There was a post in which the author challenged a person to give 10 reasons why she wears a veil, and not just because she was called to/told to by a god/dess. Being me, I couldn’t resist rising to the challenge. Of course this doesn’t mean that I think that anyone needs to justify why they do anything that they feel is honestly right for them, regardless if its has aesthetic, practical or spiritual reasoning behind it. When it comes right down to it, it is a woman’s personal choice and no one else’s business. However, because it amuses me to do so I am going to go ahead and put up that list *grin*
Disclaimer: I do not wear a full hijab, nor do I wear a scarf all the time. When I choose to wear a scarf it is usually in a more turban style or as a square folded into a triangle and tied at the base of my neck.
1. I think it is attractive (sure it is a purely aesthetic reason but that doesn’t make it any less valid of a reason). I like the fluttery colorful fabric as much as another woman may like sparkly headbands, or another to adorn her hair with ribbons, or wear cute hats.
2. I like the femininity of it. While I do identify as a feminist, this doesn’t mean I have to chuck everything that is feminine out the window (just as I wouldn’t expect other feminists to reject bras…gods know that some of us feel more comfortable with them, or high heels). I am well aware of the history surrounding veiling, but is something I enjoy as much as long skirts and breezy blouses when I feel inclined to wear them. Considering I spend much of the work week in sturdy leather boots and pants with a uniform shirt, it is nice to indulge in things that make me feel pretty, and that I think look nice on me.
3 It serves a practical function. As many women wear hats, I will often wear a veil to protect from the sun. I don’t care for hats. I generally find them unappealing on an aesthetic level, but also more often than not far less comfortable than my scarf. They are also easier to wash if it is a particularly hot day which causes you sweat. In reverse for colder weather they can help with heat loss. I rarely have felt a scarf to be inferior to a winter hat, especially as they do come in a variety of thicknesses and materials, and often stays in place better too.
4. Also for practical functions, having very uncontrollable hair, it is very nice to use to keep my hair contained, especially in situations where it can get caught or snagged. In fact, I find it far superior to headbands in keeping my hair out of my face.
5. It moves me to a different mindset when I veil during ritual. As many folks in the general neo-pagan community speak of having certain items which put them in the frame of mind to begin work or ritual, a simple piece of cloth works for me what a black robe may do for some witches I have known. In fact there are many times where I have worn very little aside from that bit of material. I wear a scarf in a color sacred to the god or goddess I am worshiping, or default to a standard white scarf. Among Orphics that I have worshiped with when I went to Hellas it was common to wear a bit of material or ribbon dyed in the color that is sacred to the god or goddess ruling the month during which worship is taking place. I find this more comfortable and more convenient to do with a scarf.
6. Slightly related, I engage in belly dancing, some styles of which include a turban to be worn. This is especially true with American Tribal Belly Dancing which I am currently learning. Now religiously I use dance to honor my gods, especially those gods that I am devoted to; therefore, this also another reason for me to incorporate the use of a veil into my rituals. Even for more ecstatic dancing (that I usually engage in for Apollon and Artemis, though occassionally for Rhea and Dionysos) the removing of the veil during which I whip my hair about in my dance, is extremely meaningful…and without the veil present to begin with to be worn in a spiritual context, it looses some of its beautiful meaning to me.
7. I *do* feel a calling to wear it religiously….but then I also have a calling to wear bells on my ankle and on my wrist and also to do spiritual tattooing too. These are consistent symbols that keep my gods continuously in my mind throughout the day. I typically wear white, orange or blue scarfs in honor of Apollon to adorn myself with his sacred colors, just as I wear bells in honor of Apollon because I feel sound issues from his domain. It also connects me in a fashion to my spiritual ancestors in the Hellenic religion, in Hinduism (which I also practice), and to my literal ancestors (I have a photo of not too distant Italian ancestors wearing scarfs over their hair. Unless I am doing a ritual for a particular god or in a very specific reference, as I said above I usually wear those colors on my scarf which are sacred to Apollon.
8. To get back to another practical reason, it is very useful when you are having a really bad hair day. As in you didn’t have time to wash it the night before and need to go out and it looks like hell. I don’t know about some folks but I have really long hair, and naturally rather oily hair (which has its good points but also its bad). If I am having a bad hair day, neither putting it in a pony tail or twisted into a bun will save it. Yes it may be vanity, but on those days I would prefer a nice clean scarf that can be tied as simply or intricately as I like that will help me get through being out and about with my pride and ego in tact. I imagine back in the day when regular bathing wasn’t much of an option, women were perhaps a bit more glad to have something available to cover up with. As a scarf can also hold scents for a time as fabrics due, it is also nice to perfume a scarf and have that pleasant smell attached to it near your face. I enjoy it anyway 🙂
9. I wear it for purpose of tradition for praying. I have had hindu friends inform me that women often cover their head during prayer, it was also common among Roman men and women (for the men with the edge of their toga and for women with the edge of their pala) to cover their heads in prayer. In Hellenismos it is a bit different, head-coverings were typically garlands of some kinds, whether of laurel, flowers etc. Living in Alaska I don’t often have such material on hand, and so prefer to default to hindu and roman covering practices for prayer, even if I am not engaging in a full ritual. This can be as simple as having a pashmina I keep with me that I can drape over my head and shoulders to pray briefly. Now in modern Hellenic rituals in Hellas you will find some women with something of the size of a pashmina wrapped around their shoulders, and draped over their heads in some video taped rituals. So I do it to honor the traditions in which I worship.
10. Also on the spiritual bend, I have also been known to veil for no other reason than to honor goddesses who were likewise veiled. Not all goddesses wore veils, in fact few of them did. Likely it is a station thing going back to societal ideas of proper women, especially for upper class women. But this doesn’t seem quite as applicable with goddesses who were typically as powerful (or in some cases more so, such as Athena being quite apt at kicking the tail of Ares) as the gods. Therefore when you find goddesses such as Rhea, Hera, Demeter, Leto and Hestia being veiled, and even Artemis wearing a kind of turbanish hunting veil over her hair in one instance, well there are times when I feel to wear a veil in honor of one or more of these goddesses. Usually I do so for Leto, the mother of Apollon and Artemis. It is a kind of devotional activity. I choose to wear a veil, o goddess, in honor of your power, you who are obscure and powerful within it. It becomes a praise of divine femininity among these goddesses.And as I do practice bridal mysticism, it is also a respect to these goddesses who are themselves bridal and maternal goddesses. It thus also acts as a symbol, particularly when I am in public ritual that is meaningful for me on a personal level, akin to the meaning others find in their devotional jewelry they may wear.