8 Popular Things Only a Few People Know the True Meaning Of
Nowadays, people all around the world are free to wear any kind of clothing or hairstyles, they can paint their nails any color, and get any tattoos they want. But in the past, our ancestors gave a special meaning to these things, which was often the opposite of the modern meaning. For example, red lipstick or a striped print, just several decades ago, marked women with a special social status.
We at Bright Side have reviewed several books and scientific articles about this topic and we want to share what we have found with you.
1. Women’s and men’s undercuts used to be a sign of sacred vengeance.
In the past, the inhabitants of the Marquesas Islands (Polynesia) used to shave their heads completely leaving one long lock of hair on the top that used to be tied in a knot. This haircut was used only in cases when people gave a sacred oath to get revenge for the death of a close person. The hair was not cut until the promise was fulfilled.
2. Several thousand years ago, our ancestors used to treat diseases with tattoos.
In 1991, scientists found a mummy that was more than 5,000 years old and they called it Ötzi. This was the oldest mummy in the world. The genetic test of Ötzi showed that when he was alive, the poor guy had a lot of health problems, including arthritis and a stomach ulcer. Besides, they found that his entire body was covered in tattoos — they counted 61 pictures total.
The scientists analyzed the tattooed spots and came to the conclusion that they were done with a medical purpose, because the pictures were located exactly in the spots that were affected by the diseases. So, this lead to the conclusion that in the past, there was some kind of tattoo-acupuncture.
3. Dreadlocks were used to scare enemies away
Dreadlocks were an essential element in the appearance of ancient Amazons, Afro-Americans, and Native Americans. Scientists think that one of the functions of dreadlocks was scaring enemies away. But there is also a more poetic version.
The inhabitants of Jamaica, Ethiopia, and India that lived high in the mountains, believed that a deity named Ja will pull the righteous people by their hair when the apocalypse comes. So, the people that believed this, had long hair and dreadlocks to make the job for Ja easier.
4. Striped clothing used to be worn by women of the lowest social groups.
Striped clothes in Medieval times were a marker of marginality. The law made prostitutes, heretics, jesters, executioners, and those with leprosy wear striped clothing: a dress, a scarf, or a coat. Society thought it was the perfect solution: the aggressive print was easy to spot from a distance. People could easily understand that these people were not the best kind.
It was not only the above mentioned people who were marked with this pattern, but also wives that cheated on their husbands, and illegitimate children. It wasn’t until the Renaissance period that the attitude toward stripes changed: it became the symbol of free thought and interesting taste for the person that was wearing it.
5. Chinese chopsticks used to be ninjas’ weapons.
Japanese women used to use hair clips and chopsticks in their hair in order to be able to use them in emergency situations. They made the weapons from wood, bones, or metal, and used them to fight. In order to learn to use them effectively, the girls spent years with an experienced teacher.
The more inventive ladies used to put very strong poison on the tip of the clips or chopsticks so that any scratch, even the smallest one, would be deadly for their enemy. These women are known as Kunoichi — women ninjas. Sometimes, they were called “deadly flowers” because flowers were used as a decoration for these clips.
6. Ribbons in the hair were a sign of the marital status of young women.
In Slavic tribes, there was a strict hierarchy among girls that was also expressed in their hairstyles. One of the most popular accessories was a ribbon that was integrated into their braids:
- The absence of a ribbon meant that the girl was in an active search for a husband.
- One ribbon meant that the girl had already found a fiancé and that she expected him to propose soon.
- 2 ribbons meant that a fiancé had been found, the proposal had been made, and the parents of both sides approved the marriage.
7. Nail color used to be a sign of the social status of men and women.
In Ancient Egypt, people could easily determine the social status of others judging by their nail color: priests and the nobles painted their nails bright red, and the common folks were allowed to use any pale colors. In Babylon, other colors were popular: aristocrats loved black, and poor people loved green. Interestingly, not only women, but also men painted their nails.
In both countries, a good manicure was considered to be the proof of a noble origin, so the rich houses often had a whole team of servants that were responsible for the condition of the nails of the house owner and their family.
8. In America, men could divorce their wives because of red lipstick.
In the Middle Ages, church workers didn’t like red lipstick because they thought this color came from the devil. In Great Britain, for example, painting your lips this color was a public confession of witchcraft. And in America in the 16th century, men could easily divorce their wives if they painted their lips red without permission.
In Ancient Greece, the situation was completely different: there, prostitutes were forced to paint their lips red so that anyone could easily determine their profession. And the inhabitants of Ancient Rome (of both sexes), used a red color in order to show others how rich they were. The more money a person had, the brighter the lipstick color was.
Which of these things amazed you the most? Do you know about the older meanings of some other seemingly ordinary things?