The History of Dreadlocks
by Bouneith Inejnema Naba
Many times I have heard friends admit to me that, because they have dreadlocks, they have been approached in the street by someone who wanted to sell them marijuana. The sellers approached these individuals solely because they had dreadlocked hair; none of the individuals used drugs or associated with those who do use. Dreadlocks have become so much associated with Rastafarian culture, which is, in turn, associated with smoking ganga, that few people know the real roots and history of dreadlocked hair. What are the traditional origins and meanings of dreadlocks?
New-generation Rastafarians will tell you that the culture of locked hair came, originally, from Africa, but any knowledge beyond the continent that locks came from is unknown. Where old-generation Rastafarians hold great pride in their natural hair and see it as a symbol of their fight against Babylon, non-violence, non-conformity, communalism and solidarity, and as a heavy spiritual statement, many new-generation Rastas see their dreads as a passport to smoking ganga and listening to Reggae music, not understanding the real Rastafarian culture and values. Where Rastafarians once shunned everything from Babylon, such as soda, alcohol and cigarettes, modern Rastas are often seen smoking, wearing designer clothing, eating meat and drinking beer. Wearing your hair "naturally“ has become more of a status symbol than a spiritual decision, and people begin locking their hair so that they are seen as conscious, afrocentric, or different, rather than for honest spiritual and conscious reasons.
Dreadlocks have been a part of the history of every spiritual system. From Christianity to Hinduism, locked hair has been been a symbol of a highly spiritual person who is trying to come closer to God(s). If one is to research the spiritual history and meaning of locks, they will be mentioned in all holy books (the biblical Sampson wore his hair in dreadlocks, and his unsurpassed strength was lost when Delilah cut off his seven locks of hair) and cultures.
Dreadlock's roots are commonly traced back to Hinduism and the God Shiva, but stops there. Meanwhile, most people recognize that dreadlocks have their origin in Africa, but nobody seems to know where, how or why! As with everything else, the true origins of dreadlocks can be found in Kemet (Africa).
’Originally, dreadlocks were the mark of spiritual status," Dogon Priest and Kemetic Spiritual Master Naba Lamoussa Morodenibig of The Earth Center explained in an interview. Priests of diverse Deities were required, at least for a specific period of time, to have dreadlocks. For example, priests of Deities that are involved in the healing of the body and with procreation, such as Wsr, Heru, Theouris and Sekhmet, are required to have dreadlocks. There is a period of seven to thirteen years that a priest of these Deities must let their hair grow freely and devote themselves completely to the Deity. During this time, the priest has a role of responsibility towards the God and the temple. After that time period, if they want to cut their hair, a ceremony is done and they can remove their locks if they choose. Interest-ingly, for other Deities, like Aishat, one must shave every hair on their body when serving that God or Goddess. It depends on which God and temple is being served."
What is it about hair that is so important for priests and temples? It is a notion of purity. Hairs are huge emitters and receptors. When one is in an area, such as a temple, where the flow of energy must be tightly controlled, hair becomes either very helpful or very disturbant, depending on the energetic needs, "Master Naba explained. Even when a hair falls off of the body, it does not lose its qualities, and it can become a big disturbance to the flow of energy." Even animals that are sacrificed are checked thoroughly for a specific type of fur. It is not every ram or cow that can be used in a ceremony - it is only a priest who can safely determine whether an animal is fit for sacrifice, and it is a heavy responsibility to do so. The untrained eye will think that any animal will do, but if there is one piece of the wrong kind of fur on an animal, it cannot be used!
It is known that many Pharaohs had locked hair, and on Tutankhamen's mummy, dreadlocks can still be found intact. How did dreadlocks become such a symbol of Rastafarian belief and culture rather than of African spirituality? Master Naba offered his knowledge: Dreadlocks in spirituality has a very high value. During pre-colonial Africa, healers and priests in many parts of the continent carried dreadlocks, and every religion that has come has adopted the idea of either having dreadlocks or shaving all hair on the body. In the Bible, it states that those who don't shave, drink alcohol or eat meat are the closest to God; Jesus himself is shown with long hair! In Islam, shaving is seen as a value of cleanliness. To associate dreadlocks with only Rastafarianism is unfair. But, in the history of Black people, Rastafarianism became a politico-spiritual movement after the prophesy of Marcus Garvey surfaced. It gave Black people a spirit of hope, and the Rastafarian then adopted the attitudes of African priests: they kept their hair like a priest, did not eat red meat, drink alcohol, use drugs or smoke cigarettes. They decided to stay spiritually hopeful, and the dreadlocks represented, instead of a priest serving a temple for seven years, a period of time spent waiting for something to happen."
Dreadlocks carry a very heavy spiritual meaning that is virtually unknown in today's modern society. Now worn as a fashion statement, a political message, or as a rebellion, many people, young and old alike, have no idea what dreadlocks mean spiritually, and they do not know the position they are putting themselves in by having locked hair. Dreadlocks carry the notion of devotion and sacrifice to the Deities, according to the spiritual rules," says Master Naba, the only Dogon/Kemetic priest who has been commis-sioned by the committee of elders in Africa to bring initiatic knowledge outside of trad-itional initiation camps. Dread-locks carry a very heavy spiritual bur-den. It is only people that have conscious-ly decided to take a vow of purity and to follow all of the seventy-seven commandments and apply them to all aspects of their lives that should wear dreadlocks. People of any race or gender can wear them, because spirit-ually we are the same, but the one who has dreadlocks must understand the spiritual meaning behind them if they do not want to face negative consequences.