HAIR RAISING… A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
By Paula Lightening Woman Johnstone
Hair is the physical manifestation of our thoughts and an extension of ourselves. So pure and sacred are the thoughts of Our Mother, the Earth, that Her hair grows long and fragrant. The Sweet Grasses found growing around the World represent the hair of Our Mother, the Earth. These special grasses have long been collected by the Native Peoples of Earth to use as incense (to perceive by the senses) for physical and spiritual healing, celebrations, for sacred prayer and purification rites. Loving All Her Children, the Earth allows us to share in Her loving intent and Her perfect and purifying thoughts. On the Medicine Wheel Sweetgrass sits in the North position, the place of Water/Consciousness, the Place of the Minder of the Universe, and the Soul of Man.
As Native People walk the Sacred Path of the Creator God, Our Hair, the physical extension of our thoughts, allows for our direction along the Path of Life. All Peoples of Earth have cultural tales/tails (tails guide beings, example; without tails-Birds could not fly, Fish could not swim and Animals would be without balance) depicting the Power of Hair/Thought, telling of the strengths of Men and Women, using thoughts/hair to defeat evil. Should you maintain pure and perfect thoughts, evil sorcerers and witches cannot use your hair in their evil ceremonies to defeat you, for they need the weaknesses in your thoughts, to cause you harm. Believe in the Power of the Creator, not in the magic of Man.
In many countries around the World, Holy men and Holy women are recognized by the length and glory of their hair. The cutting of hair by oppressors has long represented the submission and defeat of a People, through humiliation. The Language and Sacredness of Hair is taught by All Tribal People of Earth. The way a People comb (the Alignment of thought), braid (the Oneness of thought), tie (the Securing of thought) and color (the Conviction in thought), their Hair is of great significance. Hair styles are important for they portray and announce participation in various events and the feelings expressed by People; the state of merriment or mourning, at a given time, or a stage of life; whether one is coming of age, marriageable or married, one’s age and tribal status. Hair can depict the Tribal Spirits one follows given the geographical location of a Peoples and the Spirits flowing through someone depending on their age as a Spirit and the spirits that one is calling on, in a given ceremony. Different styles signify the Tribe one belongs to and are worn to indicate times of peace or war.
Hairstyles like seasons change for public, private and ceremonial occasions. Hair represents the pure thoughts and spiritual status of an Individual, showing the bonds and spiritual oneness of a Family and defines the cultural harmony and spiritual alignment of a Nation. Hair represents the Pure and Spiritual thoughts of All Tribal People.
Everyone is given Straight or Curly hair, depending on the Creator’s discretion. Straight, flowing hair, teaches of one that can gracefully hold or let go of life. Thoughts can extend in a uniform manner, flowing directly from the source, like the movement of water flowing from the mountain top to the ocean, and then the water can rise up again to fall once more. For those with Curly hair, they will have the potential to understand the Spiral, Curve and Energy of Life. Their thoughts teach about the decrease and enlargement of life’s movement. The winding, circular energy of movement and growth on the Earth. All thoughts in life tend to ebb and flow.
Native Children are taught from a young age how to groom and care for themselves, their immediate and extended family. They are taught that grooming one and other, unifies the bond of a family, caring for one and other strengthens the family ties, respecting one and other maintains family harmony and loving one and other defines a family’s pride. They are taught to correct one and others appearance and habits, to strengthen one and other continually, causing them to be beautiful, strengthening in them the ideal that they are an extension of the Creator’s thoughts of Love. They emanate from the thoughts of Perfection and strive to become (to pass from one state to another and to enhance) Perfection.
As Children are raised up, so too is the spiritual level of teaching raised, to elevate their Spirits. In youth and innocence (in-knowing-sense = freedom from guilt, sin or pain), Mankind is blessed with a bounty of beautiful hair. The more pure and sacred your thoughts, the longer, healthier, and vibrant, your hair. As Humans age and loose their innocence, falling off the Path of Light, harboring dark thoughts, losing the light of pure thought, Humans loose their hair and the shine (aureole) it once had.
Caring for hair is very important, for like the Sweet Grasses of our Mother, the Earth, our hair holds the purity of our intent. For our thought can purify the thoughts of others. Native Children are taught to wash and rinse hair, and are taught the proper use of the gifts of the Plant People; learning which bulbs, roots and herbs, will bring luster and light to ones hair. Maintaining the health of ones hair is important, as is maintaining all physical and spiritual health and wholeness.
They are also taught combing rites. Special combs were and in some places still are used for the Sweetgrass Rites and ornate combs were and still are made for Human hair. Careful consideration is given to the types of woods, bones, metals, jewels, and brush materials, as well as the symbols and (spirit) designs, for the best physical and spiritual purpose, of the task of combing Ones hair. The Porcupine shared itself by giving Native Women a Sacred Comb, which was made from the bone found on the underside of the Porcupine’s tail. After taking the skin off, drying it and making a wooden handle, it was ready to use.
Combing is the act of separating and adjusting the hair so that it will lay or move in the best or most beautiful way. Native families, knowing that our hair is the physical manifestation of our thoughts, also understand that our thoughts need to be corrected and adjusted by the Creator, so that we will move gracefully along the Beauty Way, the Sacred Path of Life.
When combing our hair each day, we are re-minded to keep our thoughts pure. The hair that falls out and gathers in our brushes and combs, is gathered up and kept in a special place or pouch, for the 28 days of the Moon/month. This hair is a recollection, a record of our past thoughts and deeds. At the time of the Full Moon, the time of illumination and completeness, the Hearts of the Families, the Women, gather in ceremony and offer the thoughts of their families, their bundled Hair, to the Spirits of Fire, Earth and Air.
When our offerings of Hair are placed in fire, our thoughts are uplifted, sent through the smoke, moved by the power of the Moon, and prayerfully given to our Father, the Creator God or if buried, returned to Our Mother, the Earth and She relays our intent to through the Moon, to Our Father. In this way the Creator reads your families thoughts and sends His Spirits/Angels to guide you on the Sacred Path, correcting your Mind, Heart and Soul, strengthening the Body of Oneness, till the next Full Moon. Holding Sacred thoughts, choosing to walk a path of light, One that is pleasing to the Creator God, strengthens the individual Family, and the Greater Family of Universal Oneness, that every One is a part of.
Your hair teaches you that your thoughts are to flow in all directions but are to be informally directed. Yellow, Red, Black and White the four colors of hair symbolizing the major directions of Earth, and the direction of those constant in the flow of thought/ Spirit. Also, the four directions in between, Gold, Orange, Brown, Blue/Grey, Hair indicating those continual in thought/Spirit, flowing throughout the Universe. Your hair is just one way of indicating to others another conviction you carry throughout your lifetime. When the color of your hair changes, naturally, that means you have been Elevated, by God. You have more responsibility in and for Life.
You were given a sacred color of hair to wear and you were never to bleach (whiten) or dye your hair. Even the word dye/die when used for coloring states the death or divination of a God-given thought and purpose. Dying (destined for death) ones hair places your desires before the thoughts of God. Bleaching ones hair to change spiritual status, does not make one an Elder or Pre-dating Spirit, for you are born who you are, chosen, and elevated by God, not by Mankind. In Native ceremony when ocher and hennas were used on hair it was understood that it was for a Sacred purpose and Spirit (God) inspired, and the natural color would naturally return.
The act of cutting your hair is the cutting off of the flow of thought. You actually sever away past thoughts from future deeds. Cutting your hair usually occurs when one chooses to make a major change in ones life, putting past misdeeds behind them, and beginning a new/knew life. In Native teachings many tribes cut their hair during the mourning process, which symbolizes the deep wound to ones sensibilities caused by the piercing hurt of a loved ones passing.
Other tribes, remembering that they are Spirits that live forever, cut their hair after a year of mourning. Symbolic of the severing of their ties, freeing the spirit of their loved ones, allowing them to enter the morning of the next world. Ready to start a new life, knowing they must respect and honor their loved one, they feast and urge their loved Ones’ spirit on. Demonstrating their love for all life, they signal they too are ready to start a new day, a new morning. For in wisdom, they except the greater cycle of life. They know the Body of their past Love, was given back to the Earth and the Spirit of their Loved One, needs to return to the Sol/Star their Spirits emanate from, to be re-aligned in the Body of Oneness, being reborn as their future and the renewed Children of Earth.
Even the time of cutting your hair is important, for all things need to be in harmony with the natural rhythm and flow of the Universe. Cutting old thoughts, harvesting full grown ideas, cutting all ties, is best on the Full Moon. For fresh starts, like the planting time, for new seeds of thought, or for the trimming, pruning and monthly maintenance, we cut our hair by the light of the New Moon, so it will grow thick and quick.
Young men are often seen with braids of sweetgrass for personal purification rites. In some Tribes, men weave sweetgrass into their braids to unify their thoughts with their Mother, the Earth, strengthening their thoughts of Oneness. This demonstrates the way in which hair is used to extend and bind your thoughts with others.
By attaching a lock of a loved ones hair, in your hair, or by carrying their hair on your person, One is able to carry the thoughts of their loved ones with them on their travels. It is so important to have your families spiritual support and protective thoughts (prayers) in life generally, that the hair of ones family and the hair of their protective spirits, was braided into a warriors battle dress for added strength and stamina. It is generally understood that you do not touch a person’s hair without permission.
Sweetgrass headbands (the things that keep your brains in) (joke) are worn for concentration, to purify thought. The aroma of sweetgrass clears the mind. Sweetgrass necklaces or collars refer to the Spirit that is born head-first, and is used to call-in / collar the Spirit of Wisdom you are descended from. Sweetgrass braids, like the braids on your head symbolize the serpents of wisdom, that keep you on the Sacred Path of Light. It is the double-headed serpent that warns you with a shake of its tail, should you step off the path of light, to get back on the sacred path or suffer the venomous bites of despair, depression or death, depending how far you wander.
Braids symbolize Oneness and Unity. The flowing strands of hair, individually weak but when joined together in Oneness, physically demonstrate the Strength of Oneness; “One Mind, One Heart and One Soul”, the Song of the Uni-verse, and the Sacred thoughts you are to hold. There are times to wear the hair braided and times to let it flow free, different times to demonstrate your harmony with the flow of life and to demonstrate your thoughts of Oneness to others.
One way is to gather 28 whole strands of Sweetgrass, one strand symbolizing each sacred day in one moon(month). Divide them in three equal piles, 9 strands each, each pile symbolizing the wandering spirits of the 3 tiers of Heaven (upper world, middle world, lower world), and with the one strand that is left, the strand that Symbolizes the Great Spirit, the Creator God(Father Sun), you tie all the loose strands together. Remembering as you braid the Sweetgrass, to keep your thoughts and intent pure and healthy, placing the prayers of love for life into your braid. It is the intent placed in the medicine that makes all healing possible. To end the braid, tie a knot with the grass. A Knot is symbolic of Union and a Bond. The Tie that binds. The knot in the Sweetgrass braid also binds all the “thoughts” of our Mother together, to teach us, once again of the strength of Unity or Oneness.
Know it is only the Creator’s power that holds the Universe together and the wandering spirits are His Great Spirits that flow and protect Life all the way to the outer edges of the Universe and the 3 tiers of Heaven are the lower, middle and upper worlds or the Sea, Earth and Sky(Universe) where all the Great Spirits dwell. Keeping thoughts of Love and Respect for All Life in your Mind and Heart, allows one to share the Sacred Sweetgrass with others in a good way.
When working with the Sacred Medicines, our intent should be as pure as the intent of our selfless Mother, the Earth. She wants only the best for Her Children. So hold Sacred thoughts; thoughts of Oneness and Healing thoughts; thoughts of Empowerment and Love, when braiding and using Sweetgrass. Soon All Nations will be strong again.
Written by Paula Johnstone-Whitehawk, DNM®, RNP®,& RAP®: Permission is given to copy these writings provided they are left unchanged and in their entirety. Copyright September 4,1998.