Hair in Slavic mythology and tradition
Hair was much appreciated in the ancient times within all cultures and nations, and hairstyles are often a part of national represantation and identity. All cultures also have some sort of beliefs about hair. It’s common for many that hair is connected to strenght, and it is the same in Slavic myths. It is said that the strenght of a man is in his hair.
In Serbian mythology, for instance, it is said that the life force of a vila (fairy) is in her hair. In folk tales, there is often a moment when vila’s hair gets tangled in the bushes or trees of the forest. If vila loses a single hair, she will die, therefore she must wait for someone to help her.
Long hair,while still a symbol of strenght and health, was primarily a symbol of beauty and femininity. Howevery, hair was mostly braided and unbraided hair and it’s combing was considered something very intimate.
Most common hairstyle in Serbia was braid wreath (in the last picture). In order to make those, you had to have long, strong hair, Now, here is the custom that I find really beautiful and what made me write this post. If a woman loses someone, she shows her grief by cutting of her hair and she can no longer make the wreath. This is often mentioned in folk songs and tales.
In Russia it was forbbiden for pregnant women to cut ther hair, as well as to cut hair of children under one year of age.
In some Slavic traditions, the first hair cut from the child is kept and later used as an amulet or a medicine during illness.
As mentioned before, the most common, pan-Slavic harstlye are braids, from simple to very complicated.
Also, Slavs did not cover their hair until the christianization.
I will end this post with the lines of The Mountain Wreath that made me think about the importance of hair in tradition, but I must warn you that they sound really weird in English, and nowhere near as beautifull as in original text. Still I put the translation in, in case someone is interested.
Кад пред зору, и ноћ је мјесечна,
ватра гори насред сјенокоса,
а она ти од некуда дође;
украј ватре сједе да се грије.
Чује да свак спава у колибе.
Тада она вијенац расплете,
паде коса до ниже појаса;
поче косу низ прса чешљати,
а танкијем гласом нарицати,
како славља са дубове гране.
Тужи млада ђевера Андрију,
мила сина Милоњића Бана,
који му је ланих погинуо
од Тураках у Дугу крваву.
Па се снахи не дао острићи:
жалије му снахин в’јенац било
него главу свог сина Андрије.
Тужи млада, за срце уједа,
очи горе живје од пламена,
чело јој је љепше од мјесеца,-
и ја плачем ка мало дијете.
Благо Андри ђе је погинуо-
дивне га ли очи оплакаше,
дивна ли га уста ожалише…
Just before dawn, the moon was still shining,
the fire burning on the freshly mown field,
from somewhere came that most beautiful girl
and sat down by the fire to catch the glow.
She heard that all in the huts were asleep.
Then she unwound her lovely wreath of hair,
and the tresses fell down below her waist.
She began to comb her hair on her breasts
and to lament in a high-pitched, clear voice,
like nightingale on a tall oak-tree branch.
The young woman mourned her husband’s brother,
Andrija, the son of Ban Milonjic,
who met his death about a year ago,
slain by the Turks in the bloody Duga.
But the Ban would not let her cut her hair,
He pitied more his daughter-in-law’s wreath
than the head of his own son Andrija.
The young woman’s lament tore at my heart.
Her burning eyes were brighter than the flame.
Her forehead was prettier than the moon -
and I, too, was weeping like an infant.
Andrija is lucky that he was slain.
What lovely eyes are weeping over him!
What lovely lips are mourning over him!