The Myths and History of Red Hair

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Red Hair Collage (detail)

This page is simply a place for all the stray bits of information about red hair I've collected that I feel are worth relaying. I may add to it over time.

African Albinos

I read an article in Fortean Times that talked about the fact that Albinos are sometimes ritualistically sacrificed in Africa. The article quoted Credo Mutwa, who said:

"Not all Africans have got black hair. There are Africans who are regarded as very holy, as very sacred. These are Africans who are born with natural red hair. These Africans are believed to be very spiritually powerful. Now, in Africa, such people, albeamers or red-headed Africans, were the most victims of sacrifice, especially when they were just entering maturity - whether they were males or females."

Ang Mo

Apparently "Ang Mo" is a racial term used by people in Malaysia and Singapore to describe white foreigners. It literally translates as "red-haired." The terms "Ang mo kow" (red-haired monkeys) and "And mo kui" (red-haired devil) are also used. Wikipedia states:

"Literally meaning 'red-haired', the term carries a strong stigma at present amongst a large proportion of the Caucasian minority. The term implies that the person referred to is a devil, a concept also explicitly used in the Cantonese term gweilo ('foreign devil')."

Iran

The 19th century British politician and Viceroy of India, George Nathaniel Curzon, once noted that the Tajiks (aboriginal Iranians) often had "reddish-brown" hair.

Ismail I, Shah of Persia, also had red hair;
"His hair is reddish; he wears only moustachios, and uses his left hand instead of his right. He is as brave as a gamecock, and stronger than any of his lords..."
From Giovanni Angiolello

The Heathen of Harran

James Frazer, in his seminal work, The Golden Bough, mentioned that redheads were once sacrificed in Harran. He wrote:

"The heathen of Harran offered to the sun, moon, and planets human victims who were chosen on the ground of their supposed resemblance to the heavenly bodies to which they were sacrificed; for example, the priests, clothed in red and smeared with blood, offered a red-haired, red-cheeked man to "the red planet Mars" in a temple which was painted red and draped with red hangings."

Swallows and Freckles

James Frazer also noted how it was believed that one could get rid of freckles by transferring them to swallows:

"The Huzuls of the Carpathians imagine that they can transfer freckles to the first swallow they see in spring by washing their face in flowing water and saying, "Swallow, swallow, take my freckles, and give me rosy cheeks"."

Cats

This is a statement I came across on the internet about cats:

"Oddly, there is a strong correlation - proven by an academic study of the British Isles - between the prevelance in an area of ginger cats and the proportion of that area's population who have ginger hair. Highland cattle are also notably ginger. It seems possible that certain tribes managed the breeding of highly-valued species, until they obtained a stable hair-colour which was like their own."

Waitresses

Another article I came across online stated that a professor and phrenologist named R.W. Brown believed that he could predict a persons character and profession by their hair colour. For some reason he believed that redheads made the best waitresses.

Redheaded Nursemaids

In the 18th century a treatise on childbirth and new born babies was published, titled The Diseases of Women with Child, And in Child-Bed. Originally written in French, but translated into English, it gave advice on choosing a suitable wet nurse. The advice included these words of wisdom:

"She ought to have a sweet Voice to please and rejoice the Child, and likewise ought to have a clear and free Pronunciation, that the child may not learn an ill Accent from her, as usually red-hair'd have[.]"

"Very frequently the Milk of a Nurse, who is Red-hair'd, given to Wine, or very Amorous, may by its Heat and Acrimony cause small Ulcers in an Infant's Mouth[.]"

And finally, when commenting on the quality of a nurse's milk:

"It must be of a sweet and pleasant Smell, which is Testimony of a good Temperament, as may be seen in red hair'd Women, whose Milk hath a sour, stinking and bad Scent[.]"

Other Famous Redheads

The father of modern science, Galileo, was a redhead. As was the famed violinist and composer Vivaldi. Vivaldi was also a priest and as a consequence of this, his red hair and his fiery performances he earned the nickname the "Red Priest."

Noted members of European royalty with red hair include Isabella I of Castile, who had blue eyes and reddish-blonde hair and Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III. Eugenie was something of a fashion icon in her time and the ladies of France would often dye their hair red and copy her hair styles.

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