Cover your Head Woman

1 Corinthians 11:4-6

4Every man praying or prophesying and with anything down over his head dishonors his head, 5But every woman praying or prophesying with head uncovered dishonors her head – it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a woman will not be covered, then let her be shorn! But since it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.

Michael Marlow, Research and Interpretation with both Greek and Latin

I love the depictions of veiled women, also the Quaker and Amish women in their traditional caps; I have always loved watching the Sunday-Go-To-Meeting Church Ladies in their fanciful hats, each brilliant by design. We have forgotten why we covered our heads for church; it wasn’t just to make a statement, to enhance our outfits, to be stylish in our brilliant plumage. Indeed no, we women were commanded to cover our heads when we pray. In fact, for centuries Christian woman, like their Muslim and Jewish sisters veiled, that is covered their heads upon marriage to signify their subservience to their husband and through him to God.

Thanks to
Stellar example of a Wimple

The standard covering was a Wimple up to the fifteen century, which similar to the modern Hijab worn by Muslim women covered the head and neck. The Wimple was worn by married women of all social classes; it was replaced by materials that were more lightweight and less constrictive designs. If you look at art through the ages, the depictions of women both high and low born rarely will you see a woman that is not without a head covering, some utilitarian some fanciful but always present. Scarfs, veils and later wimples were worn by Jewish, Muslim and Christian women through the sixteenth century, because this was the religious standard, the commandment of God, the social custom. Later Christian women would adopt snoods, still later of course for many the customs would become more lax and only the most conservative would retain the custom of veiling.

Why is this important?

Since September 11, 2001, we in the West taken on another enemy, Islam. We have identified the enemy in the shrouds of their devotion to Allah, the outward indicators of their religious belief. We have demanded they unveil in our presence, in our nation and their own; the unveiling we claim is a sign of their freedom, though what it truly does, it alleviates our fear of ‘other’.


If only we could free the women of the veil, they would be more like us. Free them from their religious and cultural bondage; they would no longer be ‘other’. But wait, are they really? Really, ‘other’ that is, Mennonites, Amish and many other more traditional Anabaptist denominations still require women to cover their heads during worship services and their everyday lives. Other less strict Protestant denominations have no official stance; nevertheless, many women still choose to wear hats when attending church.

This takes us to the Catholic Church, where it all started for the Christians; Paul was quite clear in his letter to the Corinthians, either cover your head or shave your head to be shamed. How much more clearly can the rules be stated? He wasn’t making this up as he went along either, he was simply repeating what was handed down from previous laws, taken directly from the his understanding of the Torah (two examples: Genesis 20:16 and Genesis 24:65). Cannon Law, Vatican I of 1917, Cannon 1262 stated clearly that women must cover their head any time they are in the presence of the Holy Sacrament; this means in church, when making sick calls and most especially when approaching the alter. Vatican II did not overturn or in any way abrogate this rule, in fact Cannons 20 and 21, of 1983 specifically state no Cannon that is not specifically mentioned should be presumed to be changed.

What does this mean?

Courtesy Catholic News
Chaldean Catholic Women heading to mass

It means, Catholic women are still required by Cannon Law (that is the rules of the Church) to cover their heads! Why is this important? It means we are not so different. The fact is we are started from the same place, we execute differently. Our cultures have taken different paths, thus our societies have as well. We spend a great deal of time staring at our Muslim sisters, worried they are downtrodden and abused simply by the fact they wrap their hair in the Hajib each morning as a sign of faith in Allah (God) and to signify their respect for themselves and their families. Has anyone bothered to ask them if they want to be free?

Don’t misunderstand me; I have great compassion for the women currently in nations guilty of true abuses. I am not discussing those nations or those abuses. I am simply addressing women and men in the west who look askance at those who are ‘other’, because they are Muslim, because they are easily identified as such by their choice to veil. Perhaps we could see how they are not so different from us, how our history parallels in many ways, we could eliminate some of the fear, some of the ‘otherness’. Maybe, just maybe we can start to extend our hand in friendship instead, begin to heal the wounds created by ‘other’.


  1. Sadly, most people can’t or won’t see past the obvious. Well written piece.

    • I agree, nevertheless I think it is important to keep pushing those boundaries. Whether it is the veiling of women of the man with 50 tattoos, our outer differences don’t necessarily mean anything at all.

  2. The closest one sees to head coverings by most Christian women is the Easter bonnet.
    But it goes to selective scriptures. People in all religions are guilty of this emphasizing the scriptures that agree with one’s agenda.

  3. Beautiful, thoughtful, well written piece. I think we need far more cultural exchange in our world to help us understand the what’s and why’s and who’s of the world. We would all be able to get along better.

    I do have a funny veil story, though.

    When we first moved to Geneva, my son and i went to a festival held every August. One of the Saudi royal princes was in town with his family. One of the bumper car rides was filled with royal children, in their black burkas — they were riding the bumper cars fast and furiously, with the Alps, Lake Geneva and the Jet D’eau (a fountain) in the background. Their eyes were shining!

    • The thing is, we all have those stories. All of us! Then we forget them in the heat of the moment, not all of us but many of us. That is what is so sad. I have been so blessed to have been able to travel and live so many different places in my life, it gave me such a different perspective. I have had a passport since I was 4 years old, more times than not I have had to have more pages put into in it before it expired.

      We are not so different under our veils, our tattoos, our glitter. Not so different at all.

  4. No, they are not so different. And some of the would like to not cover or wear abayas. You wonder what the thoughts are of the women when you live in the countries which enforce those traditions and you learn, yes, they are much like any other people in other other Non-Muslim country. In some Muslim schools, it’s forbidden to wear western hairstyles but you will see the younger generation pushing the limit or going against the grain. The world is much larger to them now, especially with the internet. You might even, on occasion, hear them blasting music as they drive down the road. While it looks as they westerners are forcing a western culture on them, trust me, in their own country, the desire is choice.

    • Oh I know, I have seen both. The issue though is the creation of another ‘other’. I grow so weary of the violence both physical and emotional within our society.

  5. This is outstanding, as always. Passed around the world because I can. You did a fab job with the pictures for this one. I adore the Indian lady. Such a beautiful veil.

    • Thanks Red, I loved her also. I put her next to the Western Bride because they are both Brides.

      I could have gone on and on, the traditions run deep and this was only the surface. My own veils, I pulled them out to look at them but I think that is a story for a different day.

  6. Maybe Marc means that the Hajib acentuates Muslim women’s large dark eyes.

    Anyway, I get what you mean. Positive and meaningful post. Headcovering for women, as you said is not new. Here are the examples per the above.

    Thank you. Interesting post.

    • I knew what Marc meant, it is the mystery of it all. That is the funny thing about ‘other’ isn’t it. I work with so many people from so many different cultures, I am fortunate I suppose, ‘other’ simply never bothered me. Maybe it is because I am so ‘other’ myself.

      I was also lucky to live in Singapore and work in Malaysia, where Islam is the primary religion, they had the most beautiful clothing! The Muslim women wore mostly Batik printed silk Baju Kurung (Tunic and long skirt) with matching Hajib, these are made from a single bolt of silk so each one is unique. The non-Muslim women wore Kabaya, similar in design (Tunic and long skirts) also made from a single bolt of Batik printed silk, no Hajib obviously, the design of a Kabaya is different in that the skirt has a slit to make walking a bit easier and the tunic is v-necked rather than boat necked. I loved these dresses, they are beautiful in both design and comfort. I had three of them made, I still wear them sometimes, in fact I wore one of them to a friends wedding.

      Funny what for them is everyday wear for us is dress up.

      • There is an incredible dress custom in Japan. They have no problem wearing western atire 70 per cent of the time. Then men and women will don the vast varieties of Kimono as befitting the occasion, family, social and religious.

        A young woman will wear Kimono with beautiful patterns and colours that are as beguiling as spring flowers. Full of promise and abundance. Once married, some of these women will be dressed in a Kimono where the pattern has fallen to the floor, round the hem of the garment, to draw the eye of the beholder away from the face of a married woman, to her feet.

        Not a veil in sight.

        • Ah, but even in ancient Japan the Geisha wore veils of a sort, often using beads rather than material these ornate veils were used to conceal their faces in public. Dancers wear Amigasa hats, usually made of straw these were worn to conceal their faces and it is assumed it was for modesty sake. Brides have worn many styles of headgear of the years, each with its own meaning. Veiling doesn’t necessarily mean the face is covered so much as the head is covered.

          Thanks Bill, I do love the cultural differences. The Kimono’s of Japan are such a unique, ornate and truly beautiful style of dress.

  7. Excellent points.

  8. I think many of the muslim women who wear head coverings and have electric-grey eyes are some of the sexiest women alive!

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