Veiling: Jewish and Witchy Headcoverings
Veiling, especially within the witchcraft community, has become extremely popular. The rise of new veilers has led me to further explore the history of veiling in Judaism and to share it with you.
In my childhood, I loved to veil. I watched my mother cover her hair for Shabbat and I dreamed of when I would switch out my embroidered Kippah for a long white veil. I yearned for when I too would wear the ethereal covering to light Shabbat candles and daven. As I grew older, I began to wear a tichel around the house. I used Forever 21 scarves and pieces of fabric I stole from my mother's sewing stash and felt wonderfully safe and comfortable. But, wearing them in public was terrifying to me. As I've grown older, and my collection of scarves has grown, I have become more bold and consistent in my wearing of a tichel both at home and in public.
Tichel is the Yiddish word for the head-covering traditionally worn by Jewish women. In Hebrew, it is known as a "mitpachat".
Kippah is the Hebrew word for skullcap, Yarmulke in Yiddish, which is traditionally worn by Jewish men.
These are not the only head coverings used throughout the Jewish diaspora, though they are the most common.
Though these are historically gendered, head coverings and veils are non-gendered and are free to be worn by any person, should they so choose. As I am discussing the historical use and backstory to these concepts, I reference the historic gendering and thought processes behind these. This does not mean that they are exclusive to any gender group. I encourage you to wear what makes you most comfortable.
To understand this topic, it is important to learn the difference between Halakha (Jewish Law) and Minhag (Jewish Tradition). Minhag can become Halakha, but they are not always the same. While the majority of Jews acknowledge that the wearing of a kippah is halacha, the extent of the use of it is debated. Some believe it must be at all times unless swimming or bathing, while others believe it is only strictly required while praying. "In Talmudic times, the practice of wearing a head covering was reserved for men of great stature. In later generations, though, it became the accepted custom for all Jewish men to wear a kippah at all times, and especially during prayer."(1)
Even with all debate and complications, the wearing of the kippah is extremely important to many Jews. It signifies not only a devotion to Halakha but also an acknowledgment of humans' place in the universe of HaShem.
"And she took her veil and covered herself" Genesis 24:36
Many times, people assume the women veil for the purpose of modesty and modesty meaning only, 'appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency' (2). However, in Judaism, this is not the only definition of modesty, nor does it apply to the wearing of a veil.
In Judaism, women are considered to be innately more spiritual than men and are therefore exempt from many time or prayer specific laws. For example, women are not required to wrap tefillin, though many choose to. Women are also not required to veil (wear a head covering) until marriage when they do so to create a boundary between themselves and the outside world. However, both historically and in modern times, non-married women have taken up the veil.
Across nearly every culture, head coverings have been worn, either for fashion or by requirement. "The Shulchan Aruch records that both married and unmarried women should cover their hair in public (Even Haezer 21:2)" (3). In Ashkenazi communities, the Jewish tradition was enforced for married women.
However, due to societal norms, women of all ages and marital status' wore head scarves until relatively recently in Jewish history.
The actual means of veiling is a hotly debated topic within Jewish communities and there are many perspectives, some that say that the hair must not be cut, only covered, others than are fine with the use of sheitels (wigs), while others believe they defeat the purpose. Others still think the entirety of the hair must be covered, while others think that merely covering the head with something like a baseball cap or bandanna is sufficient to create that boundary. Some rabbis cite "a hand breadth" of hair is permissible, while others believe this is blasphemous. Clearly, there are many opinions.
We see the crossing of Jewish veiling and the veiling of modern non-Jewish witches in the use of a veil as a means of protection and connection.
The use of the veil creates a physical barrier between one and the outside world, but more importantly, it creates a spiritual and psychological barrier that relies on the consent of the
wearer to be let in. In order for one to be seen without a head covering, it must be by their own choice. This gives the wearer the power of choosing who to let into their space, both physically and spiritually.
For empathic people, a head covering provides a means of shielding themselves from unwanted emotions, energies, and emotions, which can make life easier to navigate. It is often worn in situations of extreme emotion, usually when surrounded by new or difficult people.
IMAGE COURTESY OF WRAPUNZEL
The physical barrier of the veil, regardless of size, can aid in grounding a person, bringing them to the earth, and signifying their humanity and space within the universe at large.
The wearing of a veil, whether constantly or during rituals, can serve as a reminder of why a practitioner does what they do. It is a reminder of who they are, what they believe, and the connection they have with the Universe.
Veiling as a Jewish practitioner can look like many things, from a full tichel to a kippah, from 24/7 to only at Shabbat. Veiling is, in the end, a highly personal choice to be made by a witch and a witch alone.
Who can veil?
As I said, veiling is a highly personal choice. Anyone, regardless of gender, age, and marital status can choose to veil.
How do you start veiling?
Once you have made the decision to begin veiling, how you go about it is entirely up to you. From a small kippah to a full hair covering, it is entirely dependent on your comfort. For those living in spaces where wearing a head-covering can be dangerous, the rise of bandana fashion is extremely useful. A square kerchief tied to a bandana shape can be worn just as a baseball cap or beanie can be used as a veil. While beautiful, intricate designs as featured above are gorgeous and tons of fun, they draw quite a bit of attention that a new veiler may not be ready for.
There are also no regulations on how often, or how long, you choose to veil. Some choose to wear it during ceremonies (example: Shabbat) while others wear it when they feel drawn to it.
Don't feel obligated to go zero to a hundred or feel obligated to wear a certain style that does not feel comfortable to you.