Many cultures around the world, from Native Americans to Sikhs, believe that hair has a special significance. Cultural beliefs about our hair and how it can affect us go back as far as recorded history. Many ancient cultures believed there is power in uncut hair.
While each culture and belief is distinct, many are strangely similar. We’re going to dive into some different long hair cultures in a new series we’re calling Longhair Traditions. For this first post we’re starting close to home with long hair in Native American culture.
Native American cultures and beliefs vary widely between tribes and peoples, so rather than generalize all Native American culture we’ve pointed out some fascinating highlights across different cultures.
Who grows their hair?
Both men and women are encouraged to grow their hair. There are often special ceremonies for the first haircut, but after that they let it grow.
There is also significance in the way the hair is worn. There is a way to wear the hair for many ceremonies and dances. For many Native Americans, braided hair signifies unity with the infinite, and allowing the hair to flow freely signifies the free flow of life.
Why grow long hair?
Their beliefs around long hair, as many of their beliefs, are tied to the earth and nature. The long hair has symbolic significance tying them to mother earth whose hair is long grasses. Many Native Americans believe their hair is a physical manifestation of the growth of the spirit, and some say it allows for extrasensory perception, and connection to all things.
What does cutting the hair signify?
Many tribes cut their hair when there is a death in the immediate family as an outward symbol of the deep sadness and a physical reminder of the loss. The cut hair represents the time with their loved one, which is over and gone, and the new growth is the life after.
The cutting of hair can also signify separating from past actions or thoughts. When a Native American cuts their hair, the hair is often treated with respect. It can be placed into a flowing river, buried, or burned.
Long Hair and Superpowers
Samson notwithstanding, some Native American tribes even believe that the hair is connected to the nervous system. That long hair reaches out like tentacles, and pulls energy and information from the world around us similar to a cat’s whiskers.
We’ve come across different versions of a story about the Vietnam war, where skilled Native American trackers were recruited for their abilities as scouts by the US Army. It’s said that after joining the Army and getting their military haircuts, they lost their powers and failed to perform in the field.
Whatever credit you give the story, the idea of feeling through your hair has merit. It’s certainly true each hair creates a contact point with your scalp. And with long hair, those are thousands of extended touch points bringing in tactile sensory information from your surrounding environment. From that standpoint, the notion of “feeling the world” around us doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
These are just a few of the interesting cultures and beliefs we’ve come across. Dive a little deeper in this post, including videos of Native Americans describing the significance of their long hair.
We write this post with respect and appreciation for all cultures. If you have anything to add, please share in the comments or contact us directly.
What other long hair cultures should we cover here?