Something that you may or may not know about me: when I leave my house, I do so wearing a head scarf.
Before we go further, I want to toss in a few disclaimers. The first is, I believe that the gods and spirits can, do, and will interact with us in a direct, intimate and immediate manner. The second is, I believe that the gods and spirits can, do, and will request things of and from us, and that these things will be highly individualized depending on the person and spirits in question.
Around three years ago I was beginning to come out of a dark night of the soul period. My relationship with Poseidon really went through the wringer and very nearly didn’t make it back out of that wringer. Saying it was rough does not even begin to describe it. Climbing out of this part of my life was grueling, but also humbling and very, very good. I’m better, because of it, but at the time I felt raw and naked and vulnerable and unsure about everything. Around this time is when He first started pushing for my wearing a covering on my head.
I had reservations. One was that, in my mind at the time, head coverings equaled Muslim. As a religiously devout person, I have absolutely no problem at all with others living their lives as they feel called to do — in fact, I feel I have more common ground with people who have their religion as a focal point of their lives, regardless of what that religion may be, than I do with people who are more mundanely focused. So, it’s not as if I felt that it would be bad to have others look at me and think “Muslim”, exactly. It simply wouldn’t be correct. My reservation was less about non-Muslims looking at me and thinking I was Muslim and was more about Muslim women looking at me and thinking I was appropriating something that I ought not be. Philadelphia — which was where I was living at the time this started coming about — has a very healthy Muslim population, so the idea of going out and about with a headscarf calling attention to me wasn’t really a big fear . . . except for when it came to people I knew suddenly being confronted with me wearing a headscarf.
The pull to covering remained. I researched and I felt it out. I actually purchased a few different types of head coverings to sort of get my feet wet. (I soon discovered that, as beautiful as the coverings listed above were, the corded anti-slip feature hits a pressure spot on my head that triggers migraines! So sad!) But, change is hard. Change is really, really hard, especially when it’s a visual, physical change. That wound up being part of the point, part of my “relearning how to cope” period. My instinct, when it comes to clothing, has always been to go for what will allow me to blend in and not draw attention to myself. All of a sudden plopping a head scarf on my head does not allow me to blend in and certainly draws attention to myself, especially from well-meaning but curious and possibly confused friends and family members. After all, I haven’t suddenly converted to an Abrahamic faith, where such things are (more) commonplace. In the beginning, when it was simply a matter Poseidon was pushing me toward (with little reasoning given beyond “I would like this”) I had very little I could say to explain. So, I played with it, but I did not really commit to covering.
And then, the move. What better time to start an outward change, when one wishes to avoid unnecessary attention over changes, then when everything is changing? Beth and I moved our household from Philadelphia, PA to Eugene, OR — to a place where almost nobody knew us. A perfect time for both of us to implement some desired lifestyle changes without having to worry about what others might think! It was settled: once we landed in Eugene, I would start covering, every day, whenever I left the house. This was made especially easy, as right away I found a number of beautiful square scarves from local stores that, when tied, stayed put on my head and did not produce any migraines. So, while the suggestion to cover had been planted nigh on three years ago, I’ve only been covering for two months shy of two years.
Seems ridiculous, but the truth is, the first month or so I was terrified. Absolutely terrified. I’ve recently discovered that I’m not the only one. Again: change is *hard*, even when it’s a good change. I know this, and yet, I’m surprised again and again when people find similar things scary.
There are a number of benefits I’ve discovered over this time. They break down, more or less, into physical or spiritual categories, though most of them overlap. On the physical end of things, I’ve discovered that wearing a head scarf makes me feel more secure in general. Here’s an example of overlap: a covering on my crown chakra certainly makes me feel less bombarded by the presence of other humans, creates a physical barrier, and sets me apart, sort of in my own little cocoon. I have a hard time in crowds; the head covering has helped with that. On the warmer days, during our (far too long!) dry season, the fabric keeps the sun off my head, which in turn reduces more instances of migraines. Because I am migraine prone (you’ll have noticed by now) any extra thing that helps is welcome. I’ll admit readily that I am somewhat vain and I have thin hair, so covering makes that less of an issue for me.
On the spiritual end of the spectrum, aside from my having a physical barrier between myself and others, the simple fact that my god asked this of me and I have committed to doing this for Him goes a long way toward how I treat my relationship with Him. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged the way I thought about the world and how I interact with the world. My comfort zone wasn’t exactly a healthy zone. Spare no expense to keep attention away! was pretty much the motto, and this isn’t good. Such thinking, such reacting more than thinking, is not an engaging way to be, and I want to be engaged in my life, not just getting through it. Deciding to cover was one way of my being able to say, my gods lead my path, not I, and I’ll put my faith in Them. Wearing something that was a little different, that would draw attention, that would draw questions, forced me to be ready to talk about my life, my path, my faith and my devotion to my gods, even if I would otherwise prefer not to draw attention.
Covering also made me feel, silly as it may sound, more adult, more grown up. I’ve struggled with this throughout my adulthood. In my thoughts, in my speech, in my approach to life, I don’t think of myself as a woman. I think of myself as a girl. Perhaps that in and of itself is fine, but then comes my Marriage and I find I have a hard time seriously thinking of myself as a wife. Since I am one — perhaps not in a conventional sense, not in the way that most people use the word but then, I’m not trying to please convention here, I’m trying to please my gods — the fact that I do not think of myself as adult, as a woman, as a wife, is a problem. Such problems aren’t allowed to go unaddressed. So, yes, I enjoy that wearing the head coverings sort of mark me off, in a way.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Almost as soon as the push toward head covering came, I’ve become more inclined toward dressing modestly. Now, I am both too short and too heavy to fit most clothes that come off the rack, so this wasn’t all that hard for me to do. Shopping around originally for scarves led me, of course, to muslim styled clothing and such styles appeal to me. It speaks to my mind of being a married woman, but there is also a desire to pay attention to what I’m wearing, to dress deliberately. There are many things I envy about traditional religious dress — the taking away of busy, noisey choices, the simplicity, the you can tell at a glance what the woman is about by her clothing. At this point in my life, this mostly means long skirts or pants. I go back and forth with the sleeve issue depending on the weather (I run warm, so even though our summers are mild (albeit drydrydry!!) being cool enough is a concern of mine. It’s a gradual process, but I certainly do see a trend toward more and more modest dress. My focus is supposed to be on my gods, my spirits, and my Work, not so much what top goes with which bottom. Obviously consideration still goes into it, and I’ve never been a huge clothes person. I’m still struggling to find my happy-medium. Time and again the idea of a plan top with simple jumper-style covering becomes appealing. I guess we’ll see when we see, where this will end up.
This past weekend, after the Poseidon-of-the-Ponds mishap, I set about to sulk. And, during this sulking period, my mind came back again and again to head coverings (and the fact that the local supplier has yet to get more of the kind I really like in stock, and the fact that more and more I’m being nudged toward a fuller style of covering, to covering almost all my hair, regularly) and I spent some time online, searching. (Once upon a time, my having a not-as-planned ritual or festival would have wound up with me railing against my gods, against the world, and against myself, so this was actually a good thing!) Such searching proved fruitful. I discovered a number of places online that stocked scarves similar to the style that I like so much. I also discovered videos on youtube. Ah, videos on youtube. I especially enjoyed watching NonMuslim Hijabi, Veiled Glory, and MrsShirotora. I was very, very excited to discover that Non-Muslim Hijabi is pagan. I’d already come across the idea that I wasn’t the only one out there (how could I be, really?) and finding someone posting about it so recently was very exciting to me. So exciting, in fact, that I wanted to talk about it. And now I have. 🙂
*I am certainly not trying to poke fun at the way people talk. I’m originally from Massachusetts; have you *heard* our accent?! But a number of the videos I looked at, tutorials on how to tie square scarves (sometimes called tichel, as opposed to hijab) totally Americanized an obviously non-American word. That ‘ch’ sound just went right away and became “tickle”. It amused me. It still amuses me. I love language and accents.