The Practice of Henna
Throughout history henna, Mehndi, has been an art form predominantly enjoyed by women and is practised in a variety of different cultures and by many different religious groups including Hindus, Muslim, Jews, and Christians. Henna is often associated with religious events, ceremonies, and celebrations but is not in and of itself a religious practise. Everyone, no matter their gender, culture, or religion, can enjoy the art of Mehndi.
Henna is strongly associated with fertility, blessings, purification, transformation, luck, protection, spirituality, love, eroticism, and the beauty of female creativity. Primarily Henna is meant to protect people from evil spirits and bring them good luck.
Henna has been used for thousands of years for a variety of purposes in places such as Africa, the Middle East, and India.
The henna plant has anti-fungal, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties and is used to heal ailments such as headaches, ringworm, athlete's foot, and minor cuts and abrasions. It also acts as a sun block and conditions the skin, hair, and nails.
One of the unique properties of henna is that it has the ability to cool the body which is very helpful in the hot, dry countries where henna is grown and used. Because of this cooling property, it is used to treat fevers, burns, heat exhaustion, as well as hand foot syndrome in people who are on certain cancer drugs such as Xeloda.
Henna for Adornment
Once henna's staining ability was discovered, women used it to beautify their hair, fingernails, and fingertips, which was a form of purification and sign of prosperity.
As the practise of staining the skin evolved, and the art of Mehndi flourished, intricate, complex designs became a popular way to adorn the hands and feet to celebrate traditions, rites of passage, and holidays.
Bridal henna is one such practise which is beloved in many cultures and countries throughout the world. Intricate designs are applied to a bride's hands and feet before her wedding and historically, the deeper the stain, the deeper the love between the husband and wife and his family.
Over the past couple of decades henna has become more prevalent in the western world and many people are choosing to have henna applied to them for a variety of different reasons. They may want to mark a special occasion, add beauty to their day, or express their own individuality. The reasons are as unique as there are people.
Traditionally, women had henna applied to their hands and feet during pregnancy and after birth because this stage of life was considered an important rite of passage and one in which it was important to protect the mother and baby from evil spirits.
Applying henna to the pregnant belly to mark the transition into motherhood is strictly a North American invention which is becoming increasingly more popular these days.
This type of pre-natal henna adornment is sometimes done in conjunction with a Baby Shower in which a group of close friends and family surround the mother-to-be to support and honour her transition to motherhood. This is a fun and beautiful way to celebrate becoming a mother.
Henna Crowns are also a modern innovation. This new fashion replaces wigs and scarves for those who are experiencing hair loss due to chemotherapy, or Alopecia. This is a great way to help people feel beautiful and empowered during a challenging time in their lives.
Many people who have received henna crowns have expressed the positive impact it has had on them and how it has contributed to their healing process.
Henna Heals was started by Frances Darwin in 2011 in Toronto Ontario. Henna Planet has had the great privilege of being involved in this wonderful movement.
Check out my blog about the woman adorning a henna crown in this photo.