Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hawaiian hair leis

On a recent trip to Hawaii, I visited the Kaua'i Museum and discovered again the power of hair, existent historically in so many different cultures. For the people on the island of Kaua'i, a person's hair, as well as bone and nail clippings, were carefully guarded as they were believed to carry a person's spirit, or mana.

The Kaua'i people made leis out of hair, called lei niho palaoa, described in the museum exhibit thus:

This lei worn by men and women of high rank consisted of up to 1,000 strands of plaited (braided with 8 hairs) human hair from which hung a pendant carved in the shape of the tongue of the god Ku. It signifies the wearer speaks with authority.
The interpretive plaque went on to explain the talisman-like significance of the lei niho palaoa.
The hair of a highly regarded person was often used to create the strands of plaited human hair (this included hair from enemy warriors that were highly respected). The men would wear the lei niho palaoa into battle as protection.
While the pendant pictured here is carved of whale ivory, other pendants were made of pearl shell, wood, or stone.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Blue hair is in the eye of the beholder

At a recent visit to the eye doctor, he started explaining to me about the research studies on blue light from LED bulbs and computer screens, how long-term exposure interrupts our circadian rhythms.

"Remember those old ladies who used to have blue-rinsed hair?"

"Um, yeah," I said. Where was he going with this?

"Actually, as the eye ages, people become less sensitive to the color blue. So they thought they were correcting the ugly yellow color of their hair. To them, their hair looked pure white. They didn't see the blue."

Could this be right? Well, yes and no. Maybe some women's eyes/cataracts fooled them into thinking their hair looked white, but others were making a definite beauty statement, following the lead of movie star Jean Harlow. In the 21st century, we can't help but follow the lead of that stunning cartoon star, Marge Simpson.

Browsing about blue hair opened a wider vista than I thought possible. Wikipedia has a page devoted to it here.

Did you know, for instance, that artistic depictions of the Buddha often show him with blue hair? "This artistic convention emphasizes the blue element in the 'blue-black' hair said to be one of the 32 special physical characteristics of the Buddha." Oh my.

There's also a social stigma against it, leading to at least one lawsuit defended by the ACLU. (Also described in more detail on Wikipedia's "Blue Hair" page.)