Today I found my personal self had been violated. Last week I was at the Summerland Druid Festival. By the last day I was tired, stinky, and too busy to even bother to brush my hair in the morning. I got home after dark, and dragged a few important things inside before I went to bed. This morning was good, I sat in my robe, drank my coffee and asked my kids what they liked best about the festival. Then I got dressed and went into the bathroom to put up my hair and I noticed a strange thing.
A lock of my hair had been cut.
I was confused and disoriented for a moment because it was very near where I had cut my own hair and offered it to the flames at my ordination as a Priest of ADF, but that was years ago, and the tuft of hair that cutting had left behind had long since grown out. I had cut my hair as an offering about a month ago, but that was on the other side and had been much longer, a good half a foot of length left behind which was easily caught in a ponytail. This was a short tuft, blunt and bold sticking out from the base of my scalp.
My first thought was: had I done it and forgotten? I didn’t drink during this festival. I’ve been having health problems and didn’t need to exacerbate my migraines with alcohol. There had been no point where I had lost control of myself and yet, there was evidence that at some point something had happened to my hair.
It’s not such a big thing, really. Just a lock of hair. I mean, Alexander Pope wrote a satiric poem about such a thing. But there it was, sticking out from my ponytail and as I try to figure out what had happened, I kept pulling at it, wondering.
Did someone cut it in my sleep? I don’t even lock my car at this event. I have always felt so safe, and yet here is evidence that someone, without my knowledge and consent, violated my bodily sovereignty. Someone, somehow, stole my hair.
I asked my friends if they had, out of some strange impulse, taken a lock. These are the people who had done energy work or massage, or had comforted me as I struggled with my asthma. None of those who I might trust with my hair took it.
It sends shivers down my spine, wondering if someone snuck up in my sleep to clip my hair.My brain is all too happy to answer the question of why someone might want it: cursing, control, or obsession? None of the answers are comforting. I thought, maybe I had torn it? But the ends are too neat, too even. It was cut.
Really, what can I do? I have taken a certain amount of magical action, and I was advised to use the tuft to anchor a hair wrap as a replacement for the hair. I feel like Sif, whose golden hair was cut in her sleep, but with no convenient narrative conclusion, no Loki to blame.
I am left with a lessening. Less hair, yes, but that will grow back. More importantly I have less trust. I will be more inclined to lock my car, to sleep near someone else. It was suggested to me that someone skilled could have snipped it in a hug or a bump from behind, both of which happened countless times at a four-day pagan festival.
A lock of hair is such a small thing given as a love token in a Victorian novel, or called for as a spell component. But it was mine to choose to give or not to give and I was not given that choice.
This is what it is to be a woman: to live with these small violations and hope that larger ones don’t come. To know that larger violations will come. To question the motives of friend and stranger. To be a woman is to learn to live with the loss of trust.
My husband is angrier than I am. I think this is possibly because I am a woman, and strangely I have a feeling of relief that that it was not worse. I am sharply aware that it could have been worse. It has been worse for women I know.
In the end I believe the most important thing I can do is share. To use my voice to say I am here, and something was done to me that was creepy and scary. By raising my voice I shine a light on our cultural lack of consent. I know other women who are too afraid to share their stories, women who have been mocked for far worse experiences than stolen hair. I ask that others share their stories, so that we can know the truth. If we hide our stories, if we are ashamed of actions that were not our choice that were done to us, then those who don’t understand, and who have never experienced such a thing will never believe that a lack of consent is wrong.