Religious Beliefs on Dreadlocks

by Jen Saunders

When most people see dreadlocks, they typically think of the Rastafari movement. But people from many ethnic groups, such as those from East Africa, West Asia and Central Asia wear them. Dreadlocks are simply matted coils of hair. A common misconception about dreadlocks is that the wearer doesn’t wash his or her hair. But this isn’t true as people with dreadlocks are able to wash their hair once a week. There are even special shampoos on the market just for dreadlocks. Some people wear dreadlocks for cultural reasons, while others wear them as fashion statements. Certain people with deep spiritual and religious beliefs also wear them to reflect sacred ideals.

Biblical-Based Beliefs

In the Bible, the Book of Numbers says, “All the days of the vow of his separation there shall be no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow." This except comes from a list of guidelines for Nazirites found in Numbers 6:1-21 in which men would voluntarily refrain from cutting their hair in order to be “holy unto God” (Numbers 6:8). As a result, dreadlocks would form naturally. Today, some people continue to wear dreadlocks for spiritual reasons that link back to the holy origins from the Old Testament.

Hindu Beliefs and Hair

Many followers of Hinduism wear dreadlocks as a physical sign of their faith. Hindus believe that hair locks are sacred. Some will wear dreadlocks to symbolically express their disregard for vanity. It also highlights their views that physical appearances are unimportant. In an article published by "Hinduism Today" magazine, an eyewitness at a holy procession on Maha Sivaratri witnessed men covered in ash with dreadlocks all the way to the ground. For many Hindus, dreadlocks express their inward drive to purge themselves of the material world and help elevate their spirituality.

Buddhism and Dreadlocks

Much like Hindus, Buddhists also shun the material world. They frown heavily upon vanity, which they believe drains one’s ability to become enlightened. While some Buddhists shave their heads to illustrate this, others (namely the Ngagpas of Tibet) wear dreadlocks. These followers of Buddhism dedicate their lives to the local community by performing birth rituals, funerals, marriages, divinations and rituals to control the weather and the crops. The Ngagpas also administered justice within the community. Their dreadlocks are a sign of nonconformity to the material world while reminding them that they exist in part to provide for the good of their community.

Rastafarianism

Rastafarianism is an African-inspired religion that developed in Jamaica during the 1930s shortly after King Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia came to power. Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie is God and that he will send members of the black community back to Africa who are living in exile due to colonization and the slave trade. The wearing of dreadlocks illustrates the divinity of Haile Selassie with the influence of Jamaican culture, pride in African heritage and resistance to oppression.

About the Author

Jen Saunders is an entrepreneur and veteran journalist who covers a wide range of topics. She made the transition to writing after having spent 12 years in England where she studied and taught English literature.

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