Sunday, November 27, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Shut off the beacons, cause we know what's out there
Forever quarrel between the sky and I
--The Sky and I, Scarlet Grey
As a mother, you learn to think on your feet, especially when your kids hit the "question everything" stage.  My son recently asked me how to make a rainbow.  When the fruit of my loins appeared unmoved by my explanation involving water droplets and sunshine, I told him that rainbows were magical conduits to Oz.  

And he was appeased.

In its most basic form, the rainbow is a multicolored arc created when sunlight is refracted then reflected inside droplets of atmospheric moisture.  Not just a rainy day phenomena, rainbows can occur anywhere there is a combo of light and mist:  waterfalls, Elmo sprinklers, and even at night (called a moonbow).

A classic rainbow.
Sprinkler rainbow.
A moonbow.
Rene Descartes is credited with describing the physics of the rainbow in 1637 by using a sphere to represent a single droplet of water.  As sunlight hits each droplet (sphere) of water, angles of refraction occur. Here’s the physics:

Water droplets must be of a certain size for this refraction to occur.  If the microscopic droplets that make up clouds were a little larger, we could have technicolor skies.
Since my grasp of physics is fairly limited, I’m moving on to something I’m a little more comfortable with--fiction.  Almost every culture has folklore tied to the rainbow.  The sight of a rainbow usually represents one of three things:  a connection to the gods, a serpent, or as in Hindu cultures, an archer’s bow belonging to a god.
The first written description of a rainbow occurs in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the story of an ancient Sumerian king from around 3000 B.C.  They were described as both a divine sanction of war and as a symbol of immortality gained from service to the gods.

Norse mythology tells of the Bifrost--a rainbow bridge that connected Asgard, the realm of the gods, with Midgard, the physical earth.
Friedrich Wilhelm Heine's "The Battle of the Doomed Gods".  Bifrost is in the background.
Greek myth utilized the rainbow as a multicolored escalator for the minor messenger goddess Iris, wife of Morpheus.  Unfortunately, the news she brought over the rainbow was often bleak--it was her spilling the beans about Helen's abduction that started the Trojan War.

Pierre Narcisse Guerin's Morpheus and Iris.
In the Judeo-Christian story of Noah, the rainbow represents God’s promise that he would never destroy the world again via flood.  

Several cultures use rainbows to represent the ascension of souls to heaven.  North American Indians have referred to rainbows as “pathways of souls.”   The Japanese call it a “floating bridge of Heaven.”
Ancient Slavs saw the rainbow as something more menacing, bringing death and bad luck.  According to their beliefs, a person touched by a rainbow would become a demon.  Australian aborigines thought rainbows were great serpents sent after rains to claim unsuspecting victims and create mischief.  Since they were connected to water, these serpents represented life and the struggle of man with the often harsh conditions of life in the outback.  
Artist Peter Eglington's rendition of the Australian Rainbow Serpent
A few unique myths exist about rainbows.  Some are familiar, such as the story of the Leprechaun’s pot of gold.  Others are tales about the resilience of the human spirit and the power of love.  In Hawaii, the rainbow was actually the aura of a maiden named Kahalaopuna, reflected as she danced in the skies.  She took two chieftains as lovers, but one, Kauhi, became insanely jealous and killed her.  When her spirit guides tried to rejoin her soul with her body so she could ascend to Heaven, Kauhi retaliated by burying her body beneath the tenacious roots of a koa tree so she could not be reached.  Her other lover, Mahana, found her body and with the help of a kahuna returned her spirit to her.  Only his true love made it possible for the maiden to be whole again.  Together, they tricked the evil Kauhi into admitting his crimes and he was later burned in an oven.  And that totally makes me think of rainbows. 
I must admit, my favorite myth comes from Bulgarian legend, in which walking beneath a rainbow will change your gender.

Steven Tyler gives some plausibility to the Bulgarian myth in his rainbow duds.  Dude Looks Like a Lady, indeed.
The rainbow has made its appearance throughout history as a symbol of political and social upheaval.  As early as the 16th century, a rainbow flag was used by the German Peasants' War to signify hope and change.  Fast forward to the mid twentieth century, when Italy used a rainbow flag as a sign of peace during protests against nuclear weapons.  
Probably the most recognizable modern rainbow flag is used as a symbol of the gay pride movement. Gilbert Baker, a San Francisco artist, designed the original in 1978 with eight stripes:  pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue, and violet.  They represented, respectively, sexuality, life, healing, sun, nature, art, harmony, and spirit.  Turquoise and pink were later removed due to problems with mass manufacturing those colors at the time.

The pride flag as Baker initially created it.
Rainbows continue to be symbols of diversity.  The National Rainbow Coalition was a political organization that grew out of Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign.  He appealed to the disadvantaged voter from a broad spectrum of races and creeds.  The Rainbow Coalition merged with Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity) in 1996 and still is involved in a variety of social initiatives.
A rainbow initiative I miss a lot.
In gypsy dream lore, rainbows are thought to represent a connection between the earthly self and the higher enlightened self--a symbol of redemption and hope.  Seeing a rainbow is always sort of a spiritual experience for me--it evokes positive vibes and a mental check of my blessings.   But not near as much as it does for this guy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let's Talk Turkey

Beautiful, beautiful girl from the North
You burned my heart with a flickering torch
--Candy, Iggy Pop
My dad’s 70th birthday is next week, but we celebrated this weekend, just so we could have two calorie laden fests in a row instead of one.  As a result, I can finally cross eating at the home of “Nebraska’s Testicle Festival” off of my bucket list.  
After I got over the disappointment of false advertising, I stared at a plate of turkey fries, aka turkey testicles, contemplating the meaning of Thanksgiving.  Not as much of a stretch as it sounds. 
Thanksgiving probably had its ancient roots in religious events thanking the gods for prosperity.  These “thanks givens” were held by nearly every culture several times a year and not always at a particular time.  Texans claim the first American Thanksgiving took place near El Paso in 1598 when Spanish explorer Juan de Onate finally arrived on the banks of the Rio Grande after a 350-mile trek through the Mexican desert.
Turkey, TX may not be able to claim Thanksgiving, but don't mess with the name
According to people not from Texas, the first Thanksgiving took place at Plymouth Colony in October of 1621.  It was attended by 50 colonists and 90 Wampanoag American Indian men (sorry, ladies).  Everything we know about the three-day Plymouth gathering comes from a description in a letter wrote by Edward Winslow, leader of the Plymouth Colony.  Perhaps the first myth about Thanksgiving was that it was a solemn, religious occasion.  Not so, according to Mr. Winslow.  The Plymouth Thanksgiving was an impromptu three day harvest festival that was about drinking corn beer, gambling, and athletic games, including target shooting with muskets.  It was never intended to become a yearly holiday--it was basically a big party because of the abundance that year.  Supposedly, the Wampanoag heard gunshots and thought the colonists were attacking.  They came to battle, only to find a party going on.

Some scholars also rain on the thought that Thanksgiving was all about friendship.  According to the United American Indians of New England (UAINE), the Wampanoag Indians and the colonists had an uneasy relationship--based on allegations that the colonists massacred a Wampanoag settlement and ransacked burial grounds in their first months in America.  Some Wampanoag men, including the infamous Squanto, were actually abducted by the English to be slaves overseas.  Despite this, the Wampanoag still taught the colonists how to survive in those early settlements.  Once released from slavery, Squanto became an assistant and liaison for the pilgrims.  In 1970, several Native American groups declared Thanksgiving a national day of mourning, believing it romanticizes the image of forced assimilation.

Time waxed poetic for Thanksgiving.  Over the years, there were always days of “thanks and giving,” but a new nation clamored for a more official holiday.  Finally,  Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863.   It’s thought that he was pressured into doing this by the 30-year barrage of letters received from Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of “Mary had a Little Lamb”.  Ms. Hale was a staunch advocate of Thanksgiving.     
The only other time lamb and turkey get together. 
Thanksgiving has morphed into an elementary school icon, complete with reenactments of Pilgrims and Indians getting together to break bread and eat turkey in the name of friendship.

The visual there is a little skewed, too.  The “Pilgrims” actually never called themselves “pilgrims”, they went by “saints” or “strangers”, depending on their reasons for coming to America in the first place.  Saints wanted religious freedom; strangers wanted financial opportunity.  And please don’t confuse them with Puritans--Puritans were all about religious freedom.  Well, at least their own religious freedom.
Also, pilgrims have never been lauded for fashion edginess, but they were probably falsely painted with the penguin brush.  Black and white garb was reserved for formal religious occasions.  And what about those buckles with stiff hats?  Just a 19th century illustrator’s creation thought to look quaint and old-fashioned--the perfect image for a national holiday.
Hello there, Pilgrim.
Another Thanksgiving myth that may surprise you is the assumption that turkey was on the menu that day in 1621.  In Winslow’s letter, he comments that the Wampanoag Indians brought five deer to the festivities and some of the colonists hunted wild foul.  This certainly could have included wild turkey, but the bird gets no individual shout out.

"Were you invited to that pilgrim thing?  I don't know what to wear."
It’s doubtful that some of the most beloved Thanksgiving day side dishes were on the menu, either.  Sweet potatoes and potatoes were not yet part of the colonists’ diets.  Cranberries take sugar, and sugar was an expensive and rare commodity.  And you can forget the Campbell’s soup green bean casserole, too.  Pumpkin, squash, nuts and Indian corn were the vegetables du jour.  Dessert may have been disappointing as well.  Pie wasn’t an option due to lack of wheat flour for the crust, so most likely they had berry and cornmeal porridge.  If you want to try some authentic Plymouth eats, The Plimoth Plantation has recipes for nasaump, curd fritters and stewed pumpkin.  

Not the Pilgrims' feast.
The historical facts behind Thanksgiving continue to be debated.  For modern Americans, it has become a day of family and food.  I look forward to settling into a turkey coma and breaking the wishbone every year--but even those simple things are based on myth.  According to National Geographic News,  the dose of tryptophan, the substance in turkey that is a mild sleep inducing agent, is not enough to get to the human brain when ingested as part of a massive feast.  Seems an empty stomach is required for tryptophan to work.  The real reason you get so sleepy on Thanksgiving day?  It’s related to the average of 4500 calories most people consume during the festivities.
The wishbone is actually a bird’s clavicle, aka the furcula.  The pilgrims called it a merrythought.  The breaking of a wishbone for good luck can be traced back to the ancient Etruscans who used the process as a method of divination.  Birds were thought to have powers of prediction--after all, the rooster announced the dawn every morning with a crow.  Oracles used a dried out wish bone to predict crop viability and success in the coming harvest.  Then they would display it for the community to share. 
Stroking the wish bone was thought to bring good luck and wishes.

And that brings my dirty wish bone stroking mind back to where I started, which was testicles.  See?  I told you it wasn’t such a stretch.
Happy Thanksgiving!  And for those of you with stronger stomachs, try the turkey fries.  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

They're always after me Lucky Charms!

It’s like thunder and lightning,
the way you love me is frightening.
You better knock, knock on wood, baby
--Knock on Wood, Amii Stewart.
They're magically delicious.
Lucky charms, not including the pseudo-marshmallow goodness of the cereal variety, are objects culturally invested with magical properties.  People have described countless talismans as "lucky."  Many of those symbols have wound up in our every day lives.  Stars, keys, runes, medals, and crystals are part of our wardrobe and even are incorporated in the brands we buy.  One of the earliest ads for good luck jewelry ran in Art and Beauty magazine in 1926.

Today on Sunday mythbusters, I look at the history of a few of our good luck charms.

The Horseshoe
One of the most recognizable symbols of good luck is the horseshoe.  My house has one embedded in the corner of the entryway, in homage to the belief that a horseshoe placed at the right corner of the front door will bring all who enter good luck.  Some attribute this myth to Irish superstition that iron kept evil Fae away.  Others cite a story about St. Dunstan, who along with his more sacred talents was a skilled farrier.  The Devil approached St. Dunstan, presumably because he needed a little touch up in the hoof department.  St. Dunstan recognized the red one, hammering his hooves to the wall and filing like a demented manicurist until the Devil screamed for mercy.  St. Dunstan released him only when the Devil promised to avoid houses protected by a horseshoe over the door.  Lore says that the shoe should be points up, lest all that good luck spill out.
St. Dunstan gives the Devil a shoeing from Hell.
The Four-Leaf Clover
Veering back to the realm of the leprechaun, the four leaf clover has to be included in a discussion of good luck charms.  Legend says a four leaf clover was the only thing Eve was allowed to take with her from the Garden of Eden.  In Irish tradition, the three leaf clover is felt to be a representation of the Holy Trinity.  When the fourth leaf appears, it represents God’s grace.  A more secular view has the leaves symbolizing faith, hope, love, and luck.  To those who have pagan beliefs, the bearer of a four leaf clover is granted the ability to see spirits and fairies.  

If you want the odds of picking out a naturally occurring good luck charm, for every 1 four-leafer, there are 10,000 three leafers.  However, researchers from the University of Georgia found the four-leaf gene in 2010, making it now possible for breeders to genetically engineer luck.

Knock on Wood
Humans often tempt fate, and one way to avoid the consequences is to knock on wood--or if you furnish with IKEA, wood veneer.  This goes back to the pagan belief that every living thing had a spiritual connection.  Knocking on wood paid tribute to the spirits and asked for their blessings.  In Greek mythology, knocking on an oak was a way to ask for the blessing and justice of Zeus as the tree was one of his symbols.  In a Biblical theory, wood symbolizes the cross on which Christ was crucified and is a show of faith.  Other claim the saying got its popularity during the Spanish Inquisition, when an elaborate code of knocks became a secret form of communication for those sought out by authorities.

The Hand of Fatima (or Miriam, or Mary)
The hand is often seen as good luck.  Egyptian civilization believed the hands received spiritual energy and could also direct it.  In Islam, the Hand of Fatima is a good luck charm, named for Muhammad's daughter.  The fingers represent faith, prayer, charity, pilgrimage, and fasting.  Judaism embraced this symbol as well, although it was called the hand of Miriam to honor Moses's sister.  Christians in the area also adopted the symbol as the hand of Mary, although Emperor Charles V banned the use of the emblem in 1526, believing it was too closely associated with other religions.  

No matter what faith, the hand is a symbol of the grace of God, blessing the wearer with good fortune and protection against the evil eye.  Gypsies often would hold their hand up to a person with bad spiritual energy, shielding themselves from the negative vibes.
And now I know where that came from.
The Rabbit's Foot
My final charm is a little magical and a little macabre, which is probably why it is my favorite.  The rabbit’s foot has been a good luck charm since around 600 B.C. 
It wasn't very lucky for the rabbit, now was it?
There are possibly two origins for why a dismembering a bunny is considered lucky.  Pre-Celtic hunter tribes believed hunting and killing a rabbit was a rite of passage for their male children.  Once he achieved this milestone, the boy received the hind foot of his kill during a ceremony to celebrate his manhood.  The descendants of these hunter tribes saw the rabbit as a more revered creature.  To the Celts, rabbits and hares were animals capable of channeling the human spirit, and thus represented man’s connection to the Earth goddess.  They embodied fertility of both body and mind.  Rabbits may have been kept as pets, and their feet removed at death as a blessed talisman.  
I hope the Earth goddess has a sense of humor about Hef's use of the bunny.
In an alternate theory, African tribes had a tradition of carrying the foot of a swift animal, believing it would help them escape if faced with danger.  The belief was brought overseas with African slaves, and then Hoodoo folk magic took it a bit further.  The rabbit became a familiar for witches and spirit work, much like the maligned black cat.  To own a rabbit's foot was to have a connection to witchcraft--and possibly to have part of the witch herself.  
Don't even think about taking my foot.

Isobel Gowdie, a Scottish woman tried for witchcraft in 1662, gave a detailed confession (which some believed was the result of psychosis) about the relationship of witches with animal familiars, specifically the hare.  This is her shapeshifting incantation, although I read it several times and I'm still human.  I am having a strange craving for carrots.

I shall go into a hare,
With sorrow and sych and meickle care;
And I shall go in the Devil's name,
Ay while I come home again.

If you can't find a shape shifted witch-hare to get your foot from, Hoodoo followers offer a different method, although it's a bit more time intensive.  To reap the full benefit of serendipity, the foot must be from the left hind leg of a rabbit caught in a cemetery on the full moon, preferably on a Friday--the thirteenth if possible.  Some folklore even goes as far as to say the rabbit should be killed with a silver bullet by a cross-eyed red haired man riding a white horse.  Somehow I doubt those dyed creations in the prize bins at your local carnival were harvested in such a manner. 

In folk magic, animal bones are often used to represent human bones.  This type of magic, called sympathetic magic, uses poppets and imitations of humans to control them--such as with voodoo dolls.  For the ultimate in rabbit foot fetishests, killing the rabbit on the grave of a powerful spirit would give the talisman incredible potency.  It was reported in Scientific American that President Grover Cleveland kept a rabbit’s foot from an animal killed on Jesse James’ grave.
The Supernatural boys dealt with a cursed rabbit's foot in one episode.

I carry an arsenal of good luck charms, and some days I even don lucky undies.  However, I believe that luck is mainly determined by mindset.  What you think has a tremendous effect on your perceptions of life.  A mind full of negative thoughts enhances beliefs of being plagued by “bad” luck.  I leave you with a proverb from Seneca, the Roman philosopher, and a bit of The Rabbit's Foot Blues by Blind Lemon Jefferson.

         Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

And that's why you should never stick a flamingo up your skirt

I never meant to be so bad to you
One thing I said that I would never do
One look from you and I would fall from grace
And that would wipe the smile right from my face
--Heat of the Moment, Asia
I am so fortunate to have met so many super cool bloggers out there, and I feel remiss that I have fallen behind in my awardly duties.

Two wonderful ladies awarded me the 7X7 link award.  Artistic visionary Heather Henry, of Little Red Henry has amazing talent and an eye for the beautiful.  Angela Orlowski-Peart has such a freeing optimism, I love her blog and her avatar.   This bloggery bauble made me have to think, not to mention go back and read some of my former posts.
Moral of that story is I need to refrain from blogging when I drink red wine.
The most beautiful post:  Bohemian vs. bohemian.  Not beautiful in the Bridget Bardot way, but about my heritage so beautiful to me.
The most popular post:  Crop Circles:  Message, Music, or Marsupials?  People want to see stoned wallabies.  Who knew?
The most controversial post:  Are you really what you read?  I don't think anything I write is too controversial, but I did have to take offense to some of the WSJ's offerings during this time.
The most helpful post:  Why Writing is a lot like a Bikini Wax.  If you can tolerate hair removal, writing is easy.
The most surprisingly successful post:  Cramping my Style.  For the woman with not enough black in her closet.
The most underrated post:  Of Fear and Phoebe Cates.  I have been paralyzed by fear so many times in life.  Starting to write has helped me through it.
The most pride-worthy post:  Poetry Schmoetry Blogfest.   It was the first time I’d written an “adult” poem.  It was cathartic.
Also, I have been Versatiled from every direction.  It wasn’t as erotic as it sounds, but I’m still just as happy about it.  I want to thank these ladies so much for bestowing such love on me.  E. Arroyo keeps me up to date on the best links every Friday at Chandara Writes.  Carol Kilgore from Under the Tiki Hut makes me want a pina colada and a cabana boy.  Not necessarily in that order.

To be versatiled fully, you must give seven facts about yourself.  I’m at loss, so I resorted to asking my family if there were certain things they think of when they think of me, and here are a few things they said: 
1.  At my junior prom, I shoved a fake plastic flamingo under my giant tulle dress on a dare and absconded with it.  I returned it Monday morning, but the prom director (my algebra teacher/vicious harpy), forced me to apologize to the entire school over the PA system.  As if prom could not suck more.

2.  I was attacked by a fighting cock as a child.  As in an uber-violent chicken.  Still have the scars and a fear of poultry.  Dad said he made good soup.
3.  Using an ironing board, I surfed in the showers of my sorority house at 3am, singing Beach Boys’ songs.  I might have been inebriated, but it was winter in Nebraska and perhaps I was also just a bit stir crazy.  This resulted in a letter from the house mom, a moratorium on shower use after 11pm, and the removal of the community ironing kit.
4.  As a toddler, I enjoyed washing my bottles in the toilet.  (Thanks, Mom.  Now I know.)
Would you like some E. coli with that?

5.  When I was little, I thought babies came out of your knees.  After all, whenever ladies on television had babies, their knees were up in the air.  Imagine my shock when I found out they actually come out of a way different joint.

Not where babies come from.
6.  I have fed baby pigs from a bottle.  Awwwww.

7.  I wanted to be a country music singer when I was a teenager.  Here is one of my songs; please cringe with me:
No I don’t have a Mercedes Benz
My skirt’s hemmed up with safety pins
I like bar-b-que, on a summer’s day
You can keep your brie and your chardonnay.
‘Cause I’m a beer and pretzels kind of girl
Trying to make it in a wine and cheese world
They’ve tried to change me but it’s always the same
This is the way I was born, and the way I remain
No I don’t have a cellular phone
Most Friday nights you’ll find me at home
I like football games and shopping malls
Opera it don’t interest me at all
No I don’t wear Christian Dior
My shirts are too tight and my jeans are torn
You won’t find me shopping Saks Fifth Avenue
I don’t pick my friends by the price of their shoes

I'd like to pass the love for the 7X7 award to Sarah Ahiers, of Falen Formulates Fiction and L.G. Smith of Bards and Prophets.  For versatility, I have to go with Rawknrobyn and Becky from Writer Searching for Bliss.

Once again, thanks to all of you who stop by and share some of your valuable time with me.  Have a country fried day!  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Splitting Hairs

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen
--Hair, The musical Hair
I hacked off my crowning glory this week.  I gave 13” of hair to Locks of Love, a charity I have always admired.  
When I look at myself in the mirror now, I feel sort of odd.  I have identified myself with long hair for years.  I’m having a existential crisis of Sampson proportions.
Today on Sunday Mythbusters, I’m exploring this protein based biomaterial that springs from the follicles on my head.  
Does hair really have power?
Long hair has always been associated with strength and health.  This may harken back to our mammalian roots--long, lush fur represented fertility and desirable genes.  

Hey baby,  I got good hair.  And I'm a ginger.  Double threat.
The earliest civilizations depicted their gods and goddesses with long, flowing hair.  Hair represented a spiritual conduit that could connect a person to the otherworld.  The earliest barbers were often medicine men or priests who cut hair during religious ceremonies that exploited this connection. 

Thor, God of Hair.  From
In several religions, including Sampson’s, letting hair grow was an example of piety and godly devotion.  Long hair was the epitome of youth and fertility.  In some East Asian cultures it represented sexuality; women with unrestrained long hair could be seen as promiscuous.  Proper ladies wore their hair plaited or in a bun.  

Rapunzel was not a proper lady.
Because it was considered a personification of self, hair was often used as a way to recognize groups of people.  For instance, the Greeks forced their slaves to shave their heads as a sign of their lesser status.  In the Middle Ages, shorter hair represented servitude or peasantry.  However, as societies adopted a regimented military, problems with lice infestations prompted orders for men to have short hair.  That association with authority changed the view on short hair, making long hair the new symbol of rebellion and immorality.
The Egyptians were the first culture to focus on hair and its style.  They often wore hair extensions made of sheep’s wool or slave’s hair.  They used henna and herbal concoctions to create vibrant hair colors.  To evade the heat, men often would shave the head, leaving a single side lock to symbolize their virility and spiritual connection to the gods.  Both sexes wore elaborate wigs.

Egyptian wig of human hair and charms
The Greeks experimented with highlights and designed the first heated curling iron, called a calamistrum.  They even dyed gray hair with a lead sulfite based compound, a process that may have made them look younger, but likely caused death sooner. 
Hair color has been romanticized for centuries.  There are over 30 recognized naturally occuring hair colors by the Fisher-Saller anthropologic scale.  For the sake of brevity, I'm going to address the three main color groups: red hair, blondes, and brunettes.

Redheads make up only 1-2% of the human population and have been traced to Neanderthal ancestors.  Scotland and Ireland have the highest proportions of redheads, who are famous for passions that match their fiery locks.  They were also often accused of witchcraft or vampirism, their flame colored locks "proof" they had touched the fires of hell.  Interestingly, redheads are reported to have a higher pain tolerance, often requiring more anesthetic for medical procedures.  It is rumored to be good luck to touch red hair--but always ask permission to avoid some awkward moments.  The cartoon comedy Southpark attacked the ginger species in one of its episodes, comparing them to vampires that can't be in the sunlight and have no souls.

My favorite redhead
It's postulated that lighter colors of hair evolved in the cooler climates of Northeast Europe and the Ukraine.  Lighter hair, and thus lighter skin, requires less sunlight to trigger vitamin D production--necessary to prevent the bone disorder, rickets.  Folks with light hair would have a genetic advantage.  Others believe that these colors were sexually selected for--men preferred partners with blonde or red hair. 

                            Out of the ash

                        I rise with my red hair

                         And eat men like air.

                                                    -Sylvia Plath

Mythology has been kind to the blonde; countless numbers of gods and goddesses have blonde hair.  The Fae are said to be attracted to blonde children, swapping them for changelings whenever possible.  The fair haired, despite their ancestry from Norse tribes and descriptions in mythology, are classically associated with attributes of frivolity and mental weakness.  Blonde hair was also associated with prostitution in ancient Rome. The idea of the morally irresponsible blonde continued through the ages.  The woman who holds the title as the first “dumb blonde” was a French courtesan named Rosalie Duthe whose life was satirized in a 1775 play.


Alfred Hitchcock made his blondes beautiful and sophisticated with an icy demeanor.  He believed audiences were more likely to suspect a brunette, and blondes photographed better in black and white.  In interviews with Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock explained his idea of what represented the Hitchcock blonde, saying "We're after the drawing room type, the real ladies who become whores once they're in the bedroom."

Ahem.  Thank you for the stereotype, Mr. Hitchcock.  And Mr. Freud.

Brunettes fair pretty well in terms of hair lore--they are considered strong, loyal and lucky.  Black hair is sometimes lumped into the brunette moniker but truly is its own group, representing the most common hair color in the world.  Over 3/4 of Americans believe the first female president will have dark hair, associating it with stability and competence.  And according to my best dark haired friend, gentlemen may prefer blondes, but they marry brunettes.  Maybe that's why the Mona Lisa is really smiling.

One of my favorite urban legends gives coiffure compulsion an arachnophobic twist. There are two versions to the modern myth.  One was popularized in the 1950s with the emergence of beehive hairdos.

Classic blonde--but what could she be hiding?
The other focuses on men with dreadlocks. 
Jason Momoa said he cut his dreads due to migraines, but could it have been something else that scared Ronan Dex out of his lovely locks?
In the myth, the victim is so enamored with their hair that in order to keep the style just so, they never wash or comb it.  The resultant pile of goo and hair makes an attractive nest for a poisonous spider, who moves in and lays its eggs.  When the baby spiders are born, they attack the owner of their nest. 

There are variants of this tale dating back as far as the thirteenth century.  It probably gets its roots from an English story that tells the tale of a tardy church-goer, always late to Mass because she spent so long adorning her hair.  One day the Devil, in the form of a spider, descended into her hair and refused to leave.  Ultimately, she repented her vanity, allowing her priest to exorcise Beelzebub from her bouffant.  
Now that’s a bad hair day.
Although there have been no substantiated proof of the spider’s nest myth, in Yemen in 2000 there were reports of a young bride who died after her wedding hairpiece came with an added adornment--a scorpion.  The poisonous gift was from one of her new husband's five wives who apparently wasn't in the mood to share. 
Hair has been something people have used as a symbol since ancient times.  Followers of Confucius grew it out to show their filial piety.  Flappers bobbed their hair to push the idea of the feminine ideal.  Hippies liked it long to symbolize their rebellion against authority.  And rednecks rock the mullet as a symbol of what can happen when Billy Ray Cyrus is your icon.  
As for me, I’m starting to get used to the new ‘do.  If anyone is getting a haircut in the future, I leave you with a European saying and a clip from Hair, the musical:
Cut on Monday to attain health
Cut on Tuesday to gain wealth
Cut on Wednesday to hear good news
Cut on Thursday to get new shoes
Cut on Friday if you want sorrow
Cut on Saturday to see true love tomorrow
Cut on Sunday is terribly bleak--the devil be with you the rest of the week