The Myths and History of Red Hair

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Oranjecrucians: The Brotherhood of the Orange-Cross

halloween pumpkin

We start with two traditions:

Firstly, the tradition of the Halloween pumpkin - a round, orange vegetable with a candle inside.

Secondly, the tradition of the Christingle orange - a round, orange fruit with a candle on top.

Now for those who are unfamiliar with the tradition of Christingle it's basically a tradition whereby children, normally around Christmas time, decorate an orange with a red bow, a candle and four cocktail sticks. It has its origins in the Moravian Church - supposedly the very first Protestant church.

The red bow around the orange supposedly represented the blood of Christ, the lit candle the light of Christ and the cocktail sticks the four seasons or the four arms of the Christian cross.

Like the Christingle orange the Halloween pumpkin also had associations with Protestantism. Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of Wittenberg church on 31st October - Halloween. Halloween was All Hallows' Eve, a celebration of saints and martyrs. Hallowed, holy, halo-ed.

The parallels between the Halloween pumpkin and the Christingle orange would suggest that maybe they both share a common origin. But what was this origin?

One possibility is that it has its roots in red hair - the pumpkin and orange symbolising a head with a halo of red hair. The northern European states that led the Protestant reformation no doubt had a disproportionate number of redheads in comparison to the southern Catholic states. This distinction could have become totemic of the entire Protestant movement in some circles.

We likewise know that red hair was often seen as a marker of witchcraft and heresy and that it was persecuted by the Catholic church. In fact, it's said that the Spanish Inquisition targeted redheads, viewing all those with red hair as Jewish heretics. In this light it's logical that red hair would become a badge of honour amongst those who opposed this unholy Catholic empire.

It was maybe as a consequence of this that red hair became fashionable in Protestant Elizabethan England. We can also see that red hair became a prominent feature of some of the artwork of the Dutch and Germanic Protestant states. In fact, going back to Martin Luther, there are paintings of him by the artist Lucas Cranach the Elder that show him with red hair - he literally was the Halloween pumpkin.

On a similar note the soup-bowl haircuts, like those sported by the Protestant Roundheads in the English Civil War, were called pumpkin-shell cuts in America. It's said that a pumpkin shell was placed on the head as a guide for whoever was cutting the hair. Incidentally, Roundheads also fought under the "orange tawny" banner of the Earls of Essex.

The association between Protestantism and orange continued when William of Orange came to the throne to replace the Catholic James II. William of Orange was often symbolised in art by an orange tree, and also by a red fox.

Interestingly, it has also been claimed that the red cross of Rosicrucian fame is a symbol for red hair. Apparently representing the red-haired bloodline of Jesus Christ - a la The Da Vinci Code.

So was this orange in Protestant symbolism a nod to red hair? And are we subconsciously celebrating red hair when we light Halloween pumpkins and Christingle oranges? We can't be sure, but in this light it certainly seems an interesting possibility.

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