Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dread Drama - Did Celts And/Or Other White People Historically Wear Their Hair In Dreadlocks?

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents excerpts and comments from a 2011 [?] blog post entitled "Dread drama". Participants in that blog discussed whether it is traditional for White people to wear dreadlocks or is that a form of cultural appropriation.

The content of this post is presented for historical, sociological, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.

Click "White People With Dreadlocks (With Special Attention to Ru-Paul Drag Race Contestant Thorgy Thor)" for a related pancocojams on White people wearing dreadlocks.

These excerpts are numbered for referencing purposes.

Note that some of the posts and comments that are excerpted here contain profanity.

As per the policy of this blog, amended spelling is used for words that are considered profanity.

I think that the blog post entitled "Dread Drama" was first posted by note-a-bear. But I'm not sure about that. Excerpt #1 presents several comments that were published in response to that blog post. Excerpt #2 quotes that blog post and presents other comments, and Excerpt #3 referenced that note-a-bear blog post.

The quotes given in italics below were written that way in those comments. I believe the blogger is quoted more than one other commenter. However, no names were given (that I could find) for those commenters. I think I attributed the right name to the bloggers who are quoting those other commenters. My apologies if I gave the wrong attribution. Additions and corrections are welcome.

From "Dread drama"; Dumbthingswhitepplsay & other commenters [in italics], September 16, 2011
...."Reblogging because seriously white people. Seriously.
Well, the Celts did have dreadlocks. The Romans reported Celtic warriors as having “hair like snakes,” which has been taken to imply that they had dreadlocks. Its also been recorded that Germanic tribes, Greeks, and Vikings often wore dreadlocks as all. So as far as historically speaking, there is plenty of precedent for white people having dreads. Its also considered to have Biblical origins, with Delilah cutting off Samson’s “seven locks.”

So I’m going to say, yeah, its not appropriative for white people to have dreads. My ethnic ancestory is Celtic/Viking, both of which have been recorded as historically having dreads. I would never get dreads, but still.

The earliest recording, I believe, is Egypt where dreads are seen in hieroglyphs.

As for the entire rest of “Rafiki’s” post (spiritual name? wtf?), I’m not even going to touch that. As someone with Scottish ancestry who’s Scottish relatives came to the US and worked their asses off, I’m not sure what the hell this Scottish people being lazy bullsh&t* is.

this was the wrong conversation to butt in the middle of if you are white

Couple things: Samson and Delilah probably weren’t “white” as the ideology exists today…and neither were the Egyptians (people from Kemet…”land of the blacks”.) So…maybe those two groups shouldn’t be used to bolster your point?

I tried real hard not to butt in on this, but I ahve [sic] to say:

Germanic, Gallic, and Celtic hairstyles, prior to Roman Conquest, and subsequent Anglo-/Germanic empire-building were absolutely not dreadlocks as we speak of them.

What I will concede to is that there were traditions of matting, plaiting, and braiding hair. The Roman references to “hair like snakes” could just as easily be speaking to long hair, since, as an essentially Mediterranean nation, Rome generally ascribed to short hair for those citizens in power. The military (through which nearly every Roman-born citizen and sub-citizen had to pass upon achieving adulthood) required short hair. Short hair was considered the standard for Romans.

Having gotten that out of the way, we can move on to what they would have seen from almost every non-Roman/non-warm weather nation they came across: Long, matted, braided, or otherwise “unkempt” hair by their standards. Hence, “hair of snakes.” Never mind that if you look at the other big Greco-Roman reference to “hair of snakes” (Medusa), archaeologists and anthropologists have ascribed that hair to the what would be considered, by our standards, mussed, dirtied, or generally “unrefined” hairstyles.

So, that brings us back to the Gauls, the Celts, the Saxons, the (Visi-, Ostro-) Goths, the Vandals, the Angles, and just about everyone North of what is now Italy. All those tribes had traditions of plaiting hair. They also, did not have the same traditions of cutting hair that the Romans did.

That is the only conceit I will give in this matter of dreadlocks.

Also, let’s be real, the Romans were notoriously unreliable observers when it came to the people north of contemporary Italy. Half of their references to the people of the North were to call them “Black” or some variation thereof.

So, y'know, don’t use the Romans to bolster your argument, in general."

From (via theroguefeminist), [two commenters, screen names ?]
"I normally don’t bother putting my two cents in about dreadlocks (as a white girl I don’t really think its my place) but I do know a few things about celtic ‘dreadlocks,’ which is why I get annoyed when people of celtic decent use their heritage to justify having dreadlocks.

For one thing they weren’t even called dreadlocks they’re gleebs, I think the term dreadlock in itself is an appropriated term. Another thing is they weren’t made like any of the modern dreadlocks we see today. They were most commonly worn by warriors going into battle who would matt their hair and then cake it with mud/clay to make intimidating shapes to scare their enemies. This could therefore mean they were more like punk spikes than dreadlocks. Some however did just cake their matts with mud and leave them down so they could look a bit like modern dreadlocks. But it could be argued unless you cake your hair with mud you can’t use being a celt to justify having dreadlocks. Some people think the celts had matted hair because they were barbarians who never washed or brushed their hair which could be equally true, and some white people do make dreadlocks this way. But that is disgusting in my opinion and it is part of the reason dreadlocks have such a bad reputation, so if you have hair like that I suggest you just call it matted and not dreadlocked.

I will admit that there was a form of gleeb worn by the wealthier celts which may seem more appealing. They would have twisted their hair and tied pretty yarns around it, similar to a lot of white people with dreadlocks today. However these were not matted they were twists, perhaps they were similar to the twist and pull dreadlock making method but the structure of them were different. I’ve experimented with this form of gleeb on my hair, which is very stereotypical celtic hair (think Merida in Brave) and the twists do stay in due to the curl and dryness of my hair. However when I tried it on my sister who has only a gentle wave it was impossible, her hair was far too fine and slippy. They can be brushed out but I was also able to wash my hair and they remained intact when I did not use conditioner in the areas with gleebs I just had to tidy them a bit. I only kept them in for a month so perhaps over time the feel of them would have changed to a more dreadlock type form but they did look more like twists than dreadlocks.

In my opinion you shouldn’t use being celtic as an excuse to have dreadlocks. Celtic gleebs were a different thing and anyone uses being celtic as an excuse they should do their research into it first and know not to call them dreadlocks. It is very difficult to find any references for gleebs, I came across it in obscure texts in my university library whilst researching ancient irish textiles and was interested so I looked into it a bit more. As it is written about in so few places and they often refer to the same clans, I assume only a few clans actually wore gleebs, perhaps all these clans had very curly hair like mines making it possible to make gleebs.

Have I ever mentioned how relieved I am when I check the notes on something and find actual, useful commentary from white folks?

If I haven’t I’m saying it now

The main tradition of hair-matting in Europe closer to the modern era was the Polish plait.

Which is, basically, a giant matted mass of hair maintained with wax or water in which certain herbs had been steeped. Early in their popularity, they were believed to act as amulets that drew illness away from the body. There were categories and styling techniques, but outside eastern Europe, they were viewed largely with disgust. In the 18th and 19th centuries, they developed an alternate name: Jewish plaits. Anti-Semitism ahoy!

There were beliefs that the plaits were caused by a disease; in the 19th century it was said to be spread in false hairpieces from Poland. One “scientist” even theorized that wearing Polish folk costume would cause a person to develop severly matted hair.

Most of the negative reaction was ethnic prejudice, but some of it was warranted. Polish plaits allegedly don’t smell very good and can contain skin flakes, scalp oils, and sometimes even dried blood. They’re also often moist and sticky to the touch.

I can’t think why anyone would want to have that hairstyle, but if you’re a white person and you want to hair-mat, guess what? That’s the proper term for and history of the result you’ll get. It is not the same as dreadlocks and it has its own issues so you should really do proper research on Polish plaits (also called elflocks, from the belief that curses or malevolent spirits caused them) if you really must mat your hair.

Reblogged 2 years ago from sonnetscrewdriver (originally from so-treu), retrieved September 28, 2016
"first off, note-a-bear has a great post on how those dreadlocks that the Celts were supposedly wearing actually weren’t dreadlocks as we define them today. that’s when sh&t like historical context and knowing of what the f&&k you speak come into play...

i always think about Woodstock. like, if white folks were ever going to support dreadlocks en masse, *that* would be the time you’d see it. but you don’t. at. all.

you know when you do see white ppl starting to rock dreads, tho? after Bob Marley became an international mega superstar. but it’s not appropriation. right.

seriously, if you can find me a picture of a group of white people (from either the U.S. or Europe) wearing dreadlocks *before 1965ish*, and they *weren’t* consciously setting themselves off from the mainstream in some way (i.e. a religious cult or something) but wearing them as a cultural expression of their own culture, you win. you win everything, actually. because i’m pretty sure you’re not going to find it.

but don’t worry. i’ll wait.

ETA: i guess maybe the vikings had “dreads” too? even still, two(ish) ethnic groups a continental/racial tradition do not make. see: the rest of my post.

I’ve never come across any contemporary sources that describe Celtic hairstyles in terms of what we would understand to be dreadlocks. The descriptions I’ve read pretty much just describe them as braids or pigtails, thereby creating the lovely image of a heavily-armed hulk with a beard like a bramble patch sporting the kind of hairdo most of us would identify with schoolgirls. Same goes for the Norse. I would be very suspicious of anyone trying to claim there was a white tradition that incorporated anything like dreadlocks. Outside of Africa and places that have a large concentration of people with African heritage, the only traditions I know of that incorporate anything vaguely similar are Hinduism and some of Aztecs’ priesthood. Though I did read in an article on modern Buddhism that some Tibetan monks are now apparently favouring dreadlocks over the more traditional shaved head.

The only European thing I can think of is what’s called a Polish plait, but that doesn’t look so much like dreadlocks as it does a hairy loaf of bread....


What this refers to is the IRISH - not pan-Celtic - practice of wearing their hair long at the front and short at the back, with the front part comprising of a matted lock of hair called a ‘glibbe’. And this practice is first referenced in 1596, in Spenser’s View of Ireland. So let’s just start with re-affirming the already-stated point: THIS IS NOT CELTIC. IT IS SPECIFICALLY MEDIEVAL IRISH. So if you’re claiming the ethnic right to wear dreads because you’re descended from Celts, unless you are referring to specifically people from Medieval Ireland, NO.

Now, allegedly, the Irish wore glibbes because the matting of the hair was so think [sic “thick”] they felt it basically functioned as a helmet. Quoth Spenser:

“their going to battle without Armour on their Bodies or Heads, but
trusting to the Thickness of their Glibbs, the which (they say) will
Sometimes bear off a good stroke”

Furthermore, the outraged Spenser alleged, the glibbes were “fit Marks as a Mantle is for a Thief”, because the Irish could simply push the glibbes back or pull them low over the eyes and so change their appearance totally in one second, thus allowing them to evade the law. This does, however, give us a pretty good idea as to style. This means if you want to wear traditional Irish glibbes, there’s the style to do it in. If you’re just wearing long dreadlocks like Bob Marley, NO.

And to be honest, the jury is still a little bit out on whether or not glibbes were specifically matted hair, or if Spenser the Racist Englishman was just trying to mock the Irish for having curly red hair that was therefore quite thick. It was probably matted, because he also goes on to lament English people appropriating the hairstyle.

But otherwise, all Celtic hair traditions revolved strongly around plaiting styles, and most likely that’s what the Romans’ 'snake-like hair’ comment refers to, which is the other bit of 'evidence’ people like to try and cite. So yeah - if you want to have matted hair because of Cultural Reasons of Being Celtic, then first of all, you’re going to need to be descended from a very specific Celtic grouping, and secondly, you’re going to need to grow an extremely specific style. Otherwise, NO. You are just doing cultural appropriation.”...

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  1. Here's another quote that comes up a lot in Google search re: the subject of "Celtic dreadlocks":
    [written in] "1749 [by] William Collins Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland (but not published until 1788)
    ...Old Runic Bards shall seem to rise around,
    With uncouth Lyres, in many-colour'd Vest,
    Their Matted Hair with boughs fantastic crown'd" […]"
    One book that this verse is found in is Celticism [published in 1996, written by Terrence Brownan, Page 109],

  2. White people in Britain I think only adopted dreads out of admiration for the Rastafarian lifestyle (okay, mainly the reggae and pot-smoking aspects) and as tribute to Bob Marley perhaps. You mostly see them on musicians, especially ones into reggae, or young people who follow a non-mainstream lifestyle, e.g.

    White reggae musicians

    It usually isn't considered appropriation though, because no-one here pretends it's other than a Rasta style. People can be influenced without appropriating. But I never heard anyone suggest it isn't originally a Rastafarian/West Indian thing, or talk about ancient Celts.

    I do think though that the Indian Sadhu tradition is quite separate, and not influenced by Caribbean/African styles.

    1. Thanks for your comment, slam2011.

      And thanks for the hyperlink :o)

      Here's a definition of "cultural appropriation" from
      "cultural appropriation typically involves members of a dominant group exploiting the culture of less privileged groups — often with little understanding of the latter’s history, experience and traditions.".
      According to that definition, White people in Britain or wherever who wear their hair in dreadlocks would be considered to be culturally appropriating that dreadlock hair style.

      I'm not certain though that cultural appropriation is always harmful, particularly if it isn't a sacred custom and if the person doing so acknowledges the culture that that tradition comes from and learns about that culture.

      Here's information about Sadhu's from
      "In Hinduism, a sādhu (Sanskrit sādhu, "good; good man, holy man") is a religious ascetic or holy person...This way of life is open to women; the female form of the word is sādhvī...

      There are naked (digambara, or "sky-clad") sadhus who wear their hair in thick dreadlocks called jata. Aghori sadhus may claim to keep company with ghosts and live in cemeteries as part of their holy path. Indian culture tends to emphasise an infinite number of paths to God, such that sadhus, and the varieties of tradition they continue, have their place.
      A popular characteristic of Sadhu ritualism is their utilisation of cannabis (known as charas) as a form of sacrament in line with their worship of Shiva who was believed to have an adoration or affinity for the leaves of the plant.[5] The plant is widely used during the celebration of Maha Shivaratri."...

  3. Here's a link to a 16th C. woodcut showing Irish soldiers wearing 'glibs'. There is a faintly dreddish look to the glib, but clearly they were only worn at the front of the head, as a fringe.

    Irish 'glib' style

  4. Okay, I'm getting obsessed now. Here's a link to a later (1581) woodcut showing Irish soldiers with 'glibs' all over the head. A bit better. Still, not that long really...I remember an Elizabethan writer (English, C.1593) being scolded for wearing his hair long and unkempt: "Irish hair" his enemies called it.

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks, slam2011!

      And to think, I spent all of my life until a couple of days ago without knowing anything about "glibs". :o)

  6. Me too. Although to be honest, I don't think it's a word I'll be throwing into the conversation much in future...

  7. Don't we all come from Africa anyway?

    1. Yes, and some populations remained in Africa longer than others.

      One love!

  8. The problem is.. people think you have to justify a hair cut.

    Guess what?


  9. I strongly believe in reincarnation, that we have lived many past cultures in our soul's journey so if a person really relates to having dreads and they are white or any race for that matter so be it! You are not one to judge who they have been in their past lives and why they feel a strong soul connection to it or with any type of cultural they may wish to partake in! I do understand getting upset over using a culture for fashion and fad reasons and also seen in every race. If you want to talk about ancient Europe and their culture, we don't even have all the answers or evidence of how most cultures lived, like The Druids, they were very secretive and to make sure their lifestyle and belief were not written down but only handed down vocally resulting in a lot of lost historical facts. There is also evidence of pre-Christian Hinduism infiltrating parts of Europe and influence a lot of the European paganism which is why both paganism and Hinduism are a recognized alliance, therefore, the spiritual meaning of having dreadlocks from the Hindus could have been passed on to Europeans is highly likable. Also new evidence of ancient Egyptians living in ancient Ireland, the point is we are ALL humans with connections. I view our space as our planet of brothers and sisters NOT divided by geographical location, race or culture. Please stop destroying it by constantly trying to divide humans as apparent in this article and replies.

    1. Anonymous, the purpose of this blog is to share information and examples of African American and other Black African Diaspora cultures throughout the world.

      I don't believe this is dividing people.

      As part of this purpose of this blog, I've shared information about dread hairstyles, along with information and examples of that hairstyle from other cultures.

      Regarding this specific subject, for the record, I don't believe that it is wrong for people who are non-Black to wear their hair in dread, particularly since this hairstyle is found historically in non-Black cultures. That said, I do believe that different cultures such as Rastas consider dreads to be more than a hairstyle.

    2. Anonymous, October 7, 2018 at 4:11 PM

      I also meant to say that I also strongly believe in reincarnation. As such, while I am Black and female in this life I may have been a different race and gender in other lifes.

      One love!

  10. *sigh* Stupid argument gets a stupid comment-. Righto- no afro wearer, from today onwards, can use a hair straightener. *Sorted*