Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not Quite Related- But Too Cool To Pass Up Sharing

This piece on the hair style and headdress of the Roman Vestal Virgins is not exactly related to Jewish head covering, but just too cool and interesting to pass up sharing with you.  There's a video showing a recreation of how the vestal virgins probably braided their hair, and the coverings that went over that hair-do.

There are a couple aspects of the style that look quite lovely- particularly the wrapping of hair around a structural element (here, basically a soft rope), in front of the covering.  It would be a way of styling what hair one might show at the front of your head that wouldn't show too much hair for (my) comfort.  However, this seems like an area where there might be real concern about copying the practices of idolaters.

Here's the research: We started hunting: Masekhet Shabbat סז on darchei ha'emori brought us to the Rambam Hilkhot Avodah Zarah 11:1, which prohibited wearing haircuts that were particular to practitioners of avodah zara.  From there, to an aggada in the gemara in Sotah and Bava Kama (:פב).

We then checked out the Tur, and finally the Shulhan Arukh, where the Rema tells us that copying gentile haircuts is permissible when it serves a useful function, such as identifying one as a doctor.  However, anything associated with pritzut (licentiousness) is forbidden.  So far, none of this Quite touches our issue, which is hairdressing rather than haircuts, but nevertheless, so far we have neither a particular use to permit, nor any licentiousness to forbid.  The issue of temporal dislocation (i.e. there haven't been any vestal virgins in hundreds if not thousands of years) hasn't been addressed yet either.

I haven't finished the research yet, but I'll throw the question open for social debate.   From hair cut to hair style, at what point does emulating an idolatrous style start to wig you out (you should pardon the pun)?


  1. I'm sure at some point in history there was a pagan priest who was fond of ponytails. Then there was probably one who preferred a bob. Maybe there was even one who wore Princess Leia hairbuns on his ears.

    As long as we don't associate a certain hair style with idol worship, I believe it to be OK. It's not like if I wear a braid beneath a kerchief, someone is going to say "Wow! You look like a Vestial Virgin!" I happened to have taken a course on Rome, and even then I didn't know that. I remember something about a multitude of rolled fabric beneath a hair covering by a wedding that would then make the union inviolate or something . . .

  2. Very cool video! As for copying idoloters - it's not a common association any more, I would think it wouldn't be a problem. If we'd lived in ancient Rome, it most certainly would have been.