Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Red Hair & Game of Thrones

I've been meaning to write this one for a while. I normally don't watch too much mainstream TV, but I do like Game of Thrones, and it's hard not to notice the plethora of red-haired characters in it. This is something that would have seemed quite noteworthy ten or fifteen years ago when I first started charting the fortunes of red hair. However, these days it doesn't seem quite as extraordinary. Maybe this is just me getting jaded with the topic. Had I noticed such a popular TV series with so many redheads back when I began writing it certainly wouldn't have taken me so long to catalogue it all. Then again though it was rare back then, but not so rare now.

One of the interesting things I like about Game of Thrones is that it doesn't seem afraid to appeal to traditional stereotypes regarding looks and racial characteristics. You have the often red-haired Wildlings from north of the wall, the blond-haired Lannisters. The silver-haired Targaryens. The swarthy uncivilised Dothraki tribes from across the sea - along with the countless other darker-skinned slaves and nomads which eventually end up following Daernerys Targaryen.

(The blond-haired Lannister family)

These stereotypes, all in someway lifted from actual history and human folklore, have led to accusations that the show helps perpetuate racist views and myths. Personally I would disagree with this, though I understand why people would make this accusation. It is after all quite striking to see a milk white woman being worshipped by hordes of black and brown people on TV - especially in today's era.

(Daernerys Targaryen being lauded by her followers)

I remember how well these tribal and family characteristics stood out when I first started watching the series - "the blond ones are Lannisters, they're all bad, the dark-haired and red-haired ones are northerners, they're good". It was like I was being told a fairy tale that I was already vaguely familiar with.

I wonder if some of the show's success lies in this appeal to these traditional tropes and associations that we all carry within ourselves somewhere deep down. Does a blonde-haired princess just make more sense to us deep down on some fundamental level? Is this a product of our culture and history, or is there some tiny degree of truth in such stereotypes? It's uncomfortable, but interesting ground to cover. I certainly don't think it's good to shy away from such topics, or to censor any such artistic expressions. Again though, people are also well entitled to express any counter opinions they may have.

Personally, I prefer my TV and art to be edgy. The false and sickly tokenism we generally see today in the mainstream is just a recipe for boredom in my opinion. We mentioned before on this blog the increasing number of "token" redheads in adverts and on TV. The effort and intent is appreciated, and I'm sure it stems from a desire to do good, but I wouldn't want a generic redhead inserted unnecessarily into some TV show on my behalf. I'm sure most black people feel the same about the endless stream of black "everyman"  actors we see in the media. If diversity means a diverse range of inoffensive characters everywhere then it's kinda gonna suck a bit entertainment wise.

Anyhow, with all that said, I'll list below some of the main red-haired characters that are in the show.

Sansa Stark: Eldest daughter of Eddard Stark, one of the main characters in the show. Her mother, Catelyn Stark, is also somewhat red-haired, though hers tends more towards the auburn in shade.

Ygritte: A Wildling from north of the wall, love interest of Jon Snow.

Melisandre: Also known as The Red Woman. A witch or sorceress.

Ros: A red-haired prostitute.

Tormund Giantsbane: A red-haired and red-bearded Wildling.

(Clockwise from top left;
Ros, Sansa Stark, The Red Woman, Ygritte)

(Tormund Giantsbane)

One of the more interesting references to red hair in the series comes in Season Seven, Episode Six when Tormund is in conversation with the Hound;

The Hound: Gingers I hate.
Tormund: Gingers are beautiful. Kissed by fire.

A similar mention comes in Season Three when Ygritte describes to Jon the person she lost her virginity to; "He came trading with his brothers. He had red hair like me. Kissed by fire". There are also numerous other mentions of red hair throughout the series, though some aren't quite as rosy in sentiment as this, such as when the character Bronn describes the man he stole the prostitute Shae from as a "ginger cunt", or when a fellow Wildling suggests that Ygritte would offer up her "ginger minge" to Jon Snow. I'll refrain from quoting that bit of dialogue in full xD

Watching the series I've quite enjoyed the frequent references to red hair. The positive mentions of it, plus the numerous strong red-haired characters, suggest a certain warmth for the trait on the part of the show's writers (I've never read the actual books, so it might be worth finding out if the theme is as strong there too). The use of terms such as "ginger" and "ginger minge" as insults in show also add to the realness and relatability. Quite a surprisingly British use of language for an American TV series.

In fact, I wonder if the weakness of the black characters in the show is actually due to the inability on the part of the writers to aim such blunt language towards them. The series abounds with labels such as "ginger cunt",  "blond-haired bastards", etc, which all give an added edge to the various factional rivalries in the show. There's also a fair amount of un-PC insults thrown towards gay and female characters in show. I wonder if the real racism lies in the show not using similar language towards its black characters. The feisty redheads in the show get insulted, which then gives them the opportunity to insult back. The various black characters in the show never get the opportunity to have the same type of exchanges - and it's these types of exchanges that in many ways make the show so endearing to its fans. Maybe that's where the problem lies.

Either way I look forward to Season Eight :D

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Red Hair and the Merovingians Revisited

Someone recently left a comment drawing my attention to the following painting. Titled; The Last Merovingian, it shows a very red-haired Childeric III getting his kingly locks shorn off by three monks. Quite a striking image.

(The Last Merovingian)

(The Last Merovingian - detail)

It's by the French artist Évariste-Vital Luminais. He was active during the 19th century and his works seem to feature red hair quite frequently.

(The Death of Childeric I)

(The Gallic Scouts)

(Les énervés de Jumièges)

As I've mentioned before on this blog, it's sometimes repeated online that the Merovingians were said to be red-haired. However, it's difficult finding any actual sources for this claim. The Merovingians were known as the "long-haired kings" - hence the symbolic shaving of the head in the painting - but the actual colour is difficult to pin down. Of course, most Europeans tend to have an array of hair colour in their family, so it would be unlikely that any colour would be common to an entire family. Then again though, that would make it even more interesting if it were found to be the case that the Merovingians were especially red-haired.

Given how far back in the past the Merovingian story is set it's perhaps also entirely possible that their entire history is more myth than reality. In fact, given how dishonest our current media is I'm starting to wonder if this was always the case. I'm starting to view all history as simply the aggregation of nonsense. These paintings do suggest though that the tradition relating red hair and the Merovingians was current in the 19th century, and that it's not just a modern phenomena. Again though, it could just be an aesthetic choice on the part of the artist. Maybe the way we write (or in this case paint) history says more about us than it does about any supposed distant point in time.

A quick search on Google Books for the keywords "red hair Merovingian" brought up the following description from a 19th century work;
Sidonius Appollinaris saw and has delineated one of their military bands. He describes the host as bareheaded, with masses of long red hair falling between their shoulders, their bodies tightly girt about with raw hides, though naked from the knee downward, carrying neither slings nor bows, nor other missiles, except a hatchet and a short pike, to which was strung a barbed harpoon, marching on foot, and protected by no defensive armour.
Lectures on the History of France - Sir James Stephen

This description seems to parallel the descriptions of Germanic, Gaulish and British tribes given by Greek and Roman writers. Again, one wonders how much is fact and how much is imagination.

Redhead - Ian Cook

In other news I recently had contact via email with Ian Cook, the author of the red hair themed novel Redhead. Quite fitting following on from the previous topic really given the far reaching historical and mythological themes featured in book.

He informed me that there is a revised edition of the book now available, and that he's also well into the sequel, which I look forward to reading :D

Friday, April 6, 2018

Red Hair and Sulfur

In this article I'll be noting some of the links that have been made regarding sulfur and red hair.

(The illustration L'Ame du vin by the artist Carlos
Schwabe, supplanted by the alchemical symbol for sulfur)

Red hair is said to have a high sulfur content in relation to hair of other colours. Over the years people have speculatively argued that this may bear some relation to the perceived fiery temperament redheads are said to have. As well as other possible personality traits.

Sulfur can often be found on the edge of volcano craters and for this reason was traditionally called brimstone in English. This brings to mind Christian notions of "fire and brimstone", and perhaps may help explain why red hair is sometimes associated with Judas and devilish behaviour. However, brimstone was also burned by adherents of the Greek Orthodox Church to ward off evil and disease. So in some ways such traditions regarding sulfur can be seen more positively as acts of purification.

In alchemy sulfur is also highly regarded and is often viewed in tandem with mercury. In fact, mercury, sulfur and salt are viewed as being the three most important constituents in western alchemy. Mercury is associated with the Moon, the feminine and water. Sulfur associated with the Sun, the masculine and fire. The combination of the two creating the symbolic alchemical marriage between the Sun and the Moon. Salt then being said to symbolise the fixed and permanent Earth.

As for the possible relationship between hair and temperament Rudolf Steiner had this to say;

Equally you can learn a great deal from one hair of a human being. But here you must remember how different, how individual is the hair of each person. Some of you are fair, some of you have black hair. What underlies this? Those of you who are dark have in the blackness of the hair an iron process which is going on in the hair. Blondeness comes from a sulfur process which is particularly strong in those people who have red hair. These things are of the very greatest interest. I have actually known people of whom it could be said that they were really fiery, with their bright red hair. A very strong sulfur process is present here, whereas in black hair there is a comparatively strong iron process. You must remember that this emanates from the whole human organism. A person who has red hair is always producing something that is a highly combustible substance - sulfur - and his hair is permeated with it. The other person who has black hair secretes iron - a substance that is not combustible but of a different character. This reveals a deep-seated difference between the two people in their whole organization. In individual cases, much can be learned about the whole human being from the kind of hair he has.

It'll be interesting to see if anything else comes to light regarding all this.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Red Hair in Art - Fra Angelico and Others

These first few are by the Italian Early Renaissance painter Fra Angelico (1395-1455). They can definitely by added to our red-haired Jesus collection :)


(Deposition from the Cross)

(An image of Mary and the Child Jesus)

What now follows is a random selection of red-haired images which I've came across.

This one's an image I came across on Pinterest. I couldn't find an
origin for it, but it portrays Mary Magdalene with reddish-brown hair.
It looks quite Germanic.

(Mary Magdalene at the Foot of the Cross - Ottilie Roederstein)

(The Progress of the Soul - Phoebe Anna Traquair)

Panel from an altarpiece once in Veyn, near Sort, Spain.
It depicts Saints Mary Magdalene, Ermengold, and
Catherine of Alexandria.

(The Sorrow of Mary Magdalene - Jules Joseph Lefebvre)

Red Hair in the Artwork of Florence Harrison

The following images come from the artist Florence Harrison (1877-1955). She was known for illustrating poetry and children's books.

This first one is an image I came across a very long time ago online, however at that time I had no way of knowing who the artist was as there was no label on the image. Fortunately I recently rediscovered it and found to my added pleasure that it was actually used to illustrate a poem by Christina Rossetti. It's quite a beautiful image.

(Illustration from Dream Land 1910)

The following two I only came across recently. They both portray women with reddish hair. The first is titled The Ghost's Petition, however I haven't been able to find the name of the second one as of yet.

Red Hair in the Works of Alphonse Mucha

Some beautiful art now. I've been meaning to upload some of these images for a while now, but have kept forgetting. This first batch comes from the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha.

(Poster for 'Imprimerie Cassan Fils' 1896)

(Cover for French literary and art review La Plume)

(La Belle Epoque)

(The Autumn Artist 1896)

(La Passion Poster)

(A poster for his Slovanská epopej exhibition)

The Red-Haired Prophecy of Constantinople

Yey, new post. First up a really excellent find from Emanuela. It comes from a book found on Google Books tilted Forschungen zur osteuropäischen Geschichte - which translates as Research on Eastern European History.

On page 57 it contains a curious reference to red hair. It concerns a prophecy relating to the city of Constantinople;

(click to enlarge)

It reads;
"The version which is possibly the oldest ends in a prophecy: one day, the "red-haired" people (rusyi rod) would reign over the Place of the Seven Hills (the New Rome) and restore to Christianity its ancient capital."
This is quite fascinating and is something I'm surprised not to have came across before. It's also interesting as it reaffirms the speculation linking Russia with red hair, and the idea that the name Russia possibly translates as "land of the reds". Something often repeated online and elsewhere. We've mentioned the possible etymological links with words such as rust, rose, russet, etc on this blog before.

On page 58 it then adds a little more, furthering this Russian connection;

This is definitely something worthy of further investigation :)

Following on from the Russian and Christian theme I also recently came across a paper that once again reiterates the unexpected commonness of red hair amongst the Jewish population. It's titled;

Jewish evolutionary perspectives on Judaism, antisemitism, and race science in late nineteenth-century England: a comparative study of Lucien Wolf and Joseph Jacobs

(A quick Google search should bring up the PDF).

I've yet to read the entire thing, but a quick search of the text brought up the following few bits.
In relation to hair, eyes, and complexion, he offered another meta-study (totalling 120,000 measurements) and showed that while Jews had darker hair and eyes than other nationalities, they included 21% blue eyes and 29% fair hair, and a surprisingly high number of red-heads (with Sephardim having three times as many red-haired as Ashkenazim).
In relation to red hair, Jacobs dismissed any claim that variation from the Jewish type should be interpreted as disproving purity of race; he argued that the Jewish type represented an average and that “the variations, though they may be due to intermixture, may also be merely normal divergences from the standard.” Red hair, Jacobs admitted, was the most difficult to understand in terms of divergence from the dark norm since it was “exceptionally prevalent” among Jews, but he noted that in biological terms “erythrism” was a kind of albinism and a matter of natural variance of certain pigments; he concluded that it was not due to intermixture but was the probable result of defective nutrition (since it occurred mostly among Jews of Africa and the East).
Interesting. Not too sure about the idea that red hair is the product of defective nutrition though xD

Thursday, February 8, 2018

..available on Amazon

Just a quick post today to mention that my book, An Esoteric History of Red Hair, is finally available on Amazon. In both Kindle and Paperback form. I'm really pleased with the paperback edition in particular. It's one thing publishing articles online, but to see something you've written actually in print is quite a nice feeling. I enjoy reading and know the comfort of reading an actual physical book, as opposed to long text on a phone or laptop. So I'm really happy to put this out.

The links below are for the Amazon US and UK sites, however it's also available in several other markets too.

Paperback - Amazon; US UK

Kindle - Amazon; US UK

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Red Hair YouTube Channel

I've recently set up a small YouTube channel for red hair. The two videos posted so far are pretty poor quality. It would be nice to do some more professional ones at some point in the future. I may also start doing some playlists of red hair videos on the channel if I come across any interesting ones on YouTube.

This first one is a re-upload of a very old video I made quite a while back. It's a little annoying, especially the text-to-speech voice, but it does at least share some interesting information in a bite-sized way.

In this next one I've tried to collate all the information regarding the idea that Jesus Christ was red-haired. My hope is that a few people will come across the video online and maybe add some information we don't already have.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Saint Catherine of Alexandria

According to the Wikipedia page for Catherine she is often depicted with "long unbound blonde or reddish hair". Below are a few examples where she has the reddish variety.

This one is tilted the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherin' and is by the German artist Hans Memling. Catherine is situated in the bottom left of the painting, sitting on her symbol the wheel - as in the famous "Catherine wheel". The Catherine wheel, also known as the Breaking wheel, was a type of torture device that according to legend was used to execute Catherine. In this painting Catherine seems to have gingery-blonde hair, as do the rest of the women in the painting.

This one depicts both Catherine and Mary Magdalene. It's by another German born painter, this time the artist Konrad Witz. Mary is on the left in green, holding her jar of ointment. Catherine is on the right, her wheel in the background, and reading a book. The book is symbolic of her education. Catherine was said to be a very erudite Christian scholar. She's the patron saint of scholars and students.

In fact, it's said that the legend of Catherine is possibly based on the story of the Hellenistic pagan scholar Hypatia of Alexandria. She was likewise martyred for her educated beliefs. Of course, the story of Hypatia could alternately be based on that of Catherine. Or both could be variants on some other tradition. It actually reminds me of the following painting of Mary Magdalene that, if I recall correctly, we shared on this blog a while ago.

This beautiful painting is by the artist Piero di Cosimo. It shows a red-haired Mary complete with her jar of ointment, as is common. However, in this one she's shown in a contemplative mood reading a book. A far cry from the impassioned and sexualised Mary Magdalene we're normally familiar with. I wonder if all these various traditions overlap somewhat.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"Carrots", Kyd and War Heroes

First new post of 2018 and a few new redheads to add to the team.

First one we have is Elizabeth Seymour, Duchess of Somerset (1667 - 1722). She was a close friend and confidant of Queen Anne of Great Britain. This closeness gave her a degree of influence at the time, an influence which was disliked and criticised by the satirist Jonathan Swift. In his stinging attack The Windsor Prophecy he labelled her "Carrots" because of her red hair.

Another famed redhead we have is Sergeant Alvin C. York. He was an American war hero during World War I and even had a poem dedicated to him called A Ballad Of Redhead's Day. The poem and an accompanying article from the time about his exploits can be found on the following page;

I also came across the following image of the character Fagin from Oliver Twist. We've mentioned how Dickens depicted Fagin as a red-haired Jew on these pages before. This image by Joseph Clayton Clarke (1857 - 1937), illustrates the stereotype perhaps even more vividly than the book does. Clarke, who worked under the pseudonym "Kyd", was famous for his illustrations of characters from Dickens novels.