Symbolism of Hair and Plants in Bakhtiari Funerals

The tradition of hewing hair as a symbol of mourning has long been prevalent among Bakhtiari women, particularly at the loss of a prominent member of the tribe or the martyrdom of the youth. There is abundant evidence of the existence of the same tradition as an expression of deep grief in times of mourning in some other parts of Iran; a tradition that dates back to the early Achaemenid period that has survived the Islamization of Iranian plateau . This tradition must be viewed in the context of the old belief in parts of Iran about the similarity between the life and growth of human hair and plants.

The symbolism of this tradition has been explained by reference to a number of beliefs held by its practitioners. Well-groomed hair is generally considered an indication of the individual's inner happiness and attention to his or her outward appearance, while disheveled or hewn hair is deemed to be a sign of the individual's abnormal state. The hope for revival or resurrection of the dead may also be related to the growth of hair that inevitably follows its hewing in the ritual.

Bijhan Shahmoradi
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