Here’s the thing about head covering for religious reasons when you’re pagan: it’s weird. I can’t deny that I cover for religious reasons. Once upon a time, a long time ago in a land far away, Poseidon said, “So, hey, fabric on your head? Yes.” I don’t have a continuous tradition to draw on, I don’t have examples to point to and say, “that!” I live a spiritual life that is living and growing and changing, and I interact with my gods and spirits on a personal level, and at the end of the day, the fact that Poseidon said, “About this thing . . . ” is enough of a reason for me to cover.
I can’t, and won’t, deny that there are issues that come with covering. The most obvious one is, since I wear a scarf on my head and not a hat, it looks like I’m covering for religious reasons and, assumptions are often made about what those reasons are. I live in a fairly religiously diverse city, which makes it somewhat easy — more to the point, I live in a lifestyle-choices-diverse city, which really makes it easy. When this taboo first came up, we were still in Philly, and I hesitated a lot, and toyed with covering a lot, and opted for non-hijab styled covers mostly because there was a strong Islamic presence, and I did not want to offend people.
I don’t get the religious question a lot anymore, but when I first moved here it happened a fair amount. I suck at stock answers, so sometimes I answered decently enough and sometimes I’m human and I’m having a bad day and it’s not my fault if you don’t like my “it’s personal,” response when you ask me in the middle of my shift at my day job. More often, though, I try to be more gracious about it, because I do believe that we represent our gods, whether we want to or not.
But I think about the veiling a lot, because, well, I do it every day, and I am pagan, and it *is* a bit not-normal for pagan peeps to cover for religious reasons. They do it, as I had fun learning last year, and more of them do it than you might otherwise think. But it’s still not common. And that’s fine.
Last week at work, I was approached by a cautious-about-offending-me woman who wanted to know if we sold head coverings (we do, indeed, or at least, things that can be used as such) and then proceeded to explain that she and her church were attending a local mosque and she was very nervous about doing the whole head wrapping thing. I was able to share a bit with her, and because I’m a nerd who has studied headcoverings of various faiths (in part because, hey, I like to know what I’m talking about, where assumptions come from, but mostly because I’m a nerd and I like to know things period) I was able to tell her a little bit about Islamic headcovering, though I couldn’t tell her what the rules at this particular mosque would be. I did point her to some tutorial websites, and she left less nervous and more confident, and it was very cool.
It likely goes without saying, though I’ll say it anyway because lately it seems like things that should go without saying need to be said, I support anyone’s choice to cover, for whatever reasons. I support pagans who want to run around nekkid, and I support pagans who feel called toward modest dress, for however they define modest dress. I wish that I didn’t feel awkward going out with my scarves wrapped hijab style, because there are days when I want those layers between me and other people — it has nothing to do with shielding or not shielding and everything to do with I feel comfortable covered up. Some days I do, and I leave my bangs out in a token effort to say, look, I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I am disgusted by the idea that anyone thinks they get to have a say in how much of myself I show or cover. You don’t. Get over it.
I do poke at the cultural appropriation issue when it comes to covering, a lot, but I keep coming back to: there are only so many ways to tie a piece of fabric to your head. I still favor the tichel a lot, because it stays and I don’t need to pin it. But there are days when I want to get fancier, and I wish I would without worrying too much about other people. I don’t care about the people who think covering is wrong/bad/oppressive/stupid. I care about not offending people who also cover, because we should be supporting one another’s rights to cover, not making it more difficult to do so.