Got to wondering, where did the idea of requiring women to cover their heads originate and why?
This will not be an exhaustive research piece on the subject. My research skills are meager and I’m already exhausted. I did look up some Old Testament and New Testament citations on the subject (1 Corinthians 11 2-16, Genesis 24:65, Numbers 5:18, and Isaiah 47:2), all of which told me a little about the origin of the idea, but, alas, the why leaves much to be desired.
In short, the requirement has more to do with the subjugation of women than some vague notion of God’s preferring not to let anyone, particularly men, see a woman’s hair.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “…a wife is responsible to her husband, her husband is reponsible to Christ, and Christ is responsible to God…. And that is why a woman who publicly prays or prophesies without a covering on her head dishonors her husband….” And there we have it: no sense dishonoring husbands.
Back further, in Genesis: “…Who is that man walking through the fields to meet us?…It is my master’s son!…So she covered her face with her veil….” That was Rebekah. I can only conclude she was proving she would not dishonor Isaac by letting his master’s son see her face.
And on to Numbers, describing an incident of suspected adultry on the part of a wife, who must declare her innocence before drinking some specially prepared water prepared by a priest, water which will either prove her innocence or “…will become bitter within her, and her body will swell and her thigh will rot…. But if she is pure and has not committed adultery, she shall be unharmed and will soon become pregnant.” That clearly describes the adultery test but doesn’t help much with why the priest administering the test first unbinds her hair.
And finally from Isaiah, reporting the visions he had during the reigns of several kings of Judah. “O daughter of Chaldea, never again will you be the lovely princess, tender and delicate. Take heavy millstones and grind the corn, remove your veil, strip off your robe; expose yourself to public view….” That was part of protecting Israel from “…Babylon’s mighty power….” Once that veil came off, not to mention the robe – well, things would not go well for Babylon.
I have no one to blame but myself for getting myself tangled up in all this. I got to wondering why all the women and girls had to cover their heads when we went to Mass at St. Bernard’s and then at St. Rita’s in Chicago.
And then I got to wondering why Muslim women in America make it a point to draw attention to themselves out with the hijab. And Sihks with turbans. And other ethnic people who outfit themselves in a manner almost guaranteed to rile up the less tolerant, the uninformed, the less educated, the ones who, for example, think road rage is sport.
I can’t help remembering how Irish, German, Jewish, Swedish and other members of my family in Chicago held on to their heritage but at the same time worked hard not to let their heritage rule their every waking hour. They worked hard to become Americans, not somebody who just lived and worked in America.
Requiring women to cover their heads because of what someone wrote a few thousand years ago? I’m thinking we are fifteen years into Century 22, no women wrote that, and no women should have to put up with it.