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Superstitions around hair and nail cuttings

Question:

Discuss about the Comparison Of The Approaches Of Three Theorists Regarding The Symbolism Of Hair.

According to the theorist Sir James George Frazer in his book, ‘The Golden Bough’, it has been stated that it is global notion that an individual might be bewtiched through the ways relating to the cuttings of his hair or the parings of nails. The common suggestion regarding which the resting of superstition occurs is associated with the sympathetic association expected to exist within an individual as well as everything that has once been part of his body or in any manner had a close association with him. They are belonging that part of branch of sympathetc magic that might be referred being infectious. In the ancient times, dread of sorcery did the formation of one of the most significant traits of the Marquesan islanders (Nanda 2014). The sorcerer used to take some of the hair of the person he wanted to injure, did its warpping in a leaf and did the placement of the packet within a bag made of fibres or threads that were constricted in a complicated manner. The intention of a Maori sorcerer having the intention on bewitching a person sought to receive a strand of the hair of his victim, the parings of nails or a slice of the person’s cloth. After collecting the material, the sorcerer used to do the chanting of certain spells as well as curses over it through a falsetto voice as well as concealed it under ground (Millar 2014). With the dacaying of the matter, the individual whose part it was, was supposed to get wasted away.     In the same manner, within Germany it is a common concept that when an individual’s cut hair is found by a bird, and the latter does the building of their nests with it, the individual will be suffering from headache, at times it is thought that he will be having an outbreak on the head. There occurs similar prevailing of superstition, or was prevailing in West Sussex. It was seen in New Zealand that the uttering of a spell was done regarding hair-cutting for averting thunder as well as lighting. In the Tyrol, witches are expected to do the using of cut hair for making hailstones or thundestorms with (Lewis 2017). Within Scotland’s Highlands, it has been stated that any sister should not be combing her hair in the night time when her brother is travelling in the ocean.

Interpreting the meaning of symbols in rituals


A fundamental problem in regard to the aspect of interpreting a ritual is associated with the fact that the participants in every society might not have the ability to provide an overt definition of the meaning regarding symbols that should be having an involvement. There is a huge significance of symbols as well as acts of symbol that is common towards a broad assortment of cultural aspects. Whilst any specific symbol is having different meanings from society to another, it can be found out that these meanings are recurring in a constant manner (Rapport 2014).

Dr. Leach did the examination of the association amongst the importance of symbolism within personal subliminal stage, as observed by a psychoanalyst, Dr. Charles Berg, as well as the importance regarding symbolism in respect of social custom, as the ethnographers have construed. The specific symbolism type that is used by him as the basis of discussion is considered to be the hypothesis of Berg stating that there is a fundamental symbolic uniformity within the hair in the head as well as genitals of men within the subliminal stage, such that the hair cutting is similar to castration (Lewin 2016). While yielding that rituals are not reflecting an individual’s psychological condition regarding performance, but rather that the structural aspect of the social circumstance will be requiring th actor in making official symbolic statements of a specific type, Leach still finds the hypothesis of Berg in regard to the aspect of head shaving at bereavement – that the loss of a dear one will be is similar to castration as well as hair loss – to be having appropriate meaning in relation to the aspect of making explanations regarding the origin of the symbolism primarily (Knauft 2013). Now, the exact reason as to why individuals should be reacting towards the anguish by shaving their hair off as well as doing their mutilation is with a doubt, agreeable to psychological explanations, but there exists no major reason of linking it with castration.

It can be frequently found out in the ethnographical literature which states hair is having close relations with the soul. For instance, by refering Frazer once more, it can be stated that, according to the Siamese, it is believed that a spirit known as ‘khuan’ is dwelling within the head of a human, of which it’s considered being the guardian spirit. The spirit must have careful protection from various injuries, therefore the process to shave or cut hair is associated with various rites, as well as it also has been cited by Frazer various instances showcasing the sacred trait of the head and subsequently the weird characteristic regarding hair of the head (Khan 2014).

Hair symbolism in personal and social contexts


Magic is considered being another well-known ritual regarding the use of hair that is treated, in addition to nail pairings as well as secretions of the body, as symbolically similar to the indivdual from whose body they have come. Leach had concern of showing that the equation of Berg regarding head hair was similar to genitals, which had relevance in describing about certain ethnographical statements (Holbraad 2014). Primarily, there occurs continuous growth of hair as well as nails and this is considered being a key motive why they should get considered being particularly bestowed with vigour. Blood as well as semen, in respect of various reasons, are also considered being the sources of vigour regarding primitive thought. However, such considerations will not be getting applied to body dirt or nasal mucus. It can therefore be considered as to why hair is being selected as the symbol of the entire individual in magic (Hewlett 2016). It is bestowed with excellent vitality, and it is falling as well into the broader segment of extensions regarding the individual.

Leach provides a brief explanation regarding the aspect that the tonsure of a monk is considered being a familiar scenario regarding the religious life in Christianity and it also does the supporting of the theoritical aspect that shaven head is similar to celibacy. However, the monk do the taking of 3 vows, amongst which chastity is considered being the only one, and the others are considered being poor condition as well as submission (Haviland 2013). The monk, obviously, is not the only individual under the institutional life’s regulation who did the cutting of his hair short. The soldiers as well as the prisoners are also considered to be the individuals who cut their hair short. Therefore, the cropped hair or tonsure regarding all the three scenarios relating to the monk, soldier as well as convict does the signifying of the fact that they are under discipline.

In contrast to such groups, three segments of individuals might be taken into consideration within the Western society, who are basically accredited with long hair, such as the scholars, juvenile rebels in opposition to society as well as women. It’s not very tough considering the fact that in different manners these indivduals, in certain respects less subject towards social controlling in comparison to the average individual (Ferraro 2015). The scholar is considered being an individual who is, due to his personal choices, stay aloof from the concerns regarding the daily life, or might remain positively antagonistic as well as decisive towards the society. However, the scenario of women requires a little further explanation. Primarily, it can be stated that women are conventionally having concern regarding domestic matters and not regarding the functioning of the overall society, and secondlly, they have been regarded being administered by their emotional aspects, such as being increasingly whimsical as well as less predictable in comparison to men (Fassin 2013). It is obviously, considered being true that in previous times, men were having long hair, however in those times, the hair of women has been even longer.

Magical uses of hair and other bodily secretions


Long hair as a result, is considered recurrently to be the symbol of being in certain way out of the society, and there is, on the other hand, a trait that is mostly related with being external to the society, which is considered being animality. The Bible, again, offers significant assistance in respect of the relation within hairiness as well as different scenarios of animality, but very less regarding the hypothesis of Leach. Esau, who hunted wild beasts, was a hairy individual, whereas his brother Jacob was a herdsman, who dwelled in tents, considered being a  clean person. In Deuteronomy, it is recommended that female war prisoners, if considered being wives, shall be required paring their nails as well as shaving their heads (Eller 2016). From the Book of Judges, it can be found out that the strength of Samson resided in his hair, and while being shorn, he is considered being as feeble as any other individual. Another very clear example that can be cited regarding the relation of hairiness as well as the separation from society regarding the state of nature is the explanation of how King Nebuchadnezzar was defeated and forced to become a recluse. In regard to the command of St. Paul’s, it has been stated that women should be covering their heads inside the church. This might be considered being a sign of the authority of the husband (Bonvillain 2017).

It can also be stated that in certain scenarios, the head as well as the hair might be having a clear sexual importance. For instance, it is apparent that the account of Onians regarding Greek as well as Roman beliefs regarding the body states that head was considered to be the semen’s source, in the shape of cerebro-spinal fluid, and that the hair indicated sexual vitality (Bernard 2014). Nevertheless, he also makes it clear that these ideas were originated from the aspect of observing the human as well as animal physiological aspect, as well as not the suppressed functionings regarding their subliminal minds, and the same is right regarding the discussion of Hershman regarding the head’s as well as hair’s sexual symbolism within the Hindu as well as Sikh Punjabis. The major deficit relating to the hypothesis of Leach isn’t that it’s applicable to a much narrower variety of statements than he is leading us towards presuming, but that regarding its personal view, in which social standing is having blatant relation with hair as well sex, it does not succeed in providing any justification as to why long hair is related with ascetics as well as with individuals such as Samson, and why short hair is having an association with the soldiers as well as monks (Bennett 2014).

The association between hair and societal norms


The positive aspect to treat symbolism as ‘about’ the world, to a certain extent than ‘about’ the subliminal, is that the associtions within symbols as well as the world are empirically provable, and it is therefore, having the possibility for doing the evaluation of varied explanations regarding a specific piece of symbolism in respect of how effectively they will be fitting the piece of evidences.  

Leach’s paper is dealing with all the three distinctive but interconnected concerns such as the the association within the public expression as well as private impetus, the utilization of sexuality in respect of religious ends as well as the phalic trait regarding hair, despite the fact that it is expressly concerned with the association within public, rituals that are social as well as private, personal explanation, and his paper is having a direct engagement with the psychoanalytic argument that Charles Berg has articulated in his book, ‘The unconscious significance of hair’. The argument that was cited by Berg was that the cutting of hair as well as other practices associated with hair does the representation of an intrapsychic struggle within the instinct drives as well as the castrating efforts relating to the suppressive forces. Differently speaking, there exists a cause and effect association that proceeds from the personal, intrapsychic stimulus towards its public expression. Leach is arguing against this analysis as well as against the consequent psychoanalytic shift  towards the behavioural aspect that is considered to be conflate pyschoneurotic with public sacrament.

References

Bennett, J.W., 2014. The ecological transition: cultural anthropology and human adaptation. Elsevier.

Bernard, H.R. and Gravlee, C.C. eds., 2014. Handbook of methods in cultural anthropology. Rowman & Littlefield.

Bonvillain, N., 2017. Cultural anthropology. Pearson.

Eller, J.D., 2016. Cultural anthropology: global forces, local lives. Routledge.

Fassin, D., 2013. Why ethnography matters: On anthropology and its publics. Cultural Anthropology, 28(4), pp.621-646.

Ferraro, G., 2015. Classic readings in cultural anthropology. Cengage Learning.

Haviland, W.A., Prins, H.E., McBride, B. and Walrath, D., 2013. Cultural anthropology: the human challenge. Cengage Learning.

Hewlett, B.S., 2016. Evolutionary cultural anthropology: containing Ebola outbreaks and explaining hunter-gatherer childhoods. Current Anthropology, 57(S13), pp.S27-S37.

Holbraad, M., Pedersen, M.A. and de Castro, E.V., 2014. The politics of ontology: Anthropological positions. Cultural Anthropology, 13.

Khan, A., 2014. Journey to the center of the earth: The Caribbean as master symbol. Cultural Anthropology, 16(3), pp.271-302.

Knauft, B.M., 2013. Genealogies for the present in cultural anthropology. Routledge.

Lewin, E., 2016. Who’s Queer? What’s Queer? Queer Anthropology through the Lens of Ethnography. Cultural Anthropology, 31(4), pp.598-606.

Lewis, I., 2017. Social and cultural anthropology in perspective: Their relevance in the modern world. Routledge.

Millar, K., 2014. The precarious present: Wageless labor and disrupted life in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Cultural Anthropology, 29(1), pp.32-53.

Nanda, S. and Warms, R.L., 2014. Cengage Advantage Books: Culture Counts: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. Cengage Learning.

Rapport, N., 2014. Social and cultural anthropology: The key concepts. Routledge
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