A Brief Look at Pre-Clearances Clothes for Women

Recently, I’ve started going along to SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism) events. You might say, “But Rachel, of course! You are both creative and an anachronism! Why haven’t you gone before?”

Well, to be honest, I always thought it was a little weird. And in Adelaide, most of the things they were at were things I was also at, but in another capacity (fiddler, Scottish radio presenter, member of a Clan, and so on). But then I found a SCA College listed on the uni website and thought, “Well, when I move away, I’ll join.”

It’s been good, so far, too. I mean, people in my res House have gone out a couple of nights and got drunk, which really isn’t my scene… Sitting on the lawn in period dress, sewing while a bunch of men in armour whack the living daylights out of each other with sticks is definitely more my scene. And there’s less alcohol, too.


I started researched pre-Clearances Highland clothing long before I ever considered joining the SCA. I suspect it might have been in relation to a Doctor Who fanfic (I’m a fan of Jamie McCrimmon), but that’s really how I do fanfics – copious research with little to no actual story produced. Anyway, since the Highland dress has now become my SCA garb, purely by virtue of it being the only suitable clothing I have, I thought I’d explain it a little.

Pre-Clearances includes the 18th century, so it’s a little later than the SCA period, but Highland life had changed relatively little in the preceding thousand years or so, so it stands to reason that women’s clothes hadn’t changed much, either.

In the initial research, I disregarded SCA sources as much as possible. And there was a reason for that. A lot of the SCA-based information on Highland dress came along with phrasebooks for Gaelic, and those were… not the most accurate, shall we say. I mean, not bad, but not accurate either, considering how much Gaelic there is available on line these days. And a lot of the same mistakes crept into a lot of the lists, so I suspected that the SCA lore on Highland dress, like their Gaelic phrasebooks, were based more on hear-say than on actual research.


There are two or three items of clothing which are essential to making the Highland woman’s outfit, as far as I’m concerned: the earrasaid, the headcovering, and possibly the shawl (but only if you want there to be no mistake about where you’re from).

 

The Earrasaid

The earrasaid is essentially the girly version of the fèileadh-mòr (known in English as the “great-kilt”). Both are giant rectangles, like bedsheets, of traditionally wool (but I live in Australia, so I’m not using wool), belted at the waist. There are a few differences: men’s are checked, and women’s are striped; men’s are in darker colours, women’s have a lot of white and yellow; men’s are pleated at the waist and fall to the knee, women’s are gathered and fall a few inches above the hem of the dress.

Point 2 on colour is actually very interesting. Modern “dress tartans” are variations on the standard tartan with a lot of white in it. The common assumption is that a “dress tartan” is more formal than the standard, ancient or hunting tartans, but actually “dress” means “dress”, rather than “formal” – it’s the girl’s tartan.

M. Martin, Gent., wrote in 1791 describing how women dress in the Western Isles:

“The antient Drefs wore by the Women, and which is yet wore by fome of the Vulgar, called Ariʃad, is a white Plad, having a few fmall Stripes of black, blue, and red; it reach’d from the Neck to the Heels, and was tied before on the Breaft with a Buckle of Silver, or Brafs, according to the Quality of the Perfon. I have feen fome of the former of a hundred Marks value; it was broad as any ordinary Pewter Plate, the whole curioufly engraven with various Animals, &c. There was a leffer Buckle, which was wore in the middle of the larger, and above two Ounces weight; it had in the Centre a large piece of Chryftal, or fome finer Stone, and this was fet all round with feveral finger Stones of a leffer fize.

“The Plad being pleated all round, was tied with a Belt below the Breaft; the Belt was of Leather, and feveral Pieces of Silver intermix’d with the Leather like a Chain. The lower end of the Belt has a Piece of Plate about eight Inches long, and three in breadth, curioufly engraven; the end of which was adorned with fine Stones, or Pieces of Red Coral. They wore Sleeves of Scarlet Cloth, clos’d at the end as Mens Vefts, with God Lace round ‘em, having Plate Buttons fet with fine Stones. The Head-drefs was a fine Kerchief of Linen ftrait about the Head, hanging down the Back taper-wife; a large Lock of Hair hangs down their Cheeks above their Breaft, the lower end tied with a Knot of Ribbands.”

I definitely need a better belt and a buckle. Actually, I really need a buckle or a broach for under my chin. But overall, the earrasaid is really comfortable and cozy. And practical. If you tuck it right, there is so much pocket storage space you don’t even notice the drink bottle and purse. If it didn’t look so weird, I would wear it a lot more. Possibly all the time. I’m a massave fan of the earrasaid.

R. R. McIan’s Tartans provides useful colour pictures of highland dress, including two of earrasaidean worn by the Urquhart and Matheson ladies:

urquhartmatheson

 

The Shawl

If there was any tartan involved at all in the Highland woman’s dress, this is where it is. The Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland describes the tartan shawl:

“The plaid is the undress of the ladies; and to a genteel woman, who adjusts it with a good air, is a becoming veil. But as I am pretty sure you never saw one of them in England, I shall employ a few words to describe it to you. It is made of silk or fine worsted, chequered with various lively colours, two breadths wide, and three yards in length; it is brought over the head, and may high or discover the face according to the wearer’s fancy or occasion: it reaches to the waist behind; one corner falls as low as the ankle on one side; and the other part, in folds, hangs down from the opposite arm.”

The edition I read from also adds the clarification from Martyn’s Western Islands,

“The plaid is made of fine wool, the thread as fine as can be made of that kind: it consists of divers colours; and there is a great deal of ingenuity required in sorting the colours, so as to be agreeable to the nicest fancy. For this reason, the women are at great pains, first, to give an exact pattern of the plaid upon a piece of wood, having the number of every thread of the stripe on it. The length of it is commonly seven double ells; the one end hands by the middle over the left arm, the other going round the body hangs by the end over the left arm also. The right-hand above it is to be at liberty to do any thing upon occasion.”

On the topic of tartans, it does bear adding this: there’s a common belief that clan tartans were invented by Victorian English nobility and aren’t a true Scottish thing really. So I was interested to read M. Martin’s description of men’s plaids:

“Every Ifle differs from each other in their Fancy of making Plads, as to the Stripes in Breadth and Colours. This Humour is as different thro the main Land of the Highlands, in-fo-far that they who have feen thofe Places, are able, at the firft View of a Man’s Plad, to guefs the Place of his Refidence.”

Bearing in mind that location is basically synonymous with clan, we can definitely see that regional clan tartans were well-established in the Highlands and islands by the end of the 18th century, and were foreign enough as a concept to an Englishman to be worth commenting on

R. R. McIan’s Tartans shows shawls worn by the Sinclair and Lamond ladies:

 

The Headcovering

People who know me will know I take headcoverings seriously. It’s not just some “oh, look at that interesting historical headgear” for me. I look at an historical headcovering through the eyes of someone who wears one all day, every day. I want something that’s comfortable, practical, and secure.

That has nothing to do with anything, really, but I felt like saying it before describing the Highland headcovering. In Gaelic, the word “brèid” can refer to many different squares of cloth, from tablecloths to sails and of course headcoverings. The LearnGaelic dictionary has a whole list of sayings involving the term, and most of them have to do with head-kerchiefs.

Brèidean are strictly for married woman, and “brèideach” means “married woman”, and there’s a waulking song I encountered in the EBI library which uses “put on the brèid early” as a synonym for “had an affair before she got married”. Despite that, I am wearing a headcovering with my outfit because I don’t like the hairstyle for unmarried women. I’ll cover that in a minute.

So my final plot of the brèid I have based largely on an air or love-song I know which is found in the Carmina Gadelica, as well as on a selection of other descriptive terms for the brèid which I’ve encountered. The two verses of the air with which I am concerned are:

“A cul dualach, camlach, cuachach,
Her tresses curly/braided, coiled, bowled,
Ann an sguaib aig m’ eudail,
In the broom of my darling
‘S ge boidheach e ‘s an stiom a suas,
Although it’s beautiful in the headband down
Cha mheas an cuailean breid e.
Not worse the curls in headcovering.

“Gur a math thig breid ban
That becomes well headcovering white,
Air a charamh beannach dhut
On the position pointed/horned to you
Agus staoise dh’ an t-sioda mhin
And cords to the silk soft
‘G a theannadh ort.
Approaching it on you.

There are no pictures of the headcovering, it having been long replaced with frilled bonnet-caps or babushka-style veils by the time people started painting pictures of Highlands women, so all I have to go on is that it’s somehow mountain-like (beannach), and it’s attached to the head with silk cords. It’s white (brèid ban) and looks a bit like a crown or three (brèid cuimir nan [tri] crun), with three corners (currachd tri-chearnach), possibly held up with some sort of support (brèid an crannaig).

So it’s certainly not a simple kerchief tied around the head! It’s quite elaborate, actually. I recall hearing or reading somewhere that gold and silver pins were used, although I can’t recall where – but based on Martin’s description of belts and broaches, it seems quite likely. From the evidence, the headcovering is done in some way in which the three points look like crowns or horns. One of the descriptions, “brèid an crannaig”, uses the same word that’s used for a pulpit or the base of a statue, so that provides some clue – there might be a wooden support inserted under.

This is the style I’ve settled on, which I think does justice to the evidence. It’s quite comfortable and reasonable secure, although it tends to pull back a little bit if I bring the earrasaid up over my head. I’ll take step-by-step pictures to put on my headcoverings blog sometime when I’m home.

Breid.png

 

Girls’ Hairstyles

Young unmarried women continued to wear their hair in a single ribbon near the hairline, binding the plaits or curls up, well into the 18th and 19th centuries, so we have pictures of that.

From R. R. McIan’s Tartans:

matheson

Two details from David Allan’s 1780 A Highland Wedding and Blair Atholl:

A headband is called a stiom, and has been transliterated as “stem” and translated as “fillet” by early English commentators.

That air I mentioned earlier describes the hairstyle:

“A cul dualach, camlach, cuachach,
Her tresses curly/braided, coiled, bowled,
Ann an sguaib aig m’ eudail,
In the broom of my darling
‘S ge boidheach e ‘s an stiom a suas,
Although it’s beautiful in the headband down
Cha mheas an cuailean breid e.
Not worse the curls in headcovering.

So it looks like it might be several plaits or two-strand ‘rope-plaits’ tied back off the face with a wide ribbon.

 

 

5 Headcovering Patterns

So, I was “tidying” a filing cabinet I used a few years ago and found a couple of sewing patterns. Well, actually, I found a lot of sewing patterns. Well, I found a couple of branded sewing patterns and half a dozen back-bodice-front-bodice-sleeve combinations (I think I must have drawn myself a new pattern every time I needed a new dress for a few years there). And three complete headcovering patterns I’d completely forgotten about.

I thought someone out there might be interested in them – any headcoverers out there? Anyway, so here they are. The grid is meant to be 1cm spacing, so you might have to print-and-scale-copy-by-hand or something if you want to use them.

Hanging Veil

Headcovering - Kite VeilAlso known as “kite veil”, “simple veil”, or a million and one other things. This basic idea seems to be the most common sort of headcovering amongst non-denom Christian women at the moment (not that I really hang around much on headcovering sites these days).

It’s a fairly simple one-piece proposition, and best made out of polycotton knit, lycra, or some other sort of stretchy material – that gives the best drape. An old t-shirt is a good option.

You can adjust the size by measuring head circumference (that’s the horizontal length) and also from hairline to wherever you want it to fall (that’s the vertical length).

First, trim the front and back. You can do a simple seam (use a zig-zagging stitch) or attack elasticised lace. Then, I sew it together on the straight bit opposite the fold. This makes it into a tube-like thing which is simple to put on – just pull over your head and attach at the front. The whole process takes maybe an hour to make (I hand-sew) and about thirty seconds or less to put on in the morning.

Simple “Kapp”

Headcovering - Bonnet Cap

For something “simple”, it’s the most complicated pattern here in that it has three pieces. I think I originally adapted it from a how-to at Shepherd’s Hill Homestead, although I can’t find it anymore and can’t even get onto the site at the moment.

I wore it for a while, but eventually decided that a kapp-style headcovering simply did not work with my head – it needed constant readjusting.

First, sew the front (and sides) of the brim.

Next, pleat the crown. I did 5 pleats up each side (opening down) and 4 pleats along the bottom (opening out), about 1cm deep. Pleats should be as long as to the grey line marked, and you can iron or not iron as desired – depends on the look you want. You could probably even sew them down into darts if you wanted – I think I did that once.

At the very least, sew the pleats down along the edge before you attach the brim. Finish it off with the binding – it probably doesn’t need to be as wide as in the picture, but apply it like bias-binding. I used to do it all the way to the front of the brim to finish it off nicely all the way along the bottom. You can also cut the binding longer if you want to make it into ties, but I found the angle was a little awkward, although that might be better if you make the pattern larger – which I probably would if I made it again, since it sits a bit further back on the head than I would like.

“Common Mennonite” Veil

Headcovering - Common Mennonite VeilThat’s the name that was written on it by the lady that gave it to me, anyway (although I don’t think she was Mennonite). It’s the one from which I developed the hanging veil pattern I use. I might refer to this one as a “brimmed veil”.

Upon reviewing her instructions, I’m pretty sure the piece I’ve labled “brim” was actually meant to be a bias of some sort, but I believe what I did at the time was gather along the top and wear it with a brim, a bit like a cross between a veil and an open-back kapp. I found the press-stud closure (it’s labled “snaps closure” on the original pattern) to be a bit impractical and ended up pinning it, I think, although as I look at the pattern now, I think I might attach strings to the brim if I did it again, perhaps.

Open-Back Kapp

Headcovering - Open-Back KappI couldn’t find the brim pattern for this one, so I’ve put in the brim from the last – I’d probably cut it a bit wider, though, or perhaps use the brim from the simple kapp. I think I probably conflated the two patterns when they were given to me, which is why I ended up making the other one like an open-back kapp.

Anyway, the original pattern has noted on it “this one pattern can be done a few ways for different looks”, and there are options for a smaller fit or fewer pleats (place the fold an inch in), a straight hem at the bottom (which would be easier to sew, apparently), and also a notation that the curved hem could be turned into casing for elastic.

I think with the gathers, brim, and elastic at the bottom it could become another simple kapp pattern, although I suspect it might have a back-shape reminiscent of Lancaster County Amish ladies (you know, the distinctive heart thing). I just don’t like gathering anything – I’d rather pleat any day (it must be the Scottish in me, but I honestly used to have nightmares about gathering. I could never get the hang of it). I presume that you should add ties at the edges of the brim.

Snood

Headcovering - SnoodThis one was already on my computer; that’s why it looks different. I don’t know that I ever made it up, but it looks like it should work well enough, although perhaps with a wider brim than that.

I would probably use some sort of stretchy material like for my hanging veil headcoverings; sew the two bags together along the sides at bottom (top is to the left of the picture), sew the front of the brim, gather the front of the bag and attach the two. I’m wondering about attaching some sort of drawstring, elastic or tie to the ends of the brim.

I sort of want to make a snood now, because I think it might make things easier on those days I can’t be bothered putting my hair in a bun or if I have a headache or something like that. But I can’t seem to get anything to stay put on my head, even with some sort of pin or clip, unless my hair is tied firmly back, so there wouldn’t really be much point since I’d have to tie my head back anyway.

Other Patterns

For another headcoverer’s take on the hanging veil (plus a pattern and lots of step-by-step pictures, check out the Seven Farmgirl Sisters’ Headcovering Tutorial.

You can also get lots of patterns from Candle On the Hill, who also offer the Friends Patterns patterns for various regional Amish headcovering/kapp styles. I haven’t used any of these patterns, though, so I don’t know what they’re like, and you have to pay for them. Candle On the Hill does offer a free headcovering (hanging veil) “pattern”, but what it actually is is a list of instructions basically amounting to “cut out a circle and hem it”.

Another note – I started off attaching the headcoverings with straight pins, which worked surprisingly well (although it looks a bit like you’ve stapled the headcovering to your head, according to several people who commented on it at the time). These days I use little white (1.5-inch) bobby pins, which you can find if you search online at cosmetic supply shops. I’m currently working through a 120g tub which should last me… the rest of my life. My headcoverings are mostly white, with a few pastels, so it works, but occasionally I revert back to wearing a bandanna-style covering, which I did for a while, and I sometimes pin those if they’re darker colours.

You don’t need a pattern for the bandanna-style covering – just take a large square (not smaller than 50cm square), fold it into a triangle, and tie it under your bun. I don’t really like how they sit – I always get annoying “wings” and it gets assymetrical very easily (yes, I’ve been accused of being OCD). But if you use a reasonably drapey material, it’s not so bad.

I think that’s about everything. A shout-out to any headcovering ladies out there! I hope you find the patterns useful.

Oh, another note – I mentioned at the beginning the bodice-and-sleeves patterns I used to make. I did it by tracing around a dress I liked, if memory serves, and toyed for a bit with measuring myself and drawing my own patterns. I had varying degrees of success (but got better at it when I was about 12 and realised sleeves were meant to be shaped at the top!).

These days, I use a pattern from Gehmans Fabrics, from whom I also buy my dress material (I cannot speak highly enough of the material offered at Gehmans – do yourself a favour and buy it rather than go to Spotlight. It’s worth the shipping cost) – although I do add an extra inch to the bodice and a few inches to the skirt and arms – I’ve come to the conclusion that the Germanic Mennonite women must simply be a bit of a different shape to me, but the dress pattern is simple (just six pieces, including separate cape pieces) and very easy to use, and comes on very sturdy paper.

My 20th Birthday

Today, I am 20 years old.

It has been 10 years (half of my life) since my last haircut (January 2006).

It has been 6 years since I started wearing a headcovering (January 2010).

It has been 2 years (one-tenth of my life) that I have been in Joy’s Gaelic class (January 2014).

I’ve had seven of my twenty birthdays away from home…

… and three of my twenty birthdays overseas.

And as of next Saturday, I will have been to 20 countries!

 

Rebuttals for Headcovering Arguments

Compiled. Finally.

Here are some of the most common arguments I get (online and in real life) against the idea of wearing a prayer covering, as well as my (current) responses to them.

Since the main backing for the teaching of headcovering comes from the first half of 1 Corinthians 11, most of the arguments are also based on that passage.

“It’s outdated – that passage was only talking to the Corinthians.”

There are two streams to this argument: (1) It’s isolated in time to the 1st-century Corinthians, and therefore not applicable to us in the 21st century, and (2) It’s isolated in geography to Corinth, and therefore not applicable to us in the “West”. I’ll deal with the second point first, because it’s the easiest.

I direct your attention to the first chapter of 1 Corinthians, where Paul in the first few verses introduces himself and states who he’s writing to:

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Was Paul writing to the Corinthians? Yes. Did he intend for the things he talked about in the letter to just be for the Corinthians? I’ll let you decide.

As for the second point, well, this is also covered in 1 Corinthians 1:2 – “together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. That’s all Christians, everywhere, right? And anywhen?

But nevertheless, take a look at some of the other topics Paul covers in the letter. What does he talk about in the second half on 1 Corinthians 11? Communion? Is this also an outdated practice to be consigned to the 1st century?

“It’s all about oppressing women.”

Perhaps. Feminists can find stuff about oppressing women in every text, and the Bible is certainly no exception! By why is this passage a target? Here are a few thoughts:

(1) The religious group most known for headcovering today is the Muslims, and there’s been a lot of negative media about how they oppress their women. Might I just remind you that Islam and Christianity are not the same religion and have very different reasons for headcovering? In Islam it’s about not tempting men (or God). In Christianity it’s about praying and respecting God.

(2) The headship order is read as woman < man < Christ < God. Therefore, one surmises, it must be placing women as lesser than men, and therefore must be oppressive. Think about that for a minute. By that logic, Christ is less than God. Huh? Three equal parts of a triune Godhead? And one is less than another?

(3) In verses eleven and twelve, women and men are placed as equals. This is a common theme in 1 Corinthians – see Chapter 7, too – and was quite radical in its day. How can it be about oppressing women when men and women are described as equal? Even more unusually for the Bible, this whole passage doesn’t even talk about submission at all. It just talks about honour and dishonour. In verse twelve, men and women are equal, but both come from God.

(4) Quite apropos to nothing, we were reading through Proverbs 31 in women’s Bible study the other day, and a couple of the ladies, ardent feminists, got quite angry, talking about throwing their Bibles down and how horrible and outdated it all was. And I’m just sitting there going, “This is an incredibly empowering passage for women. She’s the one who’s in charge of all the finances, of buying goods and property, of basically running the world. What do they find so terribly patronising about that?” Basically what I’m saying is, you see what you want to see. If you’re determined to find an anti-feminist women-oppressing agenda in a Bible passage, you’ll probably see it if you look hard enough.

“It’s only mentioned in this one place.”

There are a lot of other lifestyle things which are only mentioned in 1 Corinthians. Not tolerating adulterous incest in the church (chapter 5), not taking each other to court (chapter 6), not visiting prostitutes (chapter 6), and so on. All these things seem so obvious they’re barely worth mentioning, and modern churched readers look at this and go, “He had to tell them this?” Do you think it might be possible that headcovering was seen as a similarly obvious thing not worth mentioning? Could it be in the same category?

“God doesn’t mention the Creation/Headship Order anywhere else.”

Genesis 1:26-28 hints at it – humans are made by/ come from God (1 Corinthians 11:12), but higher than fish, birds, and animals. If you’re determined to see some sort of female-oppressive regime going on, you really can’t go past Genesis 3:16 (“you husband… shall rule over you”) to find a hint of it. I haven’t even got past the first three chapters of the Bible yet.

Then again, the Trinity isn’t explicitly mentioned until you get to the New Testament, either, although Daniel 7 gets pretty close to it (more on that another time). But then, the Old Testament is peppered with references to the Trinity, if you read it already knowing about God’s triune nature. God is like a parent, feeding His children hints at the answer to let us work it out for ourselves, rather than just spoon-feeding the information to us and expecting us to accept it blindly. There are a number of threads of thought that start as occasional hints in the Old Testament and finally we’re told straight-out in the New Testament (presumably when we’ve become too stupid to work it out and God finally gave up patience).

“God didn’t detail it enough for it to be important.”

This argument I was given in the context of a comparison with the detail in Leviticus and Deuteronomy regarding the construction of the temple and how and when sacrifices are to be made. “God spared no detail,” I was told, “You would think that if headcoverings were equally important, God would have set aside more than the first half of 1 Cor. 11 to explain it in detail, but what we have is a confusing set of unclear metaphors that are indirect.”

Well, this argument just doesn’t make sense to me. Comparing the construction of the temple and the guidelines for sacrifices with the passage detailing women’s headcovering is like comparing oranges and pears, to use a metaphor. One is historic narrative discourse, another is a personal letter. One is from 1400BC to a group of escape slaves in a desert, another is in 55AD to a group of modern, affluent, urbanite Greeks. One details something that had never happened before (building a temple for the Lord) and in unusual circumstances (the Lord had literally just come down and His presence was actually, physically, in the middle of their campsite); another is dealing with a lifestyle practice issue which was so obvious they should have already known (see point #3).

“It was just a cultural practice in Corinth.” and “It was just an oriental custom.”

I’ve put these together because they contradict each other. Let’s go through some basic cultural background of 1st-century Corinth.

(1) Corinth was (and still is) a Greek city. Greece is in Europe. (This is being said just in case the second argument was based on the assumption that Corinth was in the Near East).

(2) The majority of the church at Corinth was ethnically Greek, not converted Jews (see 1 Corinthians 12:2). (This is begin said just in case the second argument was based around the idea that the church at Corinth was culturally Near Eastern).

(3) Corinth was known for its “modern” free-thinking and general laissez-faire attitude to everything (including sex). (Sound familiar?) In Classical times, the temple of Aphrodite in Corinth employed around a thousand temple prostitutes.

(4) Corinth was a very rich city because it was situated on a major trade route. It had two ports and had traffic from Rome, Athens, Turkey, Egypt, and the Levant (modern Israel/Palestine/Lebanon). People from all over the Mediterranean region called Corinth home. Think about similar cities today – is there just one cultural practice present in them?

“It’s just about public worship.”

Actually, it’s about praying and prophesying. Is there anywhere in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 which implies public cohortative worship at all, let alone exclusively?

I wear my headcovering all the time because Christians are called to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). However, I know ladies who wear headcoverings for church services as well as for private prayer and small-group Bible studies.

“Long hair is the headcovering.”

My first rebuttal is that Verse 6 makes no sense if this is so. Let’s read it with the assumption that long hair is the headcovering, using the NIV translation (italics are the bits I have changed for the sake of this assumption: “For if a woman does not have long hair, she might as well have hair her cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should have long hair.” Yep, that makes perfect sense.

My second rebuttal is one of personal incredulity. Why do so many women who tell me that long hair is the only headcovering needed have short hair? And I’m not just talking about shoulder-length hair or bobs. Proper short one-or-two-inch mens’-style hairdos. Really short hair. If they honestly believe that long hair is the headocvering, then… what?!

“Well, that’s your conviction.”

Yes. Yes it is. It isn’t one I’ve just plucked out of thin air, either. And while I’d love it if you read your Bible and came to the same conclusion, I’m not going to force it on you. After all, as you’ve said, it’s my personal thing – my personal “act of worship”, as our parish priest put it today when she overheard me explaining it to someone. I understand I’m in the minority.

Headcoverings aren’t a salvation issue. In fact, I might even go so far as to say they’re optional. As Christians, we have a great freedom of conscience in many areas, and it doesn’t do to force one’s own opinion on others – we should leave that for God to do. As Romans 14:5 says, in the context of whether to fast or eat, whether to keep Sabbath or not keep Sabbath – “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.” Whatever you do, do it in sincere praise and worship and thanks of God.

But, you know, read your Bibles and work it out for yourselves. Don’t just go with the flow. Being a Christian isn’t about blindly following. It’s about thinking and testing and working things out.

“What on earth is meant by the ‘angels’?”

Good question. If ever I work it out, I’ll… probably be dead, in heaven, and have just asked God himself. Until then, here are a few of the explanations I’ve heard.

(1) The angels in heaven that are worshipping God use one of their three pairs of wings to cover their heads and faces (Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation, et c.). Therefore, we should follow their example and also cover our heads. I can’t say I find this particularly convincing, since men are told in 1 Corinthians 11 not to cover their heads in prayer.

(2) It’s to protect us from the fallen angels. They can see that we’re Christians and won’t touch us. Uh-huh. Like that’s ever stopped them. I’ll think you’ll find it’s having God’s indwelling Spirit in you that will stop the fallen angels.

(3) It’s so the angels know to protect us because we’re Christians. I heard a story of two ladies on a bus that was boarded by a gunman, but they were both veiled and at the front of the bus and the gunman said there was just a bright light at the front and he couldn’t see and left. That started off well, but it was a bit of an odd conversation with a Mennonite lady when I was visiting the US a few years ago.

(3) Angels are genderless and all the same. Humans, on the other hand, are more like God; made up of different sorts and very relational. The headcovering is representative of the Headship order, which tells us how to interact with each other and with God. By wearing the headcovering, we’re providing an example to the angels on how to relate to each other and to God. I like this one the best, so far.

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Headcoverings are as varied as the Christian women who wear them. Pictured are women and girls from various Christian traditions, including Catholic, Orthodox, Amish and Mennonite, Ethiopian Orthodox, Anglican, Hutterite, Russian Old Believer, Messianic, and Non-Denominational.

Reflective Paragraphs Week 5 – 1 Corinthians 11-13

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I spent quite a bit of time with the first section of this a few years ago, and I’d rather like to again once I’ve got a better grasp on the original language. I came to my decision based on the fact that 11:5-6 would make no sense in English if another meaning were applied. I know of some churches which consider headcovering to be an ordinance on a level with communion – which, incidentally, the second half of the chapter covers – while others consider it an individual conscience issue. Chapters 12 and 13 talk about spiritual gifts and how we shouldn’t expect everyone to all have the same gifting, because diversity is good, right?

8 Reasons Why I Might Consider Joining An Amish Church

After yesterday’s post, a reader suggested that I might right about what reasons might lead me to consider joining an Amish church. While this is a little harder, since I’m certain I wouldn’t want to become Amish, I’ll give it a go.

1-I understand that the New Order Amish do believe in salvation by faith rather than salvation by works and that that’s why they broke away from the Old Order, who believe that there’s no way a person can have assurance of salvation. I’m not certain, though. So if that were true, I might consider the New Order.

2-I actually like rules. Or rather, I like it when I have clear guidelines of what I should do – and I don’t like having options. Since I can actually see the reasoning behind a lot of the Ordnung rules, it makes sense to me.

3-Again, there is some variation between different church districts on the dress code. I understand that Amish in other states wear longer skirts. The Beachy Amish wear cape dresses, like the Mennonites – very much like the one I wrote about a few days ago.

4-The Amish wear headcoverings. Living in a country where the only “Christian” headcovering group are the Exclusive Brethren, this is important to me. If anything, the one reason I would actually join the Amish would be because they wear headcoverings and dress reasonably modestly – I get tired of not fitting in sometimes and it would be good to be part of a community who dresses like I do.

5-The Amish (and other Anabaptist churches) are known for their acapella singing. Really, look some up on YouTube – it’s amazing! Very beautiful.

6-I think they’re lifestyle’s pretty good. I know, this sounds corny and cliché, but it’s true. I definitely prefer the country over the city. Although many Amish aren’t actually farmers anymore, I found it interesting when we visited that they farm everything. What I mean is, say it’s a dairy farm, they’ll still have a couple of fields to grow feed for the cows. I thought that was pretty cool and definitely better than buying food for the livestock.

7-The Amish (and Mennonites) are pacifists.

8-There is actually a lot of variation between different Amish churches, and it would be unfair to say I absolutely wouldn’t join any of them. I mean, I definitely wouldn’t join, say, the Schwartzentruber or Old Order, but I might consider, say, the New Order or the Beachy Amish. It’s the same with Mennonites. I would have to find out more about each church’s beliefs (particularly on the issue of salvation).

Well, those were a few quick points, and of course, as yesterday, there are more things I haven’t mentioned. Oh, and the first 5 points match up with the first 5 from yesterday.

7 Quick Reasons Why I Would Never Join An Amish Church

If you do a quick google search of the Amish, you invariably come across countless people who make comments along the lines of “I’d love to join the Amish! I love their way of life!”. Most probably aren’t even Christians! I think a lot of people probably think I fall into this category, too, since I wear so-called “Amish” dresses and a headcovering. Anyway, here are my top reasons for NOT wanting to become Amish.

1-Many Amish believe in salvation by works rather than salvation by faith.

2-The Amish have a lot of rules – the “Ordnung” which govern their daily lives. Whilst many of these rules DO have roots in the Bible, many don’t.

3-To be honest, I don’t think Amish dresses are very modest. Seriously! A lot of Amish ladies, particularly around the Lancaster County area I visited, wore very short skirts and tight bodices.

4-Amish headcoverings don’t often actually cover your head.

5-The Amish don’t allow musical instruments. I don’t think I could live without music. I tried once. I lasted less than a week.

6-When the Amish are baptised, they’re actually making a vow to a specific church – They’re not symbolising new life IN GOD, but a commitment to a church community and its rules. If their path with God leads them away from that one church, they will be shunned. Also, to my knowledge, the Amish don’t baptise by immersion – they sort of ladle water onto someone’s head.

7-There aren’t any Amish in Australia. And I don’t want to live in America.

That said, if I lived in America, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of joining (or at least attending) a Mennonite church. There are a number of differences between the Amish and the Mennonites, and I think I actually have a lot in common with the beliefs of some Mennonite churches (If I actually visited or attending a Mennonite church, I might change my mind. I don’t know, really)… and a lot of Anabaptist churches. But not the Amish.