Monday, August 31, 2009
I contend there are links--though they may be as elusive as String Theory--between hair and the cosmos. Hair has a certain other-worldly quality. Hair is composed of an especially durable protein, so it lasts long after our lives have departed this earth. Picture a skeleton, all flesh decomposed, just hair and bones. Creepy.
Maybe that's why, in mythology, hair is so often associated with death. Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, formed a veil or shadow with her hair as the soul passed into the underworld. The appearance of comets in the sky were seen as a sign of imminent catastrophe, and sure enough, the root meaning of the word comet means "wearing long hair" or "spirit of hair." The Great Mother foretelling our doom. The sight of Medusa's snake hair, like her face, turned people to stone. (These days, there's a galaxy in the cosmos named Medusa's Hair.) Witches were said to control weather with their hair, and "Mother Goddesses like Isis, Cybele, and many emanations of Kali were said to command the weather by braiding or releasing their hair." (Barbara Walker)
Hair is an undeniable presence in creation myths. Norse mythology claims heaven and earth were formed when Odin slew the cosmic giant Ymir. Trees were formed from Ymir's hair. According to Chinese mythology, the hair and beard of the cosmic giant P'an Ku formed the stars in the sky. The Egyptian Isis preserved Osiris' soul after death magically, by cutting a lock of her hair, and later resurrected Osiris via her hair.
Simply put, hair has a certain power over the human imagination. It's a visible emanation of the fabric of the universe.