Spiritual Meaning of Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks, the most famous bearer of this head of hair is probably Bob Marley, who, in addition to his musical work, also spread the message of the Rastafarian movement.

In fact, for the Rastafari it is not just a hairstyle but a sign of their spirituality.

They believe that the matted hair gives them strength and power, referring to the biblical story of Samson from the Book of the Right (Old Testament), who wore seven locks as a sign of divine strength. When this was cut off from him, he lost his strength.

In addition, the Rastafari used the dreadlocks as a deliberate demarcation against the British colonial power and its ideal of beauty, in order to protest against the resulting destruction of their own culture.

Likewise, in other world cultures that are much older than Rastafarianism, dreadlocks have a spiritual meaning.

With the Aztecs, for example, wearing dreadlocks is a sign of priesthood, especially since the hair was completely shaved off when entering the priestly career and from then on the hair remained untouched.

A group of monks in India, the sadhus, handle it in a similar way, who view their hair as a direct bond with Shiva.

As with the Aztecs, at the beginning of the monastic life, the hair is shaved off as a sign of purification and respect for Shiva and from this point on nothing is cut anymore and symbolizes lifelong loyalty to Shiva.

It is also common for Sufism monks to wear dreadlocks, but it is frowned upon to intervene in the felting process in a fashionable manner.

From this you can see that wearing matted hair is not necessarily a fashionable appearance, a protest against society or something to do with being unsanitary – there is usually more to it and can have very personal reasons.

Spiritual Meaning of Dreadlocks – Meaning

In a strict sense, hair is just one more part of our body. Not even a vital one, because we can live without it.

But we give those strands that sprout from our heads a special, even more spiritual meaning. That’s why sometimes when you are facing a big change, you decide to change your cut, hairstyle or color.

Straight, Chinese, wavy, long, short, shaved, in braids or with gray hair. Hair and the way to wear it have had different meanings throughout history. In this context, dreadlocks are one of the most iconic hairstyles.

And also one of the most misunderstandings, as some believe that they are messy and even unsightly.

Which is illogical, because most cultures have dreadlocks in their past, as explained by Chimere Faulk, owner of Dr. Locs: a brand of products for people with natural dreadlocks.

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Author and businesswoman Ama Yawson commented in an article for Huffington Post that the origin of dreadlocks goes as far back as ancient Egypt and Greece, although their presence was more common in Africa and Asia.

The meaning of dreadlocks depends on the historical context and culture of a given area, something like what happened with the invention of high heels.

One of the most representative groups are the Maasai warriors, who wear long, thin and red dreadlocks that they take care of with vegetable extracts and oils, according to a BBC text (this report also accounts for the black market for dreadlocks that exists in South Africa, because Apparently there are people who want to have them, but without the patience to grow their own. What?).

In Tibetan Buddhism dreadlocks were also characteristic of their monks. A very different choice to having a shaved head, but with a common meaning: abandoning vanity and material attachments, as well as a tribute to nature and simplicity. Some monks, as mentioned in an article in Benjamin Bogin’s History of Religions, never cut their hair.

Without a doubt, one of the most popular representations of dreadlocks is found in the Rastafarian movement.

There is a prejudiced stereotype that Rastafarian people are just marijuana lovers who listen to reggae all day and refuse to find a job. The root of this movement could not be further from that conception.

In fact, Rastafari is a religion that emerged in Jamaica during the 1930s to deal with slavery and colonization.

This movement was driven by Marcus Garvey, a political leader who sought to unify all those belonging to the black race and re-connect them with his homeland, as described by the BBC.

Garvey declared that in Africa a new black king would be crowned who would become the redeemer of the race.

When Haile Selassie I was appointed Emperor of Ethiopia, Garvey’s followers viewed it as the fulfillment of the prophecy, thereby taking the emperor as their messiah. Even as the incarnation of God himself.

Haile Selassie’s real name was Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael. “Tafari” in the Amharic language spoken in Ethiopia means “feared or respected.” When he was governor of Harer, an Ethiopian city, Tafari received the title of Ras, which is equivalent to a duke or a prince. Thus, this man became known as Ras Tafari Makonnen. Hence comes the name of this religion.

According to author Stephanie Freeman, Rastafarians adopted dreadlocks to represent the mane of the Lion of Judah – the representation of the messiah in Christianity. This is how in the Rastafari movement, dreadlocks are a sign of rebellion and reunion with the roots of their race, but also under a religious connotation.

Although each culture, religion and ideology give a different meaning to dreadlocks, if you doubt their use is related to a lifestyle and way of thinking that goes beyond any unjustified fashion or prejudice. Did you know the long history of dreadlocks? And that here we only cover a portion of it!

Some employers consider dreadlocks unsanitary or associate the hairstyle with drug use. It can be more difficult, especially with more conservative companies. It might be easier for a young, hip start-up company in Berlin-Friedrichshain. Meanwhile, at least in Germany, more and more companies seem to be open to the alternative hairstyle.

This topic has also been and is hotly debated in the USA and went to court in various cases. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals only ruled again this year that it is legal to turn down workers because of their dreadlocks. A woman had sued for discrimination when she was rejected in an interview because of her hairstyle.

For the African American woman, her dreadlocks are an expression of her identity and a sign of her origin.

However, the court ruled that there is no discrimination here and that individual characteristics of one’s own appearance, even if they are part of a culture, do not need to be protected.

Opinions on this differ widely and will be discussed further. It is clear, however, that even with the most well-groomed dreadlocks, job opportunities are not always the best. Dreadlocks are more than just a hairstyle for most wearers. It’s about an attitude towards life, a sense of belonging and one’s own identity.

They are certainly not for everyone and that is a good thing. You should definitely deal with the context of this hairstyle before making it and be prepared for some stupid sayings and clichés. My research has taught me a lot and I will certainly ask a little more about the next dreadlock wearer I meet.

Spiritual Meaning of Dreadlocks – Symbolism

The term dreadlocks comes from Jamaica and can be roughly translated as “fear locks”. There are various theories as to how this term came about, but it is agreed that it is related to the Rastafarians.  The Rastafari’s are a religious community in Jamaica that formed in the 1930s. They belonged to a minority and the lower social class.

One of the most representative groups are the Maasai warriors, who wear long, thin and red dreadlocks that they take care of with vegetable extracts and oils, according to a BBC text (this report also accounts for the black market for dreadlocks that exists in South Africa, because Apparently there are people who want to have them, but without the patience to grow their own. What?).

In order to deliberately differentiate themselves from the culture and the ideals of beauty of the British colonial power, they let their hair grow in matted strands. Rastafari’s were considered outsiders, crooks and religious fanatics among the white population, which is why they feared them.

This topic has also been and is hotly debated in the USA and went to court in various cases. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals only ruled again this year that it is legal to turn down workers because of their dreadlocks. A woman had sued for discrimination when she was rejected in an interview because of her hairstyle.

So is an explanation for the word origin. The Rastafarians also wore their matted hair for religious reasons. They were considered particularly reverent and viewed their curls as a kind of antennae for experiencing religious inspiration. The “dread” from dreadlocks could also be derived from this fear of honor.

The term may be traced back to the Rastafarians, but the hairstyle itself is a lot older. The matted braids cannot only be assigned to one culture, as they were and are worn in different cultures. The Egyptian Pharaoh Tut-Ankh-Amun wore dreadlocks, and Caesar described that the Celts had “hair like snakes”.

Many ancient cultures had no combs and just let their hair grow and matt. Indigenous peoples also wear their hair this way around the world. In some religions, dreads have a spiritual meaning or indicate the status.

The hairstyle can be seen on Hindu sadhus, Indian Sikhs and Muslim dervishes. Dreadlocks go well beyond the context of the Rastafarians, even if they have helped the hairstyle to gain new popularity through well-known representatives such as Bob Marley.

More about Bob Marley and the Rastafari’s in the article: The 60s – Icons in times of change. And what is the motivation behind the dreadlocks for people from western countries?

In addition to the people who simply find the hairstyle beautiful and wear it for fashion reasons, there is a large group who associate more with their dreadlocks.

It is an expression of an alternative way of life that opposes capitalism and the prevailing forms of society. This may or may not be related to an affection for reggae and Bob Marley.

For many dark-skinned people, dreadlocks are also an important sign of their identity and belonging to the black community.

It was precisely because of this that there was a dispute in the USA about who was allowed to wear dreadlocks. A black student criticized a white fellow student for his dreadlocks in 2016.

He accused him of making use of black culture without knowing the meaning behind it. A debate then broke out as to who owned the hairstyle and who was allowed to wear it (keyword “cultural appropriation”).

There is also a widespread opinion that dreadlock wearers like to smoke weed or take other drugs. This can probably also be traced back to the Rastafarians.

Although they tend to reject alcohol and tobacco, they consume cannabis for ritual meditation.

Bob Marley was also an avowed marijuana smoker. Even a marijuana brand has now been named after him (“Marley Natural”). Many alternative-minded people occasionally use cannabis and advocate legalization.

Nevertheless, there are of course many people who live completely drug-free and still wear dreadlocks.

So we are dealing with a classic cliché here, which may apply to some, but certainly not to all. The stereotypes and prejudices associated with dreadlocks can make job hunting more difficult.

Conclusion

One prejudice about dreadlocks is that they are considered unsanitary. As with other hairstyles, however, dreads also depend on the right care. Dreadlocks certainly need more thorough treatment, but can be washed as normal.

This should be done once a week and with the right soap. It is especially important to rinse your hair thoroughly after washing and dry it properly, which is why the use of a hair dryer or a hood dryer is recommended. If this does not happen, it can actually happen that the hair smells a bit musty.

However, dreadlocks do not get moldy or attract bugs with regular care.

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