Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Definitions & Selected Online Article Excerpts About Dreadlocks

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a two part series on dreadlocks (hairstyles). Part I provides two definitions and excerpts from selected online articles about the hairstyles that are now widely known as "dreadlocks" ("dreads", "locs").

Click Part II of this post. Part II provides excerpts of selected online commentary about White people who wear their hair in dreadlocks with special attention to comments about Thorgy Thor, a White contestant on Ru Paul's Drag Race, Season 8.

The content of this post is presented for socio-cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

These definitions and article excerpts are presented in no particular order. I've numbered them for referencing purposes only.

dread·locks (drĕd′lŏks′)

Long ropelike locks or thin braids of twisted or styled hair radiating from the scalp.
[From Caribbean English dread, follower of Rastafarianism, from dread, righteous fear of God; see dread.]"

Also called dreads, it is a style created by allowing the hair to matt into locks.

Although popular myth gives Rastafarians credit for inventing the style, it is almost as old as humanity itself. Dreadlocks or similarly matted styles have been worn from Africa all the way to India, Australia, and even Papua New Guinea.

Indians call them "jata", and they are generally worn by adherents of Shiva.

Some Austro Aboriginies call them "goonut" or "goonat". It was a popular style around the area now known as Botany Bay in pre colonial times.

The term "dreadlocks" being used for this style, however, did originate with the Rastafarian movement. To them it symbolizes many things including the rejection of conventional western mainstream beauty standards, and the dread some may feel when confronted with the true natural self.

There is some debate as to whether matted locks that are "well manicured" should be called dreadlocks, since they are not natty and often require consistent maintenance and a higher degree of perceived vanity.
I need to tighten up my dreadlocks once a month.
You shouldn't pop your dreadlockss when they're dry.

by Niki Lasher November 21, 2003
Here's an explanation of the term "pop your dreadlocks" from
"There is a lot of variation within the realm of ‘natural’ dreadlocks. Some people literally do exactly what I mentioned; Just wash. However, others also incorporate some (or a lot) of maintenance to help them along. The most common of which in natural dreadlocks is separating the dreads. (It’s also know as “ripping” or “popping”, too.) When first forming natural dreadlocks, separating the hair as it begins to mat is what will eventually create each individual dreadlock. Simply leave the hair to its own devices and once it starts to knot, pull the knotted, gnarly hair into individual sections. This is the only way in this method of cultivating dreadlocks to control the size and quantity of dreadlocks you will end up with. Once you have solidly formed dreadlocks, you must continue separating them to prevent congoing (dreadlocks growing together), if you want to maintain the same size dreadlocks. OR, there are plenty of folks who stop separating at this point and let them combine with one another at will. As with all things dreadlock-related; it’s a matter of personal preference.

To separate established dreads most folks just take two dreads and pull them in opposite directions to make sure they don’t start growing together. OR, a more thorough method, involves running your fingers along you section lines/parts and pulling out bits of hair that are crossing into the wrong section. If done regularly, this method is actually much easier than it sounds!"
That page provides information about the pros and cons of the free form (neglect) method of dreading up (starting & maintaining your hair in locs/dreads) or more maintenance ways of dreading up.

"The history of dreadlocks is varied and differs depending on who you ask. This, then, is a summary and compilation of all the different accounts we have been able to locate.

One account claims that dreadlocks originated in India (unlike most who cite Egypt as their birth place) with the dreadlocked diety Shiva and his followers. It is likelythat this is the spirituality origin of dreadlocks in Indian culture. However, the first archeological proof of people wearing dreadlocks came from Egypt where mummies have been recovered with their dreadlocks still in tact.

Regardless of their origin, dreadlocks have been worn by nearly every culture at some point in time or another. Roman accounts stated that the Celts wore their hair ‘like snakes’. The Germanic tribes and Vikings were also known to wear their hair in dreadlocks. Dreadlocks have been worn by the monks of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Nazarites of Judiasm, Qalandri’s Sufi’s, the Sadhu’s of Hinduism, and the Dervishes of Islam, and many more! There are even strong suggestions that many early Christians wore dreadlocks; most notably Sampson who was said to have seven locks of hair which gave him his inhuman strength.

The belief that dreadlocks gave a person power is not unique to this Bible story. Many believed that energy (presumably life force energy, chi, prana, ki, etc.) exits the body through the top of the head and that having knotted hair prevents or retards the escape of energy making one stronger and even potentially imbuing a person with supernatural mental and physical abilities. In many cultures it was and is common for shamans in particular to wear dreadlocks. Dreadlocks have also symbolized the recognition and demonstration that our physical appearances and vanity are unimportant. Another, similar practice is having a shaved head with no hair at all. Others still believe that dreadlocks are the most natural and healthy style of hair to have as hair will dread if left to its own devices....

[Reggae icon Bob] Marley, himself, identified as a Rastafarian and it was his dreadlocked style that brought the style into the mainstream where it has expanded into many other subcultures. They have become especially popular among New Age travellers (Pagans, especially, who travel from festival to festival across the country), hippies, vegans, goths, and cyber goths. Additionally, dreadlocks have become highly popular among the subculture of jam bands, such as the Grateful Dead and Phish,

Dread heads today have varied reasons for chosing to wear their hair in dreads. Some of them are based in spiritual purposes such as suggested above, others because they identify as Rastas, and others simply because they love the look! More importantly than what your reason is, is knowing your reason so that someday when someone asks you WHY you put dreads in your hair you can say without a doubt why you have dreads and what your dreads mean to you!"

From "Dreadlocks: Facts & Rumors"
"Never has a hairstyle been so misunderstood and generated so many rumors...

Rumor: You do not wash dreadlocks. Hair must be dirty to dread.

Fact: If you do not wash your hair it will stink. Dreadlocked hair needs to be washed regularly just like un-dreaded hair. You can wash dreads just as you would wash a sponge, by working the soap in and then squeezing and rinsing repeatedly to get all the soap out. Clean hair will actually lock up faster than dirty or oily hair. Because nearly every soap and shampoo on the market contains residues it was thought that clean hair does not dread quickly, when in fact it is the residues (conditioners, moisterizers, builders and fragrance holders) in the soaps that prevent hair from locking up. This is why we reccommend washing you dreads only in residue free soaps and shampoos...

Rumor: Simply not combing your hair is the only way to get nice dreads.

Fact: This is called the neglect method. Under some circumstances simply not combing hair will make it dread. The best example of this is African-textured hair. Left alone, African hair will eventually dread. Unfortunately the results, although technically called dreads, are usually less than pleasing to the eye. The hair forms giant matts at random all over the head. Some caucasion hair, if it is curly enough, will also dread by neglect but the same problem exists. It takes several years for the hair to lock fully and when it does it generally looks un kept, kind of like you might expect hair to look after not combing it for a few years. We do have tips in the methods section for caring for you dreads as you neglect them, but please note that the neglect method is not the only way to go about getting dreads and that the dreads you will get are rarely "nice" looking.

Rumor: Only black people can have nice dreads. Nice dreads are high maintenance.

Fact: While it is easier for black people to have nice smooth dreads it is completely possible for other hair textures to dread tightly and smoothly. Dreads are difficult to start and the first month is a pain, but as they tighten and mature they become virtually maintenance free. They look great all the time, all you have to do is keep them clean.


Rumor: Natural dreads are those that are made by neglect.

Fact: There are two types of natural dreadlocks. Those that are required by religion to be natural, and natural for you or I, which means non-chemically processed dreads.

If you are rastafarian or in some sects of middle eastern religions you are required to not interfere with the growth of your dreads. You have probably not seen many natural dreads of this type as most of these religions also require that no one, not even your spouse in some cases, see your dreads. These natural dreads can be washed, but they can not be cut, trimmed, rolled, rubbed or ripped in any way.

The second type of natural are those dreads that came to be without the use of any chemical proccesses. You can wash them, cut them, comb them, rip them, tie them and wax them as you like but they are started and grow naturally with no chemical dread perms or synthetic additions. This is what is commonly thought of as natural dreadlocks and what we reffer to throughout the site. All methods listed in our methods section are natural methods except for the dread perm"...


[Pancocojams Editor: This blog post discusses whether to call this hairstyle "dreadlocks" or "locs" (locks)]

..."Now where are people getting this negative feeling from the word dreadlock?

I was curious about this feeling, when I had dreadlocks or locs I had no problem calling them either or and I wonder about the negativity behind the term. So I decided to ask my father who was born and raised in Jamaica. Through this conversation I discovered Jamaicans use the term “dread” as a term of respect, just like you would use “Sir” to address someone you are not familiar with and would like to show respect to.

Jamaican Patois Definitions of Dread

A person who has dreadlocks
Greeting to friend
Expression of a good idea
Awe or astonishment

“dreadful power of the holy”

Now this Jamaican Patois definition is derived from the religious roots that dreadlocks have. People feared and respected those who wore dreadlocks. Those who were associated with dreadlocks were thought of as holy and powerful. They were thought to have this spiritual connectedness with the divine that separated them from the others. If you were to even speak with a present day Yogi they would tell you that their journey separates them from the world around them.

Now does this make “dreadlock” a negative term because it is associated with being “dreadful”, well it all depends on your perspective, as no two people will agree I am sure. However, before you just accept that the term “dreadlock” has a negative meaning please do your own research and then you determine for yourself, don’t just follow the lead of all the conflicting sources of information out there."
Here's a comment from that blog post:
"Hi Ariane:

Thank you for posting this information!
My first knowledge of Dreadlocks was when I saw the Jamaican Reggae Band Third World on Soul Train.
I think I might have been about 16 years old & I thought to myself, OMG! look at their hair! Just awful!

Years later I would be exposed to a different culture (Jamaican) & be enlighten about Dreadlocks & Rastafarians,
I learned that the term: “Dread” means to fear (which you mentioned) & when you “Dread Up” it is a covenant that you have with The Most High to live upright & clean.
And when you cut them, it is because you are doing a cleansing with your life.
Knuff folks don’t know this & now having Dreads/Locs is a fashion statement.

I eventually went towards wearing dreadlocks but went to having a perm.
Now, I have been wearing my hair Natural for almost 10 years & I am loving it!
This information is so informative & many salons need this information.
Love it that so many people are now embracing natural hair."...

Rastafari Culture, The Extreme Ethiopian Rasta Vs. The Mellow Dallas Rasta" by William Grant, April 25 2002
..."Dreadlocks are another well-known part of Rastafari. The origin of the dreadlock traces back to ancient Africa, originating in eastern Africa,
"The hairstyle was worn by warriors in Kenya, and a Hairstyle of ancient Kemet and Nubia. However in Jamaica, in post slavery and Eurocentric culture, the Hairstyle was deemed in the early years as “Dreadful”(Dubb pg.3).

The name dreadlock comes from the locks of hair deemed dreadful as Dubb explained. The Rasta’s also believe that they should not put sharp metal objects to their head. This comes again from interpreting the Bible literally. Due to this belief they do not believe it is right to shave or comb their hair. Another belief that led to the dreadlocks among Rasta’s is that the wearing of the Dread resembles the main of a lion. The lion is significant because the lion is the respected king of the animal kingdom, as well as humble animal. Both of these traits the Rasta believes are divine and important to the “Black Man”. Haile Selassie I also was called “the conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah”, this makes the wearing of the dread connected to the Rasta god. The dreadlock is also a natural state of the African person hair, and by being natural the Rasta feels they are more connected to Jah.

The wearing of the dread first appeared in the Rasta Community at the original Rasta community of Pinnacle. At Pinnacle Howell was growing Ganja as a cash crop and the police where constantly raiding the farms. Because of this and other border problems at the Rasta community, Howell was forced to create a group of guards to protect the area. These guards grew their hair long in the form of ancient African warriors and became known as “locksmen”. With this and the reasons given in the previous paragraph, the Dreadlock became the hairstyle of the Rasta."
"Jah" is the Rastas name for God.

Thread: History of Dreadlocks, 06-03-2008, by Bouneith Inejnema Naba
"Many times I have heard friends admit to me that, because they have dreadlocks, they have been approached in the street by someone who wanted to sell them marijuana. The sellers approached these individuals solely because they had dreadlocked hair; none of the individuals used drugs or associated with those who do use. Dreadlocks have become so much associated with Rastafarian culture, which is, in turn, associated with smoking ganga, that few people know the real roots and history of dreadlocked hair. What are the traditional origins and meanings of dreadlocks?

New-generation Rastafarians will tell you that the culture of locked hair came, originally, from Africa , but any knowledge beyond the continent that locks came from is unknown. Where old-generation Rastafarians hold great pride in their natural hair and see it as a symbol of their fight against Babylon, non-violence, non-conformity, communalism and solidarity, and as a heavy spiritual statement, many new-generation Rastas see their dreads as a passport to smoking ganga and listening to Reggae music, not understanding the real Rastafarian culture and values.

Wearing your hair naturally has become more of a status symbol than a spiritual decision, and people begin locking their hair so that they are seen as conscious, afrocentric, or different, rather than for honest spiritual and conscious reasons.

Dreadlocks have been a part of the history of every spiritual system. From Christianity to Hinduism, locked hair has been been a symbol of a highly spiritual person who is trying to come closer to God(s)...

What is it about hair that is so important for priests and temples? It is a notion of purity. Hairs are huge emitters and receptors. When one is in an area, such as a temple, where the flow of energy must be tightly controlled, hair becomes either very helpful or very disturbant, depending on the energetic needs, Master Naba explained. Even when a hair falls off of the body, it does not lose its qualities, and it can become a big disturbance to the flow of energy...

To associate dreadlocks with only Rastafarianism is unfair. But, in the history of Black people, Rastafarianism became a politico-spiritual movement after the prophesy of Marcus Garvey surfaced. It gave Black people a spirit of hope, and the Rastafarian then adopted the attitudes of African priests: they kept their hair like a priest, did not eat red meat, drink alcohol, use drugs or smoke cigarettes...

Dreadlocks are not a fashion statement. They are not a political statement against the government or system, and they are not a symbol of vices and pleasures, such as smoking ganga! Dreadlocks are a very serious spiritual commitment that cannot be taken lightly. Perhaps the consequences of breaking even just a few commandments will not be seen in this life, but the sins will be severely punished in the afterlife. One who wears dreadlocks must understand their vow and live up to it, for their own protection.

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