Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Historical Head Covering: The Grun

The grun is one of the more distinctive Jewish head coverings that I've come across.  It was worn by married women in the Atlas Mountains.  Grun means horns, and looking at it, you can see why.
(The woman on the left is wearing the grun.  The images in this post are the work of Jean Besancenot, who took them around the 1930s.)

The grun is made up of several parts:
1. Two coils of thick goat’s hair yarn were attached at sides.  This formed the basic structure.
2. This was covered with a hood called bniqa, which was colorful, although not much was seen by the time the whole grun was assembled.
3. What I read was that it was wrapped in swalf- card-woven band of coton and metal thread with two locks of black fake-hair hanging down.  The middle of the swalf had colorful rows of beads and a tiny gold pendant dividing the fake hair into 2 segments.  However, I'm not seeing a swalf in these pictures, although I do see fake hair in another image of the grun on pinterest, but can't add it here for some reason.  If you want to see it, here's the link.
Afluent women would add 4. Long band called mehmel- identical to swalf but without the locks of fake hair, wrapped around the horns of the grun.  The size would prevent women from carrying things on their heads, as was the local practice.

On top of all of that, women would wear an additional 5th piece-  a cover-scarf.  The fancier one for Shabbat and holidays was called a sebniyya del-ghta, and made of silk with tassels.  For weekdays, the cover scarf was white cotton scarf dotted with colorful patterns, and called an izar del-ghta.

The grun was first worn 8 days after wedding, and was put on for the first time with a special ceremony led by a married woman who had never been divorced or widowed.  Afterward, it was worn daily.  Some Jews believed it had fertility-enhancing powers. I don't quite get that, but there it is.

 The information in this post comes primarily from two sources: The Jewish Wardrobe: From the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, ed. Esther Juhasz and A History of Jewish Costume, by Alfred Rubens.  

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