.   To what degree does the value of covering your hair come from the fact that it is optional for you?  To what degree to  you perform this act with the concious knowledge and acknowledgement of those women for whom this is compulsory instead? 

          To turn your statement on its head (if you’ll forgive the pun),  can you emulate a portion of ancient belief without acknowledging the negative aspects of the practice as well?

          • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

            Considering how many conversations I’ve had with women who come from such countries and even have immigrated here and still CONTINUE to wear the veil; I wonder how much of your comment is the typical pagan missionary syndrome of believing that every person who doesn’t prescribe to your ideology is somehow “oppressed” or ignorant?

            Have you even taken the time to answer your own questions? 

            Have you ever spoken to women who happily wear the hijab as part of their religious practice?

            And finally, what does MY decision to veil have to do with another country’s foreign policy? 

            Notice; it’s not US saying that everyone woman has to wear a head covering, but many of YOU stating that we should not. Because of course; since we’re just ignorant shut-ins we obviously need to be told by SOMEONE how to dress, behave,or think.

            And finally what have YOU done for the oppressed women of the world besides bring them up to try to prove some banal point?

            Have you ever volunteered to help low income women here in America? Let alone elsewhere? Have you given to charities to help women in African and Middle Eastern countries build businesses which, in turn, help them achieve economic stability? This especially since it is mainly women who create solid communities in these areas?

            What have you done besides use another woman (of colour more than likely) suffering to your own, patronizing, ends?

            You’re not some great liberator. You’re not some grand progressive and you certainly haven’t done a damn thing with this post except prove to me, once again, that  most of the people in this community are so caught up in “seeming liberal” or understanding they have NO IDEA what it’s like to be a woman from an oppressive, sexist, culture where the life of a woman is consistently worth nothing. 

            This post couldn’t be filled with more bullshit if it was floating in a pasture of cows with dysentery.

            You want to help? Go to What About Our Daughters and get in on a campaign. Go to Kiva and make a few micro-loans. Find your local mosques and make donations if it suits your fancy.

            But don’t get up in my ass thinking you’re going to say much of anything; because so far you, and Paulie, haven’t said shit.

          • Katrina Comens

            Pythia, you are my hero! You kick so much ass, I just want to hug you!

          • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

            “I’d be interested in knowing to what degree those who choose to go veiled have thought about the implications of same. To what degree does the value of covering your hair come from the fact that it is optional for you? To what degree to you perform this act with the concious knowledge and acknowledgement of those women for whom this is compulsory instead?
            To turn your statement on its head (if you’ll forgive the pun), can you emulate a portion of ancient belief without acknowledging the negative aspects of the practice as well?”We all know that there are women who are forced to wear a veil in other countries. But they are not Pagan/Polytheist, are they? Should I ignore the calling of my Goddess because a women is forced to wear a burka? I don’t think so.Should I take it a step further and no longer be Polytheist so that I don’t emulate ancient beliefs that had negative aspects to their practices? Should I no longer honour my Gods because They once were given animal sacrifices?How far down the slippery slope do you wish to go?

  • Wordsmith13

    Great and informative article! I feel like veiling is perfectly fine when it’s the woman’s choice and she is not being forced to do it. I also like the idea of covering your hair as a sign that it is for your husband alone, or as a sign of respect for him. Very interesting indeed!

    • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

      Thank you, wordsmith13.  I can say with complete confidance that every woman in the FB group cover by their choosing. We are not forced into anything.

  • http://twitter.com/whitestagforest Aine Llewellyn

    I’ve been interested in veiling for a while, and I’ve always had a love obsession with scarves and any sort of head-covering. Everyone I know has always cooed about my being ‘so cute’ in hats as well, no matter what type of hat it is.  I originally wasn’t sure about veiling – the modesty approach does not suit me at all, since I enjoy getting dolled up and flouncing about in frills. 

    I eventually started connecting veiling the head with covering the ‘fire in the head’, and was guided by my deities to realize that, for me, an unveiled head allows for inspiration and ‘fire’ to flow through the body.  I don’t feel quite ready to veil yet, though, because to me, when I take up the veil, it will represent long work that I have done with my deities and mark me out as one of ‘Theirs’.  While I don’t veil, I keep my hair tied up almost all the time (pretty much the moment after I wake up til I head to sleep), and I only let my hair down when saying prayers or making offerings. 

    It doesn’t have gender-connotations for me, probably because I’m male :P But I still feel called to acknowledge the sacredness of the cranium!

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       I’ve seen men veil in ritual, and it was a very powerful symbol to see them lift the veil onto their heads and seemingly inhale the sacred.

    • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

      We’ve spoken about our Brother who wish to veil. How great would it be if perhaps a group was created for them =-)

  • kenneth

    If it’s voluntary, more power to them. In a sense we all do something akin to “veiling” when we wear special ritual gear to remind us we’re entering a different space. I suppose I could graft the Sikh tradition of turbans for men, but when I grow a beard, I look like the Unabomber, so maybe not….:)

    • http://kcpolymath.blogspot.com/ Kit Peters

       I’d like to see just a simple headscarf for long haired men come into fashion.  No religious purpose, just to cover my receding hairline and add a bit of color.  :)

      • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

        Be the trendsetter!

  • Ariel

    Thank you for this awesome post! I have covered my hair, off and on, for many years and never knew there were other Pagans who veiled as a spiritual practice. I just feel drawn to covering and enjoy the feeling of a scarf on my head! I will be doing it more, and now with intention.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daphne-Lykeion/100001561883583 Daphne Lykeion

    It was a great pleasure taking part in this discussion with you on Covered in Light. As a person who has been veiling for the last couple of years I am thrilled on how many women are coming together to share their experiences. For me, regardless of what a woman’s social status was in ancient Hellas, there is something quite significant in the division of what pertains to womanhood/adulthood when it comes to dress. We do this to a degree even today in that often we envision certain age ranges for the introduction of makeup and high heels that announce an exiting from childhood into adulthood. Personally I feel that a veiling practice is a more poignant symbol of this, and also as a symbol of self respect in that I have complete control over what is visible and what is not. Ritually, a special scarf can change your frame of mind as well just as effectively as any other ritual adornment. And there is something of great feminity that I find attrative myself too.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    It makes total and complete sense to me, personally, for those who want to do it, or whose practices or relationships with particular deities or traditions require or encourage it to whatever extent.

    I know I’ve heard it phrased within a Jewish context that it isn’t so much that “men require women” to do it, so much as that women do it so that they don’t overpower men constantly.  Unfortunately, it’s rare for people to think of it in those terms who aren’t heavily involved in the culture.

    For myself, when I was younger I hated hats of all kinds, and couldn’t stand them.  In the early days of college, I started finding hats that I liked.  Now, I rarely (if ever) leave the house without one, and often leave it on when I’m indoors out of my house.  I have found that it keeps my own energies pretty “capped,” as it were, and while my thoughts do still wander, I rarely if ever feel like I’m being invaded or bombarded from the outside while in public any longer.  And, that’s not a bad thing at all!

    • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com Kauko

       Also, in the Jewish context men are just as much required to adhere to certain ideas of modesty and head covering as women (when I saw ultra-orthodox men in Israel walking around in summer with thick black clothes and big furry hats, it made me sweat just watching them). I used to wear a kippah full time and living in the South, I found that it made me very self conscious and I got strange reactions from people (my personal favorite was being asked by someone in a very slow voice like you’d talk to someone who doesn’t speak your language, ‘What country are you from?’).

  • Hariscruff

    Did you join the facebook group just to get enough information for this article, and then bail out?  Did you ask the women for their permission before you used their quotes?

  • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

    What a wonderful post Star and I find your thoughts, and observations, give me a bit more hope in regards to more veiled, pagan, women coming together. I must admit, I was a bit shocked when I saw just how many other pagan women feel drawn to cover their hair for a variety of reasons. 

    As a woman I value, and appreciate, modesty but I also understand just how much power I have. When my curls are wild around my face; I have the power to transfix, amaze, hypnotize, and manipulate. With the veil, not only do I convey my married status, but I recognize just how powerful I am simply from being woman; there is something tantalizing narcissistic in saying so but; I’m one bad bitch.

    I could also understand the sense of sexiness that came with the veil, the aura of mystery, the containing of power, the sense of being in worship or contemplation at all times. I notice I am definitely more cognizant of my actions and intentions now that I am veiled.

    Once again, another amazing post and thank you for your kind words. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1092499077 Ursyl Kukura-Straw

    I have to keep reminding myself what you all are meaning by veiled. Used as a verb, the image that comes to my mind is of the face being hidden too, not of the person wearing some form of scarf.

    And this is with having had nuns who wore habit and veil as teachers when I was a young kid.

    I don’t think covering our heads or hair conveys married status to most in this (American) culture though. That’s a historic concept, and I’ve got no problem with it, but I doubt most have taken enough history or anthropology for that meaning to be what comes to mind.

    • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

      Actually, for a good many in the group covering/veiling does indeed symbolize marital status.

      I have a BA in Anthropology, minored in Classics, and am a Roman Polytheist. I cover as a symbol of being a married woman. A Domina.

      • http://kcpolymath.blogspot.com/ Kit Peters

         I think she was saying that covering/veiling doesn’t symbolize marital status to the casual observer, rather than to the person doing the covering/veiling.

      • Ursyl

        Totally not what I was saying.

        I understand what it means to you and your group.
        I understand that some cultures past and present have that meaning to it.

        The vast majority of random Americans, who have neither BAs in Anthro nor interest in history, are not going to look at your beautifully scarfed head and think “Ah! married woman!”

        Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue to do as you feel called of course.

        • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

           I wasn’t being snarky or rude.

           The same can be said for people who see an Orthodox Jewess wearing a tichel. Most aren’t going to look at her and say “Ah! married woman!” either.

           What does it matter if people don’t know the symbolic meaning of my covering right away? It doesn’t matter to me.

          • Ursyl

            Sounds good to me.

            My personal style of dress many days bears an unfortunate resemblance to what the women in a local fundamentalist group wear.

            Such is life. I was living here, wearing my long skirts, first.(~_^)

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

    I really liked this in depth piece! I don’t understand where there might have been animosity towards it.

    • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

      Lamyka,

      Because some people feel it’s their right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body.

      There’s this unfounded belief within the modern Community that being Pagan/Polytheist means you cannot be modest in any form. Head covering becomes this symbol of oppression that these people rally around, shouting about women’s rights.Well, it’s MY right to cover. Would they treat an Amish woman, an Orthodox woman, or a hijabed woman the same?

      No.

      It’s because we are part of “their” Community they feel they need to dictate what is “right” and “wrong” in how we dress. Never mind that my calling came from Hestia and not the obnoxious opinion of the self-righteous.

      • http://kcpolymath.blogspot.com/ Kit Peters

         In any community, there are always going to be those who try and enforce some sort of cultural norm.  That’s human nature – “you’re in my tribe, so you should look/speak/act like I think members of my tribe look/speak/act”.  That said, how many people in the Pagan community have you met that actually profess the belief that one cannot be modest and be Pagan at the same time?  Maybe it’s just the company I keep, but I can’t think of a single Pagan I know who would say that.

        • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

          Kit, then you are very lucky. I’ve been told by numerous Pagans that modesty isn’t a Pagan virtue and no “real” Pagan woman would choose to dress that way.

          • http://kcpolymath.blogspot.com/ Kit Peters

            Cora, I’m sorry to hear that.  It’s my opinion that a person, regardless of their sex or gender, should be free to dress, speak, and act as they please, provided they do not interfere with another’s right to do the same.  

            Perhaps, if I may be permitted to speculate, these Pagans who disdain modesty associate it with authoritarian religions that they have had painful experiences with in the past.  Perhaps they fear that if you practice modesty *by choice*, you weaken their claims that they should be allowed to act immodestly.  I don’t think there’s any substance to that fear – my choice to wear “mundane” clothes most days doesn’t affect someone else’s choice to wear less “mundane” clothing – but it’s a real fear none the less.  

            Ultimately, to my mind, being any kind of non-mainstream person is about choice.  We choose to be different, and we demand that others respect our choice.  If we wish to enjoy that respect, we must give that same respect in return to those who differ from us.  

          • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

            That’s been my line of thinking for a long time. If you want respect, you give it.

            I think your speculation might be closer to truth. Which is ironic because then they are behaving with an authoritarian manner towards me while spouting messages of “progressivness”.

            I think it’s very interesting that women had to fight for so long and hard for the right to wear what we want and this issue brings us back to square one of us saying “It’s our right to wear what we wish”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tumakhunter W Keith Baldwin IV

    A fascinating piece.  Thank you for the wonderful insights, Star.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marienne.foxwood Marienne Hartwood

     In discussion with some other folks, one distinction that was made by someone is that for those who follow the “Maiden, Mother, Crone” aspects for their practices, going covered is less about Mother and more about Matron. For me, this really hit home because, although I do have a child, I seem to put forward more “Matron” than “Mother” expression in my life (except during those times when I’m wholly “Mom”, and even then, it’s “Mom” and not “Mother”).

    • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

      Exactly! I’m entering that Matron (Domina) phase in my life and feel that covering/veiling is part of that journy.

  • Imkaty

    great article and conversation..super reading

  • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere Yvonne Aburrow

    Very interesting article, good discussion.

    A friend from Sri Lanka once told me that he found the  dupatta (Hindu hair covering) sexy. And it is. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dupatta

    I think veils have different connotations in different cultures. I would be happy wearing a dupatta but not a headscarf. I was brought up among the Plymouth Brethren till the age of 9, and they make women wear headscarves.

    If Pagan women want to wear head-coverings and it’s part of their spiritual path, good for them. I personally am uncomfortable with talk of submission to deities, though I’m glad that the deities in question requested rather than demanded this from their devotees. It’s also clear from all the comments that people have thought about why they are doing this.

    I have read similar statements of feeling empowered by covering the hair from Islamic women. And if they have chosen to do this, that’s up to them, too.

  • P T Helms

    I’ve spent a great deal of my adult life around Muslims, and I personally find veiling very attractive, and I can easily see how it might make a woman feel sexy. After all, it leaves more to the imagination, in a sense.

  • Paulie Rainbow

    I find the vitriol in response to my post interesting. 

    I would like to clarify my beliefs and the experiences that formed them. 

    I do support my sisters in their choice. I love it that we have choice. 

    Years before 2001 I began to explore the question of veiling because of my concerns about Afghanistan. As a women’s studies minor in university I was aware that we cannot project Western ideals and values onto other cultures. I became involved in supporting RAWA and as their organization evolved I became a sponsor to two girls through AFCECO. I don’t want those girls to have my values, just a chance in this world. 

    I sought out muslima groups on the internet and in my local community and was a part of one of those groups, not for weeks, or months, but for years. I do support women and I support women’s choices. I wanted to hear what they had to say for themselves about their own choices. 

    The women I have met and learned from while Muslim, not Pagan, are still modern women and I liked hearing their own experiences from them. I found that we shared many of the same concerns and had come up with different strategies for dealing with them. 

    I think that neoPagan women in my own country and community have even more choices than other women I have known. We are evolving and exploring and as a community we are really very young. We are blessed by that freedom. 

    What I do object to is what I see as a misunderstanding of history. I do not see classical Greek or Roman veiling as an outgrowth of Pagan practices. Because veiling was required and the women of that time weren’t even permitted to create the art that depicts them, I do not see how we can view those images of veiled women as women making empowered, spiritual choices. 

    There may have been women who wanted to be veiled, but their own desire is so obscured by the fact of the requirement that they do veil, I don’t know how we can even recognize it. When you see a picture of a group of Saudi women in the news and they are all veiled, how can you tell which of them prefers to be veiled and which do not? You can’t. 

    So I see these images of veiled women from Greek and Roman times, and I do not see that the veiling is an outgrowth of spiritual choice, I see that it was a requirement of a culture that also deprived women of civil rights. 

    As a Pagan woman, I support the rights of other women to dress as they please. 

    As a stickler for detail, I do not support the view that veiled Roman women represent my Pagan heritage. I think that images of veiled Roman women demonstrate that even Pagan cultures can decide to control what women wear, where they can go and what rules they will abide by. 

    I hope that we can continue to dialog between ourselves and other faiths about these fascinating issues. 

    And I hope that the two young ladies that I help to support and educate, so very far away, make choices that make them happy, keep them healthy and help to make their voices an important part of their own, native community. 

    Blessings of the equinox to you. 

    • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

      Here’s the thing though; it’s not about YOU. If you don’t veil; fine. Once again, no one here is saying you should; however your desire to use “tone arguments” and derailing on an issue of which you have no personal experience doesn’t endear you to many when it comes to dialogue.

      You came in here acting like you were going to “school” me, and a host of other women. Well let me school you:

      A. You don’t know me. B. I measure the amount of fuck I give by the amount of my bills you pay. 

      You want to call that vitriol than have at it. I like SAT words as much as the next college educated dame.

      You approached with an assumption of ignorance; as if we, and I, am not aware of the challenges women face worldwide and may not be, ourselves, a part of those women who can be killed, raped, or tortured while society turns a blind eye. That’s what earned my ire;  your assumptions about who I am, where I come from, and what my social history is; my level of education and awareness, my level of actual activism within a realm, I notice, you haven’t stepped FOOT into.

      So keep patting yourself on the back, I guess this is just part of your “burden.”

  • Diandra Linnemann

    Recently I have read quite a bit about veiling Pagans. I think if this is what they feel called to do, it is a great tradition for them. Would not do so myself, though, and luckily it seems as if none of the goddesses I have been working with in the past are likely to request this. (I have had a fall-out with a goddess concerning my chosen style of living, but it did not include clothing issues.)

  • Lady S

    I hope the veiling idea does not become the next pagan fad yesh.  I like the discussion of the uses of veiling and why fors.  IMO whatever we do to for or with is personal. Once again thank you for sharing.

    • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

      I hope it doesn’t become the next fad either as it would cheapen the deep meaning it has for those of us who veil for religious reasons.

  • Valerie

    This is.. so exciting to me. This sounds weird, but in my spiritual search I actually did go and learn about Islam. What took me there was hijab. And while I know that’s not my place, I wondered how odd I would be if I were to wear the scarves or head coverings in my own (pagan) rituals. I have worn hijab-style scarves in my rituals and it felt so right. I’ve only worn them once outside my home and I did get a strange look, but it was cold so I didn’t care. I’m going ot have to learn more about this. I’m both surprised and relieved to see that I’m not alone. It’s very encouraging. Thank you so much for this. I went searching for more information after I saw a profile on paganspace. I think it might have been Cora’s actually? Have a great weekend all <3

  • http://profiles.google.com/tpoaic Cora Post

    Hi Valerie,

    The hijab was the first pull I had too. When I was at Uni we had a large Muslimah population and I was so jealous that they got to wear beautiful scarves. Because the pull was so strong, I began doing more research and at the same time I was taking my last courses in Roman history. We were covering Augustus’ ideas of piety and modesty and something just clicked. I didn’t cover for a few more years, however.

    I’ve got a profile on Pagan Place because a Sister wanted to create a new CiL group there, but I don’t have a profile on PaganSpace =-)

    • Valerie

       Oh, shoot. I meant pagan place. I’m sorry. It’s friday and my brain might be a bit scrambled ;) I’ll definitely have some research/reading to do, now. Thank you :)

  • http://profiles.google.com/prescottjess Jessica Prescott

    This is a well done post. I loved all the links and being able to check out that informaiton as well. I don’t regularly cover my head, but I’ve always loved scarves. It doesn’t get cold often here (southern US), so I don’t have much occasion to comfortably wear them. However, I have been thinking about scarves and head coverings as part of a more regular outfit lately.

    Two weeks ago, our shower was broken for a couple days. I could wash most of my body out of the sink, but my hair was not getting clean. It wasn’t totally gross, it just wasn’t as pretty as usual. So, every time I left the house, I covered my head. While it may have started out as not wanting people to guess that I hadn’t bathed recently, it became quite nice. I usually put my long hair up when going out, keeps it out of the way and avoids distraction. I am also not a modest person. I wear clothes for warmth, support, and societal laws on the subject. But this was different. My partner even told me that I looked quite sexy with my hair covered.

    Coming across this article has brought it to mind again, so I think I’ll do some more searching and learning. I can certainly understand how covering can become a lovely, spiritual practice.

  • http://profiles.google.com/prescottjess Jessica Prescott

    This is a well done post. I loved all the links and being able to check out that informaiton as well. I don’t regularly cover my head, but I’ve always loved scarves. It doesn’t get cold often here (southern US), so I don’t have much occasion to comfortably wear them. However, I have been thinking about scarves and head coverings as part of a more regular outfit lately.

    Two weeks ago, our shower was broken for a couple days. I could wash most of my body out of the sink, but my hair was not getting clean. It wasn’t totally gross, it just wasn’t as pretty as usual. So, every time I left the house, I covered my head. While it may have started out as not wanting people to guess that I hadn’t bathed recently, it became quite nice. I usually put my long hair up when going out, keeps it out of the way and avoids distraction. I am also not a modest person. I wear clothes for warmth, support, and societal laws on the subject. But this was different. My partner even told me that I looked quite sexy with my hair covered.

    Coming across this article has brought it to mind again, so I think I’ll do some more searching and learning. I can certainly understand how covering can become a lovely, spiritual practice.

  • Guest

    It’s interesting… I’m enjoying reading the perspectives of others, it opens my mind a little to the idea. Having said that, I still react to the idea of veiling on a personal level the same way I would react to forced female circumcision. For me personally – as in, the idea of veiling myself – it seems highly restrictive to the point where I react automatically with horror, fear and revulsion.

    I am therefore grateful for the alternative view presented here. I like the different reasons women have chosen to veil, even if I don’t understand them. However, if the idea of veiling *myself* were presented to me, I would still react with emotional violence, and run very very far away. As a religious witch whose practices draw from the ideas of the “primal”, it’s pretty anathema.

    What people wear and how they wear it is their business. I highly enjoy corsetry, which other women might find offensively restrictive. For me, it feels physically amazing, it feels fun, it looks fantastic. But the veil to me is horrific. It’s a strange thing, what different people both enjoy and shy away from.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1235520207 Melissa DeGenova

     I have my own scarf/veil empowerment story.  I have alopecia, a hair loss condition that comes and goes.  A few years back, it came and my hair went, all of it except for a few strands.  Think Golum from Lord of the Rings.  Then I decided to shave my head entierly.  If I was going to be bald, it would be on my own terms.

    I purchaced a wig, but almost never wore it.  It was itchy and uncomfortable.  I really prefered hats and scarves.  I found the most beautiful vintage scarves and wore those.  At first I was only comfortable wearing my head bare among family and very close friensd, and even then, I would usually cover up.  But as the summer wore on, I stopped caring.  I would take it off at the beach when I swam and confuse the heck out of kids who were wondering why this strange person in a bikini had no hair.

    The veil became a symbol of my taking ownership of my condition.  I was not going to be ashamed of my baldness, instead I would rock it.  I still have many of the scarves and still wear them now, even though I have a full head of hair.  Some of them have been recycled as altar cloths.  I see them as a symbol of my own independence and refusal to adhere to society’s standards of beauty.

  • http://twitter.com/vogelbeere Yvonne Aburrow

    Another thought — if I visit someone else’s sacred space, and their religion requires people to wear head-coverings in that sacred space, then I wear a headscarf, out of respect for their sacred space. I prefer to visit Sikh gurdwaras where both men and women are required to cover their heads, though.


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