“Hair like snakes” (My hypothesis)



Andrew here. Recently, I was involved in a discussion concerning a quote commonly attributed to Caesar: “[The Celts]…wore their hair like snakes.”. Many people interpret this as evidence towards the Celts wearing dreadlocks, and I occasionally see Vikings portrayed on television and film depicted as having them as well. Many people use this “hair like snakes” quote as evidence that dreadlocks originated from Northwestern Europe, and therefore all other cultures are misappropriating and copying them. If you find this, like myself, to be absurd, read on and allow me to present my hypothesis regarding this interpretation.

In Ancient Gaul and Germania, good grooming was highly regarded, much more so than the Roman sources give credit to. I suspect it was part of the ancient Roman propaganda campaign, meant to further sway favor to Caesar’s subjugation of the Gallic peoples! (as we all know, propaganda is a very potent tool in a war!)  Here is what Pliny the Elder had to say regarding the cleanliness of Gallic and Germanic peoples, in his excellent Historia Naturalis:

Prodest et sapo, Galliarum hoc inventum rutilandis capillis. Fit ex sebo et cinere, optimus fagino et caprino, duobus modis, spissus ac liquidus, uterque apud Germanos maiore in usu viris quam feminis.

Translation: “Soap is the invention of the Gauls and this is used to clean the hair. It is made from fat and ashes — the best is beech wood ash and goat fat, the two combined, thick and clear. Many among the Germans use it, the men more than the women.”

Also, here is a quote from the Voluspa, concerning the state Woden was in after the death of Baldr, which I interpret as evidence that hair was left unwashed only in times of mourning/despair:

His hands he washed not nor his hair combed
Till Baldr’s bane was borne to the pyre:
Deadly the bow drawn by Vali,
The strong string of stretched gut,
But Frigga wept in Fensalir
For the woe of Walhalla. Well, would you know more?

Now this is pointing towards the fact that they did not wear these things. Dreadlocks naturally form in the uncombed and unwashed of people with tight curly hair. In high school, I had an acquaintance with straight hair who was very into the hippie counterculture i.e. lots of tie dye shirts/smoking haschish etc. He wanted to get dreadlocks, so he resolved to not wash his hair or comb it for many months, resulting in many locks of various sizes and one large clump tangled in the back of his head. Nothing like the character depicted on the old Roman denarii I have seen.

Also the Celts wore their hair at times of war in fearsome spikes! The Roman historian Diodorus Siculus wrote:

The Gauls are very tall with white skin and blond hair, not only blond by nature but more so by the artificial means they use to lighten their hair. For they continually wash their hair in a lime solution, combing it back from the forehead to the back of the neck. This process makes them resemble Satyrs and Pans since this treatment makes the hair thick like a horse’s mane.

Analysis of some remains of warriors and citizens found in peat bogs feature not lime, but a mixture of saps/resins that would have stiffened the hair much like lime.

In conclusion, my hypothesis is that the ‘snake-like’ hair was many individual braids, colored perhaps with Woad, from a distance the curls of the braid would perhaps resemble scales, and the ‘twisting’ of the snake produced with a mixture of hardened lime or pine resin or the like! A fearsome appearance indeed if you were to meet them on the battlefield! Beware the Celt and German, they have tamed snakes and made a home for them on their heads!

Hagall Hindrvitni!


16 comments on ““Hair like snakes” (My hypothesis)

  1. Edward Le Prieur says:

    Peoples of North & Western Europe having dreadlocks is probably the most absurd claim I’ve heard. I think if anything that Caesar was attributing snake like hair to the Celts as snake(s) are a negative connotation and Caesar and Rome had a negative opinion of the Celts. I have the same ancestry, but my hair is very straight and I doubt even if I left my hair unkempt that it would become like dreadlocks. I think it’s more likely for this to occur naturally in people with very curly hair. Interesting article nonetheless!

    • hibernian says:

      They Celts were known to use some sort of Gel in their hair to make it stick out and appear maybe like snakes but not dread locks in the African sense. I am of some French and mostly Northern and Southern Irish and have wavy blondish hair. I do not know what hair like snakes means hahahah Maybe Medusa?

    • TheFunk says:

      Straight hair dreads. Look at Hindu holy men. Indians don’t have very curly hair at all. All hair dreads if not separated and combed. It will NOT dread if it is dirty, because dirty hair is oily hair, and oily hair will not dread. Dreads are formed in clean, uncombed hair.

    • Lola Twinkle says:

      Not absurd at all. Dreads are a good way of having long hair without combing. They have to be rolled and some product used. This style very much suits a rural outdoor life and as many tribal cultures all over the world have used it it is not
      unreasonable to think that some northern European tribes may have. It’s certainly not absurd. The style suites black people’s hair because the locks form quickly and grow long on hair which would otherwise grow out into an unmanageable bush.

      • Amber D says:

        Very absurd, Lola. A huge part of the culture was brushing one’s hair out every day with a comb. Therefore, it could never dread.

  2. Duncan Stewart says:

    I do have really curly hair, but not negro dreadlock hair.
    When ungroomed, it looks like this: http://www.newbeehomeschooler.com/Dying_GaulDSCF6738.jpg

  3. Hyperborean says:

    Only retarded socialist multicult hipsters have dreadlocks to emulate their beloved negroes.

  4. cwrigley91 says:

    Reblogged this on Der Wehrwolf and commented:
    I will not have time to post anything today but I will be back tomorrow! In the mean time here is an excellent article on our ancestors! Please read this article and check out the Heathens of Vinland blog! As always WOTAN MIT UNS!!

    -Der Wehrwolf

  5. Varg Vikernes says:

    It could just have been something like the “Suebian knot” or even just “long hair”…possibly braided (“into a long snake”).

  6. […] : irishfireside.com, marariley.net, theceltsat (blogspot), heathensofvinland (wordpress), […]

  7. sammycee says:

    So…. my ancestors were mainly Welsh coal miners who immigrated to southwest Virginia in the 1830s and 40’s. My hair, my brother’s AND my mom’s hair is blonde, and very curly. We have cut literal dreadlocks from the back of his head because he only gets it cut like once a year, and only Rarely brushes it. Three days without brushing is about all it takes, especially if you go to bed with it wet! All you other white people must have thinning hair! And you dont get much more Celtic than Wales. So. Here’s my finger.

  8. Dalton Brown says:

    I highly doubt anyone is making the claim that it originated in Europe, that’s the absurd claim. But what these people are saying is that it isn’t just an African thing. Things like ideas, foods, or other cultural phenomenon can originate in many different places at once. I comb my hair quite often so, it doesn’t get tangled like it would if I didn’t. Now, if I had long hair that went past my shoulders, nipple-length lets say. and I only combed back over my head to the neck, there would still be a good six or so inches that don’t get combed. This is where all the angles would get pushed to in this scenario. Do that long enough and over time it would lock up.

    The hole idea of “cultural appropriation” is absurd. We are all humans. All our cultures belong to the human collective culture. What a boring world if I could only eat and dance and do things which originated in Britannia or Russia. same for everyone.

  9. Sam says:

    “Many people use this “hair like snakes” quote as evidence that dreadlocks originated from Northwestern Europe, and therefore all other cultures are misappropriating and copying them.”

    That is a seriously harsh statement you use to introduce your hypothesis. While ‘many people’ do use that quote to argue that cultures like the Celts, Vikings and Germanic might have worn dreadlocks, never have I met a single person nor have I read a single text that claimed Dreadlocks originated from Northwestern Europe and especially concluded that ALL OTHER cultures copied them.

    Dreadlocks, or any kind of matted hair, occurs when long, clean hair is left uncombed. This phenomenon has been recorded in various cultures through time all across the world.

    Nonetheless, I thought your text brought up some very interesting points that I haven’t considered until now, and I would like to thank you for that.

    Personally, I’d like to think that in every culture at one point, a natural hairdo like matted hair or dreadlocks must have existed at least once on top of someone’s head.

  10. Dawn Prince says:

    My understanding and experience resonates with Sam’s. My hair is straight and fine and to dread it I had to keep it very clean. Humans being inventive and experimental, I think what he says is likely true — if it happens to human hair, it was probably worn at some point by some people. There are sculptural and pictoral depictions of people with dreads from pretty much every part of the world. I don’t think anyone had to be “first” nor do I think that it is cultural appropriation to wear one’s hair any certain way — if your hair does something naturally then I think you can claim it. Human beings are closer than they seem to believe, in my opinion.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s