Language of Hair: Cascading Power - The Deepening: Communing with Spirit

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

Language of Hair: Cascading Power
The Deepening: Communing with Spirit

In Western culture, we love to cut and style our hair. A good cut can make us feel good about ourselves, and it can make us feel confident in the way we present ourselves to the world. I’ve had both long hair and short hair, and I don’t know that I am any stronger, or any more intuitive, when I’ve had long hair. However, in the varying tribal traditions that I’ve encountered, hair is given special importance.

When I spent time with the Aborigines in the Australian bush-lands, I was gifted a small article of clothing, which was made entirely of human hair. It was an apron-shaped belt. My teacher Nundjan Djiridjarkan told me that the hair in the “apron” contained the energy of the clan members, and it connected me more closely with the people of his tribe. It was gifted as a special and sacred object, and I was told to wear it around my middle whenever I felt I needed protection. There are other Australian Aboriginal tribes that believe your hair carries your spirit, so they don’t share hairbrushes or leave any hair behind when cleaning their brushes, lest they leave behind a part of themselves.

Similarly, some native tribes in North America also believed that their hair was connected to their spirit. For this reason, they were careful not to let their hair fall into enemy hands. According to Dr. Anton Treuer, executive director of the American Indian Resource Center, Leonard Moose, an Ojibwa elder, said that hair was like a kind of medicine. If someone’s hair were cut, his or her medicine would leak out. Moose said that when he was a child, if someone had a haircut, the parents would use a hot rock to cauterize the “wound” on the child’s hair to prevent the medicine from draining away. The cultural belief that there was an innate connection between one’s hair and his or her personal strength was shared by many tribal traditions. Even to this day, Hawaiian hula dancers, both men and women, don’t cut their hair very often because there is a belief that the hair helps retain huna (life-force) energy.


During my training with Dancing Feather, he told me that any time I took something from nature to use in a “medicine way,” such as herbs or sage, I needed to leave an offering of gratitude to the plant. He said one of the most sacred offerings was to leave a bit of my hair at the base of the plant from which I was picking. One time, gathering sage in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, my scalp got sore from plucking out so much hair to leave as offerings. I’ve since learned that one or two strands are sufficient.


In many native traditions around the world, hair is cut (or grown) as part of tribal mourning customs. Cutting the hair is a way of honoring the loss, and as the hair grows back, it symbolizes the person starting anew from that point forward. In tribes in Nigeria, for example, hair is cut as a sign of respect to the departed.

Shkotay Maingun (“Light of the Wolf”), a Cherokee/Ojibwa from Manitoba, Canada, had her braid cut at her father’s funeral to honor his memory. Her father was a Midewewin Ojibwa holy man. When recounting her experience, she told me,

The Fire Keep [fire keeper] cut my braid at the fire with his knife. It felt good and right. He loved my father, too. Then he placed my braid into the sacred fire that was kept burning for four days and nights. As my hair burned, I offered it to Great Spirit, my father, and all my ancestors to take all the suffering in my heart and enhance our connection for the 13 moons that I would mourn the death of my father. I felt lighter as my hair burned. I felt my father’s joy. For four days, many hundreds of other pipe carriers gathered while the fire was tended at all times. We stayed together with his body. When it was all over, I felt my father’s total peace and freedom.

How we take care of our hair says a lot about us as a human being. It’s not a vanity thing . . . it’s a deep thing. Cutting my braid helped me cope, accept, and move forward. I was no less strong, because I did it with spiritual intention, love of life, and love of my dad. I was raised that how we take care of our hair is very connected to how well our spiritual strength is. It speaks of a person’s energy. It is said that the Power of Life is stored in our hair. It must be kept clean and smudged and blown clean regularly by the wind.

(Note: A pipe carrier conducts traditional Native American/ First Nation ceremonies. During a pipe ceremony, people gather to pray and smoke a combination of herbs and natural tobacco in a sacred pipe. The pipe carrier is held in hallowed esteem by his or her tribe. The pipe and the ceremonies are often passed down through the generations in a Native American family. Years are spent in preparation to be a pipe carrier, until the elder of the tribe passes on the tradition.)


Many native people share the belief that our hair senses the energies around us. This is not a unique belief, as a young Sikh man once told me that one of the reasons that Sikh men have long hair is because it’s believed that it gives them more awareness in battle. Some yogis from India declare that since hair grows out of the head, which is the location of our crown chakra, the seat of intuition and cosmic awareness, it makes sense that that part of our body would also help abilities associated with perception.

It might seem impossible that hair could have anything to do with heightened awareness or intuition because science tells us that hair is dead, and the only way that hair can sense is by movements of hair shafts that are detected by nerve receptors within the skin by hair follicle receptors. But, as so many tribes carry the same belief, perhaps our hair does carry deeper meaning.


While many native peoples grow their hair long for spiritual reasons, monks around the world shave their heads as part of their journey to spiritual awareness. There are many different ways to connect with the Divine; whether you choose to shave your head, grow your hair long, or do something in between, the most important thing is that you feel strong, confident, and in touch with your “inner voice.” It can, however, be valuable to understand that (potentially) cutting your hair can affect your energy field, even if it’s in a very subtle way. So, as a suggestion, when getting your hair cut:

· Choose times when your energy field is good, preferably in the day rather than at night, and potentially not when you are on your moon cycle (menses).

· Try some experiments with cuts to see if you notice a difference. If you feel better, for example, by not cutting your hair during your menses, then consider finding the time of day and month when your energy is strongest to have your hair cut in the future. And if you don’t notice a difference, then do whatever feels best to you.

· Affirm, with every haircut: I release the past and embrace my future.

· Whenever you brush your hair, get the sense of clearing your thoughts and aligning your energy.


Whether you discover your spirit name, play a drum, weave a dream catcher, bless a blanket, honor a basket, cherish your hair, or dance with abandon to the beat of the drum, in no small way you are deepening your journey into your native spirit. Additionally, this deepening prepares you and paves the way for understanding the Great Mystery and connecting to invisible but powerful spiritual forces on our planet.