Abraham, cover your women!: Piercing the Veil, Part 2

Before we move on to explore why different religions and cultures wear veils, I forgot to mention in Part 1 that the Dance of the Seven Veils became immensely popular after Oscar Wilde published his play Salome in 1891.  Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations only added to that popularity.


Many different people veil, both men and women.  However, when people speak of veiling, they typically only think of women and only think of veiling in terms of religious reasons.  Originally, veiling was a cultural phenomena that was a necessity due to the climate in the Fertile Crescent.  People originally covered up to protect their head, face, and respiratory system from the Sun, heat, and dust associated with the Middle East.  As time went on, this practice became a part of different societies’ cultures and was continued even when they migrated to areas where the climate was more hospitable.  Even later in the history of veiling, the cultural practices of different people were backed up and supposedly “mandated” by religious texts.  What was once a practical, utilitarian piece of clothing became transformed into a symbol for everything from religious piety and modesty to gender equality and sexual fetishes and conversely oppression.

Let’s start by looking at Islam.  According to Ahlam Al-koor, my female guide from the Islamic Center of Charlotte and who has only worn the veil for the last ten years (http://barbedpentacle.com/2012/02/blessed-be-thy-feet-part-3-section-b-2-my-ironic-flight/), veiling is not mandatory in Islam (although all the women I observed in worship wore veils of some sort, and I was told to come veiled and well covered).  Women who choose to veil do so because it’s a cultural throwback to early pre-Christian cultures when women covered their hair for modesty.  Muslim women also “cover up in an effort to get men to threat them as equals–to focus on their brains and not their cleavage.”

While I do believe that at its core, the custom of veiling in Islam is more of a cultural practice than a religious one, there are many scriptures in the Quran that support veiling, known to a lot of Muslims as the custom of hijab.  The two most often quoted are: “And tell the believing women to lower their gazes and be modest, and to display of their adornments only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms.” (Sura An-Nur 24:31); “O; Prophet! Tell thy wives and thy daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go outside).  That will be better, that so they may be recognized and not molested.” (Sura Al-Ahzab 33:59).  The second scripture is the one that has been quoted to me most often when I’ve asked why Muslims veil.  If it was good enough for Mohammed’s wives, then it’s good enough for me (or the women in my family), seems to be the sentiment.

If you will recall from the above mentioned blog entry about the mosque, there is a lot of style and forethought that goes into which veil a woman chooses to wear.  Many of the veils are flashy and anything but modest in pattern or cloth.  There are also many different styles of veils with varying degrees of facial coverage.  The choice as to how much to cover up seems, for a lot of women, to depend on their cultural background.

Just the plain old hijab is the most basic form of the veil.  This was the look I went for with my scarf.

These two styles were the most popular at the Islamic Center, with the scarves either matching or color coordinated with the ladies abayas.

These styles were more common with the older worshipers at the center.

Although to me personally, these two styles are the most alluring, none of the ladies at the Islamic Center wore niqabs or burquas.

There are some conservative sects of Judaism that require or encourage their female participants to “veil”.  Veiling, in case you haven’t noticed, is a loose term that many people use to simply mean a head covering.  This practice stems from the Old Testament verse in Numbers that says:  Moses is “exceedingly humble, more than any man in the world” and that Jews should strive to be like him (12:3).  Here again, I suspect that the practice was a cultural one first that was later justified by scripture.  This principal of humility and modesty is called tzniut, and it dictates modest behavior and dress for both male and female Jews, especially during worship.  Married Jewish women in Conservative and Reformed synagogues are often encouraged to cover their head in some manner, while married women in Haredi and Hassidic communities are often mandated to do so by their synagogues.

There are many different styles of head coverings employed by Jewish woman who follow the custom of tzniut.  These range from everyday hats to elaborate scarves.  The three most common form of head coverings employed are wigs (or hair falls), snoods (yes, think Gone With the Wind and Highland Games), or mitpachats/tichels–which are scarves.  Some ladies will tie their scarves under their chins, but most tie them at the back of the neck or head in a knot, either tucking the scarf ends up or leaving them down.

Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head. But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved. For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil. A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord. For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given (her) for a covering? But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God.  1 Corinthians 11: 4-16

 There was a time in European and American culture, when etiquette dictated that a proper lady wear some sort of head covering outside of the house, and going back a little further, that a proper lady also wear some sort of head covering inside of the house.  While in the 19th and 20th centuries it was seen as a mandate of etiquette and fashion, the practice stems from the above verses from Corinthians.  This is also why until the early 20th century women typically wore long hair.

Today, there are many different Christian women who still take these verses to heart and cover their hair all the time or at least when they pray or attend church.  If you say “Christian” and “veil” in the same sentence, most people will think of nuns first.

Why do nuns veil?  The simple answer is because of these verses in Corinthians.  However, their manner of veiling is due to the medieval fashions during the era when many orders were being formed.  The most popular and modest feminine head covering at the time for married ladies was the wimple, and thus it was adopted.  Being that it was a head covering worn by married women, the wimple further represented the nuns’ positions as brides of Christ (So, Jesus is a polygamist?  Just something to ponder.).

Before Vatican II in the 1960′s, Catholic women wore prayer veils to Mass.

Some of these veils consisted of plain kerchiefs or hats, but some women wore prayer shawls that were reminiscent of mantillas–those lacy symbols of Spanish culture that perfectly blend fashion, sex appeal, and Catholic and Islamic influences.

A majority of Catholic women do not wear veils to Mass any more due to changing values and different edicts handed down from the Vatican.  There are certain times, though, when you will see more veils than usual at Mass. These are first communions and during the Lenten season.  Whether or not Catholic women veil is also contingent on the age of the parishioners and where they live.  When I was in Spain, I periodically attended Mass, and all of the older women and some of the middle-aged women in the smaller towns covered their heads for Mass.  Some chose lacy mantillas without the comb, but many opted for dark kerchiefs tied under their chins.

Other Christian women besides Catholics cover their heads for prayer.  Mormons do so on occasion, but the most well-known in America are the Anabaptists,  which include the Amish, Mennonites, Hutterites, and other groups.  These ladies also follow the mandate of Corinthians, but leave their prayer veils and kapps on all the time because a true and pious Christian should understand that the opportunity for prayer occurs continually throughout the day.

Just as with other religious groups, these ladies wear a variety of styles of coverings, some based on personal choice, but most are based on their community’s choice.  Most people are familiar with the thin prayer kapps, but some prayer kapps are made out of sturdier cloth or are more heart-shaped (like a buttocks basket).  Other groups, like the Hutterites, wear a kerchief tied under their chins.  Still others clip and pin small prayer veils to their hair.  Many of the Anabaptists in my area wear the white prayer veils clipped to their hair.

The third and final part of “Piercing the Veil” will focus on the modern or not so modern trend (depending on how you look at it) of veiling in Paganism.  It will appear before the Samhain season is over and the veil is back in place.

These folks see some really great cocks all the time:

The Geeky Kink Event http://thegeekykinkevent.com/

Passion And Soul: http://passionandsoul.com/

Knotjokin Rope Floggers: http://www.knotjokin.etsy.com

Tonia Brown www.thebackseatwriter.com

Just Smack Me!: http://barbedpentacle.com/just-smack-me-a-wooden-spoon-decorating-contest/





Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 3, Section B: Wash My Tired Feet!

As was stated in the last blog, Christians are not the only ones who wash their feet in a ritual setting.  Muslims do it as well, but for a very different reason.  Instead of the foot washing being an act of submission, it’s an act of hygiene and literal and symbolic cleansing.  It is also performed on one’s self instead of by one person to another.

Real sexy, huh?

The act of washing the feet and other body parts is called “Wudu” and is done in preparation for salat, which are prayers.  According to the Islamic Center of Charlotte’s website, “Prayer for a Muslim involves uniting mind, soul, and body in worship……In the ritual prayers each individual Muslim is in direct contact with Allah. There is no need of a priest as an intermediary.”  Sounds kind of Pagan. 

“For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.” (Al-Baqarah, 2:222) is the verse from the Quran that is commonly used to support wudu.  There are many rules surrounding what kind of water can be used for ablutions, but the most important rule is that the water must be clean and pure.  The more natural the source the better.  While performing wudu, the participant should not only think about how the water is getting them literally clean but also on how the water is symbolically cleansing them as well.  It sounds like sympathetic magic at its best.  
As Pagans, we can incorporate the practice of wudu as a shorten form of a ritual bath.  Magical and medicinal herbs that promote cleansing and purity could be added to the water for a bath tea or oils could be substituted.  Herbs and oils that promote deity consciousness would be another good choice.  Gem stones could also be added to make gem elixirs
Wikipedia has a lot of what I assume is good information on wudu, but I called the Islamic Center of Charlotte to double check some facts.  Instead of answering my questions via the phone, the gentleman that I spoke with invited me to Friday prayers where I’ll be able to participate in wudu with the ladies.  When I get that all arranged, I’ll post a supplemental section detailing my experiences.

Blessed Be Thy Feet, Part 3, Section A: Wash my tired feet!

I first encountered the act of foot washing in a religious/ritual context several years ago at a wedding.  The couple was Pagan, but for various familial reasons, they had a Christian ceremony led by one of those “New Age” ministers.  I think she might of been Methodist.  You know the type.  A lot of times they are women.  Sometimes they wear a robe, sometimes not.  Their stoles are usually of some sort of African or other tribal design that they acquired in a “fair trade” arrangement during a mission trip, and they rarely mention Jesus or God as masculine.  The groom was seated while the bride knelt on a pillow and washed the groom’s feet from a basin of water.  Then she rubbed some lavender oil onto them, and then symbolically dried them with her hair.  To finish that segment of the ceremony (because it was a long ceremony), she dried his feet for real with a towel.  The minister, as a prelude to the washing, read from Luke 7:37-39:

When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume,/Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them./When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”“ 
[The image of the woman washing Jesus' feet with her tears and drying them with her hair has always fascinated me and has become my ideal act of submission.] 
I forget exactly how the minister linked this act to marriage, since I’m sure she was progressive enough that the vows didn’t say “obey”.  However, there are a multitude of ways that this tableau can be worked into a handfasting, initiation, or as a visible sign of submission to your deities via a statue or someone who is aspecting.

There is another passage in the New Testament that deals with foot washing.  
 1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
 8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
   Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
 9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
 10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:1-17)

These verses are the basis for many Christian denominations to practice footwashing from time to time as a special service.  Some these denominations are Pentecostals, Mormon, Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians.  Many of these churches incorporate the practice into their Maundy Thursday service, when the Last Supper is traditionally celebrated.  This custom could easily be incorporated into Pagan ritual.  It would be an excellent way for the balance of power to be re-calibrated in a group that has undergone some strife.  It could also be used to show gratitude or solidarity.
The Pope washing the feet of his cardinals
To find out more about what the Mormon church calls “The Ordinance of Footwashing”, I set out to interview some Mormons.  The Mormons have gone high tech since the last time I dealt with them.  They now have Mormon Chat, which is good because the quality of their call center personnel has gone down dramatically.  The woman I spoke to barely spoke English and sounded like a recent convert.
Here is the chat that I had with “Austin” (I assume he’s Elder Austin):

Welcome to Missionary Chat.
Thank you for your interest in talking to a missionary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The purpose of Mormon.org chat is to answer basic questions about the church and its beliefs and to provide opportunities to learn more.
Before we begin, will you share a little about what brought you to chat with us?
A missionary will be with you shortly.
Agent [Austin] is ready to assist you.
Agent [John] has joined the chat.
Austin: How can we help you?
Austin: :)
Me: I am doing a comparative study on the practice of foot washing, and I have some questions.
Austin: okay
Me: I’ve read through different things, but I’m still having trouble piecing together in my mind exactly how the ordinance of foot washing is practiced.  Is there anything special to it or is a basin brought out and the washing begins?
Austin: I have no clue.  Do you have any questions about our beliefs?
Me: Oh my.  I’ve called the hotline twice and kind of gotten the same answer.  On your website (I’ll have to hunt down where), it says that Joseph Smith (I think) set up the ordinance to go along with Jesus’ washing of feet at the Last Supper.
Me: So I’m guessing by your response and the others that I’ve gotten that it’s not a widely practiced thing.
Austin: Right.  I’ve never heard of it being performed in a religious way since Christ did so, but I did just find the page you’re talking about and I’ll read up on it as soon as possible.  Is this the page?  http://josephsmithpapers.org/paperSummary/journal-1835%E2%80%931836
Me: Yeah I think so.
Austin: Okay I’ll read that as soon as I can :) Are there any other questions?
Me: No, that’s it.  Thanks!  I really appreciate the help.
Austin: No problem :) Have a good day and God bless :)
Me: You too!  Blessed Be!
Agent [John] has left the chat.
The chat session has ended.
Remember, Jesus and I love you! (I couldn’t resist.)
As soon as Austin gets back to me, I’ll post another section to part 3.  Part 3, section B will be about the Muslim practice of footwashing, which is somewhat different from the Christian practice.

Krampusnacht Remembered

As I’ve been doing research and soliciting interviews for upcoming blogs, a fond memory of my Krampusnacht popped into my head.  Hopefully your Krampusnacht was all you wanted it to be, and if not, well there’s nothing stopping you from having Krampusnacht tonight!

If you’d like to contribute blog ideas or be interviewed for a blog (I’m currently interviewing Earthwalkers, barefooters, Hare Krishnas, Mormons, Muslims, foot washers, Pagans, and Sungazers), please drop me a line at chirp_sparrow@yahoo.com.