D is for Dress (mode of, the dreaded part 2): the Pagan Blog Project

Well, I warned you I might do it, and now I am. There were other candidates for my second D post, including (the) dead, disir, dark half of the year, devotion, and divination, but I’m exhausted due to a massive fibro flare-up, and not feeling inspired enough to hold forth on any of them right now. Instead, what’s uppermost in my mind this week is my taking up of the veil, which I had mentioned in passing last week. And so, you get to hear my thoughts on that.

“Taking up the veil” is such a loaded phrase, and it’s meant to be. In truth, I “took up the veil”–after a manner of speaking–when I first married Odin, going on ten years ago now. Although pagan god-marriages aren’t exactly the same as a Christian nun’s symbolic marriage to Jesus (my own marriage being not at all symbolic, for one thing), they are similar enough to comfortably share a lot of the same concepts and trappings, and the wearing of a veil is among these. (As one of the other members of a Facebook group on veiling I recently joined commented, it’s funny how many godspouses are numbered among the pagans who at least part of the time cover their heads.) In spiritual terms, a veil (like the one worn by the High Priestess in the Tarot deck) marks the wearer as set apart, as not quite of this world, as being shrouded in, and a keeper of, Mystery. Culturally (and not just in the east, but for hundreds of years in medieval Europe as well), a veil traditionally marks a woman as married, as claimed, as partly hidden from common view, with her deepest secrets reserved for her husband. The veils worn by nuns (and by some godspouses) encompass both these categories of meaning.

In practical terms, as many of us have found, a veil (or at least, wearing something over one’s head, whether a snood–my own favorite option, a scarf, or a hat) protects the crown chakra, lessens the amount of meaningless stimuli the sensitive among us are bombarded with constantly, helps hold rampant empathy in check, and overall assists us in keeping a spiritual focus as we move through our mundane daily activities.

For me, it also serves an additional purpose related to my particular path and focus, and starting with yet another D: discipline. I’ve written here before about my view of a godspouse as a sort of royal consort (or at any rate, that seems to be where my own role and duties lie, at least in part), and about the type of comportment and demeanor that is expected along those lines, neatly summarized by the notion of noblesse oblige (or, “nobility imposes obligation”). Well, let me tell you right here (for those readers who don’t know me): I am no saint. In fact, quite apart from being one, I am a rather short-tempered (and sharp-tongued) redhead, very opinionated, easily irritated and prone to emotional responses, and often quite insistent on having my say. My work with Frigga (which I’ll go into more when we get to F) is partly focused on developing the ability to choose my words judiciously and with a cool head, and often on knowing when NOT to speak at all, both of which are invaluable skills for a queen or consort, whose behavior must unavoidably reflect on her royal husband. But I’m far from perfect in this, or in my ongoing efforts to suffer fools a trifle more gladly (or graciously, at any rate) than I’m naturally inclined to do, so I make use of whatever tools I have on hand to help me in this effort. For example, a few months back I adopted a “work persona bracelet” to wear at the day job as a reminder of the specific persona (or mask, if you will–an appropriate enough concept for a godspouse of Odin) that I need to assume at the office. And now I am finding that the wearing of a head covering when out in public (including at my job) is acting as a tangible and sensory reminder to me of the type of behavior expected of me as Odin’s consort, a constant reminder of my role, in much the same way as a queen’s crown or a nun’s veil might–all at the same time as the head covering itself aids me in being able to manifest that behavior by limiting the irritating stimuli I’m exposed to. What a nifty tool; no wonder my god-husband has not been opposed to my adopting it! (Even though it doesn’t seem to have been entirely–or exclusively–His idea.)

In last week’s post, I mentioned that I wear skirts and dresses almost exclusively when out in public, and have been doing so for about five years now. This mode of dress was adopted at Odin’s request and was His initial way of marking me visually as being set apart from the bulk of society. In effect, the skirts and dresses were my veil, and they did serve a similar purpose in terms of disguising my physical form somewhat and reserving its precise contours for my Husband alone. Yet, it only went so far towards isolating me from mundane society (since long skirts are not terribly uncommon, at least in Oregon), and did not help at all towards the all-important shielding and filtering functions for my crown chakra. So recently–no doubt partly due to the influence of both Frigga and Anne Boleyn (the latter being one of my disir–another D!)–I had begun to get the increasing sense that more was needed, and to feel strongly pulled towards veiling my head as well as my body.

This is already beginning to have the desired effects (cutting down on outside “psychic noise,” acting as a tangible reminder of expected comportment), but it’s also having one additional and less welcome effect I had not foreseen: in social terms, wearing a veil marks you as an anomaly. I now understand why Jo, a few years back when she first began to cover her head on a daily basis, waited to start doing so until she was also starting a new job, at which no one had existing expectations of her. I’m not going to stop wearing it now that I’ve started, since the benefits far outweigh the annoyances, but it is certainly more than a little irritating to have a different co-worker comment each day that they like my scarf, or to have one in particular tell me she likes “that gypsy thing you’re got going on,” at the same time as she touches my head.

I can only hope the novelty will die down in time; after all, I only just started covering my head everyday this week, and when I first started at this job I already wore skirts on a daily basis so no one has ever commented (well, maybe once or twice) on that. So, it appears the downside of adopting modes of dress that set you apart is that…well they set you apart, even the ones that are supposed to be laden with connotations of modesty and withdrawal from the world. Most 21st century Americans are woefully ignorant on the subject of symbolism, and not even the least bit schooled in tact or reserve (sadly, especially here in Eugene). Which makes those behavioral adjustments I’m trying to perfect even more of a challenge, I suppose.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on veiling for the moment. If anyone reading this is also a pagan who veils, feel free to chime in with your own two cents!

18 thoughts on “D is for Dress (mode of, the dreaded part 2): the Pagan Blog Project

  1. In truth, I did dabble in covering before we left Philly, and the problems didn’t come from strangers misunderstanding or being hostile, or even strangers thinking I was Muslim (and my biggest fear there was not that I would tick people off so much as friendlier Muslims would greet me as their own, as they’ll do, and then where would I be?) so much as it came from coworkers who felt the need to comment and touch and question. And, heh, it’s the touch that I have a problem with, really.

    So, yes. Moving far far away and starting it in a place where no one expected anything different, was nice. It still invited commentary and questions. It *still* invites commentary and questions. But also, the compliments are quite nice. :)

    • One of the biggest hurdles of all (as you are well aware) is getting people who know us to accept change. Strangers are easy! Family is the hardest, of course, by co-workers can be annoyingly difficult too, probably because we spend so much time around them that it seriously disturbs them when something like this suddenly changes.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I have been considering the idea of starting to cover my head again (I did so as a Christian but mostly stopped after becoming pagan), and struggling to order my thoughts on it. I’m still not really sure where I’ll wind up on the decision, but your explanations here help me to think about it more clearly.

    • It definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s kind of surprising how many pagan women are starting to do it at least part of the time–and often for very different reasons.

  3. I think most people on a spiritual path will encounter changes to their modes of dress and personal adornment at some point, perhaps many points. I know I have.

    When I see a woman out in public with a head covering of some type, I automatically assume it has something to do with whatever her religious/spiritual leanings are.

    I have experimented with wearing a veil when doing ritual and also reading the runes and have found it very helpful in heightening the psychic component. Whether this is a psychological effect or an actual physical one, I cannot say but I have found it effective too.

    Don’t you just hate it when people touch you without some kind of an okay for doing it? A good chunk of the population seems to have a real problem with respecting personal boundaries. I hate it when essentially strangers get too close to me too, intruding in my personal space as it were. I’m talking about the people who get so close they are less than inches away!

    • Don’t you just hate it when people touch you without some kind of an okay for doing it?

      Oh yes, this is one of my biggest pet peeves! I am a huge fan of the invisible space bubble, but it seems as though more people on the west coast than back east are utterly oblivious to the whole concept. I can’t even imagine just walking up to a co-worker and touching something on their head! This same woman though (who is perfectly well-intentioned, I’m sure) has also been known to walk up to me and grab a religious pendant I was wearing as she was expressing admiration for it. There is just no space bubble; it drives me crazy.

      I am trying not to get too irritated by the “pretty scarf” comments, since these people are not used to my wearing head coverings. It is a little annoying though because it so completely misses the point, kind of like when people who have no idea what the symbol means exclaim over how pretty my valknut is.

  4. The psychic/psychological benefits of wearing the veil have continuously amazed me! When I walk out into the world with this tangible reminder and symbol of my religious life, I find I automatically hold my head higher, I walk with confidence, and I feel I am truly projecting an authentic, and more complete, image of myself. It is true that the minor annoyances of the comments and remarks are well worth it for the personal benefits!

  5. Wonderful post!

    I never thought of the veil being symbolic of a sort of crown largely because I don’t see myself in that “royal” sense, but that’s a really great way of looking at it.

    I don’t mind the “pretty scarf” comments because they are sincere and well-intentioned. It’s the exact same thing I would say to another veiled woman if I liked the scarf.

    Never thought of the space bubble issue here on the West Coast. I live in CA, and yeah, I guess people are touchy feely. After spending a month in S. Korea, however, I don’t complain about the lack of personal space, lol.

    • Thanks!:)

      I’m working on not minding the comments; I think they rankle right now because covering my head is still so new.

      I guess it’s all a matter of perspective; back east, we really love our space bubbles!

  6. I found it interesting that as someone who is sensitive you find a veil protective. I wonder if my being mostly-headblind has anything to do with why I can’t stand hats or any headcovering at all?

    • Could be; you might need that area open in order to receive whatever psychic input you can (however little). Or, that area of your head could just be physically sensitive. The front of my throat is especially sensitive physically; it has to be covered in cold weather or my whole body is cold, but if it’s hot I can’t stand to even have light fabric over it or I feel like I’m suffocating.

      So…who knows?

  7. Could have easily been “D is for Distance” – a blog I might just write. I come from a rural area where, while we might say “Hey!” as we pass on the road, we just don’t get into each other’s space or territory. So, imagine the culture shock of coming into the Pagan zone where strangers wanted hugs, and people dove fingers-first into my cleavage for consecrated talismans (jewelry).

    While I hesitate to broach it – I feel it’s something of a trial and test. When you wear something with -intent-, that sets and marks you out… something in certain people will tend to challenge that. If if marks you as concealed or contained , something in them will want to intrude further.

    I’ve known a lot of women who felt the need to be far more modest with their clothing while pregnant – One in particular was almost wearing nun-clothing, and noticed that each time she did so, people would make far more of a fuss about touching her, or her stomach. She tells a tale about going to the mall one day and having a woman -run at her-, shove her hands up under said mother-to-be’s shirt. Stranger-woman began groping her furiously, trying to feel for the baby. My friend had to fight off the woman with such force she BROKE the woman’s pinky. And the woman still kept trying to touch her.

    So, to use that badge analogy – for everyone who sees a Police Officer and silently nods and gives a little “thankyouforyourservice” – there’s going to be one who runs up shouting “I smell BACON, does anyone else smell a PORK product around here?” – because something in them just can’t let it go.

    • Heh, D for Distance would have been very appropriate…

      Very good points, all. Some people just have an almost sociopathic need to push the envelope, so to speak. In fact, in some of these extreme cases they may really be sociopaths to some extent, or at the very least mentally unbalanced. I can’t really think of another explanation for your story about your friend being attacked by the stranger-woman; now, that’s downright scary! And to cite another extreme example, while you don’t hear a whole lot about people trying to touch Catholic nun’s veils or habits, there are occasional–though rare–stories about nuns being raped or mugged. So, yeah.

      As a point of interest, I expected to receive the usual “I like your scarf” comments this week upon wearing my snood to work, but there has not been one single word, from anyone. Which tells me that either my co-workers have gotten use to my covering my head, or the snood scares them; it’s stark and nun-like enough to signal that something deeper in going on that they might not want to intrude upon. Either way, it looks like I may have passed the trail run, at my workplace at any rate.

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  10. I had just recently thought of wearing something like a scarf on my head. I honestly don’t know why because I never wear hats or anything else really. The other day I gave it a try a wore a scarf. The comments I did get were either surprised or disapproving to some extent. I particularly despised hearing “that’s not like you” but it’s not entirely untrue. well I’m rambling but the point was this post helped me clear my head and realize that there will be a trial for every new change. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the subject. :)

    • You will most likely get puzzled looks and disapproving or jokingly belittling comments for a while. People find change very hard, and you are meddling with their image of you! But they’ll get used to it after a while. My coworkers commented on my head coverings every day for a while when I started doing it, but eventually it became less of a big deal and just part of who I am, in their eyes. (Now, of course, being an Odin’s woman, I need to shake them up again by only wearing them SOME of the time, or whenever it serves a purpose for me. LOL.)

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