Heresy / Hairesy

The theme of CBC Radio’s Podcast Playlist from 8 March 2018 is the cultural meaning of hair (“Long, Short, Straight, Curly: Podcasts about Every Type of Hair”). What do parts on the right versus the left mean? How are curls or straight hair related to political views? What about hair’s role in group and personal identity (e.g., Black and Jewish cultures of hair)? One purpose of this blog post is recommend this excellent episode of the show.

A second purpose is to gather and eventually add some further thoughts about the cultural meaning of hair in the study of early modern heresy and dissent. Gary Waite’s writing about visual depictions of wild heretics is part of my inspiration for the idea, as is my own recent far-too-long hair and experiments with a beard. For the former, see Gary Waite, “Naked Harlots or Devout Maidens? Images of Anabaptist Women in the Context of the Iconography of Witches in Europe, 1525–1650” in Sisters: Myth and Reality of Anabaptist, Mennonite, and Doopsgezind Women, ca 1525-1900 (2104).

This is a post-in-progress. Suggestions are welcome! Post them in the comments section of this webpage, or send them to @Mike_Driedger or @Amsterdamnified on Twitter. For more ideas, expand the post.

Gary Waite (following observations by scholars such as Jane Davidson and Charles Zika) highlights the contrasting way that artists portrayed female heretics and witches with wild, flowing hair as opposed to pious women with constrained, controlled hair.

Waite notes that wild hair is related to deviance in early modern European art. But I wonder if there have been any early positive European (or non-European) associations of wild hair with divine inspiration?

I wonder also if this artistic representation changed in the 18th and 19th centuries with changing ideals of freedom, individuality, and rights?

STAY TUNED FOR MORE … (22 April 2018)