Friday, October 23, 2020

Ossian, and his ancient Gaelic redheads

As I noted in the last post I've been looking into the works of Ossian. Albeit somewhat superficially. Ossian is the supposed author of a cycle of epic poems, originally composed in Scottish Gaelic, but translated and published in English by James Macpherson in the 18th century. The general view is that the true author was in fact Macpherson himself, and that he either forged the poems outright, or stitched them together from genuine traditions and texts.

Though less well known now the works of Ossian were hugely influential following their publication, and inspired many of the famous writers and artists in the decades that followed. Even people such as Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson were big fans (perhaps due in part to the fact that they themselves were redheads, and the allure of flame-haired ancient battles and romance appealed to them??).

The works also hugely impacted the cultural landscape in regard Scottish and Gaelic history. Influencing among others Sir Walter Scott.

I found the following little references to red hair in a publication titled The Poems of Ossian: In the Original Gaelic, Volume 2. (1870). Fortunately it also provides the English versions too :)

"Thou head of bards," said Ca-mor;
"Fonnar, call the chiefs of Erin:
Call Connar of the dark-red hair;
Call Malhos of the fiercest brow;

That third line reads as "Gairm Cormar a's dearg-ruadh ciabh" in Scots Gaelic. "Dearg-ruadh" meaning reddish-brown if I'm reading it correctly.

All these poetic lines will no doubt sound a little odd removed from their wider context, but as I haven't read the entire things myself yet (they're quite long and samey, very Homeric) I can't really provide much help. So we'll have to make do and just note these little passages down for now.

Next one >>

"The sounding steps of his warriors came: they drew at once their swords. There Morlath stood with darkened face. Hidalla's long hair sighs in the wind. Red-haired Cormar bends on his spear, and rolls his sidelong-looking eyes."

Then we have this.

"Crathin came to the hall, the son of old Gelláma! 'I behold,' he said, 'a cloud in the desert, king of Erin! a cloud it seemed at first, but now a crowd of men! One strides before them in his strength. His red hair flies in wind. His shield glitters to the beam of the east. His spear is in his hand.'

Next up this. (It really is very Homeric in style isn't it. It's like reading the Iliad. Probably a good giveaway that the poems are indeed forged).

"Cairbar shrinks before Oscar's sword! He creeps in darkness behind a stone. He lifts the spear in secret: he pierces my Oscar's side! He falls forward on his shield; his knee sustains the chief. But still his spear is in his hand. See, gloomy Cairbar falls! The steel pierced his forehead and divided his red hair behind. He lay like a shattered rock which Cromla shakes from its shaggy side, when the green-valleyed Erin shakes its mountains from sea to sea."

Now a nice little short one thankfully.

"He has come with thousands of his host
To the help of Cairbar of red hair -
Now to avenge his death,
King of Morven of lofty trees."

Plus another few lines that note the character Cairbar's red hair.

"Peerless Ca-mor, friend of strangers,
Brother to red-haired Cairbar..

And finally a mention of a "red-haired Olla".

"Red-haired Olla came with song;
Straightway went Oscar to the feast,
Three hundred strode beside him
Over Lena of the full blue streams;
His grey dogs bounded on the heath"

No doubt there'll be other references to hair colour dotted about in other Ossian poems. I'll keep an eye out going forward. Hopefully by that time I'll be a little more familiar with the subject, and I'll be able to provide a bit more context. Perhaps I'm doing these red-haired heroes a distinct disservice by sharing their names and features with so little knowledge or reverence.

Cormar, Cairbar, Olla ..who the hell are these people?!

Hair, Care and Pretty Pictures

All the passages in this post will be coming from a work titled The Hair: Its Growth, Care, Diseases and Treatment, written by one Charles Henri Leonard. Published 1879. It's quite a treasure trove of anecdote and information. I'll relay the contents by page number for simplicity.

Page 12.

"In red hair is found a reddish oil, a small quantity of iron,
but a large quantity of sulphur."

Page 61.

"Mr. H. C. Sorby has succeeded in extracting the coloring matter of human hair, and found that there are three coloring pigments, yellow red and black, and that all the shades are produced by the mixture of these three primary colors.

In the pure golden, yellow hair there is only the yellow pigment; in red hair the red pigment is mixed with more or less yellow, producing the various shades of red and orange; in dark hair the black is always mixed with yellow and red, but the latter are overpowered by the black; and it seems that even the blackest hair, such as that of the Negro, contains as much red pigment as the very reddest hair. He concludes from this, that if in the Negro the black pigment had not been developed, the hair of all Negros would be as fiery a red as the reddest hair of an Englishman."

The antiquated terminology aside, it's quite interesting that the author notes that black hair also contains the red pigmentation, which is "overpowered" by the darker pigment. As this tallies fairly well with what we currently know from genetics. Though the author here splits things into three pigments (yellow, red and black) in contrast to how we now view things. With skin and hair colour being a product of two factors; eumelanin and pheomelanin.

Page 67.

"Red-haired people are firm in their convictions, and are great lovers of their mother country, people and church; notably so are the Scotch. Their morals are of the sturdy, Puritanic type. Such people are classed as of sanguine temperament. When the hair is coarse and harsh, brutality and sensuousness marks the character of the possessor."

Page 112.

"Sibley gives a case where a girl, of Somersetshire, had one side of her head covered with jet-black hair, whilst the other side was covered with hair of a reddish yellow. The body hair was as characteristically marked. The mother's hair was a carroty-red."

Page 129.

"A case is related by Bogue of a young gentleman, possessing a fine head of brown hair, going to Samatra for a few years when, on his return, his friends found it difficult to recognize him, as the brown hair of his head was replaced by that of a positive red color."

Page 158. On dyeing the hair.

The ancient Greeks and Romans sanctioned it; for the saintly Tertullian, of Carthage, had occasion to reprimand his flock because "they were continually engaged in giving their hair a lighter color." St. Jerome, living a couple of centuries later, wrote that "the people dye their hair red." Aelian incidentally refers to the same coloring process, when he speaks of the beauteous blonde tresses of Atalanta, in saying that they were "yellow, not produced by any womanly art, but altogether natural." Soloman, so Josephus says, was the first to bring into notice golden hair, for he had the hair of his pages powdered with gold. And the Musselman, likewise, deems it almost a sacred duty to dye his hair and beard a reddish-yellow color."

Page 166, 167.

"It is said that red hair was not known to the old inhabitants of England, until the country was invaded by the Saxons and the Danes. The Danish soldiers, prior to the Norman conquest, who were quartered in England during the reign of Ethelred II. (968), had red hair. The second son of William, Duke of Normandy, who conquered England at the battle of Hastings, and who succeeded to the crown, was called Rufus on account of his red hair. Ossian, in his poems, scarcely mentions any beautiful man or woman without clothing them with a cranial covering of reddish hue. The ancient Gauls also manifested this predilection for red hair. The Turks, it is said, liked red-haired women, and the Tripolitan ladies aid in this coloration with vermilion. Some of the central African tribes manifest a similar fondness."

This little passage led me to look up the poetry of Ossian, I'll note my findings in the next post.

Page 268.

"In the matter of the color of the hair, Apollo received the golden-coloured locks; Mars had red hair and beard; Venus, yellow, golden tresses; Minerva, flaxen braids concealed beneath her helmet. As a rule, in their [the ancient Greeks] poems, their warriors were men of reddish hair, their women with the golden tresses of Venus."

Page 278.

"The ancient Gauls esteemed it an honor to have the hair long, and hence Caesar, when he had conquered them, not only made them "pass under the yoke," but deprived them of their long tresses also; then those that vowed perpetual submission retired to the cloisters, and shaved their heads. This feeling of humiliation, at the cropping of the hair, descended for generations among the French people, and hence, under the first régime, to cut the hair of the heir to the crown was deemed an exclusion of his rights to the succession, and reduced him to the position of an ordinary subject. The kings and princes, during this period, wore their hair long; though the subjects were made to have their hair cut short, as emblematic of their inferior state. They were also great admirers of red hair, although their descendants, at a period later, held it in abomination."

Finally, just for fun, I'll share some of the images I came across in the book. Which depict some of the unusual hairstyles the author relates.

Something to consider if you're thinking of a style change.

Mary, Queen of Scots Revisited..

I first posted on here about Mary, Queen of Scots way back in 2011. Since then that page has clocked up more views that any other page on the site ..and by a fair few thousand. So the hair colour of wee Mary must be a hot topic.

(A vaguely-red haired Mary
- painted by François Clouet)

Anyway, recently I've discovered a few more quotes, so I can add a little more. Mainly thanks to this very interesting article on the history of hair turning white through fear.

Sudden Whitening of the Hair - J. E. Jelinek, M.D.

The useful footnotes to the piece helped me find the following two little passages. The first one coming from a work titled The Hair: Its Growth, Care, Diseases and Treatment (which I'll be relating more information from in my next post). It notes that Mary's "auburn" hair turned grey through grief.

"Another royal instance is that of Mary, Queen of Scots, whose auburn hair, through fright and grief, was changed to gray in the course of a few days. Miss C. D. Brent, of Washington, has in her possession a lock of hair of this unfortunate individual. It is of silky texture, and of a beautiful pale auburn colour."

The text, published in 1879, also noted that the hair of Marie Antionette changed from auburn to grey.

"Marie Antoinette, the Queen of Louis XVI., whose magnificent auburn tresses changed to gray in a single night, when the royal party was arrested at Varennes."

The passage I really wanted to share though was this following one. The original was in French, in a publication titled Causeries du lundi, Volume 4 (1852). I've translated it using Google Translate and a little bit of my own tinkering, so it probably isn't quite perfect. Still, even in my uncultured hands the information and poetry radiates out.

"Mme Sand, speaking of a portrait she saw as a child at the Couvent des Anglaises, said without hesitation: "Marie was beautiful, but red-haired". Mr. Dargaud speaks of another portrait where "a ray of sunlight shines [..] curls of living and electric hair in the light", but Walter Scott, renowned as the most exact of historical novelists, paints us a picture of Marie Stuart as a prisoner in the castle of Lochleven. Showing us, as if he had seen her himself, the thick braids of dark brown hair which escaped at a certain moment from under the cap of the queen. Here we are far from red, and I see no way to reconcile everything, but to go through this hair "so beautiful, so blond and ashen" that Brantome admired, a very eye witness; hair that captivity had to whiten, and which will show the hour of death in the hands of the executioner."

So even in butchered French I guess the jury is still out somewhat. Best leave her on the boundary between redhead and non-redhead I suppose. With auburn or dark brown being our best guess.

(The original French)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Old Ethnographers Revisited..

Today we're heading back in time a little. When I first started doing this one of the things I came across was the world of 19th century ethnographers. Learned men discussing all the races, shades and colours of man. Replete with their various theories and prejudices. They were very interesting to read ..and also often a great source for little titbits about red hair.

Anyway, I've been digging into that realm again and I've found a few more.

Firstly we have this quote from the Compte-rendu de la première session, Londres, 1934. It contemplates the idea of a red-haired race (or the lack thereof).

"Curiously enough, we do not think that we can trace our sporadic red hair back to a red-haired race. So far as we know there has never been a people all of whose members were red-haired, though we find large numbers of red-haired individuals among such peoples as the Irish, Jews and Malays. But there seems never to have been a sufficient number of red-haired people who were proud enough of their characteristic to invent a racial myth about it. It may be that in the course of time there will be a race of Man whose members are wholly or mainly red-haired, but at present Man seems to be evolving towards greater diversity within populations, rather than greater uniformity."

Next we have this one. It comes from the Physical History of Mankind: Ethnography of the African races. 3d ed. 1837 by James Cowles Prichard.

[We came across James Cowles Prichard back in this piece. Which incidentally also mentions the Funge people whom he refers to below. ]

"[T]he inhabitants of the high tracts of Mons Aurasius are completely xanthous, having red or yellow hair and blue eyes, which fancifully, and without the shadow of any proof, they have been conjectured to have derived from the Vandal troops of Genseric."

"One of the peculiarities of the nation last mentioned [the Funge], is the frequent appearance among them of a red complexion and of red hair, a phenomenon analogous, as it would seem, to the so-termed accidental developement of light varieties of complexion in the black nations, of which so many instances have been recorded. White Negroes, or Dondos, are frequently born from black parents, in all parts of Africa. Many of them are of the xanthous variety, and have red hair. They seem to be particularly numerous in the black race which repeopled Sennaar some hundred years ago, where, under the name of "El Aknean," "the Red People," they form, according to M. Cailliaud, a separate or distinguishable caste."

He also provides us with this little nugget;
"According to Pigafetta's statement, the "Negroes of Kongo have black, curly, and frequently red hair." He observes that "they resemble the Portuguese pretty much, except in colour: the iris was in some black, but in others of a bluish green"
We then have these quotes from Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man: Delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons by Sir William Lawrence, 1823. They note observations of red hair amidst non-European populations.
"Forster saw, in the island of Otaha, a man with fair freckled skin and red hair. Red-haired individuals have been observed in most of the dark nations, as the Wotiaks, Eskimaux, islanders of New Guinea and New Zealand, and the Negroes."

"He [Blumenbach] himself saw a Mulatto with red hair, of which he procured a specimen. A man of mulatto complexion, freckled, with strong red hair, disposed in small wiry curls, and born of black parents, was seen by WINTERBOTTOM, ii. 170; who met with others having red complexion and hair"
There was also this passage noting the various eye colours, as laid down by Aristotle.
"The three principal colours of the human eye were well laid down by ARISTOTLE, viz. blue, passing in its lighter tints to what we call gray; an obscure orange, which he calls the colour of the eye in the goat (Fr. yeux de chevre), a kind of middle tint between blue and orange, and sometimes remarkably green in men with very red hair and freckled skin; and lastly, brown in various shades, forming in proportion to its depth what we call hazel, dark, or black eyes."
I quite like how the "obscure orange" is labelled the "yeux de chevre" - "eye of the goat".

Finally, we have this one, mentioning the beliefs of the noted British Assyriologist Reverend Archibald Henry Sayce. I found it in The Archaeology of Race: The Eugenic Ideas of Francis Galton and Flinders Petrie by Debbie Challis.
"There was no ambiguity about Sayce's thoughts on the race of the Egyptians who he thought were white and similar to northern Europeans but with a red-skin due to sun-burn and black or red hair (Sayce, 1925: 83)."
We came across Sayce quite a way back in relation to red hair. That time in a post relating to British Israelism.

2012 (!) ..seems like an aeon ago.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Jewish Hearts and Sweet Little Jesus

Further digging. A few interesting quotes. First up we have one from a book titled Jewish Hearts: A Study of Dynamic Ethnicity in the United States and the Soviet Union by Betty N. Hoffman, 2012. It concerns a child getting bullied at a Russian summer camp for having red hair.

"They beat her when nobody saw because she had a very pronounced Jewish appearance. She had red hair, and in Russia red hair belongs only to Jews."

We've came across this notion before, it seems to be a bit of a recurring theme. I often wonder; is it a product of red hair being genuinely more frequent amongst Russian Jews? Or does it stem from something far deeper in culture and folklore? Perhaps it's a combination of both. We've noted before that red hair was also said to be more common amongst Jews living in Poland than amongst the native Polish population. So this idea pops up quite frequently.

Our next quote follows on from this a little. It notes the ancient bias towards red hair, and comes from a work tilted The Jewish Persona in the European Imagination: A Case of Russian Literature, by Leonid Livak (2010);

"Ancient bias against red hair, manifest in the flaming hair of Seth-Typhon and in the red-haired slave-figure of the classical comedy, persists in medieval and Renaissance drama and visual arts, as well as in European folklore, where red hair symbolizes the fires of hell and the demons stoking them. As a result, English, German, French, Polish, and east Slavic popular cultures designate red hair and freckles as peculiar to Judas and "the jews." [..]

It then continues, recounting the view of Charles Dickens.

"The same association runs in high culture, from the Spanish Inquisition's view of red hair as "jewish" by default to Dickens's vision of London's Hollywell Street (Sketches by Boz, IV:76) as full of "redheaded and red-whiskered Jews" - a demonic trait in the writer's opinion, if we were to judge by Fagin's "matted red hair"[.]"

We've mentioned the Dickensian view of red hair on here before, and the description of Hollywell Street seems to fit the theme perfectly. We've noted on this blog, perhaps a dozen times or more (it's a cherished theme, it ticks all the redhead boxes), that Dickens famously labelled the child Christ in Millais's Christ in the House of His Parents as a "wry-necked, blubbering, redheaded boy, in a bed-gown."

So Dickens clearly wasn't too fond of the colour lol

(Christ in the House of His Parent - detail)


Just a quick addendum. As I was writing this I came across another little quote from Dickens. This time from his Letters and Speeches. It refers to a groom with red hair.
"Since I have written this, the aforesaid groom - a very small man (as the fashion is), with fiery red hair (as the fashion is not) - has looked very hard at me and fluttered about me at the same time, like a giant butterfly."
Not especially interesting, but worth noting nonetheless.

The Code of Manu & Kitty Kirkpatrick

More digging around in Google Books. Both the things today have a slight Indian feel.

This first one comes in regard the ancient Hindu legal text known as the Manusmriti. I came across this in a book titled Sex and Race, Volume 3 by J. A. Rodgers. It recalls that upper castes were forbidden from marrying women with red or golden hair.

"The Code of Manu, one of the oldest law-books of the world forbade the marriage of a Brahman [..] with a Sudra, or artisan. [..] Manu also considered a woman who had red, or golden hair, inferior, and marriage with her by any of the three upper castes was forbidden".

This next, geographically-related bit of information comes from Sex and the Family in Colonial India: The Making of Empire by Durba Ghosh. It quotes Thomas Carlyle, who poetically describes the red-haired daughter of a mixed Anglo-Indian marriage.

[The] entry of a strangely-complexioned young lady, with soft brown eyes and floods of bronze-red hair, really a pretty-looking, smiling and amiable, though most foreign bit of magnificence and kindly splendour;...her birth, as I afterwards found, an Indian Romance, mother a sublime begum, father a ditto English official, mutually adoring, wedding, living withdrawn in their own private paradise, Romance famous in the East.

 - Thomas Carlyle, Reminiscences (1823)

The young lady was Katherine Kirkpatrick, "the daughter of James Achilles Kirkpatrick, resident of Hyderabad, and the Begum Khair-un-nissa, a noblewoman of the court at Hyderabad."

(Portrait of Katherine Kirkpatrick, ca. 1830)

(A rich-coloured portrait of Kitty with her
brother William - her red hair clearly visible)

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

An artist's notes on (red) hair

In my wanderings I came across another old article that mentions red hair. It's titled 'An Artists Notes On Hair', and comes from a 19th century publication titled 'The art journal London (1857)'.

I'll quote a few paragraphs;

"The pale gold runs into the full gold, that into the coppery, then into the red, then into the auburn, and lastly into the dark, almost black hair, with red in it. This is the grandest kind of hair, perhaps, of all - grander even than the black hair with bright blue lights, because it is stronger in character, richer, and more vital. It is hair one would fancy Samson had. This kind, however, is very uncommon. I have not seen it in perfection more than once or twice.

Red hair is not often the subject of praise, nevertheless, there are several kinds of it that are very beautiful. I know but one, indeed, which I cannot like, and that is the fiery, brick-dusty version which is associated with an unpleasing complexion of the sallow, pale, tallowy, or fire-burnt character. When, however, the complexion is agreeable - and it often is the most charming and peachy when the hair is red - then the quality of the hair is commonly pleasing too. The delicacy of these tints, however, agrees better with the female than the male character, and therefore red hair is more agreeable in a woman than a man, in whom a certain pronounced vigour of appearance is looked for, which in red hair is apt to fall into the aforesaid brick-dusty and fiery."

The entire article can be found here;

Monday, October 19, 2020

François Ravaillac - Redheaded Assassin

A good while ago we briefly noted that François Ravaillac, the famed assassin of King Henry IV of France, was a redhead.

We even gave him his own page;

Anyway, a few days ago I came across a passage confirming this. I say confirm, the text it comes from is from 1719, and Ravaillac died in 1610, so it isn't quite proof, but still; pretty old.

The book is titled 'The history of king-killers' and describes him as an "enthusiastic hellish murderer of his sovereign", and as being "red hair'd [and] of a melancholy temper".