There was a lot of talk about Pagan Headcovering on the interwebs a few years ago. I seem to have come to the conversation a bit late, but the idea has been so intriguing to me that I feel I need to say something about it here.
Pagans, and women from all faiths, cover their heads or hair for all sorts of reasons: modesty, a calling from god(s), to modify energy within themselves during ritual, to cover hair loss from cancer treatment or alopecia, to mark marriage, as a fashion accessory. I’ve seen a lot of blog posts (like this one here and another here) defending and promoting a woman’s right to cover her head for any reason she chooses. I’ve also seen a few posts around the internet condemning headcovering as unnecessary, un-Pagan, and a part of cultures in which women are expected to be submissive that are not in alignment with the freedom of Paganism.
I grew up in a neighborhood where a lot of my neighbors were Saudi Arabian. Graceful, veiled hijabi women were my friends’ moms, and it never seemed abnormal to me. They were just moms who spoke Arabic and dressed differently from my mom.
In fact, we have a huge Muslim population here. When I worked close to the university, I saw women wearing hijabs every day. As I got older, I felt a fascination and connection with these women, and it enraged me to read about places where governments were trying to a) force them to cover or b) infringe on their right to cover. Why should someone else get to decide what clothing these women wore or how to connect with their God?
Despite a multicultural university culture here, a lot of towns outside the main town are still really conservative and xenophobic. A woman I worked with at the mall saw a hijabi woman once and said, “I could never live like that, with my husband controlling my life.” People here are still very ignorant of what it means to cover. They don’t understand that, for the most part, covering is a choice. A lot of it is Islamophobia too…no one ever says a word about the Amish and Mennonite women wearing headcovers around here.
To me, there was something deeply spiritual, completely regal, and out-of-my-grasp about these women’s choice to cover. I was almost jealous.
But Pagans veiling and covering? I had no idea that existed, and when I stumbled upon blogs and forums and conversations happening on the internet about it, I was completely hooked on the idea. This was something I could do, and as I learned researching it, that any woman of any faith could choose to do.
So I started experimenting with styles, and I fell in love with the traditionally Jewish-style headcovering: the tichel.
At first, my fiance was totally opposed to headcovering. “You can do what you want,” he said, “but I don’t find anything attractive about it.” Then I started Tichel Thursday, a few weeks in which I covered every Thursday when I went to appointments and ran errands. I got some lovely compliments on my scarves, and I texted pictures to Big Bee. And guess what? He thinks my tichels are pretty.
Then I didn’t cover for awhile. To my disappointment, I didn’t feel a calling from any of my gods to cover. I didn’t feel like I needed to cover to express my womanhood or spirituality. I didn’t feel the connection I was hoping for at all.
It’s only recently that I’ve started covering again. I don’t cover every day, and it doesn’t always hold grand significance other than, “Hey, this is easier than fighting with my mess of curls today.” I think that’s okay, and that pull to cover, that fascination with women’s coverings and reasons for veiling is still there. It does make me feel more feminine, though not necessarily more spiritual. It makes me feel pretty and classy and fashionable and womanly.
The beauty of headcovering lies in a woman’s choice to cover for whatever reasons she wants.
My go-to inspiration site for tichels, Wrapunzel, has this to say about wearing headcoverings: “Anyone can wear a tichel – and MANY people do! There are many women that wear it simply because it’s fashionable, and others for health and healing. There are also so many different religions that cover – and many also do it not affiliated with any religion but just for spiritual connectedness. It is certainly becoming a revolution that many ladies are joining! (It also adds a whole new element to your wardrobe!) One of our most frequently asked questions is, “Will Jewish women be insulted if I wear one if I’m not Jewish?” The answer is, “Not in the least!” – it is 100% okay – more than okay! – (we take it as a compliment) for everyone and anyone to wear these lovely creations! Join the sisterhood!”
I’m in agreement with them. It’s my right as a woman to choose how I clothe myself and how I want to perceive myself and show myself to the world.
I still don’t cover all the time. I’m still not sure what covering means to me yet. I’m still having bad tichel days where my scarves look horrible, my bun looks stupid, and I throw my scarves aside, exasperated. But this is a journey, and I’m not sure what this part of my journey means, but I’m going to continue to explore it.
More on headcovering: